Crystal Garden Estates – click any image for full size
Crystal Garden Estates is another semi-regular stop-over for me on my rounds of the grid. Designed by Sandi (Sandi Benelli) and her partner Mikal Beaumont, this Homestead region undergoes semi-regular makeovers by Sandi and Mikal, with each offering a new place to visit.
The last time I blogged the region, in July 2015, it had a Mediterranean look and feel, with berths for power and sailing boats all under a summer’s sky. However, as that was a good while ago, I was curious to see how things looked as we make our towards summer 2017; so Caitlyn and I recently hopped over for a look, coincidentally bumping into Sandi and Mikal as we arrived, just as they were tweaking one or two things before heading off to enjoy some in-world music.
While the summer feel to the region, and the boat moorings are still evident, this latest iteration of Crystal Gardens Estates offers the look and feel of a more temperate zone this time around. The land has been divided into three large islands, running north-to-south, with a smaller, rounded island to the north-west, while a lighthouse-laden rocky outcrop completed the group. Separated one from the next by narrow channels of water, the three largest islands offer a collective landscape of tall trees, summer walks among sprays of flowers, and many places both indoors and out, where visitors can pass the time.
A visit begins on the west side of the island, on a wooden dock where two boats are berthed. A canvas-sided pergola sits at one end of the dock, offering a place to relax, while close by sits a comfortable little house built on stilts to extend out over the water from a rocky base. Beyond this, the island’s rocky southern headland offers a look-out point with a view of the offshore lighthouse. With a kid’s play tent ( a blanket spread over a line between two trees), dogs playing on the course grass and the waterside spots for taking things easy, this has the feel of being a holiday getaway, rather than a place of year-round abode.
Another house, more substantial in size, sits to the north, close to where a bridge reaches out to the middle of the three islands. Also raised up on a stout deck, the house looks out over the curve of a sandy beach, the boards stacked against its whitewashed wall suggesting it might be the holiday home for keen surfers.
Across the bridge, the middle of the three islands is home to a third cottage, which shares its waterside location with a trio of summer huts. A loose-laid board walk meanders southwards from the cottage passing a barn converted into a bar to one side and an octagonal pergola to the other, before arriving at another beach. Two bridges span the watery divide between this and the easternmost island. This has a slightly wilder feel to it, with tall pines under which a camp site sits and deer, foxes and wolves roam, while the rocky sweep of the northern shore is crossed by a raised wooden walk.
The entire feel of these islands is that of a secret vacation spot; a place those in the know can slip away to and spend time forgetting about work and the rest of the world. This impression is heightened by the last of the islands in the group. Circular in form, its shape suggests a small crater with a partially flooded. More wooden walkways occupy this little spot, running around the basin and raised on stilts above the water, or straddling the rim. They link together a small cluster of thatched roof pergolas where visitors can relax, chat, dance or wander under ivy weaved trestles.
I’ve always enjoyed my visits to Crystal Garden Estates, and this latest one was no exception. The little archipelago offers much without in any way being overdone. There is plenty of room to wander, many places to sit and relax, both indoors and out; there are horses to ride and snuggles spots for cosier times with a loved one. For those so inclined, there’s even a drinking game to be found in the bar!
Rich in natural colour thanks to the considered use of wild flowers, and set beneath and dusky sky, the region is genuinely photogenic and very much an ideal visit.
- Crystal Garden Estates (Quararibea Cordata Island, rated: moderate)