Great Australian Historic Hotels – Barry Stone

A fascinating insight into Australia's most noteworthy hotels

By Tricia Brown
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Great Australian Historic Hotels by Barry Stone

Great Australian Historic Hotels by Barry Stone [©Allen and Unwin]


Barry Stone takes us inside the buildings which have hosted and witnessed the development of our Great Southern Land.

In Great Australian Historic Hotels each hotel provides its own tantalising insight into the development of our nation as seen from its windows, porches and balconies.

Divided into CBD hotels, suburban hotels, homesteads, country towns, grand mansions and by the sea, the hotels, around the country, are an interesting mix.

Side by side are the ones we know – like the Windsor in Melbourne – with places we've more than likely never heard of such as North Bundaleer and Foxhunters Return, Poltalloch Station and Schouten House. These are hotels selected not for their glitz factor or their star ratings necessarily, but for their ability to tell a story. Their story and ours, too.

Stories such as the legend of the Ashes, Australia's sporting Holy Grail: 'On Christmas Eve in 1882 an impromptu game of cricket was organised between the touring English Cricket team and a local side in the grounds of Rupertswood, a 50-room Italianate mansion in Sunbury, 30 minutes drive north of Melbourne. At dinner that night Rupertswood's owner, Lady Janet Clark, marked the visitor's victory by presenting the English captain, Ivo Bligh, with a tiny urn that contained the charred remains of a set of bails.'

From the tragic immigration tales of Q Station to the mining of oil shale by the Glen Davis Hotel in NSW's Capertee Valley; from the political skulduggery at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra to the viticulture of Padthaway Homestead; from the expansion of the Swan River Colony near Faversham House to the Victorian Gold Rush alongside Freeman on Ford, the tales are fascinating.

The stories are not just about the past though as many of these historic places are currently stunning examples of how 'history and modernity can be brought seamlessly together to create a space where each era needs and compliments the other.'

Such a place is the beautiful Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart, once the IXL Jam Company factory, with a history so rich that it is part of the fabric of Tasmania and is today the only dedicated art hotel in the country.

For thousands of immigrants sailing through Sydney Heads, the Quarantine Station was their first port of call. 'Of all the hotels in Australia that can boast their own personal window onto our nation's rich history of European settlement, few would be able to claim to have seen more drama, more tragedy, more despair, more stories of triumph and dreams either dashed or realised than the 65 buildings and cottages that comprise Sydney's old Quarantine Station, now Q Station, one of Australia's finest boutique hotels.' 

There are many favourite places of mine in the book inspiring thoughts of return visits. Places such as the incredibly beautiful Milton Park Country House Hotel in Bowral in the Southern Highlands. This grand old home, built by the Anthony Hordern family in 1910, has gardens rated as the 11th best privately owned gardens in the world as well as gorgeous accommodation and a lovely restaurant.

Peppers Springs Retreat and Spa (Italian Renaissance style architecture and European gardens) in Daylesford, Victoria, is on my wishlist along with Martindale Hall (with its remarkable library) in South Australia's Clare Valley and Padthaway Homestead, 285 kilometres southeast of Adelaide, for its wine 'journeys'.

This book is for all those happy to slow down and savour a journey of discovery – an overnight stay of history and hidden treasures. As Barry Stone says when visiting Milton Park: 'It was as though I'd stepped through a secret panel at the back of an old wardrobe and emerged in Narnia.'


Great Australian Historic Hotels by Barry Stone is published by Allen & Unwin (2010; RRP A$32.99). Subscribers of and Winepros Archive can purchase this book at 12.5% discount from our book partners Seekbooks (postage extra).


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March 18th, 2011
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