The newly opened Jackalope Hotel is a smart, sexy and very indulgent boutique property with all the creature comforts you’d expect for a food and wine lover’s weekend away.
Traveller: Gwen Luscombe
Room: Vineyard View
Address: 166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North VIC 3926
Date: May 2017
Best for: An indulgent food and wine escape on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
The Signature factor
Inspired by alchemy, this property at Willow Creek Winery has everything you could want for a romantic retreat. Luxury rooms, quirky curated artworks, spectacular fine dining and all the little added extras that make for a decadent stay such as complimentary Wi-Fi, breakfast, mini-bar, inhouse movies and more.
With just 46 rooms, Jackalope is set on vineyard acreage with gorgeous views from your floor-to-ceiling windows and private terrace. You’ll find plenty of artistic twists and bold design concepts throughout the hotel done in collaboration with some of Australia’s leading designers including Carr Design Group. Cleverly curated sculptures and artworks throughout the hotel and surrounding grounds are a treat for art and design lovers.
Arrive via a winding country road and be welcomed by an oversized sculpture of the mythical Jackalope (horned rabbit). A valet service meets your car on arrival and you’re welcomed inside with a complimentary drink in Flaggerdoot, the artsy inhouse bar that must be seen to be believed.
On site you’ll find plenty to enjoy if you’re keen for a stroll around including Rare Hare where you can sample a variety of wines, cellar-door style, or enjoy casual dining with spectacular vineyard views.
Enter your room via a long neon-lit corridor where alchemical signs adorn the doors as room numbers. It’s moody, sexy and sophisticated and unlike anything you’ll find in the region.
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The Vineyard rooms offer impressive views of Willow Creek’s vineyard through floor-to-ceiling windows. A private terrace offers plenty of space to sit and enjoy the view of the infinity pool seemingly disappearing into the vines. The king-sized bed is comfy and also faces the view while the bathroom is fully fitted out with underfloor heating, rain showers, double vanity and custom created bath products from Hunter Lab. It won’t be long before you’re tempted to wrap yourself up in the plush black bath robes and pour in some bath salts for a long soak in the deep Japanese bath.
The signature suite, called a Lair, is all about the creature comforts and plenty of extra space. With loft ceilings and larger terrace overlooking the vines, booking yourself into a Lair means you’ll enjoy all the comforts of a Vineyard room with an additional indoor/outdoor double-sided fireplace. It’s perfect for snuggling up with a glass of local wine! You’ll also have a six-seater indoor dining table, kitchenette, cocktail bar and a personal wine cellar, too.
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On my plate
Jackalope offers three options for food and drink. Rare Hare offers a more casual cellar door-style dining experience where you can relax over some shared dishes and enjoy the views as well as a solid range of wines to pair up with a serious tasty menu. With a double-sided fireplace, long tables and vineyard views, it’s pretty damn cosy.
Doot Doot Doot offers upscale dining with a menu of four or eight courses designed from the hotel’s kitchen garden and select local suppliers. And as you are at a winery, the option is also there to pair your courses with matched Willow Creek and international wines. And while the food is certainly memorable, it’s the eight-by-10-metre giant lighting installation by Melbourne-based chandelier designer, Jan Flook, that brings the alchemy theme into Doot Doot Doot. This 10,000-lamp chandelier canvasses the ceiling creating a bubble effect that’s appropriate for both the alchemy theme and a winery fermentation theme, too. Sitting underneath this installation, it’s hard to not simply stare above you rather than focus on the food in front of you.
After your overnight, complimentary breakfast is also served in Doot Doot Doot à la carte style; no boring breakfast buffets here! Guests can choose from a breakfast menu of fresh local fare that’s just as thoughtfully planned as the dinner menu. I devoured the almond, oat and quinoa granola served with poached fruit compote and vanilla yoghurt. Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Cocktail lounge Flaggerdoot is located in the historic McCormick House, established in 1876 and now serving as the ever-so-stylish hotel bar. Flaggerdoot is full of slick custom-designed furniture, artworks and design elements that will offer plenty of conversations topics while you enjoy your drink or enjoy a game of pool on the electric blue pool table. The cocktail menu is fun and experimental and it’s the sort of place you’ll be tempted to sit for hours just to enjoy the surrounds – if not the drinks too!
Inroom dining can be ordered as well with a mix of snacks, a few healthy and indulgent options as well as a cheese board and sweets.
Highlights from the mini-bar
The mini-bar at Jackalope is complimentary (wine excepted) and loaded full of soft drinks, local beer, and snacks of smoked almonds and sweets.
I wish I could take home…
As you exit the lobby and make your way to your room, you’ll pass a stunning glass-walled wine cellar that’s sure to stir up a little bit of wine envy. It’s a stunning design feature and one that, while it wouldn’t quite suit the style of my home, I’d be more than happy to call mine.
For an additional bit of relaxation, massage services are available either in room or in Geode, the poolside spa space. Geode is located next to the black 30-metre infinity pool with sweeping views over the vineyard.
Once you step into your room at Jackalope, admittedly it’ll be pretty difficult to leave. Plush comforts aside, the room also offers a Wi-Fi-connected tablet in lieu of the traditional hotel compendium where you can browse through the hotel’s services including free Wi-Fi, as well as free inroom movies ordered via tablet. Ideal for having a movie night in with a room service-ordered cheese board and bottle of Willow Creek Wines.
Venture down to Rare Hare for some wine tasting at the cellar door or book yourself in for a massage to be enjoyed in-room or in Geode, the poolside pavilion. Have a swim in the infinity pool with gorgeous views or alternatively, your giant sunken bath is a pretty tempting place to unwind.
The Mornington Peninsula has always been a favourite getaway spot for lovers of food and wine, and those keen to enjoy the local natural hot springs, as well as a huge variety of activities such as horseback riding on a local beach and getting on the green at nearby world-class golf courses.
Jackalope’s 4.45-hectare vineyard surrounds the property and just a short drive from there you’ll find an additional 50 cellar doors and 20 golf courses (three of which are rated in Australia’s top 10) as well as beautiful beaches, an indulgent mineral hot springs and more.
A short drive away is Gunnamatta Trail Rides where you can enjoy the exclusive experience of horseback riding on St Andrews Beach. It’s an unforgettable experience for both experienced riders and beginners and, if you’re keen to make a day of it, it offers a variety of packages to add on to a winery experience or a long soak in the nearby mineral hot springs.
Jackalope has only been open a few months and is already creating buzz thanks to recently receiving not one but three awards from the Gourmet Traveller Hotel Awards, including the coveted Hotel of the Year.
Mobile phone reception can be a little bit weak/non-existent in certain spots. It’s ideal for switching off and relaxing, and the Wi-Fi is free if you need to get in touch with the outside world.
Where to find it
Jackalope is located in Merricks North, on the Victorian Mornington Peninsula.
Gwen Luscombe is a Melbourne-based travel and food writer who is always on the lookout for a new restaurant or bar to check out or an exciting new destination to discover. Having been bitten by the travel bug early in life, she’s lived in a variety of cities around the globe before making Australia home. Follow her on Instagram at @gwennieo