Breakneck Gorge Retreat, Elevated Plains review: Steel heart steals hearts

Read our writer's views on this property below

Michelle Potts takes the long view from a minimalist hilltop haven.

North of Hepburn over Breakneck Gorge, a sharp right turn takes us up a steep gravel track curving around the 18-hectare hilltop property. Making our way in low gear to the top of the ridge, we disturb a mob of eastern grey kangaroos. As they bound off towards sprawling manna gums, we pique some pony interest yet grazing Angus steers just don't give a moo. A contemporary concrete, glass and steel villa soon comes into view. Further along the track, behind orange-flecked boulders, native grasses and bronzed garden sculptures, a dramatic corrugated steel wedge dominates the landscape. Home, sweet home.

Our congenial host, Arthur, wanders over, says hello and slides the top-hung industrial door open for a quick show-and-tell.

Inside the stone-clad alcove is an impressive two-person hydrotherapy massage bath. Glass

bi-fold doors open out to a timber deck for uninterrupted views of Mount Franklin and undulating hills and bushland beyond. Clean design lines follow through in the light-filled, split-level studio. Rich, honey-hued ply wall panels also smartly disguise storage areas, adding an illusion of space. The bathroom's a good size, too, and I spy a little pamper pack. Across the polished concrete floor, a steel staircase spirals up to the queen-bed mezzanine. Apart from a dishwasher, the galley kitchen, lounge and dining area has everything you need.

Tour over. We unpack, don the leisure gear, dim the lights, sink into the soft leather sofas, flick on the flat-screen TV, then head to bed.

He runs, reads and eventually relaxes in the spa, spellbound by the wedge-tailed eagles soaring above the gorge. I explore.

From the pergola, weeping cherry trees lace the long, low concrete ha-ha wall that conceals the hen house and organic garden beds below. As I move closer, the rooster struts his stuff, while Galacto the Russian Blue - guardian of hens, ducks and turkeys - glides by on mouse patrol.

And then we ate We relish just-laid eggs from the girls. Cereals, bread, juice, local jams, brie, dips and crackers, coffee, tea and condiments come with comps, too.

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For more provisions, call into Cliffy's Emporium in Daylesford on the way and stock up on some of the region's finest small-batch, artisan, heirloom and organic produce. Look out for Sher wagyu, Spa venison, Fernleigh Farms rare-breed Wessex Saddleback pork, Tuki lamb and trout, Skipton smoked eel, Istra Smallgoods, Meredith Dairy and Holy Goat cheeses, and Des O'Toole's honey. Pick up a local cool-climate wine to complement.

The deal maker Location, location, location. The modern, light-filled loft captures a commanding rural vista at every glance. Add relaxing indoor-outdoor spa, alfresco dining, warm hospitality and wildlife, and it's all you long for in a rural retreat.

Stepping out With manna from heaven, much of it locavore, minutes away in Daylesford, we eat out. A lot. Highlights? Exquisite mood, food, service and setting at the legendary Lake House, a consistent two-hat rater in The Age Good Food Guide. Sublime Moreton Bay bug dumplings and meltingly tender master-stock-braised pork belly from elegant Japanese-inspired Kazuki's at the Raglan. Rustic venison rissoles paired with dunkelweizen (dark ale) at pint-size beer house Breakfast and Beer. Good value, too. And juicy cinnamon-spiced duck breast over a bottle of Tomboy Hill pinot noir in Perfect Drop Wine and Food Lounge.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.

VISITORS' BOOK

Breakneck Gorge Retreat

Address 116 Hepburn-Newstead Road, Elevated Plains (just through Hepburn).

The Verdict Mod, minimalist, architect-designed studio with a view.

Price A minimum two-night stay is $530 on weekends, $420 midweek.

Bookings Phone 5348 4422; see breakneckgorge.com.au.

Getting there Hepburn is a 90-minute drive from Melbourne. Follow the Western Freeway, exit the C141 through Daylesford to Hepburn Springs, turn left into Hepburn-Newstead Road, then a swift right over Breakneck Gorge.

Perfect for serenity, romance.

Wheelchair access No.

While you're there Graze and guzzle your way round a region rich in local bounty. Explore 1860s Swiss-Italian farmhouse buildings at Lavandula. Walk the Dry Diggings Track. Lap Lake Daylesford. Drive through Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens. Pamper yourself at Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa — this is mineral springs country.