August 11, 2012
Cosy charm ... the Stone Tryst Spa Villas are perched on a gentle hilltop.
Sue Wallace surrenders to the regional gourmet delights at a couple's retreat.
Willpower is thrown to the wind as I gaze at our picnic table almost groaning under the weight of local goodies at Beechworth's Lake Sambell Reserve.
Cheese, bread, pate, ham, beer, wine, grapes and berry tarts are also being eyed by all who pass.
It's the bounty collected from a leisurely cycle through Beechworth using the complimentary town bikes, an initiative of three epicurean businesses, Bridge Road Brewers, Pennyweight Winery and the Larder Fromagerie and Provisions.
It's their way of encouraging visitors to discover the town's many highlights on easy-to-ride three-speed bikes that are perfect for a gentle cruise. The bikes and helmets can't be booked ahead, so it is pot luck.
Home for two nights is a luxury self-contained couple's retreat at Beechworth's new Stone Tryst Spa Villas, perched on a gentle hilltop overlooking the historic town's spectacular craggy gorge.
On two hectares of land once covered by vineyards, the stone ruins of Tanswell's champagne cellar, where bottles of bubbly were stashed in the 1890s, remain.
Stone Tryst is also home to more than a quarter of a kilometre of hand-built drystone walls that frame the property on two sides.
Villa Granito is the largest of three cosy one-bedroom, self-contained villas and the only one with a solar-heated plunge pool.
As we step through the front door, we are greeted with charming views framed by picture windows overlooking the gorge and township.
Local granite has been salvaged from the property's original homestead and stables and used for a feature wall in the living area, hence the Italian name.
The small kitchen has everything we could possibly need to create a special meal. There is also an excellent coffee machine and a preordered decadent platter of local wine and chocolates.
Polished eucalypt timber floors and a log gas fire create a snug feel, while the split system quickly heats the villa.
After unpacking, we compete for the comfortable leather sofa and the recliner chair and ottoman to catch up on the weekend newspapers - both are good options.
The separate bedroom has a king-size bed with floor-to-ceiling windows.
And then we ate We have preordered dinner from North East Feast, a boutique catering company run by local chef and foodie Cate Hardman.
The meal comes with heating instructions, and the fish pie with salad and a delicious pear tart with a Pennyweight wine is the perfect way to spend a night in (phone 0412 626 992, see northeastfeast.com.au).
For breakfast we cook from the gourmet breakfast package.
The deal maker The villa is a perfect haven for a getaway, no matter what the weather. When the temperatures plummet, curl up and read a book; for summer there is a plunge pool.
The large bathroom with a heated floor is impressive.
Stepping out Discover the gorge with its moss-covered rocks, waterfalls and rock pools and watch out for wallabies.
Pedal the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail from Beechworth to Everton; it's an exhilarating downhill ride, but do arrange for a pick-up at the other end. Cycling uphill isn't half the fun.
Beechworth has some great restaurants, including Michael Ryan's Provenance, and there are some eclectic shops full of treasures.
Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.
Stone Tryst Spa Villas
Address 10 Granjoise Lane, Beechworth.
The verdict Stow away in a chic retreat.
Price From $245 a night Monday-Thursday, or $265 a night Friday-Sunday, May-September, for Villa Granito. For stays of two nights, a gourmet breakfast hamper is provided. Rates differ for each villa.
Bookings Phone 5728 1861; see stonetryst.com.au.
Getting there Beechworth is about 280 kilometres, or three hours' drive, north of Melbourne. Travel on the Hume Freeway and turn off at Wangaratta.
Perfect for Couples looking for a romantic break.
Wheelchair access No.
While you're there Get free bike hire from brewer Ben Kraus at Bridge Road Brewers. Take a spin through town, stop at Larder Fromagerie and Provisions for picnic supplies and great chocolate, and venture to Pennyweight Winery, just out of Beechworth, for a good drop. Try an ale at Bridge Road Brewers and a delicious home-made pretzel, courtesy of Kraus's partner, Maria.