Cosy up this winter at our selection of fire-warmed hotels and hideaways across the country
Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Blue Mountains, NSW: A genteel afternoon tea or a casual dinner (perhaps minestrone soup and osso bucco) by the fire in the chatty lobby lounge at Lilianfels feels akin to a house party at a grand English manor. Not too grand, though. The faded florals of the big lounges and wingback chairs combined with the cosiness of crustless sandwiches and little scones has a touch of ye olde tea parlour to it, too.
Also a treat in winter is Sunday brunch on the sun-warmed enclosed veranda at Darleys, with views towards Echo Point and the mountains beyond. Meanwhile, hearty fires burn in the lobby lounge and the brass beds in pretty toile-papered guestrooms are rather hard to leave. General manager Robyn Pontynen says overseas guests are likelier to set off for bracing bushwalks and on fourwheel-drive adventures; apparently we locals are prone to sink into deep armchairs with novels, cuppas or glasses of wine from the neighbouring Mudgee region. And to visit the in-house spa for a luscious facial from the Payot creme de choc range or a heated muslin body wrap filled with lavender and roses.Time was that muslin was more likely to be found wrapping the Christmas pud; in the 21st century, luxurious treatments and fine food are here year-round (even cool yule in winter) at one of Australia’s finest country-house resorts. www.lilianfels.com.au.
Fireside reading: TheServiceofClouds by Delia Falconer. Susan Kurosawa Lake House, Daylesford, Victoria: I am lounging on the bed in one of Lake House’s roomy suites, reading Sucked In, the new Shane Maloney crime novel. His hero, the political Melbourne sleuth Murray Whelan, is investigating a trade union official’s murder while I drink Syrahmi shiraz, an aromatic plummy beauty from nearby Heathcote. Its smoky finish is suggestive of the woodfirescented atmosphere that envelops the frosty Daylesford township on this cold day. Earlier I had a hot springwater bath at Lake House’s Salus Spa, luxuriating in a private timber bathing cabin overlooking the lake. The steam escaped in white clouds, disturbing a group of chattering kookaburras that moved to another tree like grumpy old country blokes.
My suite oozes contemporary style and warmth while outside, in the misty haze that hovers about the lake, swans glide by like figures in a Bergman film. I’m only 110km northwest of Melbourne but feel as if I’m in a European movie; but unlike Murray Whelan, make that a warm hero, not a chilled fall guy. www.lakehouse.com.au.
Fireside reading: The Lake House: A Culinary Journey in Country Australia by Alla Wolf-Tasker. Graeme Blundell The Islington, Hobart: The art-filled Islington’s rosy-red drawing room, with its japanned antiques, formal furniture, Jim Thompson swish silk curtains and views of crabapples and roses, is a fireside sanctuary in the gentlemen’s club mould. The less formal goldthemed morning room has a fireplace, too, as does the glass-ceilinged conservatory with views of Mt Wellington and gardens framed by willows. This contemporary extension, built around a venerable olive tree, is the gathering place for convivial drinks from the honour bar and casual lounging with stacks of glossy magazines on hand.
The Islington has 11 individually decorated guestrooms, including six in a new garden wing. Those in the Regency-era main residence are the pick in terms of heritage style; ultra-spacious room two has a Biedermeier theme with a looming Austro-Hungarian Empire bed, an electric fireplace and luxuriously deep tub. www.islingtonhotel.com.
Fireside reading: The Sooterkin Tom Gilling. Susan Kurosawa Hill of Content, Phillip Island, Victoria: We shiver throughout a so-called ultimate penguin tour. Cute but smelly critters waddle by the dozen from ocean to nest, passing to each side but sometimes tripping over our feet. It’s splendid, but we crave the Havana Suite’s welcoming warmth (we’ve left on the gas-
by powered log fire) at five-star Hill of Content at Rhyll on Phillip Island, a 90-minute drive to Melbourne’s southeast.
The Havana Suite, reminiscent of a stylish cigar bar, is arguably the warmest looking of Hill of Content’s four lodging options. Snug but spacious, it creates a strong temptation to skip nearby attractions (koala-viewing, a seal colony and unspoiled French Island). We’ve allowed time to enjoy it, swaddled in fluffy robes, wallowing in our escape from winter. We read, listen to jazzy CDs, watch DVDs (satellite television is also available), sip champagne, devour room-delivered lobster and summon the establishment’s skilled masseuse. Winter? That’s definitely outside. www.thehillofcontent.com.au.
Fireside reading: Penguin Planet Kevin Schafer. Chris Pritchard Kims, Toowoon Bay, NSW: Smack bang on the Pacific seafront just more than a one-hour drive north of Sydney’s central business district, Kims has been a summer retreat for those in the know for more than 120 years (a relative newcomer, I have been going there for only 40 years).
Like migratory birds, Kimophiles return in winter when the luxurious timber bungalows and villas are heated with reverse-cycle airconditioning. Some have private heated
by The Loose Box, Mundaring, Western Australia: Snug in the heart of the Perth Hills, 34km east of the CBD, the Loose Box is all a cosy, winter bolthole should be: accommodation and world-class country restaurant.
Named for the horse stalls that have some past connection with the property, there is nothing loose or box-like about this immaculate ramble of self-catering cottages set among kitchen gardens, flowerbeds and trees. The Fabregues, Elizabeth and much-awarded chef Alain, are warm hosts.
Chalets have sitting rooms with sink-into sofas and verandas with rustic views (bank up saltwater swimming pools, sauna and jacuzzis, the logs in the toasty, enamelled Danish and all have the little necessities for quality wood-burning stove), king-size bedrooms time indoors, including comfortable lounge with burrow-into bedding and electric blanchairs, books and magazines, TV, and DVD kets, Colefax & Fowler fabrics, a CD player and CD players. There’s an open fire in the and a TV, if you must. bar and hearty winter fare in the dining room Walk through the gardens to the restaurant on the tree-circled deck. Home-made soup, — in its own home setting with separate steak and kidney pie and spotted dick pudding rooms, sofas, flowers and an open fire — for with custard, anyone? Sunday lunch or dinner Wednesday to
For me, the winter magic of Kims is Saturday. In winter, nearby Manjimup truffles watching the breaking waves through ceilingfeature; this year there are truffled eggs with to-floor windows while feeling as snug as the tastous (truffle toasts, a specialty of French proverbial bug in a rug. www.kims.com.au. truffle town Cahors), truffled risottos and
Fireside reading: The Bedside Milligan: souffles, and more. www.loosebox.com.au. or Read Your Way to Insomnia by Fireside reading: Truffles by Elisabeth Spike Milligan. Luard. Helen Hutcheon Judith Elen Craigielea Mountain Retreat, Macedon Ranges, Victoria: This hideaway is so well concealed a complicated map is required from hosts Simone and Richard Graham to navigate the twisting road to Mt Hope, 45 minutes from Melbourne along the Calder Highway towards Bendigo. But persevering has its rewards: three sumptuous mountaintop retreats, replete with log fires, seriously comfy beds and far-reaching views to the Melbourne city skyline.
The suites are set in the grounds of Craigielea, a handsome bluestone mansion built as a summer house in 1875 by the mayor of South Melbourne (or Emerald Hill). A happy hill station vibe persists still, with swirling winter mists blanketing the forest and woodsmoke scenting the air. There’s little to do (thankfully) other than a spot of tramping or reading by the fire while the gracious Simone delivers wonderful meals to your room (cooking classes are also available). The main house doubles as a serious art gallery (relocated from Toorak Road when the Grahams went bush), allowing guests to pick up a Boyd or a Blackman before leaving. www.craigielea.com.au.
Fireside reading: More Exceptional Plants by Stephen Ryan. (Ryan runs a local rareplants nursery.) Christine McCabe Ninderry Manor, Yandina, Queensland: The Sunshine Coast rarely conjures up cosy images but, when the nights are a little crisp, guests at Ninderry Manor gather around the open fire savouring complimentary cocktails and tasty canapes.
The four-bedroom B & B takes its name from the mountain ridge on which it is perched, high above the stunning Maroochy Valley, about 20 minutes west of Coolum.
Japanese owners Miyuki and Aki Kitabatake — she’s a masseuse and he’s a Frenchtrained chef — offer special treats to keep winter chills at bay. Guests dining in-house can choose the four-course Japanese menu featuring hearty shabu shabu (a hot-pot winter sukiyaki) or the French menu where the steak au poivre with brandy cream sauce will put fire in the belly.
The two-night weekend package provides time for an afternoon massage and another evening cocktail before heading down the hill to dine at the acclaimed Spirit House restaurant, just five minutes away. www.ninderrymanor.com.au.
Fireside reading: After Nick Earls. Caroline Gladstone
by Country Guesthouse Schonegg, Murrumbateman, ACT: A chill wind in Canberra blows no good, so why not escape to Murrumbateman for the August Fireside Festival. At Schonegg — meaning pretty corner in German — you are assured of a warm welcome. Just 30 minutes north of Canberra, the boutique guesthouse is set on 8ha of painterly landscape, with views towards shimmering Lake Hillview and a backdrop of moody blue ranges. Despite Swiss-German origins, proprietors Evelyn and Richard Everson resisted building a chalet, opting instead for contemporary Australian. The accent is firmly on comfort: a wood-fired combustion fire imparts a cosy glow in the guest lounge, contributing to an ambience of gemutlichkeit, or cosiness, throughout. The six guestrooms (some with spas) have fleecy robes and quilts; each is named after a wine and Murrumbateman is widely acclaimed for its cool-climate drops. They are the perfect accompaniment to Evelyn and Richard’s world-class cuisine. www.schonegg.com.au.
Fireside reading: Haunted & Mysterious Australia by Tim the Yowie Man. Maggy Oehlbeck
Tea and toasty: Clockwise from top left, Craigielea Mountain Retreat; Lake House; Lilianfels Resort & Spa; the Islington