Hotel Highlights

  • The exquisite 10-course tasting menu
  • Walks and drives in the under-visited Grampians
  • The relaxed hospitality of a real country town

Overview

For one of the finest meals you'll eat in Australia, with simple yet sophisticated rooms and majestic mountain views to match, head for the Royal Mail Hotel & Mt Sturgeon in Dunkeld, the southern gateway to the Grampians in Victoria. If you don't want to stay in the thick of things, bed down in Mt Sturgeon's scenic cottages, with Mt Sturgeon on your doorstep.  

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Royal Mail Hotel & Mt Sturgeon with us:

A complimentary cooked breakfast and late check-out at 12pm. If you're booked into Mt Sturgeon's cottages, breakfast will be swapped for a bottle of wine

Special offers

Exclusive rates, packages and special offers at Royal Mail Hotel & Mt Sturgeon

'Epicurean Royal Mail' 'Sommelier sojourn' Mid-week escape

Facilities

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Royal Mail Hotel & Mt Sturgeon – The Grampians – Australia

Need To Know

Rooms

27 at Royal Mail Hotel; six one-bedroom and two two-bedroom cottages at Mt Sturgeon, 3km away.

Check–out

Check-out 11am. Check-in, 3pm. Both flexible subject to availability; a further charge may apply.

Rates

Double rooms from $161.39 (AU$173), excluding tax at 10 per cent.

More details

Rates include newspaper and continental breakfast (à la carte cooked breakfast also available at additional cost).

Also

Only three kilometres from Dunkeld, the Mount Sturgeon homestead presides over a 1,000 bale-a-year superfine merino wool working sheep station, and can cater for up to 12 Smiths and their friends in a graceful and expansive historic home. So why not arrive by helicopter, play lord and lady of the manor for the weekend, and enjoy free transfers to the restaurant each night for dinner?

At the hotel

Gardens, outdoor pool. Mt Sturgeon's cottages have gardens, walking trails, barbecues and parking. In rooms: flatscreen TV, balcony; in cottages: kitchen, microwave, bar fridge, dining table, fireplace, stereo.

Our favourite rooms

If you're staying within Royal Mail Hotel, don’t settle for anything less than the aptly named Mountain View Rooms, where floor-to-ceiling, glass sliding doors frame postcard-perfect aspects of Mount Sturgeon and the Southern Grampian Ranges. The recently refreshed Deluxe Mountain View Rooms are the standouts, with clean-lined and contemporary interiors, king-size beds, sleek bathrooms and private decks, which are ideal for sipping a glass of wine and soaking up the view. Ask for the more private room furthest from the restaurant and bar. At Mt Sturgeon, 3km away, we love the one-bedroom bluestone cottages, which come with a queen-size bed, wooden side tables with lamps, a suitcase stand and a timber clothes rail (there’s no wardrobe). Beautifully framed photos of local wildlife liven up the textured white walls. In the two-bedroom cottages, one bedroom sports a queen-size bed, the other two single beds, with similarly rustic decor.

Poolside

There is a small outdoor pool. Get there early or take a towel to lie on as loungers are in high demand.

Packing tips

Hiking kit for midday ambles, a wine guide for getting the low down on the local shiraz and loose-fitting garb for that multi-course meal.

Also

Maps for eight marked walking trails are provided in all rooms. Walk off lunch with a stroll to Arboretum or the Chinese Wall – you can take a Hiker's Hamper in case you get gourmet withdrawal. Or relax with an in-room massage.

Children

Welcome; but book a local nanny for dinnertime. The kids might get fidgety during the four-hour tasting menu. If you're staying in one of the cottages, extra beds are AU$45.

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Eco‐friendly

With over 150 varieties of heirloom vegetables and herbs sourced from the hotel’s own extensive kitchen gardens, cuisine here is hyper-local and organic.

Weddings

This property is suitable for weddings

More details

Food & Drink

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Royal Mail Hotel & Mt Sturgeon – The Grampians – Australia

Hotel Restaurant

Winner of a fistful of foodie awards, this is, quite simply, one of Australia’s best restaurants, so be sure to bag a table when you book your room. Formerly headed up by Dan Hunter (once head chef at two-Michelin-starred Mugaritz in San Sebastian), it fuses fresh, local and seasonal ingredients with essence-enhancing technology to create tummy-tickling flavours, with a 10-course omnivore or vegetarian tasting menu up for grabs. This is molecular gastronomy with an Australian accent, mixing lamb and liquorice, or pigeon and white chocolate. The Royal Mail Cellar, the country’s leading collection of Burgundy and Bordeaux wines, has also garnered gongs. A more casual bistro alongside the formal dining area serves refined Spanish-inspired dishes, including tapas, and there’s a sunny outside courtyard.

Hotel Bar

The Royal Mail Hotel Public Bar is more pub than cocktail lounge, but it’s the real thing. Foodies from all over Australia rub shoulders with locals and there’s the occasional live band.

Last orders

Lunch in the Bistro at 2.30pm; dinner in both the Bistro and Restaurant at 9pm; drinks in the Public Bar at 1am.

Room service

A short in-room menu, including wagyu burgers, is available daily between 6pm and 9pm.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Wide-brimmed Akubra hat for hiking in the hills; low-necked little black dress for seducing over dinner.

Top table

Bag a discreet corner table; or sit closer to the fire in the thick of things.

Local Guide

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Royal Mail Hotel & Mt Sturgeon – The Grampians – Australia
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Local restaurants

Head for Halls Gap if you fancy eating out. Part of Brambuk, the National Park & Cultural Centre, Bushfoods Café (03 5361 4057) serves up Aboriginal bush tucker and native foods, such as kangaroo, emu and crocodile. Another stalwart, Quarry Restaurant (03 5356 4858), offers Mod Oz fare with a nod to gourmet bush tucker (wallaby steaks, barramundi and tiger prawns). Set in a historic timber mansion, the Balconies Restaurant (03 5356 4232) is the place to go for globally inspired dishes spanning Thai green curry and French lamb cutlets, with live jazz on Saturdays.

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Southern Grampians panorama

Royal Mail Hotel & Mt Sturgeon

98 Parker Street (Glenelg Highway), The Grampians, Victoria 3294, Australia

260km west of Melbourne (approximately three hours by car), the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld blends a touch of quaint country charm with the dramatic natural beauty of the Grampians National Park.

Planes

If time is of the essence it’s possible to fly into Hamilton Airport which is 30km from Dunkeld. Sharp Airlines (www.sharpairlines.com.au; 1300 556 694) fly from Essendon Airport (in Melbourne’s north-west) and Adelaide Airport to Hamilton.

Trains

Metlink (http://www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au/; 131 638) operates a train service to Casterton via Hamilton. Disembark at Hamilton from where you will need to take a taxi. VLine (www.vline.com.au; 136 196) also runs a train and bus service direct to Dunkeld.

Automobiles

Driving from Melbourne; take the Western Highway to Ballarat and then the Glenelg Highway to Dunkeld. The drive is a leisurely three and a half hours.

Other

Heli Experiences (www.heliexperiences.com.au; 1300 771 916) fly direct from Melbourne to the helipad at the Royal Mail Hotel.

Reviews

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Royal Mail Hotel & Mt Sturgeon – The Grampians – Australia

Anonymous review

by Anna Acton , Portrait-snapping actress

Looking up from our main courses, we realise friends from Melbourne are at the neighbouring table. Such is the all-consuming nature of the gourmet experience at Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel that neither of us has noticed the other during the past hour. And we’re not even in the main restaurant that’s won practically every award in the country. Our last-minute reservation, despit...

Read more

Royal Mail Hotel & Mt Sturgeon

Anonymous review by Anna Acton, Portrait-snapping actress

Looking up from our main courses, we realise friends from Melbourne are at the neighbouring table. Such is the all-consuming nature of the gourmet experience at Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel that neither of us has noticed the other during the past hour. And we’re not even in the main restaurant that’s won practically every award in the country. Our last-minute reservation, despite being midweek, means tables for chef Dan Hunter’s multi-course tasting menu are fully booked.
Earlier in the day we’d cruised to the ruggedly beautiful southern Grampians from Melbourne in a fuss-free three hours. That’s one of the joys of the midweek jaunt – next to no traffic. It’s almost as good as the feeling of knowing you’re relaxing while everyone else is still stuck in the office.

Mt Sturgeon and its eight bluestone cottages beckon, but before reaching our final destination we duck into Dunkeld, call in at sister stay the Royal Mail to collect the keys and have a drink in the bar. Well, it’s a lengthy drive! Mr Smith picks up the encyclopaedic list and immediately his eyes get that look. He’s a connoisseur of fine wine and this offering is no slouch. He chooses a local Hochkirch Maximus pinot noir and declares it to be one of the best he’s ever drunk.

Bottle of unfinished pinot in hand, we’re given a map and directions down a dirt road to our secluded former workers’ cottage. Built from stone, it has an air of simplicity and country comfort. A much-loved chocolate leather couch sits by the fireplace. There’s no TV and we soon discover our phones are out of WiFi range – seems we have no choice but to leave work behind. But as cosy as this scene is, what lies beyond the front door is really the highlight here – a commanding view of Mount Sturgeon and the jaw-dropping surrounding landscape.

But make no mistake about it; the reason we’re here is to taste the acclaimed food at the Royal Mail Hotel. Although initially disappointed that we couldn’t score an elusive booking in the main restaurant, we’ve managed to talk ourselves around to the fact that the less-structured bistro menu next door is more suited to our hunger levels, while still hailing from the same kitchen.

Freshly baked bread and spiced almonds kick off our meal. Mr Smith then polishes off a plate of Milawa organic chicken with cauliflower and wild rice; I have blue cod with fennel and globe artichoke. The star of the meal so far, though, has been a perfect side dish of roasted Jerusalem artichokes and chestnuts, grown in the hotel’s kitchen garden.

That’s when we notice our friends at the next table. We would have been embarrassed if it weren’t for the fact that they hadn’t seen us either. It’s with relief etched in every word that they inform us that after two years of trying they’d finally secured a Friday night spot at the degustation table. They would be dining in the main restaurant the following evening.

Although just a little bit jealous – okay, maybe a lot jealous – we console ourselves with dessert: a decadent chocolate hazelnut mousse with honeycomb for me and for Mr Smith a beurre bosc pear tart with vanilla anglaise. Its flaky pastry reminds him of the tarts his mother made in France.

One of the many joys of staying at Mt Sturgeon is that a member of staff whisks you home, so there’s never an argument over who’s doing the driving. That also means there’s no problem enjoying an indulgent night cap by the roaring fire in the bar before we’re ferried on the short return journey to the cottage. Back at base camp, we fall into a deep sleep, lulled by full stomachs and the smell of the fire.

A light drizzle the next morning means we can contemplate the day ahead from bed without an attack of the guilts. Finally, we unpack the breakfast basket, stocked with local sheeps-milk yoghurt, stewed and fresh fruit, and muesli. As delicious as it looks, Mr Smith and I decide to head to the pub to read the papers and enjoy a coffee. Somehow we’re still lingering at midday when a rush of locals and travellers begins gathering for the lunch service. Who are we to upset the apple cart? A hearty serving of crispy fish and chips later and we know we’ve made the right choice.

After lunch we hit the road for Halls Gap. The asphalt is deserted as the rain gets heavier, but as we wind along towards the Grampians National Park the surrounds become increasingly breathtaking in their lush dampness. We make for McKenzie Falls, walking through the drizzle along a well-marked path to a picturesque waterfall. The smell of rain in the wild surroundings is remarkably refreshing. We stop at picturesque Mount Zero Olives, adjacent to the Grampians National Park, settling into the café with warm cups of tea and the best berry cake I’ve ever eaten, before stocking up on bottles of the latest release virgin olive oil.

Soon enough we are back at the cottage, and a car and driver are waiting to ferry us to the bistro. Taking a cue from the previous evening I settle on an entrée of slow-cooked egg, salt fish and mussels, then choose two home-grown vegetable side dishes: an amazing potato and turnip gratin and those Jerusalem artichokes again. Mr Smith is swayed by a recommendation of boneless rack of lamb with parsnip and pecorino. Of course, it’s all washed down with more local wine selections from the cellar. We make the epic decision to skip dessert, instead taking a bottle of wine back to consume in front of our blazing fire.

Blankets draped around our shoulders, Mr Smith and I sit outside our cottage on the final morning making the most of that breakfast basket and taking in the magnificent, silent scenery. We feel as though we’ve experienced something unique during our time away from the city: a chance to enjoy dramatic nature and also taste some magnificent food and wine. It’s truly the best of both worlds.

 

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Royal Mail Hotel & Mt Sturgeon's Guestbook below.

 

BlackSmith

Stayed on 17 Feb 2014

We loved

We had a lovely Mountain View Room, which was perfectly equipped and very comfortable. The dinners were superb, and as for the wine list – well, it was just spectacular, if you like aged French reds and just about anything else!

Don’t expect

The WiFi didn't work on our iPhones or our laptop, but since this was a holiday it didn't matter much. And I missed a shaving mirror in the bathroom.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on 15 Oct 2013

We loved

I loved the hotel; we had a special 50 per cent off deal for three nights so it was exceptional value. The breakfast was great, a bit different from the usual fare; we loved the view from the mountain view rooms, and there was great walking in the area. The degustation dinner was also exceptional value.

Don’t expect

The housekeeping could be better: our room wasn't vacuumed each day which meant when you came home in the evening the room didn't seem as fresh as a hotel room should.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on 26 Jun 2012

Wonderful scenic place to stay, excellent food and wine. Costly, but an experience well worth it.

Rating: 8/10 stars