Words by Dorian Mode Photography by Lydia Thorpe
I’m sitting here with a gourmet cheese platter and a bottle of bubbly in my cabin (Reef View) overlooking the sun–dappled ocean at Kims Beach Hideaway. A favourite haunt of celebrities and pollies, Kims comprises a hive of luxury bungalows set on a three–hectare hillside of sub–tropical rainforest at Toowoon Bay. Kims is the oldest family–run resort in Australia, with a colourful narrative stretching back to the late 1800s. Back then, ‘Kims Camp’ was a ‘gentleman only’ retreat until rules were relaxed to allow women to stay.
It’s apt I’m staying in ‘Reef View’. It was the final cabin that erstwhile owner, Andrew Strachan (aka The Captain), renovated before he died last year. I knew Andrew for over twenty years. He commissioned me to write a history of Kims before he passed, recently. Guests can find this history booklet in their cabins. Moreover, Reef View underscores Andrew’s connection with the sea. He was an intrepid sailor who explored the tropical islands of the South Pacific and once won the Sydney to Hobart in the smallest yacht (a record he still holds). But perhaps Andrew’s last great voyage was steering Kims through the dangerous shallows and riptides of lockdown. While numerous businesses foundered, Kims remained afloat.
As a legacy of lockdown, the most notable change at Kims is the dropping of the legendary buffet. With Covid, resorts simply can’t risk buffet anymore. And frankly, I’m rather pleased about it. Why? Well, I don’t know about you but I always overeat at a buffet. I’m hopeless. (I still have a crab claw in my pocket from the last one). And regardless of Covid, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the hygiene aspect of them. Over the years, I’ve seen horrors at a bain–marie that makes you wonder about your fellow man.
“Covid protocols mean we can’t offer guests the buffet or even canapés at the bar, anymore. But the main issue for Kims is that we just used to throw out sooo much food,” says head chef, Craig Duck. “So we won’t return to the buffet. There’s also the concern about crowding around food areas.”
Moreover, the upside for guests is that without the seafood buffet as part of the package, Kims is now able to offer more competitive rates. Do the math: price up a five–star luxury hotel in the CBD and compare it to Kims, factoring in the location and privacy, and you’ll be rather surprised.
However, the buffet is moot as you can still order towering seafood platters and other famous Kims dishes from the menu: a cornucopia of seafood, steaks, chicken, curries, vegetarian options, desserts and select cheeses are all still available.
But what I find special about Kims is the Gilligan’s Island aesthetic. You feel it as soon as you walk through the towering avenue of bamboo to reception. Indeed, you could be in Tahiti or Bali, yet you are 90mins from Sydney. So Kims doesn’t feel like a hotel. Yet it’s not like staying in cabins at a holiday park, either. And it certainly doesn’t feel like ‘glamping’ (a euphemism I detest). However, you do have that sense of tropical wilderness but in a luxurious way that is rather unique to Kims. This was largely the vision of The Captain.
“It was Andrew’s vision to transform Kims’ from a rustic holiday camp to a five–star luxury resort in the early 80s. Up until then, Sydney people viewed a Central Coast holiday as a ‘caravan park and a sausage sandwich’. But Andrew had a vision for something more. Something classy and luxurious,” says current joint–owner Maryjane Strachan, Andrew’s widow.
This ‘deserted island aesthetic’ is underscored by the fact that Kims is an ‘adults only’ resort. So no screaming rug rats to spoil your pocket of tropical paradise. Hey, don’t get me wrong. I like kids. I was one, once. But many a romantic evening has been punctured by whinging kids. Kims is all about the experience. It’s why so many anniversaries and engagements are held at Kims.
“Of course, Kims would generate more income if we allowed children to stay. But it would be a completely different experience for our guests. And that wasn’t Andrew’s vision,” says Diana Kershaw, another Kims joint–owner (and Andrew’s niece). “Andrew wanted people to be transported to another place. Like sailing to a romantic tropical island.”
Speaking of romance, cocktails at the bar mean couples can get cosy while listening to elegant music. Indeed, you may feel you are in a bar in Fiji while from the end of your margarita, you watch gulls wheel over the reef. Such is the magic of Kims to transport guests to a tropical dream. In the bar, the Kims house pianist plays an elegant selection of standards from Cole Porter to Gershwin to Irving Berlin. But do listen to his final song of the evening. It’s often a sea shanty: the pianist’s nod to the enduring memory of The Captain.
Fact Box 1
Kims Beachside Retreat offers luxury bungalows on the shores of Toowoon Bay. Most bungalows have a spa bath or hot tub, and a balcony with garden or sea views. Free Wi–Fi and breakfast are included.
Each bungalow features a lounge area with a sofa and a flat–screen TV with DVD player. Air conditioning, tea/coffee–making facilities and a refrigerator.
Kims Restaurant overlooks the ocean and is open for breakfast 7 days a week. And is open for dinner Monday to Saturday. The Cocktail Lounge features live entertainment on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Tariffs from $440 per night
Book online at email@example.com or telephone 02 4332 1566
Fact Box 2
Psst! Kims is now pooch friendly for small dogs in selected accommodation.
Choose from South Beach, Treetops, Twenty Beach or Bungalow Eight for a relaxing stay with your pet.
Direct Bookings are required to ensure you book the pet–friendly room.
A charge of $25 per night applies
– a maximum one dog under 10kg per room