Wild food. Koala sanctuary. Fresh springs. Citrus grove. Manuka honey plantation. A Lakehouse. A meditation yurt. A sustainable house. Spectacular views… Welcome to Zara Springs…
Clare and Vic Cherikoff found their happy place on this extraordinary property, tucked away in a hidden valley at Zara, in the Northern Rivers region.
Set on 56 HA (139 acres), Clare and Vic have been slowly regenerating the farmland – letting the land heal and encouraging the rainforest to expand. The property is in the caldera of an ancient volcano and the rainforest in the region dates back to the Gondwana period.
For Clare – author, documentary maker, cartoonist and NLP and Enneagram teacher – this is her private haven. A space to connect with her creativity and bond with the unique environment surrounding her.
“One of my favourite activities is to stand-up paddleboard on the lake. I glide past the waterlilies and look at the mountains. It’s so tranquil,” says Clare.
For Vic, he has found foodie heaven. Author of Wild Foods and celebrity chef, Vic is passionate about growing and incorporating wild food into the daily diet.
“It’s like I have a native supermarket on my doorstep,” says Vic. “Wedged between Bald Mountain and Wollumbin, this region was once a women’s dreaming site and the indigenous food is everywhere. When I go foraging, I find wild yams, berries, Davidson plums, native gingers, cinnamon leaf myrtle and lemon myrtle, it’s extraordinary. So much can be done here with the abundance of wild food on offer.”
“Vic brings me coffee in bed with a bowl of wild raspberries every morning,” says Clare.
Along with the native edibles there is a citrus grove featuring mandarins, lemons, grapefruit and cumquats. There’s also pineapples, grapes, passionfruit and avocados.
“We have a manuka honey plantation on the hill which provides a good cash crop. It’s spectacular when the trees bloom, they are plastered with three to four different species of native bees,” says Vic.
True to its name, there are natural springs bubbling down the slopes. When you drive through the gate there’s a smattering of rainforest with creeks running through it, then the beautiful Lakehouse appears before you. And what a sight it is. A captivating white cottage perched on the edge of a lake filled with waterlilies and a fountain. The dreamy garden is intoxicating with the scent of gardenias and jasmine, it’s like stepping back in time to an English estate. Everything is white. The bright light open living space features a cathedral ceiling, expansive windows, French doors and timber floorboards. The kitchen has long timber benchtops, a six-burner gas cooktop and double oven. There are three bedrooms, a study and a loft bedroom. “It’s an idyllic space for a wedding reception or honeymoon destination,” says Clare. “There’s a rotunda and the lake has a covered jetty. It’s the epitome of romance!”
Further up the property is a stunning yurt. The large round structure has a magical feel. There is a fireplace for the cooler months and a composting toilet and shower. “This is where I do my yoga and meditation,” says Clare. “It is perfect for groups or workshops, the peaceful space provides the ultimate retreat.” The main house is magnificent. Made from hempcrete, it has an earthy Japanese vibe with wood and steel and abundant glass. But what hits you instantly is the breathtaking view over the property to the mountain range. It’s jaw-dropping. The open plan kitchen and living area is all about the view. The sleek kitchen is a cook’s dream with modern appliances and a seamless built-in fridge.
The main bedroom has a separate den downstairs and a gorgeous ensuite. The guest wing has two bedrooms and a bathroom. There is a luxurious egg-shaped bath in front of a floor to ceiling window begging you to indulge. The house is completely off-grid and designed with insulation and ventilation in mind so it always maintains the perfect temperature. The large deck overlooking the dramatic mountain range is the place to be at sunset. “We spend a lot of time on this deck watching the cloud formations. They’re phenomenal,” says Vic. “This property is actually part of a cloud forest. We can see clouds form in some of the creek valleys, then they rise and drift off, it’s mesmerising.”
“The property offers so much to someone who wants to be one with nature, who has a true appreciation of the natural vitality of the land and what it has to offer,” says Clare. “It’s a really enchanting space.” Indeed, it is.