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A bush escape

Lifestyle — Posted 04/11/15

For a restful weekend retreat, Dunkeld offers a rejuvenating blend of wholesome food, local history and the great outdoors.

With the Glenelg Highway motoring past its doorstep and the rugged Grampians National Park looming overhead, there’s something unpretentious and uniquely Australian about the Royal Mail Hotel. When so many major arterials now bypass our regional towns, arriving in Dunkeld feels deeply connected to the past, and with its Cobb and Co. origins, the Royal Mail is right at home. 

Royal Mail Hotel at sunrise

From Melbourne, it’s a scenic three-hour drive via Ballarat, or just an hour from the Great Ocean Road, and the magnificent wilderness on approach sets the scene for a retreat embracing nature at every turn. Rooms at the Royal Mail drink in the surrounding scenery, overlooking gardens teeming with local flora or the sweeping panorama of the Grampians National Park. Stylish and understated, the hotel’s accommodation takes nothing away from the landscape, radiating warmth and reflecting its ever-changing colours.

If a wellbeing weekend is on the cards, the Royal Mail offers plenty to write home about. Upon check-in, guests are given a map detailing the area’s walks, history and geology, along with any local wildlife they might encounter along the way. Set off for long walks around the township of Dunkeld, explore the pastoral charms of the nearby historic Mount Sturgeon property – which also offers accommodation – or continue up through the Grampians National Park. Those with stamina can head off on lengthy mountain climbs, buoyed by decadent picnic lunches and snacks from the hotel, or walkers preferring a slower amble can discover the beautiful terrain closer to home.

Relax at the Royal Mail Hotel

Keen foodies might like to take a tour of the property’s sprawling kitchen garden, a reflection of the Royal Mail Dining Room’s unwavering focus on nature-based cuisine. Here, ducks are a natural pesticide, roaming the plots on the hunt for slugs and snails, and stopping for the occasional nibble on some curly kale. Having had to relocate several times as the demand for space increases, the abundant kitchen garden grows over 80% of all produce served in the Dining Room, from heirloom veggies and fruits to herbs and nuts – with even home-grown wasabi getting a run. 

With such a strong emphasis on the cultivation of ingredients, it’s no surprise that dining at the Royal Mail’s Dining Room is a wonderfully thoughtful experience. Cap off a day out in the crisp country air with either of the restaurant’s five or eight course tasting menus, or a la carte options, accompanied by an incredible array of wines from the hotel’s vast collection. Nostalgic touches like a truly yummy butter and vegemite spread and fun, flavoursome menu highlights like the ‘green eggs and ham’ or a refined take on ‘bubble and squeak’ to accompany Great Ocean Road duck hint at the playful charm of this rural escape. 

Inspired to experience a wellbeing getaway at Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel? Start your journey at

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