Ice and cosy
We present our top retreats ideal for a snuggle
Pretty Beach House, NSW: Three villas are set high on the Central Coast’s secluded Wagstaffe Peninsula, 90 minutes north of Sydney. This is resoundingly a couples’ hideaway, with private heated plunge pools, plenty of lounging space and toasty-warm bedding. Forget television: cackling kookaburras and screeching rainbow lorikeets provide the soundtrack and it’s the perfect place to curl up with a good book (or someone who’s read one, as the old saying goes).
There is an open fire in the main pavilion, deep armchairs and the unmatchable attraction of meals designed by Stefano Manfredi, who divides his time between here and nearby sister property Bells at Killcare.
Rug up and walk around the bushy estate, dotted with pink-barked angophora and foraging brush turkeys, or head for my local beach, the long and sometimes wild Killcare, where one of Pretty Beach House’s owners, advertising guru John Singleton, keeps a seaside cottage and has strong links with the local surf life saving club. www.prettybeachhouse.com. Susan Kurosawa Lenna Penthouse, Tasmania: There’s something mesmerising about watching a storm brew over the ocean from the safety and warmth of one’s living room. Particularly if that living room happens to be in a luxury rooftop apartment with prime position on Hobart’s beautiful Battery Point waterfront. The two exquisite Lenna Penthouse apartments atop the heritage-listed Lenna hotel offer 360-degree views through floor-toceiling windows; arguably the best vantage point in town to take in the waterfront, Princes Park, Mt Wellington and bustling Salamanca Place without having to venture out into the cold. Each luxuriously kitted out apartment has two king-sized bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen and living areas — plus wraparound balcony for balmier days — but the two penthouses can be combined as one for larger groups seeking an indulgent Tasmanian escape. This correspondent was particularly impressed with the underfloor heating in the bathrooms. Who needs ugg boots in the middle of winter here? www.lenna.com.au. Michelle Rowe Mona, NSW: For a taste of Provence without the pricetag (or the summer warmth, sadly), head to the National Trust-listed township of Braidwood in the NSW southern tablelands. There lies Mona, a 19th-century pile on 42 scenic hectares of golden poplars, grandfather oaks, rose gardens, ornamental lake and even a croquet lawn. Accommodation is in the two-storey stables villa with its four bedrooms, kitchen and lounge with billiard table and jukebox, or in the more sumptuous three-bedroom coachhouse dating from 1903. Book for a minimum of four people and you’ll have exclusive use of either property. The handsome village of Braidwood, with its art, antiques and eateries, is a brisk walk or short drive up the road. But with farmstyle breakfast provisions supplied, gourmet meals by arrangement, board games and open fires, leaving Mona is unlikely to be a priority. www.mona.com.au. Kendall Hill Elm Wood, Tasmania: Set in Tasmania’s Golden Valley, 30 minutes by road from Launceston or 45 minutes from Devonport, Elm Wood is shaded by venerable oak, ash and chestnut trees, hard against Westbury Village Green; it feels lifted from the pages of a Beatrix Potter storybook.
And although it looks as if it’s been marinating in these green surroundings for a century, the Victorian gothic-style house was purpose-built as a guesthouse just a few years ago. Unlike many B&Bs in Tasmania, what you get at Elm Wood is not just a bedroom but an entire domain. There are three enormous suites in the main house that sleep up to four, each with a wood-fired heater as well as electric heating.
There’s also Linden Cottage, a snug abode just for two. Plan to stay a second night at the very least. With the passion of the newly converted, Gil Stokes is a persuasive advocate for his adopted home. Gallop off after just one night and you’ll regret it, not to mention missing out on another scrumptious breakfast. www.elmwood.com.au. Michael Gebicki Evanslea, NSW: Shaking winter’s grip is easy in Mudgee, about 3.5 hours’ drive northwest of Sydney. Warm wineries and cosy restaurants abound, but fivestar Evanslea, a luxury B&B, banishes the spectre of perishing from the cold entirely. Centrally located, this property offers four lavishly appointed, selfcontained cottages on park-like acres by a river. It is impossible not to snuggle in when roaring fires and plump beds augment hibernal vistas. Spa baths and double showers ensure pink cheeks, particularly if followed by the complimentary port.
Evanslea’s centre is a 19th-century family home. Here Andrew and Vicki Hudson serve breakfasts to guests in a sunny conservatory where snoozing pets add country charm. A welcome will be extended to your pet too, providing it is docile. The Hudsons are wildlife carers so motherless kangaroos hop about the gardens and hang in sacks from chairs. In the thick of winter Evanslea even warms the heart. www.evanslea.com. Leonie Coombes Mt Sturgeon Cottages, Royal Mail Hotel, Victoria: Victoria’s atmospheric Grampians feel like the Scottish Highlands, the perfect setting for a wellinsulated stay. On the southern edge of the Grampians National Park, 260km west of Melbourne, is Dunkeld, home of famed food destination the Royal Mail Hotel. Less well-known are the Mail’s cottages on an operating sheep property 3km away, at the foot of Mt Sturgeon. The 1840s one-and two-bedroom, bluestone shearers’ and cooks’ quarters have been restored and furnished with queen beds, plus singles in the two-bedders, kitchen facilities (breakfast provisions included) and leather sofas for curling up by the open fire. Guests have full access to hotel facilities and complementary transfers if they treat themselves to a Royal Mail dinner. Various walking trails run between the estate and hotel, around Dunkeld township or into the Grampians. Mention our special offer for readers when booking a cottage for two nights until August 31 and stay a third night for free. www.royalmail.com.au. Judith Elen The Boathouse, South Australia: The one-room Birks Harbour Boathouse, though high and dry for the moment, is Wind in the Willows adorable. Set on a tiny, 1920s marina bobbing with wooden boats in the historic Murray River port of Goolwa (60 minutes south of Adelaide), this winter-snug hideaway sleeps just two. With wood fire and sofas set by the tall windows it’s the perfect hide from which to observe the region’s prolific bird life. Flocks of several hundred pelicans are not uncommon. Set on a quiet street in the old part of town, the Boathouse lies within walking distance of cafes and restaurants but is so tucked away (with a kitchen in a cupboard, flat-screen telly and super comfy bathroom), you’re unlikely to stray far from the bleached deck. The quaint Birks Harbour complex returns to
Snug as a bug: The Boathouse Campaspe House, Victoria: Less than an hour north of Melbourne in the ‘‘ I cant believe it’s not England’’ landscape of the Macedon Ranges, Campaspe House quietly simmers like the setting for an Agatha Christie thriller. The 1920s English manor sits prim and pretty in the orderly confusion of a mature Edna Walling garden, but it reeks of adventure, indulgence and — with any luck — decadence. The thrill here is writing yourself into the script; of superimposing ordinary old me onto the textured fabrics and mahogany and leather and rich rugs and open fires of Jeanne and Richard Pratt’s former weekender. Campaspe House is acclaimed as a gourmet retreat, and chic chef Tim Fowler has added some modern sensibilities to the famed food. In-house massages, garden strolls, or the harmless pretensions of croquet and petanque await. And if you think the Macedon Ranges is all about fine wines, check out Woodends Holgate Brewhouse for real beer and unreal food. www.campaspehouse.com.au. Rob Ingram Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania: Sometimes, breathtaking cool-weather wilderness on a grand scale is worth a little extra travel time, particularly when Tasmania’s World Heritage listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is at your back door, and wallabies and wombats wrapped in their warmest winter woollies parade before your cabin each day. At Cradle Mountain Lodge, toasty-warm open fires, your own cosy timber cabin (go for the King Billy Suites if you can) and the lodge’s indulgent Waldheim Alpine Spa make the journey — a flight to Launceston, and two-hour drive up the range — worth the effort. Pack your boots and thickest snow jackets for the 20 walking tracks, and time your visit to savour the gourmet delights planned for Christmas in July celebrations, or hosted degustation dinners this July 24 and August 15. A winter discount of 15 per cent applies from now until September 30, and from July 1, this Tasmanian icon will be under new ownership, promising to deliver the same up-close-and-personal rustic wilderness sorcery as the Voyages group did before them. www.cradlemountainlodge. com.au. Merry Kirkwood its early 20th-century glory next month when founder Napier Birks’s homestead, set in impressive gardens behind the Boathouse, opens as an upmarket retreat. Think elegant, ensuite bedrooms, state-of-the-art kitchen, pushbutton gas fires and spacious grounds. www.birksharbour.com.au. Christine McCabe