Kingbilli Country Estate, Taggerty review: Turn up the heat

Read our writer's views on this property below

Lisa Stones discovers a mountain retreat to escape the winter chill.

When you decide a midwinter weekend in the mountains is just what you need to rejuvenate mind and spirit, you can't really complain about the cold. And it is very cold. But we have come well prepared and, with the aid of a wood heater and plenty of firewood, manage to hold the chill at bay.

The heater also acts as entertainment for the seven-year-old who has had a city upbringing.

The Kingbilli Country Estate, as it is rather grandly named, is a bit of everything. About 90 minutes' drive north-east from Melbourne and two kilometres from Taggerty, it has three cottages - the Honeymoon, Studio and Ballards - available as self-contained, self-catering accommodation. It is also a registered wildlife refuge and rehabilitation centre.

The Lilydale stone, timber and slate-floor cottages, open to the public since 1985, are set in beautiful, natural surroundings. We stay in the Studio, which is tucked into the bottom of a hill, with a path leading from the door to a private island that is home to a gazebo, fern pool and heated outdoor spa.

Cross a small bridge and climb the steps cut into the hill and you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the nearby Cathedral Range. It's well worth the climb to the top.

Our cottage has a spacious kitchen with plenty of cooking utensils, cutlery and crockery - handy when you have to negotiate who is doing the washing up. It also has a microwave oven, hot plates and fridge but unfortunately the wood-fired stove is purely for decoration.

The two bedrooms can accommodate up to five guests, with a queen-size bed in one room and three singles, one a loft-type bunk bed, in the other.

The bathroom has a shower but no bath.


There is also a TV, with four satellite stations, DVD player and CD/radio.

Outdoor pursuits are catered for with tennis racquets, fishing rods, mountain bikes and a rowing boat provided for guests' use.

Bushwalking, birdwatching and wildlife viewing are also popular. The entrance to the Cathedral Range State Park is just across the road. Guests can also book one-hour Pouch Professors sessions, which offer children an insight into the world of marsupials, or join an eco-trek with llamas carrying your lunch. These activities need to be booked in advance.

The location is also handy to Lake Mountain or Mount Buller if a visit to the snow is on your agenda and the gorgeous town of Alexandra is close enough for lunch, dinner or takeaway.

And if you are lucky, you will sight native wildlife ... we see a wombat lumbering across the paddock as we are preparing to leave. We manage to get close enough for a good look before he disappears into his hole.


Kingbilli Country Estate

Address 279 Cathedral Lane, Taggerty

Cost From $590 for a minimum two-night stay in the one-bedroom cottage at weekends and up to $790 for the two-bedroom cottage which sleeps up to five.

Getting there Take the Maroondah Highway from Melbourne through Lilydale and Healesville to Buxton. Nine kilometres along the highway from Buxton turn right into Cathedral Lane and then 3km further along is the entry to Kingbilli on the left after a bridge.

Verdict 13

The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable.

All weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for by Traveller.