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