Room Check: Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld

Tim Roxborogh stays at the Royal Mail Hotel, in Dunkeld, Victoria, Australia.
Royal Mail Hotel, in Dunkeld, Victoria, Australia.
Royal Mail Hotel, in Dunkeld, Victoria, Australia.

Location: Dunkeld (population 461), Victoria, Australia. A three-hour drive west of Melbourne and one hour from the Great Ocean Road.

Surroundings: The southern edge of one of Australia's most beautiful natural settings, the lush Grampians National Park. Expect to see the odd kangaroo grazing in the grass between your room and the nearby Mt Sturgeon (343m).

History: The site of the main structure was first established in the 1850s when Dunkeld was emerging as an important hub for the wool trade. Though most of the hotel contains luxury modern suites, you can also stay in pioneer-era bluestone cottages that once housed the original station's sheep shearers and cooks.

Famous for: One of Victoria's most acclaimed restaurants (which is saying something) in The Dining Room. Awarded 2 Hats by the Age Good Food Guide 2015 and accompanied by a wine-cellar worth several million, reportedly as extensive and valuable as any in Australia. I was given a tour of the cellar and held a bottle of 1982 Crawford River Rhine Riesling, deciding it would be a very good idea to not accidentally drop it on the ground.

Dinner: Delicious five-course tasting menu with much of the food sourced from the Royal Mail Hotel's own garden. The ethos here is to be as organic and eco-friendly as possible and the garden has more than 150 vegetable and herb varieties. The dishes were enthusiastically matched with wines by the sommelier who managed to be passionate without being pretentious. Eight-course options are also available, as is a la carte. Ask for a table by the windows for views of the densely forested Mt Sturgeon.

Room: Recently refurbished Deluxe Room with king-size bed, large modern bathroom and a deck overlooking the pool and Mt Sturgeon beyond. Two-storey one and two-bedroom apartments are also available but for fans of historic accommodation the Mt Sturgeon Station properties are the go. Located amidst fields and trees three kilometres from the main hotel, these include several incredibly charming 1840s-built bluestone cottages as well as the larger Mt Sturgeon Homestead (accommodation for up to 12 people).

Recreation: This is rural Australia as Kiwis may not expect: hilly, green and densely forested. You can climb Mt Sturgeon or drive 45 minutes to the tourist heart of the Grampians, Halls Gap. From here you can hike the unique rock and bush landscapes for remarkable views over the valleys below.

Price: Starting from approximately $250 up to around $2000 for the six-bedroom Mt Sturgeon Homestead.

Perfect For: Historic hotel buffs, romantics, foodies, wine-lovers and fans of nature.

Contact: relax@royalmail.com.au

Would I return? Cannot wait.

- NZ Herald

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