Garden gurus ... the centrepiece.
The bathroom is a revelation but the stunning gardens steal the show, writes Rachel Browne.
AS WE hurtle along a pitch-black country road in driving rain, we manage to miss the turnoff to Redbrow Garden not once but twice. Cursing both the GPS and our eyesight, we eventually find the entrance and proceed up a long driveway. A warm greeting at the front door from manager Suna Windus immediately puts us at ease.
Our cosy room - one of four in a row beside Redbrow's main homestead - is the perfect antidote to the weather and an outside temperature hovering just above zero. Because the homestead is at Murrumbateman, between Yass and Canberra, the weather is not unexpected and our heater is switched on before our arrival, making for a toasty welcome.
As well as the main bedroom, there is a sunroom, which provides extra sleeping space for children. There are coffee and tea-making facilities, glasses and a small bar fridge with complimentary beverages. However, it's the bathroom that's the revelation. Having endured many a tiny en suite, it's a pleasure to see this huge room, with a double shower and plenty of space on the vanity.
The room has plenty of practical touches, too: torches, insect repellent, information about attractions - as well as surprises such as wine and chocolate.
The guest lounge has a small kitchen with a stove, microwave oven and dining area. There are plenty of cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery for those who want to self-cater. A bookshelf holds a handful of books, magazines and board games, while a television sits in one corner (there are no TVs or CD players in the rooms). However, it's the pool table that provides the most interest for our children, while we enjoy a quiet meal.
The real attraction of Redbrow Garden, however, is outside and we're relieved when the next morning brings a clear sky. Daylight allows a new perspective on the property; you can see why it has won so many awards since it was established by owners David and Elisabeth Judge. Even in winter, the gardens are stunning and filled with bird life. The centrepiece is a large lake, which is home to ducks and two black swans, who wander right up to us hoping for a few scraps of bread.
Further exploration of the eight-hectare property reveals a couple of alpacas and free-roaming chickens, which provide eggs for the guests' breakfasts. Having worked up an appetite, we head to the breakfast room, where a fire is roaring and classical music plays softly in the background. A table groans with cereal, home-grown fruit, bread, plus tea and coffee. A cooked breakfast is also on offer. As we tuck in, we look at framed photographs documenting the property's progress over the years.
It's hard to believe that just 13 years ago, Redbrow was little more than a barren stretch of land. Since then, the Judges have planted almost 40,000 trees and shrubs, including fruit trees, natives and exotics.
Named after the red-browed firetail finches that inhabit the gardens, the property is an impressive sight in winter, with a light frost on the grass and mist rising above the lake. It must also look stunning in autumn and spring.
The writer was a guest of Redbrow Garden and Tourism NSW.
Redbrow Garden, 1143 Nanima Road (formerly Bedulluck Road), Murrumbateman, (02) 6226 8166, canberraguesthouse.com.au.
Getting there Take the Hume Highway to Gunning, turn left to Gundaroo, turn right into Murrumbateman Road. Travel towards Murrumbateman, turn left into Nanima Road. Redbrow Garden is about two kilometres along on the right.
How much $195 a night for two, including a cooked breakfast and use of all the facilities.
Style statement Nature retreat with creature comforts.
Perfect for Anyone who loves gardens and the bush but hates roughing it.
Take the kids? Yes — but be prepared to supervise them if they are young.
Don't forget Your iPod and a good book; there are no TVs or CD players in the rooms.
A shame about The non-illuminated sign out the front. It was almost impossible to see on the dark, rainy night we arrived.
Kudos No smoking anywhere on the property — a breath of fresh air.