Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, Blue Mountains, Australia

LOCATION: A three hour drive from Sydney and there are sights equally as striking as the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Most famous are the Three Sisters, a jutting rock formation overlooking the sprawling Jamison Valley, but this new Emirates resort isn’t far behind. Set in its very own valley, the suites – each a veritable cottage – and the main homestead are studies in timber, stone and glass; all clean, modern architectural lines, but ones that set off the wilderness surroundings perfectly.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: At the bottom of the track you’ll find the one of the original cattle station buildings. From the rusting tin roof to the warped timber floors, the Heritage Homestead is kept exactly as it was when Charles Darwin visited in 1836. This is overtly about preserving history, but works equally well to underline by contrast how hugely, toweringly, stupendously luxurious the rest of the resort is.

THE FACTS: The 40 cottages are colossal, like your perfect countryside hideaway, with hotel services. The furnishings are achingly tasteful – neutral throws artfully draped over high-backed armchairs; an upholstered ottoman here, a handsome wooden desk there. Double-sided fireplaces separate the living area from the bedroom, home to one of the most comfortable beds I have slept in – and I’ve slept in a lot. (In my capacity as a professional travel writer reviewing hotels, I hasten to add.) The slate-lined bathrooms are vast, bigger than many hotel rooms, with a rainshower under its own glass skylight, double sinks and a bath with a view, so you can soak while watching the morning mist lift over the valley. Each suite even has its own indoor heated plunge pool. You could spend days here and not leave – especially when you take into account the minibar, which is stocked with local wine and a range of snacks so deluxe and comprehensive one could easily live off it.
But that would mean missing the food. This really is a place for gourmets – from the fresh, informal dishes at The Country Kitchen to the multi-course, exquisitely-prepared and presented tasting menus at the Wolgan Dining Room. Even drinks in the bar come with home-made snacks substantial enough to –almost – ruin your dinner. Expect to gain weight here.

A GOOD BASE FOR: Doing a lot of nothing – and loving it. There’s a large spa in its own cottage if guests need any extra help to relax, but this place is really about enjoying the beautiful landscape in the way that suits you best. Walking, cycling, horse-riding – it’s all on offer. Even the laziest will enjoy the evening wildlife drives, which introduce you to your only neighbours – kangaroos and wombats. And if even that is too much hassle, the terrace bar in the main homestead is perfect for taking in views of the valley spread out below when it’s light, and star-gazing during those pitch-black country nights.

WOW: This is definitely a hotel that invites exclamation, but the quality of the food is a wow you really can’t predict from looking at the photos or having a read of its website. The cuisine is creative – sometimes even daring – and makes extensive use of all things local and organic, including free-range pork, venison and trout. I almost expired with happiness when I discovered the separate cheese room, with its own expert to guide you through your choices.

HOW MUCH: £1,269 for a Heritage Suite, staying full board with wines and beer included with meals and non-alcoholic beverages through the day, plus two nature based activities per day.

wolganvalley.com

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