An open fireplace in the restaurant is a romantic treat on cool nights.
Cityphiles might be discouraged by a lack of Foxtel and limited Wi-Fi.
Pethers Rainforest Retreat, North Tamborine, Queensland.
It's possible to do the hill training, risking brushes with leeches and vermin on a mountainside rainforest track. It's possible to don the hiking boots, long socks and 15-kilogram backpack laden with flares, tinned rations and a rusty compass – if, of course, that's your kind of thing. It's also possible to drive a short dusty track behind North Tamborine village to set up camp in a tree-level spa bath overlooking ferns and colourful wildlife. Known for its cool summers and snug winters, Mount Tamborine is about 40 minutes from the glitter strip of the Gold Coast and less than an hour from Brisbane. Pethers is within smelling distance of sub-tropical rainforest. The robe and slippers are in the closet – if, of course, that's your kind of thing.
The winding road from the highway to Mount Tamborine is flanked by glimpses of wet terrain, but when it becomes a town, the retreat is deceptively close to civilisation. A neighbouring property has rows of kiwi fruit vines, not dissimilar to a vineyard set-up. The property itself has 150 avocado trees, but the real attraction is flourishing canopy which stretches from the decks of 10 "treehouses". The main lodge is a dining hall which features a large open fireplace, and a deck of its own, large enough to host small weddings in front of a green backdrop. It only opens for meals three nights a week. The rest of the time, it's the secret recluse of guests. It's also the lobby, DVD and CD library, and a place to admire some Chinese-inspired furniture.
Ceilings to each of the treehouses are seven metres in height. Glass doors and walls which front on to the rainforest are five metres tall. With such an airy feel in winter, a gas fireplace is a welcome touch. Rooms are open plan – a bedroom with king bed, two-person spa bath with a glass window showcasing the jungle outside and en suite are all part of a top tier. Just a step below, there's a sink and bar fridge which on arrival stocks bubbles and chocolate, luxurious oriental leather lounge, and a dining table ideal for the morning's hamper breakfast of hot quiche and cereal. On warmer days, the morning meal could be transported to the outdoor setting which sits on a large timber deck. The compendium doesn't have photos, but it does have a list of all the animals which can be spotted including tree frogs, small wallabies and the odd snake.
Chef Obie Faulkner says he loves his job, and it shows in the display of the roasted and pepper-cured venison and other delicacies neatly arranged along one side of the plate. The former Intercontinental chef throws three days a week – Thursday to Saturday, and the occasional Sunday – into his cooking, and spends the rest of the time on his surfboard at the coast. The venue is keen to showcase some local produce and one way to do that is via an affogato accompanied by a Mount Tamborine Distillery liqueur, of which "ginger bread" comes highly recommended. Candlelit tables along with the central fireplace all add to a romantic ambience in the main hall.
There are those who actually think bushwalking through mountainous terrain is an enjoyable thing. There are others who would prefer to explore some of the high-end restaurants of the mountain, or the distillery just down the road from the retreat. Whatever the preference, a stay at Tamborine is guaranteed to be inclusive of expansive views of the Gold Coast. On weekends, there are markets, and compulsive shoppers are aided by shopping centres or warehouse outlet Harbour Town within 40 minutes. A rebuild of Pacific Fair at Broadbeach is due to be finished 2016.
Almost everywhere you look, you'll see the motto "indulge". And who would anyone be to disagree? It's the opportunity to see the rainforest without all the hard work, and an ideal spot from which to explore the Gold Coast hinterland. The Texan who recently bought the place has a good eye for prosperity.
28B Geissmann Street, North Tamborine. Two-night packages start at about $799 and include welcome bubbly and chocolates. Phone (07) 5545 4577, see www.pethers.com.au.
The writer was a guest of Pethers Rainforest Retreat.