Read our writer's views on this property below
Echuca's two rivers – the broad Murray and the more modest Campaspe – wind around the busy, pretty town, but it is high above the smaller of the two that the CocknBull holds its gaze. From its terrace and solar-heated poolside, and from some of the rooms upstairs, the view onto big trees swaying above the waters is a delight. Just down the end of the street, the historic Port of Echuca and its fleet of busy paddle steamers have great allure, too. This is the heart of Echuca, emphasised by its brace of good cafes, restaurants and pubs – so, too, the lovely walks in Victoria Park bushland along the rivers. The town is said to enjoy more sunny days each year than the Gold Coast. Certainly our few winter days here begin chilly but by mid-morning are sun-drenched.
In the old part of the CocknBull once a busy pub dating from 1876 – two apartments brim with personality, while those upstairs at the back of the property, in a newer section, are more contemporary in mood and design. We take the Emmylou suite in the old frontage, while my parents take the adjoining Adelaide apartment which, with its four-poster bed, spa bath and airy atmosphere, has a hint of romance. The Emmylou glows with orange and chocolate hues – the tangelo walls glow warmly – and there are many African-inspired textures. Each apartment has distinct character, is spotless and spiritedly designed. Co-owner Summar Sargent explains her mother Judy Magdziarz gets the well-deserved credit for all this.
Outside, there's a pool and barbie area and the owners can organise a dinner party for 8-12 people in the enormous, grand dining room (co-owner Dave Hollamby is a chef). It has a huge fireplace, while the adjoining pub-wine bar is also available for private functions for up to 75 people.
Big, soft-but-firm beds awash with faux-leopard fabric cushions aid a good slumber, while the black leather sofas and chairs in the Emmylou are a good, comfortable match for the decor.
One of the town's mainstay restaurants is the busy Oscar W's Wharfside, where food-lovers go for impeccable feasts prepared using a lot of regional produce. Sited on the port, it has an elegant atmosphere. Other treats are The Black Pudding cafe for breakfast or coffee and cake; the Wisteria cafe for devonshire tea; and the Echuca Hotel and Campaspe Lodge for side-splittingly large, but classy, plates of pub grub. At the CocknBull, cooked breakfasts are possible as part of a package.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
The Port of Echuca is getting a shiny new "interpretive" visitor centre, hopefully retaining the authenticity of the old steam displays that for many years beckoned with colonial charm. Either way, this area is where the paddle steamers are and it is wonderfully relaxing taking a tour up or down the Murray, with some ferries letting passengers off to explore local wineries. It is worth crossing the river to NSW sister city Moama for the Horseshoe Lagoon boardwalk.
HOW TO GET THERE
Echuca is 205 kilometres, or about 2½ hours' drive, from Melbourne and is serviced by V/Line trains on the Bendigo line.
CocknBull Boutique Hotel apartments are priced from $150 a night. See cocknbullechuca.com