Australia – Six of the best weekend destinations

Great getaways for food and wine lovers

By Winsor Dobbin
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Evanslea by the River, Mudgee, NSW

Evanslea by the River, Mudgee, NSW

Loft In The Mill, The Dandenongs, Victoria
Bells at Killcare, Central Coast, NSW
Chateau Yering, Yarra Valley, Victoria
The Louise, Barossa Valley, SA


Pamper someone you love with a special weekend away. Wine, food and travel writer Winsor Dobbin suggests some great getaways in Australia's south-eastern States.


Bells at Killcare, Central Coast, New South Wales

This traditional European-style country house hotel is just 90 minutes north of Sydney and is home to Sydney celebrity chef Stefano Manfredi’s country restaurant, which hosts regular gourmet dinners featuring food producers and leading winemakers.

Accommodation is in well-equipped deluxe spa villas or single-storey king spa suites and there are lovely grounds with a new 20-metre swimming pool and day spa, but it is the culinary artistry of Manfredi and his No.2 Cameron Cansdell (ex De Bortoli Yarra Valley) that is the major drawcard.

Manfredi serves up imaginative Italian-inspired cuisine using local produce wherever possible. Herbs and vegetables come from the on-site kitchen garden and the eggs come from the hotel’s own chickens. Think dishes like braised pork cheek and mushroom cabbage roll with cream of cannellini beans or pan-fried veal and provolone involtini, served with borlotti beans and slow-roasted tomato.

There is an excellent wine list that highlights outstanding Australian and Italian labels.

Bells at Killcare is at 107 The Scenic Road, Killcare Heights, NSW. Phone (02) 4360 2411.


The Louise, Barossa Valley, South Australia

The Louise is one of Australia’s most luxurious vineyard retreats. It overlooks the vineyards of the Barossa Valley and is an ideal luxury base for anyone wanting to explore the region.

The recently refurbished resort, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, has 15 suites with king beds, crisp linen and soft contemporary furnishings, in-room fireplaces, large dual spa tubs, private outdoor showers, LCD digital flat screen TV/DVDs and marble en suite bathrooms, heated flooring, and intimate seating areas and terraces overlooking the vineyards.

A range of packages are available and dinner at the on-site restaurant, Appellation, is an absolute must. Appellation, which seats just 48 people, is regarded as one of the best regional restaurants in the country and chef Mark McNamara uses local cuisine in innovative ways. Think dishes in the style of medallions of Hamley Bridge venison with pickled black cherries or a tartlet of Williamstown yabbies, roasted peppers and shellfish glaze.

The mood here is relaxed; the food and wine choices are serious. Appellation’s signature 10-course wine flight tasting menu and nightly à la carte menu – and there is a world-class choice on the wine list.

The Louise is at Seppeltsfield Road, Marananga, SA. Phone (08) 8562 2722.


Evanslea by the River, Mudgee, New South Wales

Beautifully situated on nine acres of parkland on the banks of the Cudgegong River, Evanslea is a lovely country retreat that is within walking distance of Mudgee’s many restaurants and cafés but well away from the hustle and bustle.

The accommodation options range from beautifully appointed cottages overlooking delightful ponds to a loft apartment with its own deck overlooking the grounds. All the cottages feature spa baths, lounge areas, wood fires and digital TVs and thoughtful extras like complimentary port, chocolates and nuts. There’s a swimming pool and tennis court on-site and the garden area overlooking the river is perfect for a picnic.

Most of the Mudgee region’s many cellar doors are just a short drive away and while dinner is not on the menu, the breakfasts here are superb and the hosts charming.

Evanslea by the River is at 146 Market Street, Mudgee, NSW. Phone: (02) 6372 4116.


Chateau Yering, Yarra Valley, Victoria

This elegant and historic Relais & Chateaux property is a heritage-listed Victorian mansion on 250 acres bordering the Yarra River and is surrounded by beautiful gardens dating back to 1854.

Extremely elegant and upmarket – it has been a luxury hotel since 1997 and is the ideal venue for a romantic weekend or to treat a mum who has been run off her feet. There are just 32 suites in all, giving the property a country house ambience, and all are spacious and well appointed.

Chef Mathew MacCartney is cooking some impressive dishes at the award-winning Eleonore’s restaurant, where the service is impeccable. Sweetwater Café offers more casual food.

Right next door is Yering Station, one of the Yarra’s finest wineries and cellar doors, which is open seven days a week.

Chateau Yering is at 42 Melba Highway, Yering, Vic. Phone (03) 9237 3333.


The Priory Country Lodge, Bothwell, Tasmania

There can be fewer more beautiful settings for a weekend away than that of The Priory at Bothwell, a small country town just over an hour north of Hobart.

The region is popular with trout fishermen, hunters, visitors to the nearby Nant whisky distillery and golfers keen to play Ratho, the oldest course in the country, but the real attraction is the charm of the gorgeous old building and the wonderful ambience created by host Greg Peacock.

Built in 1848 and beautifully refurbished, the restful lodge offers four bedrooms with en suite marble bathrooms. The common areas include a formal lounge, drawing room, library, hunt room and sitting room, while Peacock is a terrific cook and country breakfasts and dinner are included in all tariffs. There are also two delightful pavilions behind the main home with more modern-style accommodation and great views.

The Priory is at 2 Wentworth Street, Bothwell, Tas. Phone (03) 6259 4012


Loft In The Mill, The Dandenongs, Victoria

A beautiful spot in which to get away from it all, the Loft In The Mill is located high in the Dandenongs but just a short drive from suburban Melbourne.

Across the road from Olinda Village and just a few minutes from the Puffing Billy railway, this boutique accommodation is based in an atmospheric replica of a 19th-century bluestone English flour mill and adjacent carriage house.

There are just eight rooms and suites for a range of tastes and budgets but there are double spas, log fires, four-poster beds and private courtyards from which to select, depending on your mood. And a 400-movie DVD library from which to select should you opt for a night in.

Each suite has its own kitchenette (or, in the case of the Loft Suite, a full kitchen). For large family groups, the Carriagehouse has three bedrooms, a log fire, double spa, and full kitchen and laundry. The gardens are alive with birds, making this the perfect environment in which to breathe in fresh mountain air, relax and recharge.

The Loft In The Mill is at 1-3 Harold St, Olinda, Vic. Phone (03) 9751 1700.



  • Central Coast (NSW)
  • Mudgee (NSW)
  • Barossa Valley (SA)
  • Midlands, Central and SW (TAS)
  • Yarra Valley, Dandenongs and the Ranges (VIC)

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April 07th, 2011
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