Jul 05, 2017
Vanessa Frey makes herself at home in Queensland’s grand high country.
The sun greets us warmly on arrival – showily, almost. Broad, spread-eagled rays pierce the cottony clouds, softly gilding the surrounding countryside.
It’s a luminous welcome to Spicers Peak Lodge, a mountain-top retreat in Maryvale at the end of a scenic 130-kilometre drive south-west of Brisbane. We’re covering the last few metres of what feels like our very own yellow brick road. Except that it’s a long, anticipation-building driveway that leads to a modern alpine-style cedar “chalet” with wall-to-wall glass. Inside, as we discover when ushered in, are cathedral ceilings, bluestone hearths and soothing neutrals that don’t compete with the natural beauty outdoors.
Peak Lodge, as it turns out, is the country estate of our “other life” dreams and we waste no time making ourselves at home. Over the next two languid days, we picnic by the pretty lake, feast on fine-dining fare prepared with local, seasonal produce and – in between yoga, a massage and a sunset wine-and-cheese tour – luxuriate in our spa suite, reading, napping and soaking in bubbles. Meanwhile, the staff light our in-room wood fire, serve pots of hot tea and fetch us cashmere throws when the chill starts to bite.
We spend some of our time here just strolling the trails of this picturesque property on the western edge of the Scenic Rim. From its lofty position on Cedar Mountain, Peak Lodge offers 360-degree views of the mountains that encircle it. On this lush, grassy plateau 1100 metres above sea level, the light is soft, the air crisp and every breath is a shot of fresh adrenaline to the lungs – the oxygen injected into the atmosphere by more than 30,000 hectares of parkland (including six national parks) with at least a dozen peaks over 1000 metres.
It’s a hiker’s paradise, no doubt. But that’s for another trip. When our all-too-brief weekend is over, it ends as it began, with the sun casting shadows over the landscape in a gracious, light-filled salute as we make our way back down the mountain along a winding dirt road that leads us – very reluctantly – to our real home.
Elegant Peak Lodge has 10 homey, spacious suites in the main building and two discrete residences, both with outdoor spas and views over the escarpment. It feels like your own private rural retreat, equipped with a small army of attentive staff. Open fires, Bluetooth audio systems, Nespresso machines, cloud-soft king beds and luxe Bemboka blankets amp up the comfort level in guestrooms. The property also has an infinity pool (left), tennis court, day spa and lake. Brangus and Highland cows (“hairy coos”) that roam the pastures are a nice bucolic touch – and no, they don’t end up on the menu.
There’s no need to go foraging (the nearest town is 40 minutes away along an unsealed road). The Peak restaurant will keep you well fed with its modern Australian menu inspired by native ingredients, as well as those grown in the kitchen garden and the region’s fertile volcanic soils. It’s a gastronomic introduction to the Scenic Rim’s emerging food culture. Housemade specialties at this two-hatted fine-diner include a theatrical sourdough damper with caramelised butter, accompanied by smoking eucalyptus leaves that conjure the aromas of the bush.
The inclusive food and beverage offerings are palate-pleasing and plentiful. Breakfast, which covers sinful and saintly options, poses the usual dilemma; as tempting as the brûlée French toast with poached rhubarb and pistachio crumble is, I order the no-less-delicious yet guilt-free Fungi Feast with parmesan custard, marinated grains, leaves and a poached egg.
Lunch can be taken in the dining room, on the balcony of your suite or picnic style at the lake or lookout, a short walk from the main lodge. The chefs can prepare a gourmet platter, antipasto board (with cheese, olives, cold meats and fruit), salads or toasties. Champagne? Goes without saying.
For dinner, expect an exquisite five-course tasting menu that celebrates local produce. There is an assiette of vegetables, puréed, roasted and grilled; tender Tillari pork with cabbage and Davidson’s plum; and a cleverly constructed dessert of textured Stanthorpe apples with a bed of salted oats and an apple-juice gel casing that hides bavarois and a lemon myrtle sauce within. Matching wines are selected from the glass-walled cellar and if you fancy a nightcap, the bar in the communal lounge is open late.
Enforced downtime is one of the advantages of being in splendid isolation but you definitely won’t be bored. The Peak Lodge team promises to “Spicify” your weekend with activities such as 4WD tours, mountain biking and nature walks. About 75 per cent of this 3200-hectare property, comprising eucalypt woodland and pockets of rainforest, has been designated a nature refuge so expect to see all manner of animal, plant and bird life as you wander the plateau and its meandering paths. Look up and you might even spot a koala sleeping in the fork of a gum tree.
Yes, you could lie around like those lazy marsupials (no judgement) or you could throw off your duvet and front up to an 8am yoga class for a life-affirming, balance-restoring, energising start to the day. If you insist on sleeping in, sign up for a private session.
At dusk, take the mezzanine walkway to the first-floor balcony to watch the sun bow out behind the conjoined peaks and valleys that make up the Scenic Rim. The diffused fireball-coloured light is nothing short of phenomenal up here. (Bring along a snuggly blanket.)
Extend your stay and explore the region on a four-day guided eco walk that culminates at Peak Lodge. It’s the final stop on the Scenic Rim Trail, which traverses South East Queensland’s Main Range National Park.
SEE ALSO: A Weekend In… Byron Bay, NSW