DISCOVER VICTORIA

VICTORIA’S SECRETS: AUSTRALIA UNDRESSED

So you want a spa tub in the wilderness, a lagoon-side restaurant or a frown-thrashing spa, but you don’t want to hop on a plane for the privilege? Don’t worry, sirs, the boutique hotel hunters at Mr & Mrs Smith have three Victorian getaways that will feed you like a film star (if they ate, that is), massage you like a monarch and treat you to the best night’s kip of your life. All within easy reach of Melbourne. You could even win a six-night stay

Best for inner-city seductions: The Prince, Melbourne, Australia

In a city of hard-to-beat restaurants, where trendsetting cafés and bars bloom in the little laneways like the mushrooms by the Yarra River, the Prince has every right to feel proud. Head chef Jake Nicolson and culinary crowd-pleaser Paul Wilson work the kitchens of the hotel’s elegant restaurant, Circa. Like true maestros, neither shy away from simplicity – a dessert of wild strawberries comes deliciously unadorned, for example. Other dishes are styled with Asian zing: kingfish sashimi with yuzu and basil jelly; beef with red miso and fig sauce, or bonito with green tea. The Prince doesn’t just rely on its clever chefs, though: rooms are styled with contemporary flair – shots of mango-yellow and liquorice, Philippe Starck tubs, Arne Jacobsen Egg chairs – and when you want to relax, there’s the Aurora spa and indoor pool. Nocturnal types will make the most of Circa Bar (try the espresso martini), Acland St Cantina (a basement Mexican that stays open until 2am), and the Prince Bandroom, a live music venue below the hotel.

Best for seaside sojourns: Big Blue Backyard, Mornington Peninsula

If you like the idea of bedding down amid tea trees with St Andrews beach in reach and a spa bath by your bedroom, you’ll fit in nicely at Big Blue Backyard, a big-hearted haven that’s only an hour’s drive from Melbourne. Owners Paul and Lisa love looking after their guests; expect home-made Anzac cookies (Paul is an expert chef), a little spa ‘boutique’ in each bathroom, three-course candlelit dinners served out on your deck, and personal messages chalked onto bathroom blackboards. Impressively, Paul built the hotel with his own hands and fashioned furniture from driftwood: look out for the ‘fish’ swimming on one of the walls in aqua-blue-splashed Beach. There are just two other suites: Africa, which pays tribute to Lisa’s South African heritage with warm spice-rack hues and textiles from a little African village, and Bush, which has a table made from recycled tyres, two private decks and a paint-spattered floor inspired by Jackson Pollock.

Best for lakeside lounging: Lake House, Daylesford, Australia

Back in 1984, before Mr Smith had met his Mrs, acclaimed chef Alla Wolf-Tasker opened a 40-seat, weekend-only destination restaurant called Lake House. The kitchens fully exploited the naturally lush lagoon-side setting: gardens were planted with edible flowers and herby shoots; olives, crab-apples, stone fruit, quince and medlar flourish in the orchards. Critics, locals and culinary pilgrims alike fell for Tasker’s modern Australian cuisine; these days, they’re still coming back for more, but now they can choose from 35 bedrooms to collapse in, post-feast. George and Georgina can unwind in the state-of-the-art blond wood and Tiffany-blue Salus spa, complete with treetop hot tubs and Hydrostorm shower. Continue the simmering and soaping in Daylesford and the nearby village of Hepburn Springs: soak away city stress at the heavenly Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa (www.hepburnbathhouse.com). Toast your stay with a cocktail back in the hotel’s mellow bar (or out on the veranda if it’s warm); we like the Flying Goose, a quirky mix of vodka and cherry brandy with a secret ingredient. (We could tell you what it is, but then we’d have to kill you.)

Want to bag a free six-night stay away in scenic Victoria? You could win two nights at each of the stylish Smith hotels featured above, as well as keys to a BMW for your trip (every George needs a chariot). To be in with a chance of winning, just enter here.

To see the rest of Mr & Mrs Smith’s 1,000 boutique hotels and holiday houses, visit www.mrandmrssmith.com. Smith members get exclusive extras at all stays.

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