The room was crowded with nominees and excitement. The men looked handsome in suits; the women beautiful, in elegant gowns. The ‘North Coast and the Legendary Pacific Coast’ annual tourism awards ceremony was being held over a formal dinner at Cassagrain Vineyard, just outside of Port Macquarie. At tables of ten we feasted while swigging wine to calm our nerves as we waited for our awards category to be announced. Regardless of what the result might be we were thrilled that ‘Somewhere Unique’ was a finalist and we approached the evening mainly as a celebration of our first 12 months of operating the business.

“…And now we award the ‘self-contained accommodation’ category” announced the host. I nervously turned to Murray to confirm that this was our category. But he wasn’t there! Where had he gone?

Irrespective, the host continued, “And the winners in this category are…”


Preparing the award submission had been an arduous process. Winter is peak season at ’Somewhere Unique’ and there is always seemingly more chores than time. Fortunately, Murray and I both enjoy what we do, and we are rewarded by the positive feedback and a high rate of return from our guests. But taking on an extensive competition submission was initially a burden. Preparing an entry, however, would ensure that we examine every facet of our business, which could only be beneficial.

The first stage of the application process was completing an online nomination. With that done we then needed to answer more than 20 intensive questions with several parts each, resulting in a 31 page submission. And then we uploaded our entry, including a range of photos. And finally, it was over to the judges.

Several weeks later we received a phone call from a judge asking if she might visit ‘Somewhere Unique’ to interview Murray and I, and then stay the night in one of our retreats. We were happy to comply and found the judge to be friendly, supportive, and very professional.

A week after that visit, we received an email announcing the exciting news that ‘Somewhere Unique’ was a finalist in the ‘self-contained accommodation’ category of the awards. We were advised that the winners would be announced at a ceremonial dinner at Port Macquarie. Thrilled, we took several of our closest friends as our cheer squad, and turned our attendance into a road trip

And so it was that we found ourselves formally dressed in a large vineyard surrounded by oak barrels nervously waiting for an announcement.

After much anticipation, the host announced our category starting with the runners up. “And the winners are……..the bronze award goes to ‘Somewhere Unique’” he cheered.

I was thrilled. The geographic coverage of the awards was from the Hunter Valley, up the coast to the Queensland border. Being our first year in such a competition, to merely be a finalist felt like an achievement, but to actually be named in the top three in the category was an exciting vindication of our dedication.

Soon after the initial excitement and congratulations had been shared at our table, Murray came strolling into the room and took his seat.

“What? I had to attend to a call of nature” he innocently said.

“You missed our category! It has just been announced.” I answered, and added, “Oh, and by the way, congratulations, we won the bronze award!”