Clear Mountain Lodge Spa and Vineyard, review: Where good looks count

Read our writer's views on this property below

A bush sanctuary's views and beauty treatments are worth the trouble it takes to get there, writes Belinda Jackson.

IT IS a cold and windy night, the night we head to Clear Mountain Lodge, a small hotel about 35 minutes' drive north of the Brisbane city centre.

The lodge is, unsurprisingly, at the top of lonely Clear Mountain, in Brisbane's little-known hinterland. In the dark of night, having been unceremoniously stranded in Queensland thanks to Chilean volcanic ash clouds, the lodge could be on the moon, for all I can see.

Thank goodness for the GPS, the neo-tech husband says. I'll switch off my Walkman so I can hear you call me antediluvian but I just don't trust them. So we argue all the way to Clear Mountain, before calling the hotel to check its location.

"Just drive to the top of the hill. You can't miss it," the receptionist says. "Don't follow the GPS and go on Old School Road. It'll send you down a four-wheel-drive track through a forest." Tres Wolf Creek.

Originally a health retreat built by a doctor who wanted to cure cancer, the lodge reopened as a hotel about 18 months ago and recently underwent a $6.5 million renovation. The main lounge and restaurant are all big fireplaces and stone walls, perfect on a winter's evening: think Scottish hunting lodge. Guests are snuggled into low sofas with after-dinner drinks; I fully expect someone to pull out a hunting rifle and talk about potting the Big Five.

Our room, No.42, is the receptionist's favourite. Now, I take these statements with a bucket of salt but she's right. The corner room has two gorgeously comfortable queen beds, kitted out with fresh new linen, and a spa bath. The next morning, I really get why this room has its reputation: spectacular views spread below our balcony. The hotel is built on a hillside among 20 hectares of bushland and every room looks out over gush-worthy views of the North Lakes district, the Glass House Mountains and the Sunshine Coast.

Breakfast is on the sunny deck with those panoramic views. Apparently, it's bookings only at the weekends and you can understand why: this hidden gem isn't a budget breaker and it's a chic mountain alternative to a beach break. The lodge isn't a big property: there are just 53 rooms and it's fast becoming a weekend getaway for the locals.

If all this isn't enough, another drawcard is the new Mountain Spa, opened in April by Brisbane spa doyenne Stephanie Shepherd. Ladies who love to lounge are braving the mountain roads for a day's spa and lunching, while bridal and baby-shower high teas are also on the rise, drawn by the spa's group manicure lounge.

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The spa's emphasis is on wine therapies and organic treatments, including a steam therapy cave and the new Thalgo Terre & Mer organic skin treatments range, and I sneak a peek at the couples-only Bordeaux lounge, decked out with a decadent $10,000 stone bath. A classic facial will set you back $130 and the key word here is "thorough", as therapist Sarah buffs my face back into red-cheeked health.

Admittedly, it is rather too red-cheeked for the next 30 minutes, but the long-term results are worth the price tag.

A wander around the hotel uncovers the sunny pool, tennis courts, gym and gardens that are becoming popular for garden weddings, and we must award gold stars for its aim to become self-sufficient for all water.

We also give the hotel restaurant, Mandy's on the Mountain, a run. We're just one of two tables in the restaurant on a midweek evening, ensuring good service.

The standout dish is a Bendele Farm free-range, organic chicken, from a small family business in rural Queensland.

"I don't normally order chicken when I go to restaurants," the general manager, Teresa, says the next day, "but ..." and we announce simultaneously, the chicken is divine. Served with truffled mash, green veg and a tarragon cream sauce, it hits all the right notes. It's even well priced at $27.50 - not bad, considering the remoteness of the hotel means they have you over a barrel, budget-wise.

The steak, from a private selection in nearby Gympie, is perfectly cooked and served with a vibrant salad of herbs freshly plucked from the chef's garden.

The executive chef, Clement Wuthrich, is working on sourcing all his produce within view of the hotel, which could mean Moreton Bay snapper, cheeses from the Sunshine Coast and, eventually, grapes from its own new vineyard.

There are plans for expansion - 50 six-star rooms and a wedding chapel - which, I admit, have me worried. Will the hotel be able to retain its serenity? Quiet and calm, with good views and a great spa, it's a welcome addition to the somewhat lacklustre Brisbane hotel scene.

The writer was a guest of Clear Mountain Lodge and Tourism Queensland.

Trip notes

Where Clear Mountain Lodge Spa and Vineyard, 564 Clear Mountain Road, Clear Mountain, (07) 3298 5100, clearmountainlodge.com.au.

How much From $170 a double, room only. Mountain Fresh Couples Escape packages from $400 include a massage for two and late checkout.

Top marks The Bendele free-range chicken breast on the restaurant's dinner menu.

Black marks The location — even locals are fuzzy on the details but perhaps this is a blessing in disguise.

Don't miss A wander around the estate, or pop into the few tiny vineyards nearby.