High­lands re­treat suits to a tee

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - GAIL HEATH­WOOD

I AM sitting on my bal­cony with the bushy pro­file of Bowral’s Mt Gi­bral­tar dead ahead. In the fore­ground, early-morn­ing golfers hit balls into a small lake, which ducks dive to in­ves­ti­gate. It’s a green and peace­ful scene, typ­i­cal of the NSW south­ern high­lands.

I step back into the gue­stroom, which is def­i­nitely not typ­i­cal. It’s very large, for a start, with a pair of su­per-king beds fit for a be­gin­ner Big­gest Loser cou­ple. I’ve j ust spent a cosy night un­der crisp white linen af­ter a so­porific soak in the spa tub (also big enough for two would-be weight losers, though per­haps some episodes later) lis­ten­ing to sooth­ing jazz from my docked mo­bile phone.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion at the new Gi­bral­tar Ho­tel Bowral is in­deed grand in scale, re­flect­ing ev­ery as­pect of this con­tem­po­rary es­tab­lish­ment. It boasts the only lift in a lo­cal ho­tel. Just as well, be­cause the build­ing is long and there’s walk­ing enough with­out stairs.

The cor­ri­dors are show­cases for an eclec­tic mix of in­ter­na­tional arte­facts and art, so there’s rea­son to pause along the route. I’m headed for the heated in­door pool and a pre-booked Pi­lates session, al­though I could have cho­sen yoga, Zumba, or (hor­rors) boot camp. Af­ter­wards, in the Groom­ing Lounge, I’m trimmed and tou­sled by Glenn O’Reilly, whose Paris cre­den­tials make him a star catch for the ho­tel. He’s very green, too, tam­ing my mop with Prive botan­i­cals.

O’Reilly also has charge of the ad­join­ing day spa: five ritzy treat­ment rooms and a mul­ti­headed Vichy shower that rinses treat­ment residues from my still­prone body. Even so, the Aus­tralian na­tive plant-based Li’tya spa prod­ucts en­gen­der sen­sa­tions of emerg­ing from a se­cret bush bil­l­abong.

For golfers, a round on the 18-hole, par 69 course is read­ily avail­able and not ex­pen­sive. Book­ings are made through the ho­tel and lessons can be ar­ranged. Mem­ber­ship costs about $700, a good in­vest­ment per­haps for play­ers happy to swap log-jam city tee-off times for a drive of about an hour from Syd­ney’s south­ern sub­urbs.

For non-golfers and fam­i­lies, free guided bush­walks in the ad­join­ing Gib­ber­gun­yah Re­serve, rich with na­tive flora and fauna, are a good op­tion.

Pre-din­ner drinks in Harvey’s Bar, named for mu­si­cian and lo­cal res­i­dent Geoff Harvey, swing along nicely to the Fri­day and Satur­day night pi­anist, some­times the mae­stro him­self. The bar menu in­cludes steak sand­wiches, tapas and desserts but, as Harvey’s is open from 11am un­til when­ever, it suits per­fectly. Happy hour is from 4pm to 6pm on Fri­days.

Din­ner in the Gi­bral­tar Grill is an ex­tended repast in need of some tweak­ing. The prom­ise of a per­fectly cooked steak is de­liv­ered but the long wait could have been leav­ened by a view of the moun­tain in­stead of the re­flec­tion of din­ers. How­ever, I’m as­sured out­door light­ing is soon to be in­stalled. Buf­fet break­fast is also served here and choices are sat­is­fy­ing. Or­der your eggs any which way, and there’s proper barista-made cof­fee.

Gi­bral­tar’s 76 gue­strooms and flex­i­ble spaces will en­cour­age wed­ding and con­fer­ence guests. But spe­cial nup­tial draw­cards — the Ital­ian Ahlborn-Galante elec­tronic pipe­less or­gan and grand piano — are al­ready at­tract­ing lead­ing mu­si­cians and recitals are in the wind. Gail Heath­wood was a guest of Gi­bral­tar Ho­tel Bowral.

The new Gi­bral­tar Ho­tel Bowral fea­tures an 18-hole golf course

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