Take the understated elegance of Provence, the wine and food culture of Napa and the coastal charm of Nantucket and you end up with something resembling Australia's Mornington Peninsula, an under-the-radar destination that should be anything but. Located a little over an hour by car from Melbourne, the area has long been a weekend destination for wealthy Aussies: there are no shortage of tree-lined driveways here, most of which lead to sprawling countryside estates, and the area is as renowned for its wineries as it is for its thoroughbred horse farms. It all adds up to one very sophisticated place, but as is the case everywhere in Australia, the Mornington Peninsula has a friendly charm, and it remains a bit of an insider’s secret.
For now, that is. The Jackalope Hotel, which quietly debuted in 2017, has been attracting international attention in recent years and is putting Mornington on the high-end travel map. The boutique hotel—the first property from 29-year-old Chinese entrepreneur Louis Li— is outlandishly stylish, with an incredible contemporary art collection and serious culinary cachet. At the end of the hotel’s driveway, guests are greeted by a more than 20-foot-tall aluminum sculpture of a Jackalope (a mythical animal that is a cross between an antelope and a jackrabbit), a whimsical symbol for the highly unique property.
The low-slung main building spans two floors and was designed by Melbourne-based firm Carr Design, who selected a mostly black-and-gold color scheme for the public spaces and rooms. The neon-lit hallways lead to 45 minimalist rooms and suites, all of which feature floor-to-ceiling windows, terraces and spartan but chic décor, from the deep-soak Japanese stone baths to the sheer gold curtains. All come with complimentary mini bars, which are stocked with craft chocolate bars and snacks, plus a wide array of on-demand movies and TV shows—and the option to order popcorn for in-room movie nights. For the ultimate in luxury, book one of the signature suites, which come with complimentary daily Champagne and caviar service and 30-minute massages.
The culinary offerings at Jackalope are on par with what one might expect from a top property in esteemed wine regions like Napa Valley or Bordeaux. The degustation restaurant, Doot Doot Doot, is located in a striking black dining room with a 10,000-globe golden chandelier that covers nearly the entire ceiling. The seasonal five-course tasting menu changes constantly, but patrons can expect dishes including beef with turnip, miso eggplant, nori, king brown mushroom. Next door to the restaurant is the Flagerdoot bar, which looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland, with an electric-blue pool table and furniture by fashion designer Rick Owens. A destination for both hotel guests and those visiting the area is Jackalope’s bistro, Rare Hare, which offers daily lunch service. With beautiful views of the hotel’s vineyard and a canopied alfresco dining space, Rare Hare serves towering charcuterie platters and exquisite farm-to-table dishes including charcoal eggplant with red miso and furikake and brisket with pumpkin, seeded mustard and roasted onion.
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A small but cosseting property, Jackalope has an ink-black infinity pool for guests to unwind at, as well as a small spa area with a treatment room overlooking the vines. But most guests of the hotel will spend their days exploring the surrounding region, thanks to the plentiful attractions along the peninsula. Active pursuits include participating in wine tastings, having leisurely lunches at art-filled wineries, visiting hot springs, going on coastal walks, horseback riding and touring small, charming towns. Can’t-miss addresses include: the sprawling Pt. Leo Estate, a 50-acre winery, restaurant and sculpture park with impressive pieces by Australian artists and international ones including Zadok Ben-David and Tony Cragg; Polperro Wines, a winery with a superb farm-to-table restaurant (and great picnic baskets for vine-side dining); and Port Phillip Estate, another vineyard with an uber-modern dining room and revered two- and three-course menus.
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