Looking for a getaway fused with historic charm? Why don’t you stay in Hotel Vera, a nineteenth century mansion in Ballarat? After four years of development, this hotel officially opened to the public only a few months ago. Originally the home and surgery building for Dr Stanislaus Woinarski, this boutique building features original fireplaces and seven personalised suites, complete with luxurious king-sized beds and freestanding bath tubs. While you’re there, be sure to check out the hotel’s award-winning restaurant, Underbar. You can find the mansion in Ballarat’s centre, on 710 Sturt Street.
This is the fourth regional enterprise for Martin Shew and David Cook-Doulton, who are both passionate about restoring grand heritage buildings. Named after David’s grandmother, Hotel Vera aims to provide the same unassuming grace, care and attention to its guests.
Each of the seven suites in Hotel Vera takes its name and decorative cues from local townships. The Kingston room, for instance, is named after an area known for potatoes. As a result, the suite is decorated with rich green hues, evoking an Irish heritage. These playful palette choices earned Hotel Vera a place as a Victorian finalist in this year’s Dulox Colour Awards.
Meanwhile, the bathrooms are all white, with elegant brass fittings and black trims. Take a moment to relax in the freestanding bathtub, and make good use of the luxe linens and lotions. After a soak, wrap yourself up in one of the Tekla organic cotton bath robes.
Each room features a mini-bar, stocked with local treats, boutique soft drinks and cocktails. You’ll also find paintings, artworks and ceramics from local artists, in both the suites and the communal spaces.
Tourello, an accessible suite on the ground floor, features wheelchair access from the driveway, as well as appropriate height and access amenities. Meanwhile, if you just can’t travel without your beloved pooch, the Lonarch suite is pet-friendly. It features an enclosed courtyard, as well as a comfy pet bed and shower.
While staying at the hotel, you simply must try the fine-dining restaurant, Underbar. Its Culinary Director and Chef, Derek Boath, has worked at some of the world’s top restaurants, including New York’s famous three-Michelin star restaurant, Per Se. Boath works closely with small and local producers, using natural ingredients from around Ballarat and the surrounding areas to shape his menu.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, just 14 diners are able to try an acclaimed degustation, made up of nine to eleven courses with matched drinks. Bookings for Underbar open on the first of each month, for the month ahead.
Hotel guests will all have a special glimpse into this restaurant, as a stay automatically includes a continental breakfast with produce curated by Boath. Enjoy house-made muesli and granola, as well as charcuterie, fruit and breads from local bakery 1816. Breakfast is served daily, overlooking the garden.
Sustainability and eco-friendly practices are a core belief of the Hotel Vera team. They’ve partnered with local social enterprise, Fifteen Trees, which plants one tree for every guest who stays at the historic building. Fifteen Trees also planted 250 trees to help offset the environmental impact of the hotel restoration.
Suites at the hotel start from $399 a night on weekdays, and $499 on weekends.