It's always concerning venturing so far from home (and your chosen hospital) at 37 weeks pregnant, but the pull of a stay at this excellent hotel is too strong. We don't hesitate for a second, wordlessly agreeing that we're willing to risk giving birth anywhere – even on the side of the Princes Highway – if it means we can spend two of our last few baby-free nights in this incredible south coast hideaway.
Mollymook is a gem – we both enjoyed holidays here as children – but Bannisters makes it an unmissable destination.
Don't be put off by first impressions – while the car park slightly resembles a motor inn, the rooms are simply stunning. The ocean views from our luxury suite are breathtaking – and the large balcony means we're able to make the most of them. Our room also features an oversized spa bath (with plenty of room for two plus one enormous belly that seems to get bigger by the minute), separate living area and an enormous king-sized bed.
You could while away several very relaxing days without even leaving your room but the sun is shining and the pool – which we can see from our balcony – is just too inviting.
There a few things more tranquil than bobbing up and down in an infinity pool while watching humpback whales lazily paddling past in the ocean below. We could have stayed there for hours if it was a little warmer but the autumn chill soon had us retreating to the nearby sun loungers where our cosy robes were waiting.
After some time in the sun, I head to the spa for the 3.5 hour Bannisters Bloom experience - a relaxation tour de force specially designed for pregnant women that I won't forget in a hurry.
It begins with a lemon myrtle sugar scrub, followed by a full-body pregnancy massage, a desert peach and lavender tummy mask, a pedicure and a facial.
By the end of it I'm so relaxed I'm almost comatose - it was all I could do to gratefully accept my complementary gift bag of organic baby products and stagger back to my room for a nap.
Dinner was something we'd been eagerly anticipating for a long time. We've travelled to Rick Stein's restaurants in Cornwall in the UK in the past, and had the most fantastic experiences so we were very keen to see how his first foray into the Australian market would compare.
Amazingly, even our extremely high expectations were blown away.
The menu showcases the best of Australian seafood – although some of its best offerings, including the array of oysters, are sadly not suitable for pregnant women - and the restaurant's design is truly unique and beautiful, accented by tiles flown in from Turkey, light fittings crafted from recycled Mexican drinking bottles and sculptural blonde wood tables and chairs.
The signature fish pie was one of the most delicious things we have ever eaten – two types of fish, prawns and scallops in a creamy fish and truffle sauce gratinated with breadcrumbs and parmesan. The curries were also sublime - we sampled the Indonesian seafood version with ling, king prawns and squid and the Indian-inspired blue-eyed trevalla madras.
Dessert was equally tantalising We chose the decadent sticky date pudding and the rich, mouth-wateringly good chocolate fondant. Delicious!
Breakfast is another highlight of the Bannisters experience. The buffet-style spread is extensive, fresh and largely locally sourced and includes house-made granola and mueslis, yoghurt, various seasonal fruits, pastries, bacon, fried and scrambled eggs, sausages, black pudding, mushrooms and roast tomatoes.
Sadly, breakfasts and dinners such as these practically eliminate the need for lunch, so we were unable to sample the fare at the more relaxed pool bar - the cocktails however (or mocktails, in my case) were thoroughly sampled and found to be excellent.
By the end of our two-night stay we were so contented we were debating where we would put the cot when the baby came – because clearly it would be unthinkable to leave this little slice of paradise! Sadly, the time did come to leave, but we did so feeling refreshed, revitalised and as ready as we could be for the trying weeks to come.
~ Two nights' accommodation in a luxury suite
~ Hot breakfast for two on both mornings
~ Dinner for two in Rick Stein at Bannisters Restaurant to the value of $100
~ Pregnancy massage for her and a relaxation massage for him
~ A welcome mocktail for her and glass of beer/wine for him
From: $805 (*Package not available during school and public holidays.)
To book, or for more information, visit bannisters.com.au.
Bells at Killcare
The approach to Bells at Killcare is so unassuming we had to check our directions several times. It seemed as though we were driving deeper into pleasant Central Coast suburbia, not drawing closer to one of NSW's best boutique hotels.
All of a sudden, the entrance appears but it's no regular driveway – in a few short metres you're transported from suburban ordinariness to unbelievable luxury. The car park is a auto enthusiast's dream. Our humble Ford looks very shabby alongside the impressive array of Porsches, Range Rovers, Audis, Lamborghinis and even a few Ferraris.
Despite our woefully inadequate wheels, our welcome from the front desk staff could not have been warmer and our cottage, a short drive away, is incredible.
Set over two storeys it features a fully-stocked kitchen, lounge area with gas fire, two bathrooms, a king-sized bedroom and two balconies – all decked out in an appealing Hamptons style.
The overstuffed couches in front of the fire are awfully tempting but we've got a spa appointment that can't be missed. The spa is located up by the restaurant and is calming from the moment you walk in the door.
We're whisked into a private changing area to strip off and replace our clothes with soft robes, slippers and some very attractive disposable underwear then it's upstairs to the couples' massage room. My masseuse is pregnant too, so I couldn't feel more confident in her ability to soothe my aches and pains without accidentally sending me into premature labour – something my mother has warned me about ad nauseam for weeks.
It's an intensely relaxing experience – lying alongside my partner in complete silence as your body is pleasantly rubbed into tranquillity. At one point I can hear my husband snoring a little bit – and I can't really blame him, such is the complete relaxation.
When our 60 minutes are up, we're ushered downstairs for some of the spa's signature tea, which we sip in silence, too blissed-out to speak. Putting our regular clothes back on feels wrong so we swap them for robes again the minute we get back to our cottage.
The afternoon passes very pleasantly after that, reclined in front of the fire as the rain falls gently outside. All of a sudden, hours have passed and we're nearly late for our dinner reservations.
The prospect of dining at Manfredi at Bells had excited us for weeks and it doesn't disappoint. The dining room is stunning, the wait staff faultless and the menu such that you could dine here every night for a week and still not sample everything that took your fancy.
We opt for the five-course degustation, the highlight of which is the spaghettini with ragu of rabbit tomato and basil and the roast grass-fed wagyu beef sirloin with wild mushrooms, pickled radish and red wine sauce. The grilled king prawns and calamari with cauliflower puree, wood sorrel and roast garlic is also delectable.
After dinner, we choose a DVD from the selection in the reception and head back to our supremely comfortable bed for the most romantic and restful night we've had in months, maybe even years.
By the next morning, our stomachs have emptied themselves sufficiently to demand breakfast and we're happy to oblige. We love breakfast, specifically bacon and eggs, so it's a mark of how excellent Bells' continental offering is that we didn't even feel the need to order the cooked option. From an array of house-made pastries and breads with gourmet jams to yoghurt with rhubarb compete and bircher muesli, we can't stuff enough in, let alone make room for anything fried or scrambled.
Pleasantly full once again, we check out and head back home to Sydney, dreaming of the culinary delights the past 24 hours have held.
One nights' accommodation for two
Continental breakfast for two
A three-course dinner for two at Manfredi at Bells
A 60-minute couples Kodo massage
From: $890 (Weekend stays are a two-night minimum.)
To book, or for more information, visit bellsatkillcare.com.au.
Lilianfels Resort and Spa, Blue Mountains
Beach breaks are the most popular destination for babymooners in Australia but there's something to be said for a mountains getaway, particularly in autumn or winter when the clean crisp air is tinged with the comforting smell of open fires.
Lilianfels Resort and Spa is located in Katoomba in the heart of the beautiful Blue Mountains – just 90 minutes' drive from Sydney and metres from the Three Sisters.
The hotel has won numerous awards – most recently Tourism Australia's Regional Deluxe Hotel of the Year in 2013 – and it's not hard to see why.
What you want most from a babymoon – or indeed, any mini-break – is an escape from the daily grind and Lilianfels offers this from the second you drive through the gates. The heritage buildings make you feel like you've stepped back in time, to a grand old age when high tea was taken every afternoon and cocktail hour was non-negotiable.
Our room is on the second floor and offers stunning views of the valley below. With a four-poster bed, thick plush carpet and vintage wallpaper it feels at once classic and uber-luxurious.
Being a baby moon, the first order of business is some relaxation and we opt for a swim in the resort's indoor heated pool, followed by a 60-minute pregnancy massage that made my swollen ankles look almost normal again.
After an afternoon nap, it was time to start thinking about dinner – an unusually difficult choice as there are so many excellent options: the one-hatted Darleys, a more casual menu in The Lounge, stunning views at Echoes and a very tempting in-room dining menu.
It's a choice made easier by the fact that Darleys is closed for a wedding so we opt for a low-key meal in The Lounge. The food is delicious and the lounge singer a great retro touch.
After a few mocktails in the bar, it's off to bed – an extremely comfortable king-size bed with plenty of pillows to prop under bellies and other aching pregnant body parts – for a thoroughly restful nights' sleep.
The next morning breakfast is served buffet-style in The Orangery. Other guests are discussing their planned activities – from bushwalking to horse riding and even abseiling – but our day is necessarily a little bit more sedate.
After a stroll to Echo Point lookout to gaze upon the Three Sisters, we head into the quaint neighbouring village of Leura for a spot of shopping – think local artisanal treats, antiques and more jams, honeys and relishes than you could ever eat – and then back to the room for a long bath before packing up, checking out and heading back to Sydney feeling like we'd really had a break from our busy lives.
~ One nights' accommodation
~ Full buffet breakfast in the Orangery Restaurant
~ 3-course dinner at the Darley’s Restaurant
~ 2-hour Babymoon spa treatment for two
From: Contact the hotel for current pricing.
To book, or for more information, visit lilianfels.com.au.