Marie McNamara heads to White Rabbit Cottage in Clunes, the Victorian goldrush town famous for its annual book fair.
White Rabbit Cottage is a roomy and stylish two-bedroom cottage in the historic gold rush town of Clunes in Central Victoria. Clunes is packed with antiques and collectables stores and second-hand bookshops, plus a few cafes, a bakery and an organic grocer.
A generous makeover of a miner's cottage on a deep block bordered by a picket fence. There are lots of rooms to explore and enjoy, all tastefully decorated with white walls, white timber shutters, polished floor boards, and an array of collectables. Also, predictably, the theme of white (and other coloured) rabbits is featured, from the front-door welcome mat to prints, stuffed toys and statues. The beds are big and comfortable and the doonas fluffy and warm. The bed linen, towels and supplied toiletries are all high quality. A wood-fire heater and reverse-cycle cooling and heating ensure comfort in all seasons. Guests can help themselves to a vegetable garden in the backyard.
The spacious kitchen includes a high-tech toaster and coffee machine. There are shelves of cookbooks and a blackboard spans one wall with recipes chalked on it, just in case you feel like making passionfruit melting moments or moist orange poppy seed cake. But why would you, since fresh, free and delicious homemade cookies beckon from glass jars? If you want to eat in, all the utensils are on hand plus basics like olive oil and condiments. The lounge has a Blu-ray player, iPod docking player, CD and iDocking station and a dazzling collection of CDs and DVDs (alphabetically stacked with a polite request to replace them in order) and books and magazines. There's a claw-foot bath, a sunroom with a view of the rear garden and an outdoor dining area with a barbecue.
Oodles of it. The temptation is to hunker down and work through the CDs, DVDs and books, then snuggle under the plump doonas some time after midnight. The owners have added a vintage cupboard stacked to the brim with wine, chocolates, nuts and other snacks (available for purchase).
We collected our (supplied) yummy Ballarat-baked high tin loaf of sourdough bread from the town's organic grocer. The cottage provides a selection of quality teas, coffee, jams, milk, and cereals. Local cafe Lucky Strike appears the preferred place to dine and enjoy live music, but it was booked out the weekend we visited. Clunes Hotel is welcoming and good for a parma'n'chips; a more discerning diner might consider a drive to nearby Daylesford and the Farmers Arms, Lyonville near Trentham for the Radio Springs Hotel, or Talbot for London House Cafe. For lunch and a wine tasting, consider the Captain's Creek Organic Winery near Daylesford.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
Visit Creswick Knitting Mills, famous for alpaca and sheep fleece products. In nearby Ballarat is Sovereign Hill, a little cheesy but still fascinating. Go for a walk and take in the town's pretty streetscape and pop into Clunes' reasonably priced secondhand bookshops. Explore nearby towns including Trentham, Daylesford, Talbot and Creswick, which offer excellent cafes, shops, restaurants, pubs, wineries and farmers markets (check the internet for farmers market dates).
HOW TO GET THERE
Clunes is about one hour 40 minutes from Melbourne CBD. Take the Western Freeway/M8 following the signs to Ballarat. Take the C287 exit to Clunes/Maryborough. Turn right at Learmonth Road, go through the roundabout, continue onto Ballarat/Maryborough Road (C287), turn left on to Bailey Street and right on to West Street.
White Rabbit Cottage is at 2 West Street, Clunes, Victoria. Phone 0438 004 293. Rooms start at $410 for a two-night weekend stay. See whiterabbitcottageclunes.com.au.