High-Concept Cottagecore Has Arrived with Osborn House

Osborn House, located just two hours out of Sydney, is bringing a new type of luxury hotel experience New South Wales' the Southern Highlands.

High Concept Cottagecore at Osborn House

Suppose you’re like me and are obsessed with the HBO TV series Succession. In that case, you’ll remember their stay at the Gleneagles Hotel in Dundee, Scotland. As the family bicker and Shiv Roy mesmerises in a backless Gabriela Hearst knit dress—you find yourself noting the quiet, homey luxury of their surroundings. Whatever happened to five-star travel without the fuss and intimidation?

Osborn House in New South Wales’s answer to Scotland’s Gleneagles—a two-hour drive from Sydney or Canberra. Founding Director Adam Abrams has overseen other experiential projects, like portable beach club The Island and is also involved in Matteo in Double Bay and Matteo, Downtown, Sydney CBD.

Osborn House was a pet project for the hospitality entrepreneur, who wanted to create something that felt not far from home but still worlds away. Abrams spent two years searching for the right location to bring his vision to life. He wanted a destination close to Sydney CBD that offered something completely unique. Abrams says, “I always had visions of creating a hotel that felt like you were staying in someone’s private country home, somewhere curated, considered, and personal. Ideally, it would be somewhere you feel completely transported.”

Osborn House overlooks Morton National Park
Morton National Park, Image credit: Getty, Louise Docker

Adams spent two years touring locations throughout NSW with his wife, “every second Tuesday we would stay in hotels, motels and other accommodation sites within two hours of the city looking for the perfect spot.”

In 2017 the couple were almost motel-ed out when Abram came across a listing in the newspaper for a health retreat in the picturesque town of Bundanoon, Southern Highlands. He had found his spot.

The history of Osborn House

Osborn House is steeped in a history that begins in 1892 when George and Dinah Osborn built a grand resistance known as “The Knoll” in Jordan’s crossing (which came to be known as Bundanoon). The Knoll, perched at the top of an incline overlooked the gullies below. George and Dinah realised its commercial potential and opened their home to guests in 1900 (they had room to spare).

The property changed hands many times over the years and at one point housed Dutch internees during WWII. In the 1980’s Solar Plexus purchased the property. They turned the surrounding grounds into Solar Springs Health Retreat, which operated for 35 years.

By the fireside at Osborn House
By the fireside at Osborn House, photography by Alan Jensen

What to expect at Osborn House

The drive from Osborn house to Sydney CBD is quick but scenic. Making your way from Bundanoon up the mountain, you quickly forget the city surrounds you as you pass farmyard animals. As you wend your way up to the “house”, you’ll find yourself lost in a tunnel of century-old pines and dizzy with fresh air. Entry to the courtyard reveals beautiful but not overly-manicured gardens. Everything about the property has an organic look and feel. But really, Osborn House is all about the view. The back of the hotel opens up onto a breathtaking panorama of Morton National Park – where guests can hike or simply enjoy the view while they dine.

The common areas where guests dine and lounge have a homey feeling, complemented by the presence and scent of roaring stove fireplaces. You could be in your bougiest friend’s countryside manor.

Linda Boronkay and Alan McMahon curated interiors with vintage pieces to give Osborn House its home-away-from-home look and feel. Photography, Alan Jensen

The menu is similarly synergistic with the local area, with regional produce used in the seasonally led menu crafted by chef Segundo Farrell. He tells me, “Our goal at Osborne House is to have a menu that uses produce 100% sourced locally, including from our onsite kitchen garden.” The menu is unpretentious, comforting and perfectly executed. You will find a chicken club sandwich and a beef burger on the menu, executed with aplomb, but also Argentinian cuisines like Empanadas containing Illajua, house-made potato gnocchi and Musset Farm Mushrooms.

Chef Segundo Farrel spent time learning the art of fire cooking with Latin American food legend Francis Mallman. There are plans for Sunday cook-offs later in the year, where guests will learn the art of fire cooking while discovering everything the Southern Highlands offers when it comes to produce.

Jai Vasicek's night garden inspired fresco wall paper
Jai Vasicek’s “Night Garden” – inspired fresco walls.

Linda Boronkay and Alan McMahon worked on the hotel’s distinctive refurb, responding to a brief: “a whimsical retreat, a slice of Europe in the Southern Highlands.”

Osborn House doesn’t conform to a particular time. While the exteriors and cabins speak to a heritage quality, the interiors are modern but quirky – with an almost Wes Anderson sense of eccentricity.

Boronkay tells me: “We didn’t want to conform to one design period or aesthetic. Our aim was to create a series of experiences for the Osborn Houseguests from early morning to late at night. We wanted them to feel like they were staying at a private residence rather than a hotel.” Rich textures, colours, fabrics, and vintage pieces give Osborn House an eclectic and personal feel.

Cabin exteriors at Osborn House
Cabin exteriors, Osborn House. Image: Ruby Feneley

Throughout the hotel, walls are decorated by artist-in-residence Jai Vasicek, who also showcases paintings in the common spaces. Vasicek said, “The splendour of Osborn House, within its walls and surrounds, is enchanting to me. I have painted to storylines in a tribute to the history of the house and its relationship to the gardens.”

Cabin interiors at Osborn House
Cabin interiors at Osborn House, Photography Alan Jensen.

Boronkay and McMahon engaged Vasicek after being inspired by the home of French socialites Francine and Alex Weisweillers, who invited French artist Jean Cocteau for a week, only to have him stay 12 years, and transform their interiors into a wildly frescoed “tattooed villa.”
Abrams was inspired by the concept of falling in love with a building and making it home and started their artists in residence program. Every year the venue will play host to a different Australian artist for 12 months.

The cabins are Osborn House’s piece de resistance—providing guests with a private view of the surrounding area. McMahon says the places have an intentionally different aesthetic, designed to complement the natural surroundings as much as possible. While the cabins have an unobtrusive, matte black exterior, the interiors are clad with recycled timber that glows amber in the light of the fire. The best bit? You can take a nighttime bath under the stars on the cabin’s outdoor decks. “We wanted to take advantage of the stunning views of Morton National Park and offer a different experience”—there’s nothing quite like being nude in nature.

25m Lap Pool at Osborn House
Pool, spa and pelotons abound at Osborn House. Image: Ruby Feneley

Osborn House is a unique proposition. Describing the experience makes you think of Jean Cocteau, the guest who never leaves. While undeniably luxurious, the house also has a homey feel. It’s easy to forget you’re amongst other visitors. Architecturally, it also brings the outdoors to you. From the 25meter lap pool under the skylight to the plunge pool that looks out over the national park and the wrap-around windows and Vavicek’s night garden murals, you never feel disconnected from nature.

It’s a different type of luxury tourism that allows guests to forget that they’re guests while never forgoing the amenities you would expect from a five-star hotel like, from spas and saunas to gyms replete with pelotons. Following years of lockdowns, we’ve all been birds in gilded cages to an extent. Osborn House house offers welcome disruption and a new way of taking in the serenity.

Rates at Osborn House range from $660 a night for suits to $1045 for cabins, including a full breakfast and complimentary non-alcoholic minibar.

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Find Volcanoes, Wine Islands, and Thrills in Auckland

One minute you're on a ferry to wine island, the next you could be bungy jumping off of New Zealand's tallest tower.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

The city of Auckland is a free spirit. It is easily the most geographically blessed city in New Zealand. Within an hour, you could be tasting wines on an island, chasing more than 50 volcanoes, or leaving footprints on a black sand beach. Keep in mind, that Auckland is the country’s most populous city but certainly doesn’t feel cramped.

Instead, the city is buzzing with trendy eateries, boutique shops, quiet streets, and expansive green parks. Around every corner, you’re never too far from something beautiful to see.

From world-class wines to kickass thrills, here’s where to find what you’re looking for in Auckland.

things to do auckland

Seek the thrills

If you thought Queenstown was the home of the adrenaline rush, wait until you see Auckland. In the middle of the city, you can jump off a sky tower or a bridge, zip through the jungle, and scream on a high-octane jet boat ride. The Sky Tower, which can be seen from every corner of Auckland is more than just a landmark. Take a ride to the top and sign up for a Skywalk, where you can wander around the platform, which just so happens to be 192 metres above the ground. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, you can always jump off it. It’s New Zealand’s highest jump, and can only be described as just like being a movie stuntman, or a superhero. 

The other iconic place to jump off of is the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Unlike the Sky Jump, this one will have thrill seekers dipping their hands and head in the ocean. It’s a 40-metre Bungy, and a great experience. Although, if you’d rather still take advantage of the bridge views, book a climb, which takes you right to the top for sweeping views of the city.

Another way to take in the city is via Auckland Adventure Jet, which takes passengers for spins and tricks on the water.

Just a 35-minute boat ride from Auckland is Waiheke Island, where thrill-seekers will find Eco Zip Adventures. Across three separate lines, you will zip high above a working vineyard and lush, ancient forest canopies, soaking up incredible views back to the city and beyond.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Sip wine on Waiheke Island

Whether you want to spend a weekend or a day, Waiheke Island is a must-visit. It’s around a 35-minute ferry ride to the island from Auckland, and once there you can hop from winery to winery. The island is quite large and the terrain is rugged, so trust the experts and book a tour with Ananda Tours. The small, family-run business is owned by Jenny who has been on the island since before the vines were planted and she’s the best person to seek out when getting the Waiheke Island experience. You can book a private tour or group tour, and they can be catered to your preferences and tastes. A few standout stops include Kennedy Point, where they produce fully certified organic Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay wines. You can also state estate-grown olive oils, which the island has plenty of. Enjoy a tasting on the deck with views of Kennedy Bay, or enjoy a picnic under the olive grove.

For the best views on the island, head to Batch Vineyard. As the highest vineyard on Waiheke, you will be treated to panoramic views of the rolling hills, blue waters, and even Auckland city. Their sparkling wine, Blanc de Blancs is a must-try.

When it comes to lunch, there are two spots to choose from. The first is Stonyridge, which is also where you can taste premium award-winning wines, including a Cabernet blend Larose—New Zealand’s cult wine. The second is Mudbrick, a romantic spot, set amongst beautiful gardens with even more spectacular views, and a bar and bistro serving up some of the best dishes on the island.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Eat your way through the city

Auckland’s dining scene isn’t pretentious, but the food quality is good enough to rival the best restaurants in New York—but the city doesn’t like to brag. Instead, it celebrates good food in every setting, from waterside restaurants to trendy Mexican eateries in a shopping centre.

Inca, is helmed by critically acclaimed chef, Nic Watt. Inspired by Watt’s travels to Peru, diners can expect to find Nikkei cuisine, including spicy chicken karaage, hand-pressed corn tacos filled with pork cheek and spicy tuna. You wouldn’t expect to find such a good restaurant in a shopping centre, but there it is.

Another great trendy restaurant is Hello Beasty, which is home to the famous, prawn and crab toast. This work of art starts with a slice of crispy deep-fried bread, smothered with prawn and crab mousse. On top, there are slices of wagyu, drizzled with a sweet and sour sauce. Although, there are plenty of other great dishes on the menu, including a Sichuan tuna tartare, Korean fried cauliflower, and potstickers swimming in chilli oil. Try the yuzu mandarin soda if you’re looking for something fizzy to go with dinner or lunch.

Deli De Bossi is a recent opening and already becoming a favourite breakfast spot. Apart from coffee, you can get all kinds of toasted sandwiches, filled with everything from mushrooms to hams and salamis.

Another iconic eat-hit list is Parade in Ponsonby. Here, the burgers are served in a pretzel bun and filled with chicken or beef.

Most of these restaurants are casual, but if you’re looking for something a little fancy, book a table at Kingi. Taking cues from Sydney’s own Josh Niland, the dishes at Kingi focus on sustainable seafood, caught locally by local fishermen. The blue cod wings are a must. They’re covered in burnt lime and served with a ranch sauce for dipping. The stracciatella with feijoa is also a standout dish, that’s light and a great start to a meal. Inside, the dining room is cosy with bench seats, fire heaters, and exploded brick walls.

After dinner, walk down the street and grab dessert from Miann. The flavour of the day is always chocolate, and they serve up seriously good desserts. Try the tasting platter for a piece of each pastry on the menu of the day, or pick one that is most desirable to you. Although, the tasting platter is only $23 and you’d be missing out on tasting a little of everything they offer if you didn’t get it.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Discover art, culture, and movie magic

One of the best ways to learn about a city or country is by visiting its top museums and galleries. The Auckland War Memorial Museum sits atop a hill in Auckland’s Domain, which also happens to be the city’s oldest volcano. This museum is one of the most important as it tells the story of New Zealand’s natural and military history. Take a self-guided walking tour to explore at your own pace. There are plenty of interactive features for the kids and adults. The museum also hosts exhibitions. An ancient Greek exhibition is currently on display and is one of the largest exhibitions the British Museum has ever loaned to Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Art lovers, spend a few hours wandering around the Auckland Art Gallery, Toi O Tāmaki. You will find artworks from around the world, including a Picasso or two. Although, the exhibitions are a real treat. Yona Lee’s, An Arrangement of Five Rooms is an incredible installation, spanning multiple rooms, which you can sit on and touch—to immerse yourself in the artwork. Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda, is another must-see exhibition exploring the most pressing issues of our times: climate change and resilience, tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty), activism and social justice.

While art and history museums are insightful and a great way to educate a visitor, there are some other museum types that can be a lot of fun and interactive. Weta Workshop Unleashed is a new Auckland attraction and an incredible experience you don’t want to miss. Step into the world of filmmaking, explore how horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films are made and at times feel as if you’re in a movie. Comedic tour guides will introduce you to movies that are in production and explain every aspect, from prop making to effects, and more. There are even mysteries to be solved, making it fun for the whole family. It’s truly an unmissable experience in Auckland, and one of the best, unique tours you might ever experience.

things to do auckland
Photo: @sidwithlens

Walk on a volcano

Erupting over 100,000 years ago, Pukekawa is one of Auckland’s oldest and most popular volcanoes. Today, the Domain parkland is the remains of the explosion crater and most of the surrounding tuff ring of Pukekawa. Most days you will see people running around the park, families picnicking on the weekend, and tourists snapping photos by the pond or under a magnificent tree, grown from an experiment conducted by the Auckland Acclimatisation Society. Enter from one end, enjoy a picturesque walk, and exit through the historic Parnell shopping and restaurant area. On a sunny day, the atmosphere is charged with romance, but even in the rain, it’s a moody, beautiful sight to see. The Auckland War Memorial Museum’s large neo-Greek architecture is also a standout, commanding top-of-the-mountain views.

where to stay in auckland

Where to stay in Auckland

If you’re looking to sleep on top of the world, you can’t beat a room in Cordis Auckland’s new Pinnacle Tower. From the pillowy-cloud-like beds, guests have sweeping views of the city from the Sky Tower to Rangitoto and Mount Eden. Enjoy a breakfast buffet in the Eight restaurant downstairs, and canapes and drinks in the Cordis Club lounge on the 14th floor. There’s also a health club, spa, and swimming pool. The hotel is within walking distance to some of the best eateries in Auckland, making it a prime option.

Although, if you’re looking to stay in the heart of Britomart, Auckland’s hub of shopping, eating, and drinking, then The Hotel Britomart is where you want to be. From its exterior of hand-made bricks to its beautifully timber-lined rooms, The Hotel Britomart does detail like nobody else. Plus, the best of downtown waterfront Auckland is just outside your front door. With 5 Green Star Design and Build ratings from the NZ Green Building Council, The Hotel Britomart is the country’s ONLY 5 Green Star hotel, and has sustainability built in from the ground up. 

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