AGE Review, June 14, 2008

High life ... the well-appointed Treetops is set over three levels.
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Terri Jacobs lazes through a leafy Dandenongs weekend.

It is with mixed feelings that I pack my bag for a couple of nights in the hills. I am not a walker, much to the irritation of my poor husband who loves hiking. As a compromise, with a sigh, I shove in my very new-looking - although two-year-old - hiking boots.

My idea of a weekend away involves sleeping in, having a spa, eating delicious food that someone else has prepared, lazily strolling around some shops, perhaps making an extravagant purchase or two. He, however, loves getting up with the birds, "making the most of the morning", hiking the hills and only then, perhaps, brunching.

The fact that we agree on a destination, let alone a place to stay, is an achievement.

The place is Treetops in the Dandenongs and I fell in love with it at first glance of the website. Even better, it is only a 25-minute drive from our house.

At this time of the year Olinda is a postcard town, with the last autumn leaves decorating the trees that line the streets. But I am too preoccupied with those russet trees to concentrate on navigation duties and we almost miss the turn-off. Treetops is part of Lochiel Accommodation so you need to keep a look out for the Lochiel sign which is a bit small.

That aside, the four cottages, set in 1.6 hectares of forest, are exactly as I had hoped. The huge trees allow the sun through in amazing rays that reflect into the leaves strewn on the ground. The only thing that can make this more idyllic is a glass of the complimentary chilled bubbly.

But first, just like a child, I must check out every nook and cranny of our cottage. I start on the top of three levels, the bedroom.

The huge windows on all sides bring the trees into the bedroom and the double doors that lead to a balcony open to make you feel as if you are floating among the treetops. The bed is freshly made and comfortable with lots of cushions and pillows, but sinking down into them, I notice the ceiling fan hasn't been dusted in a while.

On the second level is the entrance and bathroom - and what a bathroom. Large shower and basin vanity, loo; but the huge two-person spa bath is the icing for me. I head down the small flight of stairs to the living area. The open-plan kitchen, living and dining area is the perfect size for a couple. There is a large two-seater couch; the carpets feel plush - time to kick off the shoes and pour a glass of the sparkling stuff before continuing my exploration.

A well-equipped kitchen includes an oven and microwave. There is an extensive DVD list, and a list of restaurants with vouchers for our Friday dinner.

But as there is no TV in the bathroom, I decide to forgo the DVDs and instead run a bath. Dinner is a couple of hours off yet and the view from the bathroom needs to be enjoyed before the sun sets. While the bath is filling, we choose a restaurant; Lochiel has left us two-for-one vouchers to two hillside establishments. Difficult to choose, but in the event we enjoy a meal at Ranges (don't forget to book as this is a popular spot).

Breakfast vouchers are also included, to the value of $27.50, and we end up paying only for our coffees on each occasion.

All this is inclusive and seems a good deal to me. A bag of lollies, compliments of a local confectionery store (which includes a 10 per cent discount voucher), sates my appetite until dinner, so now all I have to do is pour the lovely bath salts into the spa and convince my husband that lying in while enjoying the sounds of nature is the best way to start the day.

PS: I won the walk-versus-rest debate, apart from a stroll around the grounds near our cabin. More active visitors will enjoy a bracing walk on the Dandenongs tracks. As for us, we had a couple of great drives through the autumn trees - and my boots still look new.

VISITORS' BOOK

Treetops, Olinda
Address: 1590 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Olinda.
Summary: A perfect weekend escape for two, whether you want to go hiking or just relax. The inclusive price is a good deal. The aspect and location make it a worthwhile escape.
Verdict: 18
The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable, well-run.
All weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for.