Finches of Beechworth
Tucked away in a quiet, leafy street in the former gold mining town, the well-known bed and breakfast has had a recent major makeover by new owners Margo Maller and Peter Brygel. It is now Beechworth's second five-star rated property. Once Ned Kelly's old stomping ground, the town oozes history, with 32 National Trust-listed buildings, as well as cosy cafes and funky shops. Gold worth $2 billion was discovered from 1852 and it is rumoured there's still more treasure in those hills.
Set in beautiful, English-style manicured gardens, with a tinkling fountain and an 80-year-old magnolia tree taking centre stage, the site of the Victorian-period residence was once home to a two-storey brick malt house built by brewer George Bilson, which was demolished in the 1880s. The new stately residence was built about 1895 and retains original Tasmanian Kauri timber ceilings and some timber floors.
There are six suites and a wide, wraparound verandah that is perfect for sitting in the sun. Fancy a dip? There's a solar-heated, mineral swimming pool and bikes for borrowing.
The deluxe king suite at the end of the verandah has a small en suite with Molten Brown products and all the comforts, including a king pillow-top bed with quality linen that's hard to leave. There's Foxtel cable TV with 90 stations and free Wi-Fi throughout the property. A chaise lounge beckons to take a seat and a Murano chandelier adds some bling.
The main sitting room has black leather sofas that are perfect for hibernating beside the crackling fire. A huge bookcase offers a great choice of reading material and there's a host of eclectic treasures gathered from overseas jaunts. Taking pride of place is an 1865 gilded French hall stand and mirror, and a painting of the family bulldog, George. Antique and contemporary decor meet head on and it all works well, whether you are admiring a collection of Japanese Kokeshi dolls, Fornasetti wall plates or a Javanese sculpture.
A hearty breakfast is served in the dining room, with fresh fruit, yoghurt and home-made Bircher muesli, and eggs done every which way. Tapas and a glass of regional wine or bubbles are served at 6pm in the sitting room, where guests can mingle and exchange notes on the day's events.
At the new Beechworth Honey Discovery Cafe, 87 Ford Street, each menu item is "bee" rated according to the ingredients' dependence on honeybees for pollination. Share plates by chef Shauna Stockwell include pumpkin falafel with cucumber and minted yoghurt with a five "bee" rating, and slow-roasted pork belly with braised cabbage and fennel, creamed potato and caramelised apple. Leave room for the honey plate with real honeycomb and Beechworth Honey macadamia nut ice-cream.
The Press Room Wine Bar, 37 Camp Street, offers tasty tapas, paella, craft beer and local and Spanish drops. Take a seat fireside in the tiny Twisted Chimney lounge and listen to the toe-tapping Spanish music.
Beechworth Spa's new vinotherapy treatment features wine on the inside and out with a decadent wine-based body exfoliant, red wine bath soak and perfect massage. Then it is "wine" time with a glass of vino and gourmet treats served in the Dreaming lounge.
A tranquil bolthole that's perfect for bunkering down – a great gold strike indeed.
Beechworth is three hours' drive from Melbourne, with access via the Hume Freeway turning off at Wangaratta.
3 Finch Street, Beechworth. Rooms from $270 with breakfast and evening tapas and wine. Phone (03) 5728 2655, see finchesofbeechworth.com.au.
HIGHLIGHT Pretty garden, perfect for daydreaming.
LOWLIGHT Packing up.
The writer was a guest of Tourism North East.