Tucked away in the serene Southern Highlands, a mere two hours from the bustling heart of Sydney lies the captivating ARUNA Estate - an oasis discovered on a whim by its owners, Antony and Chris. The Southern Highlands cast its spell on them. At first sight, the couple recognized a unique opportunity to weave together elements of nature, sustainable farming, local produce, and genuinely awesome hospitality!
ARUNA Estate unfolds like a narrative, encompassing a working sheep farm, flourishing organic gardens managed by Two Birds Farm, and untouched bushland, all framed by two exclusive accommodation options. The luxury villas and off-grid cabins at ARUNA are nestled in a picturesque setting, where open blue skies and the warm hues of the Australian bush create an idyllic backdrop, beckoning visitors to step away from the urban hustle organically.
ARUNA's story is one of serendipity and deep connection to the natural world, so of course, we were drawn to Antony and Chris, who embody an adventurous spirit and a profound connection to nature. In saying this, I think it might be a while before Antony gets over our stay, we thought we would turn our visit into our Christmas party, invite the entire Pony Rider team, and, well, take over the Aruna Estate for three days. Kidding, it was the perfect three days of exploring the property and its surrounds, revelling in delightful moments being fed by the amazing Dee from Flavours By Dee, and capturing the essence of ARUNA against the backdrop of its idyllic setting, and WOW, did our gear seamlessly complement this magical haven. Thank you Antony, what a way to wrap up a year.
Side note - Antony was the most amazing host, getting his hands dirty and being so unbelievably accommodating to all our little (BIG) requests!
Hear from the legend himself…
Tell us all about your journey and beautiful space
We were looking for a smaller ‘weekender’ in the area and basically got a little carried away. We bought this property, my event business was all but dead due to COVID, and we were able to put our hearts into this wonderful project!
What was your vision and reason behind it all?
As soon as we saw the property, a mix of farm pastures and raw bushland, we started dreaming of private little bush cabins and a food-driven farm stay experience. We got to know the locals and tried to create an environment that celebrates all things natural and local.
Talk us through your design/build process and how you re-imagine it all from the beginning.
By sheer luck, we came across the builder of our ‘pre-fabricated’ Villas, and that of the ‘tiny home’ off-grid cabins and were tossing up between the two. In the end, we decided to have both so that we could offer both a rugged bush escape, and a stylish farm retreat, both having access to the gardens and pool.
Was there a stand-out feature of the stay that you love to admire?
We are lucky enough to have a small creek, and Paddy’s River running through our property and so we have built small meditation decks on the river, down a bush trail from the Cabins. To have that so close to Sydney is pretty special.
How do you feel when you're there, describing the perfect day at ARUNA?
I love working on the farm and getting my hands dirty. There is something special about growing your own food or simply being able to pick and cook it – fresh is best! But then I love that I can have a hit of tennis, go for a swim and finish the day with a negroni on the deck!
What drew you to this location and what is so special about this location?
Not wanting to sound too ‘herbal’, but there really is a good energy here. People just seem to slow down and smile, I know I do. The fact that it offers so many distinct areas – bush, river, pastures, veg gardens, tennis court and swimming pool, right on the edge of the State Forest, makes it pretty unique.
What’s your favourite time of year on the property?
Spring, when everything is turning green and blooming, but it is still lovely and cool in the Highlands.
What special features does the property have that help folk get off the grid and spend more time connected to the land?
I think the fact that the Cabins are placed right in the bush and are quite private, means that people are happy to stay local and not feel the need to go too far afield. We find that people do cancel plans and just chill at or around their cabins.
What has been the greatest lesson you have learnt and will take with you on further adventures?
There is no need to ‘over-engineer’ an experience. My event background really makes me look at the guest experience from start to finish and I do like to make sure that everything one needs – signage, directions, access paths etc – is there, but the simplicity of nature is the key!
Share with us how a touch of Pony Rider gear fits into your space so well.
When we were looking at the interiors of the off-grid cabins, we came across Pony Rider, and it just worked so well. There is something about the colours and material of the Pony Rider products which give a simple, down-to-earth comfort that the bush experience needs. People love curling up on the sunken lounges in the cabins, surrounded by Pony Rider cushions and blankets.
Designed by Antony & Chris Spanbrook