What a rare combination this is: a luxury home with real, working farm operations on its doorstep.
The 175-year-old, 2200-hectare Naringal Station was bought by a hardworking young fourth-generation farming couple, Sally and Alastair Wills, who wanted the land, but who live elsewhere. So they turned the beautifully renovated homestead into a holiday let.
Because this remains a working farm, the experience is multi-layered.
You're staying in a stunning, spacious, luxury home, in the midst of paddocks full of livestock and crops and quite near to the home, big machinery sheds see farm workers come and go seven days a week while Buddy, the manager's maremma sheepdog, keeps a close eye on things.
It's not like they intrude in any way on your getaway, especially if you choose to lay low, but it's a wonderful mix.
Naringal Station is at Wallinduc/Cape Clear, 45 kilometres from Ballarat. It's pretty, undulating country that remains rural and agricultural. Naringal is one of the oldest pastoral holdings in the area. There are a couple of tiny villages nearby, with a pub and general store.
This is one grand home, with seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms, a heated pool and spa, spacious barbecue gazebo, a tennis court, a beautiful garden by Edna Walling that's perfect for a Pimm's on the lawn, a wraparound verandah and a house to get lost in with open fires aplenty. Oh, and a grand piano in the formal salon and a billiard room. There's also a formal dining room with butler's kitchen and the kind of long halls kids love to run down.
We were a group of six and spent most of our time in the huge combined kitchen, dining and family room with its roaring fire and super-comfy sofas. We all vowed to come back and make use of those formal rooms, with appropriate wardrobe in tow, other than the trackie dacks we favoured.
Most of the rooms are en suite. I stayed in the main bedroom, which features an open fireplace, enormous bay window with stupendous views across the pool and out to the district, plus a sizeable dressing room and contemporary marble bathroom.
Each room is different and there's one with three single beds, plus one, at the end of the hallway, set up as a kids' play room. Everything is stylish, well-appointed and comfortable.
This is a self-catering affair. The primary kitchen has pretty much everything you need, including a four-oven electric Aga, and the additional butler's kitchen next to the formal dining room means this would be a great place to host a significant birthday party or similar event.
There's a walk-in pantry to stash all your wine and nibbles and a sizable fridge.
You could go to Ballarat, but there's so much to explore at Naringal Station, why leave? There's a long walk that takes you along a creek, through an old cemetery and past old cottages and ruins, and we walked out to see the free range piggery, which Buddy the dog enjoyed.
There's the tennis court, the pool, and some beautiful big trees under which to throw a blanket.
And Naringal is also a fisher's dream. The dam is well stocked and rods are supplied, as well as bicycles.
Naringal Station has taken a firm spot on my list of my happy places. I can't wait to go back. Weekends following ours were booked for a hens' do and a murder mystery party. It's a perfect spot for a celebration or just to kick back with family and friends.
It's really hard to pick one. The whole experience, from waking up to beautiful birdsong and luxury to cosy nightcaps by the fire, was just gorgeous.
On our Sunday walk, some local fox shooters from nearby were in the gully on the property. Sally and Alastair have since dealt with this situation and assure us this won't happen again, especially while visitors are in situ.
From $1750 a night for the whole house. Phone 0458 507 655.