Posted by Peter Johnson & Lina Cronin on 15 April 2020 | Comments


When Peter and Kerry bought their 13-acre property, with a retail nursery on site, in Dunbogan on the Mid North Coast of NSW in 2004, they had no idea of what the future would hold.  All they knew was that they had bought a property of sub-tropical rainforest with 400 metres of river and zoned wetlands on one side and a short stroll to the beach on the other.

Sixteen years later they have transformed the old retail nursery into botanic style gardens with an open coffee bar, built two luxury eco-treehouses that attract visitors from all around the world, and in November 2019, they opened The Fernery at Diamond Waters wedding, small business conference multipurpose centre. The diversification from plant nursery to tourism is now complete.

Treehouse verandah

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

The Treehouses were built on the principle of treading lightly on the environment. By using a 10-point matrix development plan, the Treehouses were built using completely recycled or recyclable materials, zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and zero pest chemical treatment strategies. The Treehouses feature 100% rainwater use, on site composting of all organic matter, a state-of-the-art low energy water treatment system, and the solar systems installed at the time of development provide more energy than is used. 

Wetland photo

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

For Peter and Kerry, the true joy of tourism has been the people that they have met from all over Australia and the world. Thirty five percent of their guests have been self-driving international guests, predominantly from Europe and Asia, but also from Iran, Russia, Africa, Canada and the Americas.

As a former health service manager, Peter needed no convincing of the quality improvement principles and benefits of accreditation and the Treehouses attained Advanced Ecotourism and Climate Action Business certification shortly after opening.

Garden Bar Night 1

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

The next stage of development was The Fernery at Diamond Waters events centre. Nestled into the botanic style gardens, The Fernery has been another exercise in stepping outside of traditional building practices to achieve a low impact sustainable result. Solid block Hebel walls, 150mm sandwich roofing and ‘reverse insulation’ techniques were used for maximum sound and cooling temperature solutions, and even in summer, no air conditioning is necessary.  The project was supported by the Destination NSW Regional Tourism Product Development Fund.

The target wedding market for The Fernery are couples seeking a beautiful location and venue to host an accessible and affordable eco-style wedding where they can choose their own stylists, caterers, drinks and bar options. The photos shown in this article are from Dan and Gabi’s wedding where everyone travelled 180 kilometres from Newcastle, staying in accommodation all around the beautiful Camden Haven region. It was a stunning event. At this last wedding not one piece of plastic was used, and all waste consisted of either recycled (10c refund) bottles or purely on-site compostable matter. The property’s pet goats ate the corsages and floral decorations!

The Fernery Night 1

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

Not content with stopping there, Peter and Kerry are now working on their approved 66 metre wetland walkway and bird hide that will provide all guests with the opportunity to explore the wetlands and provide a gateway for kayaking opportunities.  When this project is completed it will also mean the Treehouses, The Fernery, all gardens and the pathways from the car park to the water’s edge will be wheelchair accessible, a rare achievement for such a large property.

When the COVID 19 crisis is over the Treehouse Retreat will emerge as an enhanced ecotourism experience.


For more information about the Diamond Waters Treehouse Retreat, check them out in our Green Travel Guide.


[Cover photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills]

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