Read our writer's views on this property below
Lynne Whiley finds herself surrounded by nature deep in a botanical wonderland in the Blue Mountains.
THE lounges look quite comfortable and I'm about to test one when I see my daughter sprinting across the front lawn, headlong into a valley adjoining the Blue Mountains National Park. The Grose River is down there somewhere, a natural border; she'll stop when she reaches it, I reason.
Glass doors in the lodge's living room offer unobstructed views of the national park's unfurling greens and blues and chiselled sandstone outcrops stretching to the south. Swivel to the north and the living room's dominant picture window overlooks flower beds, tall trees and, beyond, remnant rainforest known as the Jungle Walk.
The Jungle Lodge isn't as grand as its name suggests but the location is - on Royal Botanic Garden land at Mount Tomah. At 1000 metres above sea level, Tomah is ideal for cold-climate plant species.
Word of the four-bedroom, three-bathroom lodge has mostly been spread by green thumbs and bushwalkers, who see it as a gem of a place to stay, with the botanic garden (and its lovely cafe-restaurant) just over the back fence, the national park at the front door and an affordable tariff that goes to the upkeep of the garden.
Visitors come from interstate and overseas to view the garden's world-class collection.
We're a party of three adults and three children under 10 who only have to motor the Bells Line of Road from central Sydney to enjoy this 252-hectare garden.
The lodge is about 300 metres from the garden's main entrance and is completely private. It takes its name from the Jungle Walk, an adjacent copse of remnant rainforest - a stand of sassafras and coachwood trees saved in the 1920s from timber millers by civic-minded locals and benefactors. The walk is just a short skip from the lodge's back door.
To quarantine boots and shoes, we use the back door as our main entry. Inside, it's spotless, with a kitchen at one end, bedrooms at the other and a good-size combined lounge and dining area in the middle. The walls are painted white, the floorboards polished and every room has picture windows through which either national park or garden is showcased.
As the lodge can sleep up to 10 people, the kitchen has a full set of everything needed for self-contained stays, including wine glasses, cutlery and serving dishes as well as a dishwasher.
The wood-slab dining table easily seats 10 and with three lounges set around a very efficient slow-combustion wood stove, there's plenty of legroom, too.
A widescreen TV and DVD unit is in a corner of the living area and drawers underneath a coffee table hold stacks of material about walks, local shops, services and the garden. But it's the walls and glass doors in the dining-lounge area that really catch a visitor's eye: the former for its prints of documents outlining the Jungle Walk's history; the latter for the national-park views. The doors open to steps leading on to long, flat lawns.
The lodge's bedroom wing is carpeted and the windows have thick curtains to help retain the heat in winter. Two rooms have queen-size beds (one with an en suite and walk-in wardrobe); one room holds a double bed and a single bed and has an en suite; and another has two single beds and a trundle.
Being a self-contained stay, it's recommended that guests bring their own bedding, although linen can be provided for a fee.
In the garage, there's a wood pile and a big barbecue on wheels. Best of all, however, is access to parts of the botanic garden that the lodge's keys provide outside the daily opening hours of 9am to 5pm.
At dawn, the Jungle Walk is alive with birdsong; at dusk, Mount Tomah offers so many great spots for a picnic dinner, it would be a crime to stay inside.
The writer was a guest of Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon Tourism.
Where The Jungle Lodge, Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah. (02) 4567 3000, mounttomahbotanicgarden.com.au.
Getting there From Richmond or Lithgow, take the Bells Line of Road. Mount Tomah is 40 kilometres west of Richmond. Turn left off the highway into the botanic garden's main entrance but not through the main gate. Instead, keep driving straight ahead on a dirt road for about 300 metres.
How much Off-peak: midweek, $175 a night; weekends, $350 a night (minimum two-night stay). Peak season: midweek, $190 a night; weekends, $500 (minimum two nights). Weeklong stays available. Bring your own linen and towels.
Style statement Nondescript '70s-style brick exterior, updated and pleasant interior.
Perfect for A large family or small groups who enjoy being amid a botanic garden and national park (but within a five-minute walk of good coffee).
Don't forget Binoculars.
Shame about No hooks or line in the laundry on which to hang wet gear.
Kudos Provision of heaters in the bathrooms.
Take the kids Yes. The grounds and national park are an all-natural adventure playground.