Just two hour's drive from Sydney, Dennarque Estate – one of the original European properties of Mt Wilson – offers three exclusive luxury accommodation options all set in exotic cool climate gardens and surrounded by the natural magnificence of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
While we decided to drive from Sydney the property has an onsite helipad and we are told by current head gardener and property manager, David Mansfield that many a celebrity or two has arrived by chopper for a stay. He tells us the property was also used extensively for filming the latest version of the 'Great Gatsby' starring Leonardo Di Caprio.
No matter which way you decide to arrive once through the gated entrance, you are cosseted in seclusion. All accommodation is fully self-contained and throughout your stay, you have exclusive access to the 25 acres of expansive gardens and the properties many facilities.
Dennarque was built in the late 1870s by former Aide-de-Camp to the Governor, Commissioner of Crown Lands and Clerk of the Executive Council, Edward Merewether who lived there with his wife Augusta and their 10 children.
Set at the highest point of Mt Wilson, the gardens were originally designed for Merewether 135 years ago by then Royal Botanic Garden Sydney director, Charles Moore.
"People have been attracted to Mt Wilson for generations," says David. "They have traditionally come for the history and around the turn of the 20th century, people left the Sydney beaches and came here in the summer because it was cooler. They tend to do the opposite these days."
"Autumn and Spring are the most colourful times of year for the foliage, but Mt Wilson in summer is temperate with rich colours and in winter it's the most beautiful wonderland with the mist and the snow."
Rarely ever open to the public, the gardens of Dennarque Estate are now only available to in-house visitors, and you are free to wander amongst the established pines, the mountain ashes and the maples in exclusive, tranquil solitude, unbothered by the outside world.
We stayed in the largest accommodation building on the estate, Koonawarra, a complete luxury home away from home. It sleeps up to six people (one king bed and two queens) and has a full kitchen, laundry, ducted reverse cycle air-conditioning, cable TV and complimentary Wi-Fi.
David had even left a welcoming bottle of local red, full instructions on how everything worked and some delicious Lindt Salted Caramel balls. We were in heaven.
A light continental breakfast along with tea, coffee, fresh milk and basic pantry staples are on hand however, as the property is self-contained, maybe do as we did and stock up on some local produce. We visited The Little Piggy Wiggy in Blackheath for supplies.
The Leura Garage in Leura arranged dinner for us and if offers most of their dishes in takeaway form. They supplied us with a simply stunning selection called 'The Tasting'. Everything for the perfect dinner for 2 or more came fully prepared, with detailed instructions for heating and or cooking. We enjoyed an entree of crostini, baked brie, onion jam and walnuts, a main course of succulent lamb shoulder, broccolini, and the most delicious sauce we had tasted in forever. The meal finished with a decadent dessert of chocolate pudding and a burnt butter sauce.
Other accommodation options include Cherry Cottage which sleeps two adults in the loft bedroom and has a downstairs living area with an open plan full kitchen, and the former barn, Dennarque Lodge which has been charmingly renovated and sleeps four in two double bedrooms. The downstairs bedroom has a slow combustion wood fire, TV and piano and is furnished with an eclectic mix of antiques. There is a full bathroom and the kitchen is also located on the lower level. The upstairs bedroom has a luxury lounge area with TV also.
The estate boasts a full-size tennis court, meandering paths, Asian-inspired ponds, a Conservatory – with a stunning fire and a kitchen that could serve an army. The Conservatory, a minute walk from Koonawarra House – or you can drive down to it in seconds – has an adjoining covered outdoor entertaining area where there is an outdoor pizza oven, rotisserie, and barbecue.
In the gardens there are plenty of seats in secret nooks where you can take a rest. We walked for hours…then as the evening chill crept in we retreated into the cosiness and comfort of our accommodation. There is plenty of wildlife to spot in the evening. You might even be lucky enough to spot quolls, bandicoots or wombats.
Post-war, David tells us Dennarque was owned by several families who maintained the houses and garden without any significant changes until 1979 when the property was sold to William Maston and the gardens extended under the guidance of renowned horticulturist, Phil Harris. The current owners purchased Dennarque in 2003, making sympathetic alterations to the house and further extending the gardens, while maintaining and improving all its original features. In 2006 they purchased the neighbouring property Koonawarra, which was originally part of Dennarque, and have since incorporated it back into the beautiful garden.
This is a very special retreat and it should be put on your 'must do' list. Normally the property is provided for exclusive use and as such it would be perfect for an intimate wedding, family get-together or even a corporate retreat.