When the Bannisters group launched bush retreat The Jackson Ranch, fresh air and clean beaches beckoned. So did the chance to take the 3.5-hour drive from Sydney in the new Mercedes-Benz EQB electric SUV.
The Jackson Ranch is at Bawley Point, a quiet town set among eucalypts. The road in is a treasure chest of gourmet gems and soaring landscapes. Best of all: escaping the big smoke in eco-chic style provides ample opportunity to misquote Gandhi and “be the change”
Nature is the star here. With a homestead, cabins and an ultra-glam bubble tent, the property can sleep 30 over its 15 hectares of forest. The central restaurant regularly hosts pop-up catering specials or private dinners (weddings and retreats often hire the whole place), and there’s space to come together and space for solitude. Interiors are relaxed but manicured, with MCM House furniture setting the tone.
Stop 1: Milton
Before Bawley Point is Milton, a once-sleepy town given a big boost of millennial energy during the great pandemic migration. The town is now an artisanal hub of makers and creators. The newly renovated Milton Hotel might as well be their mecca, with its effortlessly cool dining room, beer garden and the owners’ craft beer, Dangerous Ales, on tap. A little further out is Milk Haus, a wholefoods cafe and kitchen garden in an old cheese factory.
Also worth checking is Small Town Food + Wine, a bistro that serves local produce to global standards.
Stop 2: Mollymook
This is Bannisters’ heartland, with two properties in the one town: Bannisters by the Sea and Bannisters Pavilion. The first has a luxurious Rick Stein restaurant, the other a cool hotspot named Rooftop Bar & Grill. When staying at The Jackson Ranch, the team can arrange courtesy transfers for those who’d like to sample the wine lists. Head up the hill and you’ll hit Cupitt’s Estate, great for a scenic lunch and to stock up on cheeses and wine.
Stop 3: Bawley Point
This tiny hamlet is surrounded by undisturbed stretches of sand. Jackson Ranch is on Willinga Lake, a stand-up-paddleboarder’s paradise. On the way, Lagom Bakery at Burrill Lake is a worthy pitstop for pastries, sourdough and Guerrilla Roasters Coffee.
Fully electric, EQB is the newest of the Mercedes-EQ family to hit Australia. It can carry up to seven, so for our family of four it’s roomy enough to also fit scooters, golf clubs, surfboards, and an empty Esky (to load with gourmet South Coast delights). The folks at Mercedes-Benz have done the maths: there’s more than 1620 litres of loading capacity when all rows are stowed, or 465 litres with the second row in use and the third row stowed.But this people-mover feels more like a cool family car, with leather steering wheel and MBUX “infotainment” system putting music (and everything on our phone) at our fingertips. The smart design packages the electric drivetrain and lithium-ion battery into the size of a compact SUV, great for squeezing into a tight parking spot. There’s also a Driver Assistance Package packed with safety measures.At 100km/h on the open road, the car feels zippy and powerful. We’re told it has a range of up to 371km (I’ll take the manufacturer’s word for it). There’s also high charging speeds, with up to 11kW of output via the AC system, or up to 100kW using DC charging.