Great for: Older couples and those who prefer traditional interiors
What is it? Boutique country hotel
Will set you back: $380 – $895 AUD per night
Woodman Estate, as the name suggests, is in the style of the country manor, and fits in perfectly with its countryside locale. In style and ethos it couldn’t be further from Mornington Peninsula’s newest hotel, Jackalope, which is as contemporary as Woodman Estate is traditional. The estate, although giving off an air of a bygone era, is only 30 years old, and Woodman Estate itself has been running for 20. Its lakeside position is a point of difference for the hotel and a nice drawcard for those seeking something different from the coastal options of the region, but it’s the ambience inside that I found the more appealing.
The lounge room, positioned near the entrance of Woodman Estate, was my favourite room in the hotel. With the soothing, old-school sound of cocktail jazz permeating the room, I felt instantly relaxed and comforted on entering Woodman Estate for the first time. With its view out to the lake, a happy blue Wren tapping away at the windows and the kind of sumptuous burgundy, green and gold furniture reminiscent of a time past, I can imagine this would be a room I’d be happy to call home during a cosy winter escape in Mornington Peninsula. And so where Jackalope becomes the warm, sunny days that require its picture-perfect lap pool, Woodman Estate is its cold weather counterpart.
I talk so much about this particular room, because the rest of the hotel seemed rather tired, truth be told. Where the lounge room and adjoining formal dining room were charming and inviting, the informal dining and other areas felt a little too heavy and drab, like an old hotel that was never brought into the modern era. This is unfortunate because I absolutely love Old Worlde, cosy hotels, and it can be done incredibly well, as The Old Bank showed us. However, it should be said that the entire hotel was immaculately clean, and I could tell it had new carpet and refurbished pieces of furniture throughout.
We stayed in Woodman Estate’s best accommodation, which is their self-contained chalets on the lake (and next-level exxy at $850 a night!), a short walk from the main house. In so far as the interior design goes there, the top-tier accommodation unfortunately left much to be desired. I can see what the hotel owners have tried to achieve with the dark green carpet and traditional, wooden, four-poster bed, and I can imagine that perhaps when they opened it was lovely, but they don’t quite hit the mark in 2017. Layer upon layer of furniture, art, materials, personal touches and a balance of light and warmth, old and new, is needed to properly execute the traditional, old-fashioned charm this room tries to evoke, and it’s not quite in grasp.
The main bedroom was nice enough, but the large sitting room felt a little cold, unfinished and half-heartedly designed. The inclusion of a kitchenette in the room is also a strange addition given there is no cooktop, microwave or anything other than a bench that would justify creating a space for a kitchen.
The absolutely oversized deck on the chalets that are positioned over the water, however, are very nice. This space would be even better if there was more furniture than just a table and chairs, such as loungers or an outdoor lounge setting to enjoy the space and view from, and this area did still feel very tired, with some cobwebs about…
Our chalet was lovely and spacious, which made it a really comfortable place to base ourselves from in the Mornington Peninsula. The sun streaming onto the deck and into the bedroom in the afternoon was also divine, and we spent a good few hours enjoying the water view and relaxing during our time there.
The bed was comfortable, although while the in-room hotel information stated there would be two additional types of pillows found in the wardrobe, when I checked these were no different from the soft, feather and down ones on the bed and not the types described in the information at all (latex and high/firm pillows), which was disappointing. I actually had to layer a towel under these soft pillows to increase the height and give my neck some support while I slept!
Woodman Estate has an award-winning spa on-site, positioned next to the lake, which is well known and acclaimed for the region. The hotel puts on a number of spa packages, and while I didn’t get the chance to experience any treatments during my stay, the reviews I have read online were overwhelmingly positive and I’m now wishing I’d booked in a massage!
There is only a small team of staff working at Woodman from what I could tell, with the owner running Front of House, and most of my encounters were with him and Kim, who seemed to work the restaurant. The service was very friendly, if a little unsure and tentative during the breakfast and dinner services. The service was perhaps also a little casual for a hotel where the cost per room can be as steep as $895 per night.
The door to the owner’s office, the first room on the right as you enter the hotel, was always open when we entered the house during our stay, and I found the behind the scenes (expected) chaos of papers, phone calls and business to be an unwanted sight for a high-end hotel. The same goes for staff conversations and work matters discussed in the second (non-working) kitchen, which was right next to the dining room and in full ear-shot of the guests dining there. When guests pay so much per night, they expect nothing less of near-perfection, and these oversights came across as sloppy to me. As I like to say, the devil is in the detail…
We had both dinner and breakfast in the informal brasserie during our stay, and were quite impressed with the food at both sittings. The dinner was very tasty, and we were really impressed with the Woodman Estate wines we tried. Breakfast was also very good and this is included in the room rate. Each day guests have the choice of healthy mueslis, yoghurt, fruit, pastries and even healthy juice shots from the small and elegant buffet setup, as well as an extensive a-la-carte menu of eggs, bacon and all the usual favourites. There was actually a couple having a champagne breakfast while we were sipping our coffee so that’s another option for those in celebration mode!
I did find it a bit puzzling, though, that we never got to sit in the far nicer, “formal” dining room during our stay. Despite there only being ten rooms and so an estimated maximum of 20 guests at one time, meaning there is ample room to seat the majority of guests, this dining room is only used for the degustation dinners, which go for around $135 per person. It seems a real waste of a space to me because it is one of the nicer spaces in the hotel, and when we were there only one couple had the pleasure of enjoying it. Our bill at the brasserie cost over $150, and I would say that certainly justifies dining in a nicer environment than that on offer at the Brasserie.
Woodman Estate is located in Mooroduc, just a fifteen minute drive from Red Hill and still in close proximity to many of the cellar doors and wineries in the region. Just down the road you’ll find Merricks General Store, which is a local favourite, and we had a delicious wine tasting and lunch here so I can definitely back their opinion up! Book your stay at Woodman Estate here or below:
charming escape in one of Australia's favourite boutique wine regions