Planetrees Lodge: Weekend Away: Stanley

Read our writer's views on this property below

Sue Wallace enjoys a taste of Tuscany near Beechworth.

THE SETTING

Planetrees Lodge, at Stanley near Beechworth, is set back from the road in a beautiful rambling garden spread over two hectares. The Tuscany-inspired self-contained retreat has a eucalypt state forest as a backdrop and its driveway of plane trees inspired the name.

THE SPACE

Retired architect Genevieve Milham has spent five years restoring the two storey four-bedroom lodge and creating the magnificent garden. Generous living and dining areas, shady verandas and a covered patio plus four bedrooms and two bathrooms make it perfect for group gatherings. There are quality fold-out beds and extra rooms in Genevieve's nearby farm house, if the numbers swell. The rustic lodge features log and earth walls and quirky touches such as handmade black wattle branch bedside tables.

THE KIT

Quality bedding, all-cotton linen, large bath towels and cotton dressing gowns feature in the cosy yet spacious lodge. As well as air-conditioning and heating, there's a wood heater to ward off any chills. MasterChef wannabes will be happy in the fully equipped kitchen and don't be surprised to find Genevieve's offerings from her impressive vegie garden left waiting for you at the back door. Al fresco dining among the vines - a barbecue is provided - makes for an ideal lazy lunch. Huge weeping mulberry trees are perfect places for games of hide and seek and there are swings in the peppermint gum. There's also a bocce court for big kids. Zsa Zsa, a cute mini dachshund, occasionally wanders by to say hello.

COMFORT FACTOR

City stress melts away as you sit in the garden serenaded by tinkling fountains, or fall asleep in the hammock. Attention to detail is everywhere, as well as quality furnishings and decor. The nearby recreation reserve has a large children's playground and tennis courts and there are beautiful Landcare walking paths nearby. The garden is a spectacle year round with 3000 tulips flowering in spring and a riot of colour in summer. A unique 16-metre natural swimming pond, set within a lily covered lake, is perfect for a dip. Stargazers will enjoy an astronomy fix looking at the dark skies, bright stars and full moons.

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THE FOOD

A breakfast hamper with three types of cereal, bread, eggs, milk, butter, ground coffee, jams and honey is provided for the first morning. The iconic Stanley Pub, just a short walk away, is renowned for its French-style bistro where we dined on twice-baked Milawa chevre souffle, followed by poussin with witlof, Milawa chevre and Mount Buffalo hazelnuts, and a finale of Stanley apple tart tatin that was sensational. In-house dining can be organised and for a special dinner you can book your own chef. Picnic hampers can also be requested. We enjoyed a catered dinner under the 18-metre-long rose-covered pergola at the lodge.

WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR

November and December is berry-picking time in the area and they are in abundance - just add the cream. Planetrees is a great base for a winery hop - try Pennyweight Vineyard and Amulet Wines - or try one of the craft beers at Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth. There are excellent cafes and restaurants in Beechworth, such as Michael Ryan's Provenance, which won regional wine list of the year in the latest The Age Good Food Guide and collected two hats. For a day out, head to Mount Buffalo for a picnic, walk or rock climbing, and watch the skydivers enjoying a bird's eye view of the region. Head out on the rail trail for a great day of family fun - downhill tracks are recommended. Chances are however, you will just want to lie low and enjoy all Planetree's surrounds.

THE VERDICT

Chic chill-out zone for couples and families.

HOW TO GET THERE

Stanley is eight kilometres from Beechworth, which is a three-hour drive from Melbourne via the Hume Freeway. Turn off at Wangaratta to Beechworth, then continue to Stanley.

ESSENTIALS

Planetrees Lodge, 819 Stanley Road, Stanley, accommodates up to 10 people; at weekends there is a two-night minimum booking: $420 for four people a night, $680 for eight people a night, breakfast hamper included. Small well-behaved dogs are welcome. Bookings (03) 5728 6589, see planetrees.com.au.