SA’s newest luxury offering has opened its elegant doors at Mount Lofty Estate
One of the first travel writers to stay at the resort, Carolyn Beasley discovers a space where there’s ample room to relax.
My driver Frank pauses before the grand sweep of driveway, and craning my neck to see what he’s pointing out, I’m thrilled to discover it’s a wild koala. Frank says its name is Charlie, but he’s actually a ‘she,’ and currently has a baby.
It’s the first of many insider stories I’ll hear in the coming days. We continue past the grand Mount Lofty House, a boutique hotel that has graced this hill above Adelaide since 1852. A private gate slides open, revealing the Estate’s newest luxury offering, the sleek and understated Sequoia Lodge.
At the lodge’s welcome drinks, I learn the Sequoia, or Californian redwood is a tree native to the US. Mount Lofty House was built by Mr Arthur Hardy in 1852, a man described as “the Great Gatsby of South Australia.” Hardy planted Sequoia trees here five years before he built his grand summer house, and three of the 174-year-old giants still grace the tree-line.
A world-class estate
The 14-suite Sequoia Lodge curves gracefully along the ridgeline. The design maximises the sweeping views of the Piccadilly Valley, with its botanic gardens, vineyards, truffle farms and apple orchards. Suites exude a refined elegance, with fireplaces of local stone, blonde timber floors and bathrooms you could live in. Each veranda hosts a double day bed, perfect for lazy in-room breakfasts.
In the lounge, I meet Estate General Manager, Jesse Kornoff, who hands me a glass of crisp local sparkling. Jesse explains Sequoia seeks to impart a deep sense of place, providing unique experiences that showcase the Adelaide Hills, including the region’s most famous product; wine.
“There’s nowhere else in the world with five world-class wine regions within 50 kilometres,” Jesse says.
“And those regions are so diverse in terms of terroir and climate.”
Local and sustainable
Jesse says the wellness offerings are also local.
“See the ridgeline here,” he says, as he points towards the rolling hills. “About halfway between Mount Barker and us is the Jurlique Farm.” He explains the company produces organic skincare and wellness products in the Adelaide Hills as this was the purest air and water they could find.
Keen to immerse myself in those local Jurlique products, I cross the yard to the Gatekeepers Spa, a National Trust-listed building, that has been meticulously restored. Emerging later, I feel my face has been similarly restored.
On the menu
A highlight of any stay here is dining at the three-hatted Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant at Mount Lofty House. To sample the best of South Australian dining, I accept the recommendation of the seven-course degustation menu. The estate sommelier has paired these dishes with premium wines from the region and around the world.
My personal favourite pairing is the wagyu brisket, black Angus and scallop, served with a taste of both Rhone Valley Syrah and Barossa Valley Shiraz, for comparison.
During dinner, we’re offered a tour of the historic cellar, home to one of the best wine collections in the country.
Exploring the region
The Hills are a nature lover’s delight. Early morning I join a guided nature walk along the Heysen Trail.
Views of the city below are occasionally revealed through swirling mist, but it’s the sights of the forest that captivate me. Parrots flash through the forest, and a koala snoozes peacefully in a tree fork. The walk ends with a picnic morning tea before I leave the group for an even deeper wildlife experience.
Cleland Wildlife Park is an Adelaide Hills institution, and here I take a private behind-the-scenes tour with koala keeper, Ash Hunter. Ash explains the vital conservation work being done here, including genetic studies and rehabilitation of koalas injured in the Kangaroo Island fires of 2019.
The area’s natural assets contribute to Adelaide’s wines too, and to learn more I join Sequoia’s ‘Maker and Somm’ experience.
In the guest lounge, estate sommelier Liinaa Berry, introduces guests to a boutique winemaker, in this case, Michael of Michael Hall Wines.
We’re encouraged to ask questions as we chat about winemaking and taste Michael’s wines, grown in the Adelaide Hills, the Barossa and right below us in Piccadilly Valley.
Activities aside, there’s ample opportunity to just relax. Perhaps the ultimate way to unwind is in the artesian hot pools, which are booked for private use.
Natural underground spring water feeds the pools and also supplies the water for the property. While taking in the view is divine, this is a treat for other senses too.
As I soak, an attendant appears with a fragrant mocktail infused with green tea, cucumber and mint, and smelling salts of local lavender.
Before I depart, I see a fleet of gleaming Ferraris, waiting for guests to drive them through the curvaceous hills. It’s a brand-new tour, part of the innovative and immersive Sequoia offerings.
Beside the Ferraris stands an ancient Sequoia, a mighty and tangible link to the past, bridging the history of the revered estate and watching over Sequoia as it enters a new era.