The first flurries of snow have fallen over the wild Blue Mountains landscape – just in time for Yulefest in Australia’s first tourist destination.
Bookings are now open for warming winter activities such as toasty fireside dining, river cruising, vintage motorcar tours and heartwarming classic humour, all just 90 minutes from Sydney.
A regional tradition since 1980, mid-winter Yulefest is the season for which the Blue Mountains is most famous.
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 and rousing entertainment.
Numerous hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, cafes and restaurants celebrate the winter festival, enlivened by warming entertainment.
Guest services manager of Escarpment Group collection of luxury hotels, 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 with roaring fires, hot food and drinks, traditional decorations and festive music, but without the stress and frosty relatives. Sometimes there’s even snow.’’
Book your Yulefest bed, table and experience early so you’re not left out in the cold:
Flemish Flavours, 117/121 The Mall, Leura (restaurant from 5.30pm Thursday & Friday, from 12pm weekends; beer garden from 12pm til late Thursday to Sunday)
Celebrate Yulefest in traditional European style – with a modern Australian twist – overlooking the enchanting village of Leura from June 20 and throughout July. Dine on a five-course menu featuring distinctive European flavours of juniper berry and horseradish-cured salmon, pickled mussels, wakame, black bean, miso and sesame paste; maple bourbon glazed ham, star anise and cloves; turkey stuffed with salsa verde, cranberry and chestnut, duck fat chats; followed by mulled wine sorbet then sticky date pudding, honey comb, salted butter crumble and tonka bean ice cream. Retreat into the wooden cosiness of the 19th century mansion for roaring fireplace dining, or take in the spectacular mountains view in the crisp fresh air from the beer garden while sipping on a Belgium beer.
Further details and bookings: flemishflavours.com.au or 02 4784 3265.
Blue Mountains Chocolate Company, 176 Lurline St, Katoomba (open 10am to 6pm seven days)
Wrap your hands around a mug of steaming hot chocolate within this warm cocoon right in the scrumptious centre of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Shelves are dripping with an extensive range of luscious handmade goodies crafted from the finest Belgian couverture and locally sourced premium grade flavour fillings.
Grab a fireside seat, sip a hot chocolate drink melted over a romantic candle and nibble on a luxuriant cake while watching the in-house chocolatier create mouthwatering decadence.
Afterwards, drench your tastebuds in velvety sweet ooze from the selection of chocolate bars, individual treats, gift boxes and other items.
Blackheath Golf & Community Club, Brightlands Ave, Blackheath
The most magnificent golf club in the region will celebrate Yulefest with a special mid-winter dinner in its restaurant from 7pm on Saturday, July 20.
Tuck into a belly-warming two-course buffet feast of all your favourite roasts accompanied by an array of side dishes and dessert, heralded by carols and other entertainment, with a special appearance by Father Christmas especially for the children.
Surrounded by glass, daytime diners have a spectacular view of the 18-hole golf course and its spectacular cool-climate gardens and waterways, and the club has plenty of cosy spots heated by slow combustion fire in which to relax anytime.
Cost: $55pp includes glass of red wine on arrival. Bookings: 02 4787 8406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blue Mountains Limousine & Vintage Cadillacs
Vintage vroom or modern glitz: you choose how you make a grand entrance this Yulefest.
Guests (minimum two passengers per trip) will be collected from and returned to any location between Hazelbrook and Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains (hotels, guesthouses, railway stations or private homes) in a stretch limo ($59pp) or LaSalle model Cadillac ($69pp), driven by a local driver dressed in formal attire, between 4pm and midnight any Friday and Saturday during July.
Arrive the long way round after exploring the breathtaking scenery of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area or cruising upmarket Leura Mall for head-turning effect.
“Whichever car you choose will make for an unforgettable, head-turning experience,’’ co-owner Robert Spitz said.
Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum & Tearooms, Grose & Megalong streets, Leura
Yulefest luncheon is served at 1.15pm every day among one of the world’s largest private collections of teawares, including more than 5500 teapots from all over the world and spanning five centuries, most of which were collected within Australia.
Guests can tuck into a traditional Northern Hemisphere Christmas-style feast with all the trimmings (bon bons, serviettes and table decorations), beginning with a canape platter and soup, followed by a traditional roast with seasonal vegetables and plum pudding or pavlova dessert, tea/coffee and homemade shortbread.
Minimum of four people per booking. Cost: $79.50pp, $69.95pp groups of 10-19 people or $66pp groups of 20 or more and complimentary teapot talk, $29.95 children under-12.
Bookings essential: (02) 4784 3117 or email@example.com. Details: bygonebeautys.com.au.
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.
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.
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.
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 22. 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 your 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 Saturday throughout July with special winter flavours.