Mount Lofty House review, Adelaide Hills, South Australia: Adelaide's best hotel (that's not in Adelaide)

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

Mount Lofty House has this week been named the best hotel in Australia and the region in TripAdvisor's Travellers' Choice awards, based on reviews from users posted in 2021. Traveller also stayed at the property in 2021. Here's our verdict.

THE PLACE

What a relief to escape the city and head for the hills. Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills, that is. After a regrettable two-night stay at a new service-challenged city establishment (hint: it's attached to a cricket ground and it's where I was served a half-cooked burger and made to pay for it) the contrasting professional welcome on check-in at the venerable, 36-room Mount Lofty House restores my confidence in South Australian hotels. But I should have expected no less since this hotel, which in its various manifestations dates to 1852, is beloved by generations of Croweaters. It may be near enough to the best hotel in Adelaide that's not actually in Adelaide.

THE LOCATION

Hard as it is to believe, it only takes 25 minutes from the city centre to reach Mount Lofty House. It's nestled in the Adelaide Hills at the village-cum-suburb of Crafers, close to the 727-metre peak from which the hotel borrows its name. From the Mount Lofty lookout there are must-see views of the city and sea. To reach the hotel, you can take a relatively inexpensive taxi  from the city (try doing that to the Dandenongs or the Blue Mountains). But if you want to explore the Adelaide Hills - and you really must - you will require your own or a rental vehicle, though the hotel does offer rather pricey guided tours of this delightful region.

THE SPACE

It's all charmingly labyrinthine and a tad Midsomer-like. You could get lost inside Mt Lofty House and never be found (not necessarily a bad thing) such is  its excess of nooks and crannies. But it all adds to the experience. Be aware that Mount Lofty House no longer has its particular Adelaide hill in the Adelaide Hills all to itself. It shares its site with the even more indulgent 14-room Sequoia Lodge, tucked away next to the main building and, at $1000 a night, it comes with a much loftier price-tag. Developed by the owner of Mount Lofty House, it's meant to open in April but management is allowing selected guests to stay in the rooms. Not having visited Mount Lofty House previously, I'm pleased to remain settled in the rambling, original main building for my two-night stay. And it'd be a pity for newcomers to stay at Sequoia, named after the species of tree planted on the site, before experiencing the grand old mothership.

THE ROOM

My timber-clad, renovated Piccadilly Valley view room is outfitted with a four-posted bed and a balcony (which I didn't venture onto thanks to  unusually cold weather). The 25 square metre room is pleasantly designed and decorated with period furnishings and hints of sage and emerald on the bedding and armchairs. A small though attractive bathroom with subway-style white tiles completes an agreeable and relaxing space befitting a five-star hotel.

THE FOOD

The Adelaide Hills, like Adelaide itself, is one of the nation's best food and wine destinations and Mount Lofty House is home to one of South Australia's best restaurants in the form of HVR (Hardy's Verandah Restaurant). Inside the main building, the restaurant offers superb views of the surrounding rolling countryside all the way to Barossa Valley, apparently.  Korean-born Jin Choi's skilled and inventive cooking is complemented by a suitably stellar wine list and assured service. Take a peek directly beneath the restaurant at the stone-walled wine cellar, where special small groups can dine.

STEPPING OUT

Not only is the Adelaide Hills' proximity to Adelaide itself a major plus, this cool climate wine region is the closest to a major city in Australia. It's also one of the most respected.

The house is built for cold comfort but when the weather clears, I take a tour of the hotel's favoured places which include a couple of leading wineries, Tapanappa and Deviation Road, as well as Beerenberg Farm, home of the famous South Australian preserves, and the visitor favourite Hahndorf, the country's most Germanic town. On the other side of Hahndorf is Ambleside Distillers, one of the new breed of Australian artisan gin makers. If you have your own vehicle you can easily visit these places, and more, with distances between the main attractions pleasingly manageable.

THE VERDICT

If only Mount Lofty House could be somehow packed up and transported to the Dandenongs or the Blue Mountains, both beautiful parts of our shrunken world that have nothing nearly as good as this iconic South Australian establishment.

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ESSENTIALS

Doubles at Mount Lofty House start from $349 a night. Mount Lofty House, 1 Mawson Drive, Crafers. South Australia. Phone  (08) 8339 6777;

see mtloftyhouse.com.au; mgallery.accor.com.au; sequoialodge.com.au

HIGHLIGHT

Mount Lofty House is small enough to host a nightly gathering of house guests over drinks followed by a "history tour" of the hotel by  management.

LOWLIGHT

The unexpectedly cold South Australian late spring weather could have proved a turnoff for some but Mount Lofty House is the sort of place that's built for cosiness.  

Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of Mount Lofty House.