Bellingen has the best self-contained accommodation in the state, according to the NSW Tourism Awards judges.
Lilypad Luxury Cabins on Hydes Creek Rd, owned and operated by Yvonne and Frank Wynen, has taken out the top award for the third year in a row.
“For our little business to knock off some of these other places was just amazing,” Yvonne said.
The couple bought the 12 acre property, which was once part of a dairy farm, in 2003, then spent the next decade commuting from Sydney each weekend cleaning up the land, planting trees, establishing gardens and a series of waterholes, and overseeing the construction of two well-appointed cabins.
Both had demanding corporate jobs, Yvonne was a sales manager for Fujifilm and Frank was a national logistics manager, and they brought their business acumen to the new venture, making up for the fact that they had no previous experience in the hospitality industry.
“We came up here, not to retire, but to slow down a bit,” Yvonne says, but so far they don’t seem to have succeeded, because as well as running Lilypad they are both heavily involved in community activities, with commitments to the Destination Coffs Coast board, the Bellingen Chamber of Commerce, Waterfall Way Visitor Information Centre, St Vincent de Paul Society, Hydes Creek Landcare Group and Hydes Creek Rural Fire Brigade.
“I figured when I came here that the best way to get to know the community was to get involved,” Yvonne said. “I heard George Negus on the radio one day saying ‘if you’re going to live in a little town like Bellingen, you have to be involved’ and I thought, you’re so right.”
The cabins opened their doors to guests five years ago and soon became a No 1 property on Trip Advisor.
The target market is couples – baby boomers, professionals, honeymooners and parents looking for a break – and they predominantly come from Sydney and Brisbane.
Supplies and services are sourced locally, from the carefully chosen breakfast bacon, bread and chocolates to the handmade soap and having linen washed and ironed at the local laundrette.
“We heavily use the town with all our products,” Yvonne said. “We showcase it with everything.”
Yvonne works on the management side of things and has been the one responsible for preparing the detailed 30-page business analysis document required for the NSW Tourism Awards submission process.
The judging process also includes a site visit where Frank gets to showcase all the work that has gone into developing the beautiful natural setting of Lilypad Luxury Cabins, making it a haven for birds and native animals.
This includes matured forested areas, swamp land that has been converted to a series of waterholes and lily ponds, extensive walkways and 400 koala habitat trees planted in conjunction with Council and Landcare to establish a native habitat corridor.
The couple are also very proud of the green tick they have achieved for sustainable environmental practices.
They generate enough solar power to make them self-sufficient and plan to be off the grid by the end of this year, they have on-site waste management with a reed waste water system and all cleaning is done with Enjo products rather than chemicals.