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Exclusive, expensive, excellent: Eucalypt Ridge is designed for those who know what's what. If you were a film star, you could not want for more. And you can have it without the inconvenience of becoming a film star. Andrew L. Urban and Louise checked in for a weekend:

One zig zag leg of Lake Eildon snakes between the hills of Fraser National Park into a fairytale distance between verdant, sunlit peninsulas, and the gentle scent of eucalyptus wafts up from the trees below the balcony. A pair of wedge tailed eagles investigate air currents against a blue sky with scattered clouds, as the clock crawls towards 10; time for breakfast.

Home made breads - sourdough dark rye, light moist rye with sunflower seeds and a white - espresso or filter coffee, compete for attention with the generous fruit platter. There is no bacon and eggs, nor is it missed. When you are a guest at Eucalypt Ridge, Corinne and Brian Dixon make sure you do not even have to think about your dietary needs: the menus (from Asian to Italian to Australian banquets) are discreetly but nutritiously planned so guests consume no more than three eggs over a weekend stay, nor do they get too much fat - there are no hard choices to make. This is perhaps the ultimate in cuisine service. The wines - all part of the inclusive tariff - are some of the best (and most expensive) in Australia, such as the Mount Mary cabernet, which sells for around A$100 a bottle in a restaurant: if you can find one that stocks it.

This thoughtfully designed retreat looks and functions more like a four bedroom private home: the hosts, an entertaining and well travelled professional couple, have created a unique escape just two hours drive - but psychologically a world - from downtown Melbourne, outside Eildon, on the edge of Fraser National Park.

Even the trip is dotted with pleasures: we lunched at the De Bortoli winery restaurant, before making a taste-stop at Domaine Chandon's impressive Green Point estate on the Maroondah Highway. After sampling the new release, we snaked (in the car, silly) through the scenic Black’s Spur section of the highway that cuts across an amazing magic forest in the Dividing Ranges.

The house, perched on a ridge as its name implies, and built of locally baked brick, was designed to afford guests the most expansive views of the area, which called for large glass walls and lots of windows. This in turn demanded a contemporary design, which has been complemented by exquisite contemporary furniture, accessories, and decor. Christofl silverware is used for the semi-formal Saturday dinners, and there are other Christofl accessories at hand - such as a perfume atomiser, which is being put into service for the ultimate dry martini. After pouring the gin, a spray of vermouth provides the perfect amount to take away the bitterness of the gin, without spoiling its dryness.

It is typical of the Dixons' insistence on perfection in everything at Eucalypt Ridge, from the gently warmed blue pearl granite floor of our bathroom, to the Bang and Olufsen sound system that serves the living and dining rooms, as well as the library, where large leather armchairs await.

If you prefer your music live, concert pianist Brian Chapman will be booked for the evening of your choice, to play in the special recreation area with a view over the top of Victoria. Sometimes, an impromptu choir or kookaburras and magpies will join him outside the windows.

The stomach, the soul and the spirit are all equally cared for here, as is the body: We took a walk in the National Park on the edge of the lake. The shortest of about four different tracks is the Candle Bark Gully nature walk. Koalas, kangaroos, dark grey gang-gang cockatoos (males have brilliant scarlet heads), the eagles, minors and crimson rosellas inhabit this park: the only wildlife we did not see were koalas and kangaroos. On the lake, a much larger waterway than Sydney harbour, with dozens of bays and inlets (Italian Bay, Devil Cove, Wallaby Bay, etc), there are pleasure craft and houseboats, mostly at weekends, but it nevertheless seems serenely devoid of man's presence.

Brian took us for a joyride on the 7 metre Sea Ray, which guests can use for water skiing, swimming trips with picnics, or just fishing. Superbly fitted out by its American makers, the boat - like everything here - is in immaculate condition and comfortable.

Corinne and Brian have had honeymoon couples they hardly saw, body-guarded leaders of international commerce, and professional couples escaping their pressure cooker lives. What was first conceived as a log cabin in the hills, Eucalypt Ridge has been realised as an exclusive getaway for those who know, appreciate and can afford the five star luxury and three star cuisine. Don't just take my word for it: Eucalypt Ridge was voted Best 5 Star Luxury Accomodation in the 1995 Tourism Victoria Awards.

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"a unique escape just two hours drive - but psychologically a world - from downtown Melbourne"

the best of everything...

PLEASURES ON THE WAY: You will get detailed route directions for the drive from Melbourne CBD when you book, but here are some highlights to savour:
You (or your chauffeur) drive through the famous Yarra Valley wine region, home to some of Australia’s premium wines. There is St Huberts. A couple of kilometres further on is Domaine Chandon, the famous complex built here by Moet & Chandon, which now has a restaurant as well, and winery tours every hour. (The chauffeur can take a smoko.)
After a 4 kms stretch which can lead you to wineries like Coldstream Hills, Yarra Yering and Warramate, on the right is Hill Road for Eyton on Yarra, a lovely lunch stop.
Watch out for Fernshaw Reserve at the base of Black’s Spur. The drive up Black’s Spur is through the tallest Mountain Ash forest in the world, at the top of which is Dom Dom Saddle. From here, travel through Narbethong and look for the signposted driveway trunoff to a farm with the best blueberries in Australia. They also make some interesting fruit wines.
Keep going, and soon you’ll be at the gates of Eucalypt Ridge, pinnacle of private retreats. (The chauffer can take the car back now.)


Hosts: Corinne and Brian Dixon

Tel: +61 3 5774 2033

Fax: +61 3 5774 2610

All inclusive rate per person per night: A$ 400

Number of guest rooms: 4

Extras: private piano concert by Brian Chapman - A$50 per person

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