Take the short drive back in time to Bal­aklava and a stately B&B

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - STAY WALKS - Words and pic­tures scott mclen­nan

BAL­AKLAVA pre­serves three im­por­tant facets of coun­try towns: strangers are met with a smile; ev­ery­one knows the names of the dusky cat­tle dogs rest­ing in the shadow of the dusty four-wheel drives; and the hair­dresser’s sig­nage fea­tures the req­ui­site num­ber of mis­placed apos­tro­phes.

At the end of the cen­tral hub of Ge­orge St proudly sits The Matchbox House, a State Her­itage-listed bed and break­fast.

Re­gally over­look­ing the Bal­aklava Race­course, the property was pur­chased and ren­o­vated by a lo­cal busi­ness­man a few years ago. It now serves as one of the more stately ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions in the Frome elec­torate.

It’s per­fect for a weekend stay when you're head­ing to the Flin­ders Ranges.

The manor’s lat­i­tude en­sures we are there at a good hour af­ter wrap­ping up work for the week, yet close enough to the arid boundary of Goy­der’s line to give us the sense we’ve made de­cent Fri­day night head­way.

We ar­rive at dusk and take stock of our lodg­ings, which of­fer two floors of colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture re­fur­bished with a few mod­ern trap­pings.

With mul­ti­ple bed­rooms, Matchbox House makes for a per­fect base for those want­ing to ex­plore the re­gion with a group of friends.

Lo­cated within view of the Bal­aklava Race­course, it’s prime ac­com­mo­da­tion for those plan­ning an ex­cur­sion to Septem­ber’s Bal­aklava Cup. And only half an hour from the coastal Clin­ton Con­ser­va­tion Park and just a few min­utes more from the Clare Val­ley’s wine district, Matchbox House is a cosy place to un­wind af­ter a day of tak­ing in lo­cal sights.

Var­i­ous board games are tucked away in a side­board for those wish­ing to laugh away the evening.

Bed­rooms are spa­cious and com­fort­able, with the king­size bed in the mas­ter bed­room surely a nar­colep­tic’s worst nightmare. The up­stairs bal­cony al­lows 180-de­gree views of Bal­aklava’s town­ship, but bustling nightspots re­main out of sight.

Away from the weary­ing glow of Ade­laide’s chic burger speakeasie­s and FOMO al­ley cul­ture, we stop in at Bal­aklava’s Wot Pizza for a take­away.

While the decor is a mix of truck­stop and tuck­shop, the br­uschetta pizza proves de­li­ciously fresh and com­pletely de­void of deep-fried guilt.

Next time, we’ll eat in so we can trial the dessert range (in­clud­ing ap­ple cin­na­mon and Cherry Ripe piz­zas) while catch­ing snatches of con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the friendly counter staff and lo­cals fin­ish­ing off a day on the land.

Perched on Matchbox’s cosy sofa en­joy­ing the flat-screen TV, our evening is in­ter­rupted by an un­ex­pected guest ap­pear­ance. A mouse skit­ters across the floor and into the fire­place, per­haps shocked by the bru­tal hack­ings, stab­bings and blud­geon­ings in the Game of Thrones DVD we’re in­dulging in. In this part of the state where mice are as pro­lific as Ge­off Brock posters, we’re thank­ful this is the only ro­dent we meet dur­ing our stay.

While our mousey house guest adds an el­e­ment of sur­prise, the main blip dur­ing our Matchbox House visit is the sub­tle feel­ing we are in­trud­ing on some­one else’s home.

In the kitchen, there’s no straight­for­ward de­lin­eation be­tween what is pro­vided for guests and the fare we pre­sume is kept aside for when the own­ers rou­tinely stay.

Like itin­er­ant hous­esit­ters, we tip­toe around the stocked pantry be­side the crock­ery cup­board and scratch our heads at the colourful melange of open con­tain­ers in the fridge. There are all man­ner of milks and fruit juices in­side the hefty Kelv­ina­tor, but guess­ing which ones are fair (and fresh) game is harder than In­di­ana Jones de­duc­ing which of the mul­ti­ple gob­lets be­fore him is the Holy Grail.

In the end we opt for a break­fast of toast, fresh fruit and yo­ghurts, en­joy­ing the morn­ing sun in the wel­com­ing set­ting of Matchbox House’s neatly tended gar­den. But­ter­flies and bees flut­ter around the out­door set­ting as we sur­vey the ex­ter­nal ar­chi­tec­ture of our century-old ac­com­mo­da­tion, spec­u­lat­ing on the ru­ral gen­er­a­tions who’ve found com­fort un­der its cor­ru­gated roof.

We’re snapped out of our lethar­gic Satur­day morn­ing start by the cleaner’s ar­rival, quickly snatch up scat­tered be­long­ings and head north. Our weekend is off to a fine start.

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