Read our writer's views on this property below
After a slow, cold start, Kate Cox soaks up the magic of a chalet in the hills of Oberon.
We began to question our decision to visit Oberon shortly after we arrived at the Melaleuca Mountain Chalets. The thermometer had plummeted to 5 degrees and it wasn't even 6pm on what had been a warmish day in Sydney. And at first glance, Cypress, the two-bedroom wood cabin we had booked, looked basic. No underfloor heating, wall air-conditioning or climate control contraptions. How would it keep out that biting cold?
We needn't have worried. The excellent slow-combustion fire, lit shortly before our arrival, had the cabin toasty-warm in minutes and, as the temperature increased, so did our opinion of our accommodation. By the end of the evening, "basic and rustic" had become "welcoming and cosy".
Originally from the mountains of Argentina, Melaleuca's owners, Mary and Aldo, set up the chalets eight years ago. Oberon, the highest town in the Blue Mountains catchment area, is named after the king of fairies' character in A Midsummer Night's Dream. There is a magical vibe to the chalet surrounds but this is where you'd come to escape a midsummer – the chalets have seen snow as early as April and as late as October, making it a real white wonderland.
There are nine one- to three-bedroom chalets at Melaleuca, built across the mountaintop property. However, the chalets are so well spaced that guests barely notice the existence of one another. Just eight kilometres from town, it would be a great place for a wedding party or large family group to come and celebrate. Mary says that groups book for the Bathurst 1000 car race, half an hour away by road, months in advance. "They're all gentlemen, no ladies, even in the romantic chalet," she laughs. "And they leave at 6am and don't come back until late – very easy guests."
Our cabin has a room with a queen-size bed and another with bunk beds. The lounge area has a small TV and there's a compact bathroom and kitchen (bring your own sugar, salt, oil etc; only tiny milk capsules and tea bags are in evidence here).
In what is otherwise a truly charming cabin, however, are signs. Typed and seriously laminated, they are everywhere – advising guests not to smoke or trespass on neighbouring property; to not use too much wood or too much water or place anything on top of the log fire. There's even a list of rules stuck up on one of the few available clear spaces, which repeats some of the laminated instructions listed elsewhere and also asks guests, among other things, to look after their children and not to carry firearms.
They all detract from the homey feeling created elsewhere and would be more suited to a juvenile detention centre than a romantic country getaway.
But then there's the view. From our balcony we survey the roaming, rolling hills, dotted with kangaroos and rabbits. Birds fill the trees and, around the corner, there's a dam with resident ducks.
Judging by the enormous DVD and video collection at reception, a lot of guests choose to admire the view from the large loungeroom windows and get away from it all – indoors. On Saturday morning, we have time to indulge in a DVD before seeking out another passion: the country breakfast. At DJ's Cafe on Oberon, we find huge servings of bacon, eggs, pancakes and more, plus the charmingly unsophisticated service you just don't find in the city.
Strolling around the town, we stumble across Oberon's monthly farmers' markets. For under $20, we take possession of goat sausages, tomato relish, potatoes so fresh we could enjoy them raw, some sourdough bread and a blueberry pie. Lunch is sorted.
There are some decent dinner options – the obligatory country-town Chinese, as well as a gourmet pizza place (but no leisurely, long city-type dinners here, Oberon shuts up shop at 8pm). Hilariously, there's also a fish and chip shop that doubles as a pet store. What a combo. Sadly, it was closed when we wandered by.
When we leave on Sunday morning our car is covered in ice. But we barely notice the cold – we're too relaxed and in a very different mood from when we arrived. The bush and the quiet and the simplicity have worked their magic.
WHERE 935 Duckmaloi Road, Oberon.
Phone (02) 6336 1158, see melaleuca-chalets.com.au.
HOW MUCH Two-bedroom chalets start at $215 a night.
BEST THING Back roads, dirt tracks, walks, drives, history. Melaleuca's hosts have a wealth of knowledge about where to head and how not to become lost.
WORST THING Sadly, for this is the kind of place where you really crave a home-cooked meal, the oven in our cabin was not as accommodating as the log fire. Two hours after we'd inserted our lasagne and poked and prodded and checked, and even asked our hosts for help, it was still stone cold. We gave up and microwaved it into submission.
LOCAL SECRET Take your bikes and cycle the pretty, five-kilometre Pioneer Rail Trail, which runs from the old Oberon Station (now a museum) to the former railway siding at Hazelgrove.
The writer was a guest of Melaleuca Mountain Chalets and Tourism NSW.