Top Aussie gourmet getaways
Bamurru Plains, Northern Territory
Hidden amid one of the most isolated and unspoilt corners of Australia's tropical Top End, Bamurru Plains is among the country's most exclusive getaways: guests who have slumbered in the property’s nine comfortable bungalows have been as diverse as actor Nicholas Cage and author Germaine Greer.
Perched on the edge of barramundi-fishing hotspot, the vast Mary River floodplains, the remote property, set on the fringes of Kakadu National Park two-and-a-half hours’ drive west of Darwin, harbours a profusion of native wildlife and birdlife.
Guests relax in a central lodge strewn with rattan lounges, swim in the sparkling pool, and dine on head chef Made Mustika's superb native Australian-inspired cuisine in dishes such as barramundi chowder, mud-crab ravioli and kangaroo and sweet potato pie.
A maximum of just 18 guests visit this beautiful property at any time. The lodge is surrounded by a scene of sublime natural wonder: Asian water buffaloes graze on the waterlogged plains; agile wallabies hop to and ‘fro, masses of birds – 230 species, from kingfishers and whistling ducks have been recorded – and towering termite mounds stand like sentinels across the landscape.
Exhilarating air-boat jaunts transport guests across wetlands blooming with carpets of pink lotus flowers and waterlilies, where you can enjoy a lavish morning tea surrounded by grazing kangaroos.
We zoom by air-boat through pandan forests where great flocks of magpie geese take to the skies and, the following day, join a guided four-wheel drive safari through the bush to rivers where crocodiles lurk.
Accommodation features deeply comfortable beds to loll in as balmy eucalypt-scented air wafts through mesh walls, buffalo wander to the front door, and a cacophony of birdsong wakes you in the morning.
From AU$520 per person per night (sharing), all-inclusive. Flight-inclusive package ex Darwin for two nights is from $1,590 per adult, more at bamurruplains.com.au, phone 1300 790 561.
Lake House, Daylesford, Victoria
Around 80 per cent of the natural-occurring mineral springs in Australia can be found in Victoria's Spa Country, Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, with visitors seeking some seriously relaxing and indulgent “me” time spoilt for choice with more than 30 spas, wellness retreats and massage centres offering almost every therapy known to humankind.
A magnet for food lovers, the region has grown to become equally enticing for gourmet fare as it is for seekers of body wraps and country escapes.
Multi award-winning chef and restaurateur Alla Wolf-Tasker calls her decision to open a restaurant in Daylesford “sheer madness.” In 1979 the teacher and cookery school owner, fresh from kitchen and restaurant experiences in rural France, dreamt of establishing a restaurant in country Victoria championing local seasonal cuisine.
Thanks to Alla's prodigious vision and consuming passions, ensuing decades have seen Lake House evolve into one of Australia’s great culinary destinations,
The nation’s most awarded country hotel and restaurant, Lake House has collected dozens of Chefs Hats in the annual Age Good Food Guide, and currently holds two coveted hats, a testimony to its sublime food experience.
Dishes in the beautiful restaurant may include Smoked Skipton eel, pancetta, shallot confit, beetroot remoulade, mustard crème fraiche and roast duck with pomegranate, dukkah crusted “bisteya”, carrot, citrus pickled eggplant and grains, followed by desserts such as red wine pear with gingerbread pain perdu and crème cassonade.
Lake House is nestled near the banks of tranquil Lake Daylesford, and aside from its fine dining offers a luxe 33-room boutique hotel featuring everything that you expect from a five-star establishment – stylish décor, luxurious bedding, extravagant toiletries, the latest TVs and technology.
Set amid hectares of manicured gardens studded with trees, Lake House features wide terraces where you can relax and take in the splendid quietude, Alla's temple of gastronomy, and indulgent on-site Salus Spa.
An array of getaway packages include Forest and Forage – a retreat for true gourmands - where teams set out with a scavenger list of seasonal produce, with challenges including searching local pine forests for mushrooms, dangling a line with the hope of hooking a trout, and sampling honeys from 12 different hives.
Back at the Lake House kitchen, teams put together lunch to share with a little help from Lake House chefs. The itinerary also includes two nights’ accommodation, breakfasts, and a la carte dinner one night with selected wines. From $1,341 per person, phone (03) 5348 3329 web, lakehouse.com.au.
Tasmania boasts some of the most pristine air and water in the world. Wading into the waters of Coles Bay at the Freycinet Marine Oyster Farm to sample plump Freycinet Pacific oysters straight from the oyster bed, you're among the best of it.
The oyster farm experience, which includes a glass of sparkling wine served in the water with the just-shucked bivalve molluscs, is one of the memorable foodie experiences offered at luxury lodge Saffire Freycinet, which combines sumptuous accommodation and gourmet dining amid one of Tasmania's most beautiful natural settings.
Situated around 200 kilometres north-east of Hobart, Saffire boasts spectacular views across Coles Bay to a mountain range known as the Hazards, a geographical feature that separates Coles Bay and elysian Wineglass Bay, a flawless crescent of dazzling white sand and sapphire-coloured ocean voted one of the world's top ten beaches by Conde Nast.
Saffire head chef Hugh Whitehouse comes to this beautiful corner of Tassie, which boasts miles of secluded beaches, hidden coves, rocky cliffs, prolific wildlife and bird life and great bush-walking, after literally a lifetime of experience with fresh, natural produce. Growing up on a farm in New South Wales, he still remembers milking the cows with his father and tasting the milk while it was still warm.
Hugh learned the intricacies of classic French cooking under some of Europe’s greatest chefs at the top-ranking Dolder Grand in Zurich and the Chewton Glen in England, before returning to Sydney and putting North Shore restaurants Milsons and Jaspers on the culinary map, and taking Darley’s at Lilianfels in the Blue Mountains to a “two hat” level.
Multi-course degustation menus matched with outstanding local wines are Hugh’s speciality, with menus designed around what is fresh out of the water or the paddock on any given day. The service, naturally, is impeccable.
The five-star property features 20 spacious architecturally-designed suites with amazing views across Coles Bay, a day spa, interactive cooking demonstrations with chefs, and more adventures such as Wine and Vine - learning the art of wine-making at nearby Freycinet Winery - and Le Pique Nique, guided Wineglass Bay walk and gourmet picnic, as well as kayaking, bird-watching, archery and fishing.
The starting price for Saffire Freycinet is from $1,800 a night per double (all inclusive), packages available. Phone (03) 6256 7888, go to saffire-freycinet.com.au.