A master alchemist, Jackalope delights at blending incongruous elements. Even its name nods to the theme of fusion, referring to a made-up, mythical creature – part-jackrabbit, part-antelope – that exists only in folklore. With a jet-black, zinc-clad exterior, it stands in sharp contrast to the rural farms and rolling vineyards of the Mornington Peninsula. Inside, shared spaces are lavished with impossible-to-miss art while rooms are a colour-sapped statement of white and grey. Two starkly modern restaurants surprise with farm-to-fork food and a contemporary club-like bar stands in the shell of an old Edwardian homestead. Whatever the formula, the chemistry's just right.
11am. Check-in: 3pm. Both are flexible and the hotel offers luggage storage and access to hotel facilities on request.
Double rooms from £440.14 (AU$800), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include an à la carte breakfast in Doot Doot Doot. There’s milk from Melbourne’s Saint David micro-dairy, brews from Mornington’s Commonfolk Coffee Company, and dishes such as spanner-crab omelette and black-rice porridge on the menu.
Jackalope hosts regular wine events to highlight its Willow Creek Vineyard, including multi-course wine dinners paired with special vintages and terrace tastings to showcase very limited ‘museum wines’.
The hotel opens year round.
At the hotel
Spa treatments, custom-designed furniture, one-off art, vineyards, free WiFi. In rooms: a free minibar, Zuster furniture, flatscreen TV, Samsung tablet, Bose speakers, Japanese bath tub, Hunter LAB toiletries, robes.
Our favourite rooms
Colour-sapped walls, polished concrete and minimal furnishings pervade throughout the restrained rooms, but we love the Vineyard rooms for their contrasting, green views over the surrounding Willow Creek Vineyard – especially good at sunset, with a glass of pinot noir in hand. Upgrade to champagne by choosing the Lair rooms, with their penthouse-like dimensions, private terrace, indoor-outdoor fireplace and six-seater dining table. There’s even a personal wine cellar, so your glass will never run dry.
Overlooking the Mornington Peninsula’s vine-tangled countryside, the 30m infinity pool stands on a raised deck, surrounded by jet-black parasols and ashen sunbeds. At one end, an angular, zinc-clad building rises like a fragment of volcanic rock. Appropriately named the Geode, it’s used for private events and spa treatments.
A compact treatment menu at the Geode includes pregnancy massages and Jackalope’s signature oil-based massage, which blends Swedish and deep-tissue techniques. Plant-based Edible Beauty Australia products, featuring botanicals and wildflowers from Australia’s remote hinterland, are used in facials.
Stand-out against the monochrome backdrop in a red, ruffle dress by Australian clothing brand C/MEO Collective and pattern-free Her Line swimsuits for the pool. For men, bring pared-back Feit accessories and an electric bottle-opener to enhance the oenological experience.
Custom-made Hunter LAB toiletries, from Melbourne’s natural skincare brand, use crushed grape skins from the hotel’s Willow Creek Vineyard, which are recycled and reused after the wine has been made.
Jackalope is best suited to adults. However, all ages are welcome. In Doot Doot Doot, there’s a kids’ dégustation menu (with matching juices) and high chairs. In Rare Hare, colouring books are provided. Extra cots can be added to rooms on request.
Grab one of the jet-black, high-back sofas at Doot Doot Doot and a window seat for vineyard views at Rare Hare.
Looking for an opportunity to dress up? You can do so at Doot Doot Doot. Go for a full-length, crushed-velvet Winona dress by Australian designer Isabelle Quinn or a jacquard blazer from Calibre for men. At Rare Hare, smart-casual is fine.
The first thing that strikes you about the Doot Doot Doot restaurant is the 10,000-lamp chandelier, created byMelbourne-based light designer Jan Flook to resemble wine bubbles during the fermentation process. Like all the artworks at Jackalope, it’s a striking feat that draws the eye. But that’s before chef Guy Stanaway has clicked his fingers in your direction with a five-course set menu, highlighting the region’s artisans and producers: from beef with black sesame to lamb sweetbreads with shiitake mushrooms. For a more relaxed bite, head to Rare Hare – a ‘wine and food store’, which serves rustic shared platescooked in a wood-fired oven. Views of the vine-clad countryside are as impressive as the menu: chargrilled squid with romesco sauce, venison with kohlrabi remoulade and market fish with smoked mussel butter.
Encased within a 19th-century Edwardian homestead at the end of Jackalope’s drive, you’ll find the seriously cool, club-like Flaggerdoot bar. Stylish strip-lighting runs along the ceiling, illuminating an otherwise all-black space of inky walls and ashen floors. Gold-clad Leather Works chairs by Edra are as mad-cap as Andrew Hazewinkel’s surreal, faceless head sculptures, which stare out into the darkness. A marble bar, lined with round-bottom chemistry flasks, lines up to offer a 30-strong list of speciality cocktails. Try the Butter Bee with lavender, honey and brown-butter gin, or the Dirty Matador with guava, chipotle and tequila. There’s a choice selection of chardonnay and pinot noir wines from the surrounding Willow Creek estate and a long list of botanical gins, whiskies and unusual spirits. Work your way through the list, but grab a bite to eat first: try the truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, or maybe a salumi selection.
The main Doot Doot Doot restaurant serves breakfast from 7am-11am; lunch noon-3pm; dinner 6pm-9pm. Rare Hare is open for a leisurely lunch (11am-5pm) and dinner (5pm-9pm; Friday-Sunday only). Flaggerdoot bar serves from 11am-midnight.
An extensive in-room menu of cheese and salumi plates, pasta, fish, steak, burgers, club sandwiches and salads is available from 11am-11pm, with a reduced selection between 11pm-7am.
An hour’s drive south of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula kicks out from shoreline of Victoria, enticing weary city dwellers for weekend breaks with its mix of farm-fresh produce, relaxing spas, art galleries and wineries.
The nearest international hub is Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport, a 90-minute drive away. A second option awaits at Tyabb Airport, a 20-minute drive away, which serves as a base for helicopter transfers; the hotel can arrange transfers for guests.
From Melbourne’s Flinders Street Railway Station, Metro Trains run services to Frankston Railway at the north end of the Mornington Peninsula, from where you can catch onwards Metro Bus services to destinations further south.
You can rent wheels from Melbourne city centre or on the peninsula itself – Mornington has several outposts. Once at the hotel, there’s free valet parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Melbourne’s weekend playground entices city types with its soothing mix of wine bars and spas. The peninsula’s laidback, left-field vibe also means art galleries abound: try the Nook, in one of Mornington’s converted factories or the artist-led Cook Street Collective in Flinders. Jackalope’s location on a vineyard also hints at another local obsession: wine. Over 50 cellar doors populate the surrounding hillsides, with Crittenden Estate, Tuck’s Ridge and Montalto among the nearby favourites. There are gardens to explore at Ashcombe Maze, fine beaches along Port Phillip Bay and some of Australia’s best links courses at Mornington Golf Course, The Dunesand Portsea. But don’t leave without taking a dip in the area’s natural hot springs: Peninsula Hot Springs is one of the best.
The abundance of farms and vineyards on the Mornington Peninsula means there’s a rich harvest of places to eat and drink. In the Red Hill wine-making region, Polperro Bistro sits in a 25-acre plot, shaded by myrtle trees. Grab a spot on the wooden deck to make the most of the vineyard views and opt for refreshing dishes of Pink Lady apple with wood-sorrel granita or King George whiting with orange sabayon. Also worth visiting are the three nearby vineyards, collectively known as Ten Minutes by Tractor. Chef Stuart Bell works the kitchen, mixing heirloom vegetables, foraged herbs and edible flowers with mains of whole-roasted Tasmanian quail and beetroot gnocchi. If you can’t decide, the eight-course dégustation menu does the job for you. For a taste of something different, French restaurant Le Bouchon offers a prix-fixe lunch and dinner menu, of seared scallops with pea purée, duck casserole and more, all washed down with the same impressive wine list from France and the surrounding terroir.
With so many tasting rooms, it's best to refine your palette by rigorously mapping your route or organising a tour. One the best pit-stops is Port Phillip Estate, which has a cellar door, fine-dining restaurant and wine list that highlights the region’s prized pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. Like Jackalope, its modern architecture is worth the visit alone. Another laidback place is Foxeys Hangout, which has a deck and sloped lawn, where crowds gather for single-vineyard pinot noirs, estate wines and sparkling varieties – you can even make your own. At Green Olive, they serve a broad range of grape blends by the glass (or bottle), paired with a farm-style tapas of braised-lamb tacos, pumpkin bruschetta and beetroot dip. For an Italian take on the region’s eating and drinking traditions, T’Gallant specialises in pinot gris and pinot grigio grapes, along with spuntino (sharing plates) and wood-fired pizza.
One should not muck about when it comes to the serious business of escapism. For me, the perfect weekender prescription looks something like this: not too far to commute, though not too close that city lights will screw up your stargazing; peaceful enough to offer solace, but not so quiet that you’re saying ‘night night’ at 8pm; a truly local foodie experience, but not without optional fine dining… I could go on, and yes, perhaps I am a little fussy, but don’t be fooled by this scientific precision – I’m actually a self-proclaimed genius at maximizing the amount of pleasure one can derive from a 48-hour getaway. Case in point: this recent venture beyond the outskirts of Melbourne to hunt down the mysterious Jackalope.
With the city firmly in our rearview mirror, it’s a speedy hour’s drive (proximity to city: tick). On a well-planned girls weekend away time seemingly evaporates just as suburbia gives way to rolling green hills and, voila: we’ve landed squarely in wine country.
Piercing the green serenity stands the Jackalope, a mysterious entity which – from the low-lying black-clad exterior – looks part fairytale creature, part rustic cellar door and part uber-modern Australian boutique hotel.
Entering through the lobby, you’ll note that it’s also part gallery and nightclub. Sleek, angular and moody interiors contrast heavily with the outer surrounds, with pops of neon through the corridors providing the only source of light by day. It’s as intriguing as it is bamboozling. And it’s this contrast which Jackalope plays up so well – tantalizing the palette and the eyes at every turn as they play light against dark, soft against sharp, modern against classic.
Check-in with the well informed (and winningly chic) staff is breezy and within minutes we’re whisked past the hotel’s hatted restaurant Doot Doot Doot (another tick – fine dining on site), and into our Vineyard Room for the weekend. Upon entering you’re immediately drawn beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass doors and out to the balcony, hypnotized by the limitless surrounds. The chilled bottle of sparkling on arrival doesn’t go astray, and clinking glasses we finally let silence prevail (all the while internally praising myself for succeeding on all weekender checklist points thus far).
Having finally peeled ourselves from the landscape views, we step back inside to take in the space. The rooms are just as you would and wouldn’t expect. As well-appointed as a modern design hotel could be (though sadly lacking USB ports! Fussy, fussy, I know), but strangely dark and moody which feels the antithesis of light-filled Australian hotel styling, yet it only serves to frame the lush surrounds even further. The bathroom – by way of an internal glass-box – is tiled to perfection and perfectly kitted out, though you best throw modesty to the wind as privacy takes a secondary position to style.
Champagnes downed yet still a little parched, we don the provided black robes and hit the black-tiled pool and spa outside. Drinks on order and the spa at perfect brain-soothing temperature, we lose the next few hours soaking away the week in this impossibly beautiful scene. Wait, did someone say dinner? Champagne fuzz quickly gives way to famished hanger, and we change up to dine at Rare Hare, the restaurant at the Willow Creek Wines cellar next door. It’s everything farm-to-table should be – fresh, vibrant, rustic and with endless wine options. Well fed, well relaxed and, well, a little bit drunk, we roll into bed and let the comatosing room work its magic.
The hotel’s location smack-bang in the bosom of Balnarring and Red Hill provided no end of day trips, seaside walks, eating excursions and wine-tasting opportunities – of which we did none. Seems the mysterious Jackalope provided all we could need without stepping foot off the property. The fine-dining experience at Doot Doot Doot was a delight, matched only in excellence by the distance from the dinner table to my room (all of 15 meters).
A second night rolling in a tad sauced, and a second morning waking up in a womb-like state in our meditatively darkened abode and I can safely say the Jackalope has nailed the idyllic weekender formula in spades. We’ve rendered ourselves completely relaxed, with a full 48 hours of pure indulgence leaving us wanting nothing more than to return and do it all again.