Romantic

An escape a deux calls for seclusion, style and a beautiful location.

COTTAGES MONREALE
DANDENONG RANGES, VIC

81 The Crescent, Sassafras
Phone: 1800 681 773
Email: info@cottagesmonreale.com.au
Web: cottagesmonreale.com.au

The location Virgin visitors to the Dandenong Ranges are surprised by how the terrain differs from the bland suburban plains below. Rising quickly to a peak of 633 metres, with ghostly gullies, eclectic villages and impossibly tall trees, the area is an antidote to urban sprawl. B&Bs abound, as do walking paths and Devonshire teas in mock-Tudor buildings. Vistas are rare in the dense national forest, where mountain ash trees tower over a carpet of fern glades. But persist along the windy roads and you'll find dedicated lookouts taking in the metropolis.

The place It's not as ostentatious or overtly sexy as other five-star destinations, but Cottages Monreale cannot be faulted when it comes to seclusion. In a gully next to Sassafras Creek, the estate was home to some of the region's earliest guesthouses, and later a bordello. Now revived as a respectable hideaway for romance, it offers four cottages, built in 1998, and two apartments in the remodelled 100-year-old guesthouse. Open-plan cottages have cathedral ceilings, extensive windows, complete kitchens, plush lounges and spas. Bathrooms are dated but serviceable. Ponds and gardens add to the Zen atmosphere.

The experience Arriving to a heated cottage, with the keys in the door, and no one else in sight, creates a feeling of utter solitude. Indeed, you needn't see another soul all weekend. Light the pre-stacked fireplace and enjoy complimentary liqueur muscat, chocolates, DVDs and breakfast goodies. Gourmet dinner hampers can also be dropped at the door by extremely thoughtful yet invisible hosts. Depending on your sociability, you might encounter the estate's resident animals (three friendly cats, myriad birds and trout), or drive to the villages of Sassafras and Olinda for bric-a-brac browsing and cake-gorging. Local bush or garden walks can be reached on foot from the property and take about half an hour, while more arduous excursions are minutes by car.

Don't miss … the idiosyncratic William Ricketts Sanctuary (Mount Dandenong Tourist Road; 13 19 63; parkweb.vic.gov.au), where mossy statues appear to grow out of the forest floor. Artist William Ricketts lived and worked here from 1934 until his death in 1993, leaving behind 92 ceramic sculptures that were expressions of his progressive spiritual views.   Natalie Craig

Cost: $635-$825 for a two-night weekend stay.
Distance:
45 kilometres east of Melbourne.
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: yes, by prior arrangement.
Pets: small pets, by prior arrangement.
Wheelchair access:
no.

BISHOP'S COURT ESTATE BOUTIQUE HOTEL
CENTRAL WEST, NSW

226 Seymour Street, Bathurst
Phone: (02) 6332 4447
Mobile: 0422 303 311
Email: yourstay@bishopscourtestate.com.au
Web: bishopscourtestate.com.au

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The location Bathurst may be only 200 kilometres west of Sydney but it's 100 years away. Many historical buildings have been immaculately preserved and the streets are wide and quiet. The people, however, are full of life and generosity.

The place The Bishop's Court Estate Boutique Hotel is a fully restored, 141-year-old Victorian manor on a quiet hill overlooking Bathurst. It has six guest rooms - each with a unique theme such as Harmony, Divinity and Serenity - and all are fitted out with European antiques, silk curtains and marble bathrooms. There's also a formal library, upper terrace and secluded garden. However, the internal chapel turned formal dining room is the highlight (especially when illuminated with the plentiful tea candles).

The experience The delight is in the detail. Aperitif, chocolates, barista-quality coffee and biscuits wait for you when you arrive; the decor and design are perfectly executed; and the home-cooked meals, featuring local produce and wines, are truly gourmet.

Don't miss … For one week a year, Bathurst plays host to thousands of V8 Supercar fanatics. The rest of the time, you can tour wineries, enjoy delicious food and take in the history. Church Bar (02 6334 2300) serves wood-fired pizzas and cocktails in a former Anglican Church schoolhouse.   Liz Cooper-Smith

Cost: from $295 a weekend night, including breakfast.
Distance
: 200km west of Sydney.
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: yes, by prior arrangement.
Wheelchair access: limited.

THE LAURELS
BLUE MOUNTAINS, NSW

254 Leura Mall, Leura
Mobile: 0418 161 626
Email: smb@bigpond.net.au
Web: stayz.com.au/51809

The location Leura is one of the Blue Mountains' most elegant towns, with gracious streets gently sloping to the wild edge of the escarpment. Federation houses are set amid camellias, rhododendrons and the best and tallest of deciduous trees.

The place At dusk, fairy lights twinkle beside the door of The Laurels, a beautiful weatherboard villa, and inside, it is clear that its owners have always known how to treat this mountain gem with respect and restraint. Three double bedrooms, decorated in French-provincial style, open off the wide hallway, which leads past a huge bathroom (with enormous bath and heated floor) to the eat-in kitchen and separate sitting room with a working fireplace. Both open to the back verandah, where an outside eating area overlooks the glorious garden.

The experience The day could begin with breakfast on the verandah, then a short drive to the Leura Cascades for a walk. At the Mall, stop for a drink and dinner or buy what you need for a quiet night in.

Don't miss … The French Shoppe (166-168 The Mall, 02 4784 2382; thefrenchshoppe.com.au) is a must for anyone interested in decoration or just treating themselves to something beautiful.   Judith Whelan

Cost: $650 for a two-night minimum stay (Friday and Saturday nights).
Distance:
about 100km west of Sydney.
Sleeps: 1-6.
Children: yes.
Pets:
yes, by prior arrangement.
Wheelchair access:
limited.


LILIANFELS RESORT & SPA
BLUE MOUNTAINS, NSW

Lilianfels Avenue, Katoomba
Phone: (02) 4780 1200
Email: reservations@lilianfels.com.au
Web: lilianfels.com.au

The location The Blue Mountains is one of the world's most ancient and spectacular land formations. Here, you can stand at the foot of a roaring waterfall, sit on a sun-warmed stone in dense bush listening to birdsong, or climb a weather-beaten rock that was old when the Grand Canyon was just a few centimetres deep. As a delightful bonus, the region is dotted with little towns full of brilliant bakers, cosy cafes and smart, sophisticated restaurants.

The place Just three minutes' walk from the iconic Three Sisters, with heart-stopping views over the Jamison Valley, Lilianfels is the ultimate hedonist's getaway. Set in English-style gardens, the 85-room country-house resort features a spacious Victorian lounge, library, open fires, spa, gym, a billiards room, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Comfort levels are high, and rooms resemble Brideshead Revisited sets, with a tizzy mix of pelmets, antimacassars and canopied brass beds.

The experience When you're not playing pool, swimming or having a Payot facial and volcanic foot therapy in the spa, you're probably eating. Be sure to save room for a meal in the Victorian wood-panelled dining room of the one-hatted Darley's. There's a caring maître d' in Reza Doaie and a mountain-friendly, French-influenced, seasonally driven menu from chef Carl Middleton that includes the best roast potatoes this far above sea level.

Don't miss … As well as the Three Sisters, the Scenic Railway (the steepest railway in the world), Scenic Cableway aerial cable car and the Scenic Skyway are also close at hand. Or just spend your time eating scones, drinking hot chocolate or buying antique knick-knacks like everyone else.   Terry Durack

Cost: deluxe rooms from $553 a night (two-night minimum stay), including breakfast.
Distance:
100km west of Sydney.
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: yes.
Pets:
yes, by prior arrangement.
Wheelchair access:
yes.

KETCHUP'S BANK GLAMPING
SCENIC RIM, QLD

726 Green Hills Road, Cannon Creek, Boonah
Phone: (07) 5463 1269
Email: info@ketchupsbankglamping.com.au
Web: ketchupsbankglamping.com.au

The location Drive 90 minutes from Brisbane and you'll reach not the Gold or Sunshine coasts but the postcard-perfect Scenic Rim. The Rim is the name given to an arc of mountain ranges, but the region includes the hills and valleys of rainforest and farmland at the foot of the range. At its heart is the tiny town of Boonah.

The place Fifteen minutes from Boonah, drivers begin winding over a ridge towards Ketchup's Bank Glamping. Elevated among the hills with sweeping views, it's a stunning way to arrive at the 40-hectare property that's host to two plush tents. With wooden floors, ensuite bathrooms with fluffy robes, and a queen-size bed, the tents have all the comforts of a hotel with the intimacy of sleeping under canvas. Outside is a well-stocked bush kitchen, with a gas barbecue and campfire.

The experience This is camping minus everything that puts people off camping. Even the wood in the Tom Roberts-worthy campfire has been expertly stacked, leaving guests with nothing to do but strike a match and settle back with a glass of wine. Guests can venture out to a local restaurant or hotel, or opt to have a barbecue dinner delivered, ready to cook - and leave the cleaning up for someone else. In the morning, take a walk around the picturesque property, followed by a billy-tea breakfast around the campfire.

Don't miss … a drink and old-fashioned counter meal at a historic local pub. Try the circa-1886 Dugandan Hotel, recently bought by the winemaker Sirromet, just out of Boonah (124 Boonah-Rathdowney Road; 07 5463 1048) or head into town to the charming 107-year-old Commercial Hotel (39 High Street, Boonah; 07 5463 1024).   Georgina Waters

Cost: from $249 a night (two-night minimum stay).
Distance:
about 100km south-west of Brisbane.
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: no.
Wheelchair access:
no.

SUMMIT VIEWS
MORNINGTON PENINSULA, VIC

20 Nestle Court, Arthurs Seat
Phone: 1300 768 535
Mobile: 0400 768 539
Email: info@summitviews.com.au
Web: summitviews.com.au

The location Back in 1802, Matthew Flinders climbed through thick bush to reach it, but now Arthurs Seat is more easily accessible by the steep road that snakes its way up the 314 metres between sea level and peak. Scenic lookouts are strategically placed along the road, but why stop when the summit, with its spectacular views, is just a few hairpin bends away? And, of course, all this is in the heart of the Mornington Peninsula with its gourmet food, wineries and gorgeous beaches.

The place The smaller of Summit Views' two luxury apartments has easily negotiated steps cut into the steep hillside, ending at a tiny bridge from land to entrance. Indoors, the view predominates, and it's almost better at night, when the dark mass of the bay is rimmed by the orange glow of streetlights lining the coastal roads. The decor is subtle - neutral colours touched by deep-rose pinks of rugs and furnishings. All rooms, even the ensuite with its double spa, are designed to make the most of the outlook.

The experience The question is whether to stay indoors - lolling around in armchairs with the fully integrated sound system playing in the background, admiring the view of the yacht-dotted bay or gazing in wonder at a pair of eagles surfing the airstreams above - or to go out. Visitor testimonials suggest indoors is a popular option, but it takes strength of mind to resist the area's many attractions: walks, mazes, galleries, hot springs, wineries, Arthurs Seat State Park, golf, fishing, a swim ... Or enjoy a meal at Arthurs Hotel (790 Arthurs Seat Scenic Road, 03 5981 4444); same views, different setting.

Don't miss … The extensive Seawinds Gardens are a mix of lawned expanse and lookouts, and take in exotic and native gardens terraced by a long stone wall featuring five William Ricketts sculptures. Or get lost in the Enchanted Maze Garden (enchantedmaze.com.au) where the challenges include finding the Japanese garden at the centre of the hedge maze, or the fairies in the children's maze.   Sally Dugan

Cost: Friday night, $360-$420; Saturday night, $420-$440; Sunday night $340-$420 (two-night minimum stay). Rates include a light continental breakfast.
Distance:
about 90km south of Melbourne.
Sleeps:
1-2.
Children:
children over two by prior arrangement.
Wheelchair access:
no.

summitviews.com.au

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