Guesthouse in a monastery at New Norcia
New Norcia in Western Australia is definitely not off the beaten track, but it offers some accommodation which is truly out of the ordinary. It is Australia's only monastic town, and the accommodation is a guesthouse run by the monastery following a fifth century tradition. I recently stayed in this unique place.
New Norcia began in 1846 when a monastery was built 132km north of Perth, and a small town grew up around it. In the tradition of St Benedict (born in Norcia, Italy), the monks offered hospitality to passing travellers, as they still do to this day in the guesthouse attached to the monastery. The numbers of monks may have reduced, and their schools closed, but the monastery still owns and operates the town, a situation unique in Australia.
Guests stay in either single or twin rooms, some with ensuites and others sharing a bathroom. Standards could be summed up as basic but comfortable - everything you really need is there, including a guest lounge room, dining room, and kitchen. Meals are provided, and the showers are consistently hot. In keeping with the surroundings, quietness is requested at night, and there is no TV.
You can attend prayers with the monks and eat with them if you want to, providing you are male, but you don't have to. I ate with them in their refectory to experience how monks at New Norcia do dinner - without speaking, other than someone reading from the bible. The food was very good, but as a slow eater I found it a little rushed. You can eat in a more normal way in the guesthouse dining room if you prefer, as most guests do.
Whether you stay there or not, the twice-daily walking tours are an excellent way of exploring this one-of-a-kind town. Of its 64 buildings, 30 are classified by the national trust for their heritage value, giving it probably more historical ambience than anywhere else in Western Australia.
Even if you're like me and prefer the roads less travelled, staying in the monastery guesthouse is a good reason to visit the much-visited town of New Norcia.
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