River Island Nature Retreat was established by Colin and Katina Sell in 1984 on the banks of the Wollondilly River approximately 50km down the Wombeyan Caves Road from Mittagong. From the outset it has always been a commercial concern which distinguishes it from most other nudist facilities in Australia. RINR has grown slowly and steadily to become Australia's premier nudist venue. The facilities have been established according to a dream and not by committees, accountants or as a pawn controlled by "Frustrated Incorporated". RINR has a completely open access policy regarding couples and singles, gay or straight etc, and is strictly clothing optional, meaning it's the best place in the Southern Hemisphere for potentially new Nudists to "try it out" with absolutely no pressure. The presence or absence of clothes at RINR really just isn't an issue even amongst the regulars.

RINR's success has been in the long time given in it's establishment with the same owners, who have never lost sight of the dream they have. Colin and Katina Sell consistently take risks - sometimes high risks - to publicise the resort. As a result it is fast becoming part of Australian Folklore such that even many textiles are proud to be associated with it, shaking off the secret society "nudist colony" feelings of yesteryear. RINR has also prospered because Colin Sell (who was born and raised in the Mittagong District) is a talented tradesman builder. Just about every single construction on the site exhibits both a "no compromise" and "commonsense" Australian approach, and where money has needed to be spent it clearly has been, with no reservation and a long term business plan in mind.

Apart from extensive camping, on site vans and quality cabin visitor accommodations, RINR also has a large area devoted to semi permanent on site vans. However the site is still registered as a holiday park, so no permanent residency is permitted. In return for payment of an annual fee (approximately 3/4 that of similar coastal caravan parks) van owners get an agreed plot of land upon which to park their van and build an annexe. Over the years some of the annexes have grown to resemble suburban homes with the caravan "somewhere inside". Owners are also supplied with fresh water, waste water plumbing for sinks (not toilets), garbage service, modern amenities blocks, and of course full use of all the facilities the site has to offer for a full 365 days of the year. Just about the only thing RINR doesn't have plenty of is Electricity.. the existing rural 240/480v supply (even this cost over $50k to install) being absolutely worked to the max just providing light and power for the main facilities. This unfortunately means the van storage sites are not powered and this has led to a proliferation of solar electrical installations on most vans.

RINR tries it's best to cater for all nudists (and that's a very wide persuasion of ideals) ranging from those who just want a quiet corner, to those who want to rage into the night with live bands and rowdy parties. The site is large and remote enough so that even with 300 people present, it's still easy to find secluded spots miles from anywhere.

Of course apart from the man made facilities, the main attraction is the river itself, bounded by the rocky and hilly terrain that is RINR, and is unique to this facility like no other. Leisurely walks to Sunnyside Beach or The Cascades in Summer are a must. The Cascades is a section of river where water cascades over the rocks. It is very safe, and such great for swimming and (amongst other things) blocking up the river with human bodies (a fun activity..). There are also extensive and challenging 4WD tracks and journeys for those interested, aswell as regular workshops and rallies over the tracks, which are also used for training by the Southern Highlands 4WD Training Group. The site is extremely safe with perhaps the exception of a snake risk, particularly in Spring - but people who keep their eyes open when bushwalking and steer clear of any snakes they see won't have any problems. In six months of extensive walking during my visits I have only seen two snakes - and one was living in a pile of rubbish behind my on site van when I purchased it. (Both the rubbish and the snake are now long gone.)

RINR is very informal. Visitors are NEVER pressured to do anything more than nothing at all if they don't want to. Occasionally fun activities are arranged (more could perhaps be encouraged) but largely people do whatever they want. There are various rules which become plain to regulars.. rules which could only be called "the Gospel according to Colin and Katina Sell". So.. you like it, or you lump it. I haven't met anyone yet who prefers the latter.

The main compound has a large and small pool (both round), three spas (one is referred to as the Kids' Spa), a wood fired Sauna, a sitting area with tables and chairs, the office / shop, and of course the Barn with it's large open fireplace, pool tables, TV and stage area. The spas' availability depends on demand, but typically they are open from about 4pm to 11pm (6pm to 10pm in Winter). Those still hanging around at 11pm will be graced with having to be kicked out by Katina at closing time. The Sauna is usually available only on nights when alot of people are expected (Friday and Saturday Nights) or by request. The only item which costs money to use are the pool tables which are 80c per game.

Most evening action centres around the three spas, with just about everyone visiting sometime during the night. Nearly all spa users are nude but this is not compulsory. Those people who don't like being touched will be fine until a spa gets more than about eight people in it, after which you can get out, change spas or re-evaluate how close (or on top of) you want to be to other users. "Spa talk" can be anything from 4WDs to Nudism itself, with everything in between.

What doesn't happen is anything sexual. Apart from the normal interaction one would expect between couples, there is nothing particularly sexual about being at RINR. Yes I think I can remember seeing at least one (possibly two) erections in the past six months, and one of those was probably mine. But absolutely nobody gave the slightest care about it. Occasionally particular groups of visitors(who might be "in to" massage or touching (see section on "Human Awareness Institute" elsewhere on these pages..) will get into a routine of touching and stroking eachother in the spas - but this level of interaction never takes place between people who have not consented between eachother first, and it _never_ leads to anything sexual, or if it does.. then it is very well hidden!

About the only people who might become discontent with RINR are those who spend too long there. Some "almost permanent" residents seem to forget that it's a holiday park, and occasionally get dissatisfied with "the gospel". Such peoples need to remember that the Owners have geared the facility towards the "few days" visitors. Of course nothing's perfect. But RINR as a truly non - discriminatory nudist venue, must be very close.

River Island have their own webpage at http://www.riverisland.com.au if you want to check it out. That's how I found about it!