Families at Caitlin's Retreat

Calcott Family

I wanted to share with you my story about a special place which is nestled in the park; abundant in wildlife, space, peace and tranquility. A place which, for four days, was ours. A place where we could forget about doctor's appointments, treatments, phone calls, work, playgroup, and just be together as a family. I am a wife, and a mum of 2 young children; Jessica (3 /12 years old) and Matthew (18 months old). Matthew has spina bifida and before our visit to Caitlin's Retreat, we had NEVER been away together as a family. It's difficult to find time in between Matthew's appointments and it's also difficult to find accommodation that suits our special needs and our finances.

My children are brave little battlers; Matthew for his courage whilst undergoing procedures every 3 hours and Jessica for her patience and understanding during Matthew's endless doctor's appointments. To top things off, we live in Kinglake. We tried to escape the fires on Black Saturday, but it was too late. We had to wait for the fire to pass, it did and we were lucky. I know that. We lost many people we knew that day. I often wonder how much of this experience my kids will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

It was a few months later that we were referred to Caitlin's Retreat, a nature based retreat for families with special needs. We were invited to stay there for four days, and we jumped at the chance. Over the four days I saw a change in my family; we relaxed, we were all together and so happy. There were no appointments, no phone calls, no visitors, just us together in nature.

Caitlin's Retreat is such an important place for families with a special needs child, as it gives them a break from the norm. Kids can regain a sense of childhood and explore and grab hold of the simple joys of nature. This is how special times happen. This is how families come together.

Yours sincerely,
Melissa Calcott

Ferris Family

Last week, we were lucky enough to spend four very lovely nights at Caitlin's Retreat. From the moment of our arrival, we felt very welcome and happy to be in this lovely, secluded home-farm. We arrived on Thursday afternoon after an easy drive through Melbourne and were met by Manny Spiteri, the site manager. Manny was very warm and welcoming and gave us a very interesting and informative tour of the property, including teaching us with great patience how to feed the birds, collect the chicken eggs and which delicious fresh fruit and vegetables were available to us from the garden during our stay. A very big thankyou to GlaxoSmithKline for their assistance in providing the vegetable garden, and to Elizabeth and Manny for maintaining it – We enjoyed many delicious meals, cooked in the very well equipped kitchen, using fresh produce from the Retreat. A truly wonderful experience for a family of city slickers! We are so inspired to create our own garden after enjoying vegetables so fresh!

The facilities at Caitlin's retreat are fabulous. The kitchen, dining and living areas are all clean, spacious and comfortable and well equipped. There is a play room for young children, a large-screen TV/DVD player and a comfy lounge, an extensive library with something for everyone, and a fully-equipped kitchen in which Paul spent many happy hours, preparing meals using freshly-picked food from the garden. The rest of us enjoyed eating our meals at the large, inviting dining table. The children were able to sleep together in attached bedrooms; the bathrooms were clean and functional. (There is a disabled bathroom/toilet as well as a second bathroom/toilet.)

The house sits within lovely grounds bordering the river, including a tennis court, an awesome cubby house/playground and grassed area, and a beautiful pergola where we spent many relaxing hours outdoors with the kids. (There is also a Liberty Swing.) There is plenty of room for walks within the grounds, visiting the resident sheep and kangaroos and exploring the place. We also enjoyed walks to the river and the neighbouring bushland.

We enjoyed every moment of our stay at Caitlin's Retreat and were able to completely relax and unwind in this wonderful setting. There is still plenty of work to do to bring the Retreat back to its former glory, and there are many plans already in place. As Manny says, it's a work in progress. We look forward to returning soon to enjoy the place as it is and to see how things are progressing.

We can't thank Manny enough for his warm, welcoming hospitality and generosity. Our thanks, too, to the many faces behind the scenes who continue to work hard to provide a special place for families like ours to just be together. We appreciate it very much.

Thankyou! Paul, Jane, Evie, Ella & Gabriel Ferris

The Ferguson Family


We have had the most restful weekends that we have had in a long time, yet we were busy enjoying the environment. Our daughter Emily has had experience that she would have had otherwise had. Manny, thank you for making is so welcome and making our stay so relaxing & enjoyable. We wish Caitlin's Retreat all the best and success for the future and hope your future guests have as good a time as we have had. Thanks for the photos (except for all the Collingwood ones, go Hawks!) We wish you all the best and hope that we have the opportunity to come back some time.

The Ferguson Family Graeme, Sandra & Emily.