The enchantment of opera at a legendary party palace, river cruising along a mighty waterway, belly laughs at timeless humour, the intimate luxury of crackling fireplaces and even the possibility of snow-dusted landscapes. Yulefest in the Blue Mountains is the most magical season.
After the exhilarating zing of a chilly day spent exploring the lookouts and bushwalking tracks of the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, shopping at charming villages and visiting attractions, sojourners are warmly invited indoors for steaming drinks, fireside dining, festive decorations, music and rousing entertainment.
A regional tradition since 1980, Yulefest is held mid-winter (officially throughout July but often beginning in June and extending into August), with many hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and restaurants taking part.
Escarpment Group of luxury hotels guest services manager Meagan Iervasi encouraged visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere by staying at least one night: “Yulefest in the Blue Mountains offers the European-style atmosphere people associate with Christmas – a chilly landscape outside and cosiness inside, but without the stress and frosty relatives. Sometimes there’s even snow.’’
Here’s an early bird Yulefest list to choose from:
Mountain Whispers, Leura and Katoomba
French champagne on ice, handmade chocolates, scattered fresh rose petals, a private chef to cook a three-course festive dinner and a personal waiter to serve it, followed by an in-house massage and/or facial in opulent surrounds. Yulefest equals romance, an escape with the girls or a group of great friends at Mountain Whispers MW Collection, where every minor detail matters.
Owner Lorraine Allanson said: “While Christmas is about family, Yulefest is a great time to take a mid-year break to focus on romance or time with your friends to indulge and escape the daily grind.’’
Each of the multi-award winning self-contained immaculately restored heritage properties – Varenna, Leura Rose and Strawberry Patch in Leura and The Gatsby and Chatelaine in Katoomba – promises a luxurious getaway in total privacy and comfort for couples and small groups.
Details: mountainwhispers.com.au or 1300 721 321.
Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath
A Night in Vienna: In the lead-up to Yulefest, relish the romance and nostalgia of Austria’s operatic golden age led by Opera Australia, Oper Köln, Opéra Comique & Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and English National Opera tenor Brad Cooper against the magnificent backdrop of the Megalong Valley on June 1. The Wintergarden Restaurant performance will be matched with a five-course degustation dinner. Tickets: $135pp. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885.
Diesel Live@theHydro: One of Australia’s favourite adopted sons, Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) will entertain fans on July 20, three decades after he stepped off a bus with his band Johnny Diesel and the Injectors and set off on a chart-topping 15-album career. Cost: $150pp dinner and show, $40pp show only. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au/events/diesel.
Traditional high tea: This elegant three-tier serving will feature nostalgic flavours such as ginger, cranberry and roast pork in the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley. Accompany you repast with a delicate blossom tea, freshly brewed coffee or a glass of sparkling wine.
Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Katoomba
Sink into the refined 5-star surrounds to nibble on delicate finger sandwiches, fluffy scones with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, and a selection of Yulefest sweet treats beside a cosy fireplace.
Darley’s Restaurant, Katoomba
For the ultimate Yulefest decadence, the hatted restaurant in the historic home of former Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley will serve five and seven-course degustation dinners each Friday and Saturday throughout July with special winter flavours.
Nepean Belle river luncheon cruise, Jamisontown
`Tis the season to cruise the tranquil waters of the Nepean River aboard the regional aquatic icon on your way to or from the Blue Mountains.
The heritage-style Nepean Belle paddlewheeler will be festooned with festive decorations and guests will board for luncheon to the strains of popular carols against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment.
Tuck into two-course Yulefest fare with all the trimmings, beginning with a shared platter of succulent roast turkey with fruit seasoning and tender roast pork with apple sauce and gravy garnished with honey-roasted vine tomatoes and accompanied by creamy sautéed potato; a selection of hot seasonal vegetables; steamed broccoli, carrots and peas; and a Greek salad with feta.
A dessert platter of festive favourites will follow, with White Christmas, chocolate rum balls, fruit cake, chocolate mud cake and rich butter shortbread biscuits washed down with your choice of freshly brewed tea or coffee.
Nepean Belle owner Carol Bennett said: “We love Christmas so much that we’re holding it again in July – but without the in-laws, expensive pressies and weather that matches the heat of the roast dinner.’’
Cost: Monday to Friday – $59 adults, $53 seniors, $39 teens (13-16 years), $20 children (3-12 years); Weekends – $65 adults, $58 seniors, $39 teens, $25 children. Bookings: nepeanbelle.com.au or 4733 1274.
The Goon Show LIVE! Dinner and show
The cult comedy tour de overacting incorporates loads of sound effects, silly voices and a platoon of crazy characters which promise to have audiences belly laughing all evening.
It regales the stories of Neddie Seagoon, a good-natured and hairy sort, albeit short and rotund and the victim of a terrible weakness – greed. Coupled with his innate gullibility, Neddie’s covetous nature makes him easy prey to confidence schemes courtesy of the conniving cads Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty.
Peppered with one-liners, the high energy show will feature a plethora of characters including the world’s most famous idiot Eccles (yes, even more infamous than Neddie), the squeaky-voiced boy-scout Bluebottle (who reads his stage-directions out loud), Major Dennis Bloodnok a devout coward, and Miss Minnie Bannister the sexy senior citizen who lives in sin with crumbling, fumbling old man Henry Crun.
The dinner and show will be held in le Salon Grand at the Palais Royale, Katoomba, each Saturday night from June 29 to July 20, with a special afternoon tea on July 14. Tickets: $135 Saturdays, $80 Sunday afternoon tea, seniors and group discounts available. Bookings and details: www.goons.com.au.
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
A piece of Australian sporting and cultural history has been brought back to life at the grandest of the grand hotels of the Blue Mountains this Christmas.
Standing taller than 6m, Candy the Kewpie doll has taken her position under the grand chandelier in the famous Casino Lobby of the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.
Along with Scarlett, who now lives at the Powerhouse Museum, and Betty who resides at the National Museum in Canberra, Candy is one of 12 giant Kewpie dolls that twirled around Stadium Australian during the unforgettable Sydney 2000 Olympic Games closing ceremony.
Candy and her Kewpie sisters were designed by Brian Thompson based on the Marcella Kewpie, a flapper-girl Japanese version of American magazine illustrator Rose O’Neill’s cowlicked, roly-poly original.
O’Neill created her first Kewpie doll in 1907 for Ladies Home Journal.
The name refers to “little Cupid, spelling it with a K because it seemed funnier’’.
The characters were an instant hit and O’Neill drew them for magazines and advertisers for more than 25 years, with the dolls spawning a range of merchandising and given as popular carnival prizes.
Characterised by big eyes in shy, sideways glancing expressions, a single topknot of blond hair, splayed “starfish’’ hands, and an exaggerated potbelly, the mischievous baby-like elves were children’s guardian angels in her stories (specifically, they protected the human girl Dottie Darling).
While Cupid “gets himself into trouble. The Kewpies get themselves out, always searching out ways to make the world better and funnier’’, O’Neill said.
Visitors to the Hydro Majestic can see Candy as they assemble for hotel history tours and enter the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant for high tea or fine dining meals until early January.
Escarpment Group Christmas theming creator Greg Tomkinson said Candy was right at home in the flamboyance of Mark Foy’s “Palace in the wilderness’’.
Candy, Betty, Scarlett and friends were the centrepieces of artistic director David Atkins’ backyard-themedparty to end all parties’’ and the Hydro Majestic is the original Blue Mountains party palace.
“The Christmas tree in the Casino Lobby must fill one of the grandest spaces in the country and competes with the famous dome in scale and design. Needless to say, it has to be fabulous.’’
Along with elaborate decorations throughout the hotel, the Hydro Majestic will celebrate the festive season with a schedule of music and dining events beginning with an opera dinner concert on December 22, Christmas lunch and dinner, a global fusion evening on December 29 and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Go to hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book events, accommodation and dining.
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Indulge in a feast of the senses this festive season as the Konzert Kollektiv fills the grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels with majestic Christmas music on December 22.
Accompanied by fine food and sublime sunset views, soprano Catherine Bouchier will join tenor Brad Cooper and concert pianist Katherine Day for an unforgettable evening at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains to mark the 200th anniversary of loved Christmas carol Silent Night.
The event will include well known pieces by Adolf Schulz-Evler, Percy Grainger, Richard Strauss, Peter Alexander, Peter Cornelius, Franz Lehár, Erich Korngold, Adolphe Adam and more.
As well as favourites such as Joy to the World and The Holy City (Jerusalem), the great carol of peace will receive special attention on its 200th anniversary.
According to legend, Silent Night was sung for the first time on Christmas Eve 1818 in a little church in the Austrian village of Oberndorf outside Salzburg. The story goes that the choirmaster hurriedly penned the hymn to be played on a guitar when it was discovered mice had chewed through the bellows of the church organ.
Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “The story of Silent Night pefectly complements the Hydro Majestic, with that just right blend of magic, mischief and majesty.’’
The program will be accompanied by a five-course “taste of Christmas’’ degustation dinner of fresh regional produce showcasing the culinary talents of an international team of chefs.
Tickets: $145pp includes welcome cocktail, dinner and concert. BOOKINGS.
The Silent Night event will open a Christmas and New Year’s season of operatic proportions at Escarpment Group collection of luxury hotels.
Inspired by the sparkle of Christmas lights and the warm glow they bring to the festive season, the Wintergarden Restaurant will host a decadent five-course degustation with all the trimmings overlooking the spectacular views of the Megalong Valley. Cost: $125 adults, $65 children (3-12 years), children aged 0-2 years complimentary. BOOKINGS.
Christmas Day – December 25
Lunch: five-course lunch infused with Asian flavours overlooking the Jamison Valley. Cost: $189 adults, $65 children (4 – 12 years).
Dinner: five-course Asian-inspired degustation with a glass of sparkling cocktail on arrival. Cost: $169 adults, $65 children (4 – 12 years).
Lunch: seven-course contemporary Australian degustation featuring the freshest seasonal local ingredients served in the historic multi award-winning building. Cost: $229 adults, $119 children (4 – 12 years).
Lunch: five-course degustation featuring hot and cold traditional Christmas fare including a three-hour beverage package (standard beer, wine, soft drinks). Cost: $199 adults, $179 teenagers (13 – 17 years), $90 children (4 – 12 years).
Lunch: sumptuous three-tier feast featuring fresh seafood, charcutier selections, carvery and traditional Christmas desserts as well as a three-hour beverage package (standard beer, wine, soft drinks) in the understated elegance of the Wintergarden Restaurant. Cost: $199 adults, $149 teenagers (13 – 17 years) and $85 children (4 – 12 years).
Dinner: lavish five-course degustation featuring an elegant array of seafood, traditional Christmas roasts and dessert, with a glass of sparkling on arrival while enjoying the sunset over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $159 adults and $85 children (4 – 12 years).
- Each venue will be decked in traditional decorations, with bon bons on the table and even a visit from Santa for the children. Children aged under 4 years complimentary.
HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL
High Tea: Take advantage of the holiday season and extend celebrations to a three-tiered indulgence in the Wintergarden Restaurant against the backdrop of sublime panoramic views over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $75 adults and $45 children (4-12 years old).
BOILERHOUSE CAFÉ, Hydro Majestic Hotel
Lunch: Two-course casual meal in a funky venue with a glass of sparkling on arrival and views over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $75pp.
HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL
Celebrate global fusion with an evening of world music, a five-course degustation meal featuring outstanding fresh seasonal produce and the culinary talents of our team of international chefs. Tickets: $135pp includes glass of sparkling on arrival, degustation dinner and performance. BOOKINGS.
HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL
Retro Grooves: Dust off those platform shoes and Motown moves for a night of `70s DJ dance music. Make your New Year transition unforgettable with an extravagant five-course degustation, glass of sparkling on arrival and live entertainment and panoramic views over the Megalong Valley. Smart casual dress code applies. Cost: $159 adults, $85 children aged 4-12. BOOKINGS.
Go to hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book events, accommodation and dining.
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
The naughty and the nice will soon be revealed as stockings are opened around the world, but it appears Santa Claus is paying special attention to Blue Mountains locals and visitors.
A TV weather camera last week captured what appeared to be Santa reverse parking over the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath. The above image was taken at 4.05am last Monday [December 11] by the unmanned camera and has generated much interest on social media.
The unknown element above the building on the left side of the photograph could be interpreted as a herd of reindeer reverse parking in formation, while the light in the middle of the picture above the spire atop the Belgravia accommodation wing is an unidentified flying object (Santa’s sleigh perhaps?).
Neither of those objects are usually in the night sky over the Hydro Majestic and appeared for just a minute.
Hydro Majestic guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “No one has actually seen Santa in the past few days but the Hydro Majestic has so many rooms, even a couple that have been boarded up, and a rumoured secret passage that he could very well be roaming around upstairs unbeknown to us.
“The reindeers have eight kilometres of bush from the back of the hotel right down to the Megalong Valley to hide in.
“Our chefs have noticed a slice of Christmas cake missing from the fridge and a used glass with traces of milk in the sink each morning though.’’
In any case, visitors to Mark Foy’s legendary “Palace in the wilderness’’ can experience the magic of Christmas from the moment they enter the Casino Lobby under the famous Hydro Majestic dome where they are greeted with snow domes, sparkling sentinels and an enormous tree twinkling with baubles, while the Wintergarden Restaurant has been adorned with wreaths and table decorations, watched over by two massive golden reindeers.
- Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Leura Garage Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Begin the Christmas countdown early, get ahead of community festivities and unleash your kids’ creative side with lantern-making workshops at Leura Garage.
The award-winning funky eatery off the top of Leura Mall will hold three workshops in the lead-up to Leura Village Association’s December 15 Christmas festival.
With its polished concrete floors, wide benches, light-filled windows and interesting features, the former car garage will be the ideal workspace for children aged four to 12 to create their own lanterns.
Leura Garage owner and father-of-two James Howarth said: “My wife Anika has very fond memories of lantern parades from her childhood in Germany and our kids have also had lots of fun experiencing this wonderful festive community activity while visiting family over there.
“So we’re excited to be transforming our restaurant into a lantern-making workshop space – it’s going to be great fun for everyone.’’
“The lanterns will then be on display at 8pm on December 15 when the children will showcase their creations during the lantern parade in Leura.’’
Participating children will have the chance to win prizes from Leura Toy Store, Megalong Books and Teddy Sinclair.
The workshops would be an opportunity for parents to bond with their children, get into the Christmas spirit and gear up for the festivities, Mr Howarth said.
Lantern-making workshops will be held from 3pm to 5pm on November 28 and December 4 and 13. Cost: $10 per child (must be accompanied by an adult with maximum three children per adult) includes full lantern kit and drinks and nibbles. Proceeds will be donated to Leura Village Association and will contribute to its Christmas festival at 8pm on December 15.
Leura Garage, 84 Railway Pde, Leura, is open from 12pm til late seven days. Bookings (including for Christmas parties) and details: (02) 4784 3391, firstname.lastname@example.org or leuragarage.com.au/lantern.
* Leura Garage is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
The chirp of cicadas competing with Christmas carols, an awe-inspiring backdrop of towering golden escarpments and dramatic valleys and a cooling breeze carrying the subtle scent of eucalyptus. Welcome to an Aussie bush Christmas and summer holiday season in the Blue Mountains.
Begin the Christmas countdown early with lantern-making workshops for kids aged four to 12 at Leura Garage funky eatery off the top of Leura Mall from 3pm to 5pm on November 28 and December 4 and 13 in the lead-up to Leura Village Association’s December 15 Christmas festival. Cool prizes from upmarket local shops. Cost: $10 per child (must be accompanied by an adult) includes lantern kit and drinks and nibbles. Bookings: (02) 4784 3391, email@example.com or leuragarage.com.au/lantern.
Give your adult loved ones some grown-up time with a Faeriestorm Nanny Service voucher. Available in hourly blocks (minimum two hours *conditions apply), the fully qualified nannies will care for their kids while the adults enjoy some down time. Purchases: Brenda Edwards 0417 448 318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A night away with a day spa pamper package at a blissful retreat such as Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges or dinner at a swanky restaurant such as the Wintergarden Restaurant at the Hydro Majestic Hotel are always popular.
A truly unique way of sightseeing in style is with Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs from within a vintage Cadillac car. Dressed in formal attire, your local driver will collect you from and return you to any location in the Blue Mountains. Bookings: email@example.com or Donald on 0455 352 976.
Tuck into a sumptuous feast with all the trimmings, decorations, bon bons, beverage package and even a visit from Santa for the children at the 5-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa near Echo Point or a seven-course degustation at the multi award-winning hatted Darley’s Restaurant. Bookings: escarpmentgroup.com.au or (02) 4780 1200.
NEW YEAR’S EVE:
For an unforgettable Auld Lang Syne moment, feast in the New Year at the chic Echoes Restaurant at Katoomba or the world-famous Cat’s Alley at the Hydro Majestic Hotel after watching a sublime sunset over a blue haze-shrouded valley while sipping a cocktail and resolving to take more time out in 2018. Bookings: escarpmentgroup.com.au or (02) 4780 1200.
SCHOOL HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES:
Talisman Gallery, Hartley historic village, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west): Try your hand at the time honoured art of blacksmithing and make your very own fire poker on the forge and anvil on January 26 and 27. Cost: $25 includes materials and tuition. Decent footwear required. Bookings essential: Ron 0407 723 722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura: Kids aged three to six can learn about heritage conservation and the natural environment in one of the most enchanting historic properties in the Blue Mountains through the My Adventure at Everglades activity book ($10 and $5 per subsequent book). Entry: $13 adults, $8 concessions, $4 children, National Trust members free. Details: (02) 4784 1938 or email email@example.com.
* All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill
Spine-tingling ghost hunts through historic sites, theatrical dining in globally recognised locations, chauffeured vintage car rides through sublime landscapes and luxe overnight escapes into colonial Australia. Christmas shopping in the Blue Mountains makes for unforgettable gifts.
Many businesses throughout the “city within a national park’’ offer gift vouchers, including cafes and restaurants like the uber funky Leura Garage serving upmarket casual regional fare in an overhauled car mechanic’s site.
The Escarpment Group collection of boutique hotels includes the hatted Darley’s Restaurant, five-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa and chic Echoes Boutique Hotel and Restaurant at Katoomba near Echo Point Lookout overlooking the Three Sisters rock formation, deluxe retreat Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges at trendy Blackheath and the world-famous Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath with theatrical dining in the Wintergarden Restaurant. Vouchers are available for accommodation, dining and spa treatments. Details: escarpmentgroup.com.au.
Perfect for couples, Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs (bluemountainsvintagecadillacs.com.au) recreates the romance of yesteryear with tours throughout the upper mountains in a luxury vintage car with dedicated chauffeur. Cruise into spectacular lookouts, quaint villages and whimsical art galleries and shops. Journey options include a decadent high tea at the Hydro Majestic or a gourmet picnic at Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges.
Experience by day the jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area with Blue Mountains Mystery Tours (bluemountainsmysterytours.com.au). Creep back after dark for a spine-tingling ghost tour and discover the rich and sometimes bloody history behind the rugged landscape.
Stuff stockings with regionally-sourced gourmet goodies, trinkets and homewares from boutiques such as the Hydro Majestic Pavilion and Blue Mountains Chocolate Company in Katoomba (bluemountainschocolatecompany.com.au), and celebrate the silly season with uniquely Aussie Hillbilly Cider vintage bubbles (hillbillycider.com.au).
After Christmas, treat your family to the sites and sights of the Greater Blue Mountains, experienced by visitors from around the world. Blue Mountains Attractions Group suggests itinerary inclusions from guided tours, magical heritage gardens and thrilling rides through awesome landscapes to glimpses back to our colonial past, ventures into the underground, close encounters with classic literary characters and furry friends and much more.
- All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media