Restored Country Church Charm

If you’re anything like me, old country churches might bring back memories—Sunday mornings squeezed into inescapable rows of dust-covered oak pews, listening to enthusiastic sermons by overdressed, balding men.

Well, I’m happy to report that the Church at Tantawangalo was very different from the dusty pews of my youth. Instead, this beautifully restored space is a modern, luxe utopia—fancy enough to feel like you’re on holiday, but homely enough to feel as though you could stay there forever. Situated in the Bega Valley Shire, Tantawangalo is a small, fertile locality with mostly private farms, many of them still operating.

The church itself was a centrepiece of community culture for more than 100 years, hosting services and gatherings for the region’s local families. With the downturn of small-scale farming and the closure of the local school, the population dwindled and the St John’s Anglican Church at Tantawangalo was put on the market. The church’s restoration project was able to retain the aesthetic of the original church—built in 1905 in the architectural style of gothic revival—while adding a splash of opulence with a wood fireplace, a freestanding bathtub, and floor-to-ceiling glass doors that you can completely open when the weather is fine. The double bed is tucked away in the little nook where the altar used to be, and they’ve added a treehouse-like mezzanine with a child-size bed and snuggly cushions.

With so many creature comforts, it was hard to leave the church to explore the region—but after a coffee on the church steps, we headed out towards the Sapphire Coast, stopping along the way for a bite to eat in the charming village of Candelo. Sluggish from the eggs, sourdough bread and coffee, we called into Pambula Beach for a quick dip to wake us up. White sand framed the gentle waves lapping at the shore, a rumbling coastal storm brewing in the distance.

Next up, wood-fired pizza and IPAs on tap from the local brewery and then back home for G&Ts by the campfire pit out the front of the church. To wrap up our visit, we explored the countryside with a cycle down Tantawangalo Mountain Road, past cattle, small orchards and the impressive Tantawangalo Creek.

Staying at the Church at Tantawangalo was definitely a unique experience for us—being able to stay in this expertly restored space was an opportunity to experience an old-school church from a completely different perspective, without the pomp and circumstance and the antiquated traditions.

And while it saddens me that small-town community culture is dissipating, I was heartened to think that more people, not just locals, will now be able to experience a slice of the old-world charm of Tantawangalo.
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Things We Did

  • Food & Drink
  • Beach
  • Bike
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    Grab an Award-Winning Meat Pie at Bemboka Pie Shop
    If you're heading back towards Cooma and Canberra from the coast, make sure to stop in at Bemboka Pie shop for a good, old fashioned meat pie (with veggie options available too). Bemboka offers up old-school farm charm and makes you feel like you've jumped back in time by accident....
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      Pambula Beach
      Visit this gorgeous, usually quiet beach with whiter than white sand and gentle surf. Doggos are allowed at this beach. Park at Lions Park....
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        Cycle the Gravel Roads of Tantawangalo
        Stretching for kilometres, Tantawangalo Mountain Road offers gravel-riding bliss, passing by paddocks filled with cattle, small orchards and gorgeous country cottages....
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          Longstocking Brewery, Oyster Bar and Wood Fired Pizza
          Longstocking Brewery serves delicious craft beers, fresh oysters and mouth-watering wood-fired pizzas. Outdoor and indoor areas, and plenty of room for kids to play while you enjoy a tasty brew....
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            Candelo General Store and Cafe
            Candelo General Store and Cafe is a bustling weekend brunch hub, with visitors enjoying post-mountain biking coffees and friendly catchups in the sun-filled courtyard. The breakfast servings are extremely generous and extremely delicious....

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