For the past two months or so, I’ve been absorbing everything city life.
I’ve been asked on many occasion if I miss the beach after our move from the Sunshine Coast. This question usually illicits a tilt of the head and a few seconds’ contemplation on my part.
And then a, “no”.
The beach is there, right where I left it. I know I can visit whenever I want but this move to the city came with an enthusiasm to embrace our new lifestyle, and the pace that goes with it.
Then the lovely offer landed in my inbox*. A chance to spend a weekend away from the city. And ever further from the beach.
Was I ready to slow my new pace down a notch?
I’m hardly what you’d call a country girl.
I did a little research. And I discovered that a weekend in the country may offer a slower pace should you choose but that slowing down doesn’t necessarily require sacrificing creature comforts.
Turns out it can actually mean an increased level of creature comforting, with five-star food and a very fine wine and cocktail list on the side.
So last Friday afternoon, Mr SY loaded up his borrowed Dad’s Nissan Nivara dual cab (apparently it helps to look the part, right down to the car you drive to the country) and we headed west.
Not that far, either. Just an hour from the inner-city traffic jams, the sun dropping behind the distant mountains, we reached our destination: Spicers Hidden Vale.
Yes. One. Hour.
I think that’s the key to a good weekend escape, don’t you think?
Knowing that getting there will be easy but also knowing it’s far enough away to give you that sense of escape from the every day.
Spicers Hidden Vale was formerly a Peppers property but became Spicers when Flight Centre co-founder Graham Turner and wife Judy launched the Spicers group in 2010. You can check out the rest in the group here.
The site itself has a long history of settlement.
The property’s homestead now houses the award-winning Cotton’s Restaurant. More about that below.
Accommodation is in colonial-style homes – either homes that were relocated to the property from Brisbane or Toowoomba, existing buildings from elsewhere on the 12,000 acre property or built in recent years to the same style.
Our accommodation was the two-bedroom Hereford cottage (yes, all the cottages are named after breeds of cows and the property is still a working cattle property) which came from Chelmer in Brisbane. Both rooms have ensuites, one room has a king-size bed, the other a queen. There’s a full kitchen, dining and lounge. There are bigger cottages and you can also book just a room.
Our favourite spot was the back deck which overlooked one of the pools and out towards the Great Dividing Range. The way the morning and evening light played on the landscape was something I’m more used to seeing on a painting.
The local wildlife enjoyed it too.
The decor is country cottage style. It’s not my usual decor of choice but it grew on me over the course of the weekend. I would love to see a modern taken on country style but that’s just my preference.
Snaps to the choice of amenities – Australian brand Appelles.
The ultimate test for me in any accommodation away from home is always in the quality of sleep, ie the quality of the bed and bedding. I can report it was superior.
The other test of a good escape is the pampering on offer. Those who’ve been reading for some time will know I’m a Spa Rat from way back. I’ll never chance getting a spa appointment by waiting until I arrive. No. I book in advance. Always.
Let this be a valuable lesson to you if you also have a penchant for all things facials and massages.
What the Spicers Hidden Vale Spa Anise (this is the branding of all spas in the Spicers chain) lacks in size, it makes up for in quality of treatment. The spa is located in what was formerly the property’s laundry and has two treatment rooms.
The lovely Camille wasted no time in helping me with my ongoing neck, shoulder, arm issues. We started with some “homework” … some yoga moves I can do (and have been doing!) with my neck, chin, and shoulders while sitting at my desk and then she got to work massaging me into beautiful coma-like state that I really, really didn’t not want to awake from.
Possibly the only thing that was going to successfully entice me from this very pleasant horizontal position was the thought of another amazing meal at Cotton’s Restaurant (Cotton’s is also open to the public – you don’t need to be staying in-house to enjoy).
I really had not expected to experience the quality of dining and service that we did.
Friday night’s five-course degustation menu with matching wines set a very high benchmark. One that was met and exceeded at each subsequent meal time.
If you are staying in the cottages then you don’t need to eat at the restaurant for your meals. You can self cater. We’d do a combination of both eating in and eating out on a future visit.
But I urge you if you do take the self-catering path, to have at least one dinner at the restaurant. It is THAT good.
Head Chef Ash Martin has harnessed the power of the locally available produce and serves it up with an emphasis on minimal fuss and maximum flavour. His wife Andrea, has swapped a Melbourne law career for front-of-house duties.
It’s a powerful hospitality combination I’ve seen before. This enthusiasm for the food and service is infectious when dished up double time like this. The winners are the definitely the guests.
We’re still both dreaming of the Chateaubriand dish we shared on Saturday night. It’s a $100 dish for two. The 650g melt-in-your-mouth local eye fillet is sliced and served medium rare on the table in a baking dish with brocolini, carrots, field mushrooms, greens, horseradish cream and jus.
The desserts sampled ticked all the boxes too – particularly the Lauriebrook goats milk panna cotta with mango, almonds and gelato served as part of the degustation.
How we fronted up for breakfast after two very satisfying meals the previous evenings, I do not know. But front we did for a more intimate take on a breakfast buffet. Much more civilised when served at your table, don’t you think?
And then the option of ordering a cooked meal featuring local produce. Mmmm … possibly the best bacon I’ve ever tasted.
Bacon that was indeed therapeutic on both mornings on account of sampling the very good wine and cocktail list at those aforementioned evening meals.
Thank goodness for balance, I say.
So much good food and wine could have meant that we rolled our way back to Brisbane but Spicers Hidden Vale is also a place that encourages you to balance out the relaxation and indulgence with a little activity. Or a lot of activity if you choose.
Mr SY is relatively new to mountain biking. I’ve fostered this as it means that the lycra is housed underneath normal shorts, not on show for the whole world to see more than needs be seen on a grown man. He brought his bike and Master SY’s with us and was pretty keen to hit the trails.
These trails are very well set out and clearly marked. They’re also graded by levels of difficulty. I walked the easiest of the trails with Master SY on Sunday morning – it took about an hour while Mr SY was out conquering some of the more challenging routes for about the same time.
Not staying but keen to hit the trails? You can buy a one-day pass and explore the 50km of tracks.
The boys also got to enjoy the trails on the back of a horse – Master SY led by the incredibly patient horsewoman, Michelle. It was his first time on a horse and she made him feel incredibly at ease in the saddle.
Michelle was also our driver on an hour-long 4WD tour of part of the property. The area badly needs some rain but it was great to see and hear about the re-afforestation efforts happening on site. I’d book in for the Sundowners tour next time for a different perspective and some wine and cheese while watching the sun set over the Lockyer Valley.
Check out the video below for a GoPro view of what we got up to.
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Spicers Hidden Vale is a great destination for couples but it also offers a very warm welcome to kids.
I think the sense of space is always a good thing when holidaying with kids. No chance of cabin fever here as there is so much space. Kids sense that.
Staying in a cottage does make it do-able too as you can bring your own food and you have a lounge room so good inside space as well.
Master SY loved the pools, the animal farm and convinced us that we should have a family game of tennis. Hopefully this was not witnessed by anyone as we officially do not win at tennis.
At Cotton’s Restaurant there is a kids’ menu and staff made him feel just as special as we were made to feel. It might be a stretch in the restaurant with toddlers but with an iPad and headphones put firmly in place on our 8YO after he finished his meal, we got to enjoy a non-rushed dinner.
Will we go back?
Absolutely. We’re looking at dates now to return when it’s cold enough to light and stoke the fire.
When you do a weekend escape, do you prefer the bush or the beach? Been to Spicers Hidden Vale?
Accommodation is priced from $299 per night in a Valley View room, including full breakfast daily for two people. Cottages are priced from $598 per night.
Family luxury adventure giveaways are priced from $895 per family per night (two adults; two children) and include cottage accommodation, daily gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinners (alcoholic beverages not included), morning and afternoon tea, two chargeable activities per day and a one hour massage. Mention this offer and also receive a free 30-minute spa treatment.
For more information, click here.
* We were hosted as guests of Spicers Hidden Vale for this weekend.