Cosy up this win­ter at our se­lec­tion of fire-warmed ho­tels and hide­aways across the coun­try

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Australian Holidays -

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.lil­ian­

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.lake­

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.­ling­ton­ho­

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.the­hillof­con­

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. truf­fle town Ca­hors), truf­fled risot­tos and

Fire­side read­ing: The Bed­side Milligan: souf­fles, and more. www.loose­ 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.

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.nin­der­ry­

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.

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

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