Barham in New South Wales’s western Riverina district, on the banks of the Murray, is actually closer to Melbourne (300 km) than it is to Sydney (823 Km south-west of the NSW capital). But it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from as long as you make your way to this special treasure, the newly opened Airbnb retreat Lost and Found.
We drive from Mildura to Barham, around three and half hours through Murray River Country with its twisted gums, lime and yellow-green flowering canola, and what seemed like miles of almond trees blossoming pale pink for our stay.
We arrive late and drive gingerly in the dim light across the soggy red-mud paddock (there’s been a lot of rain) to the low-slung house and we’re not quite sure what to expect. But opening the door allays all our fears. The heating is on, the lights are glowing, there’s a soft jazz soundtrack playing, the furniture is stylish. Best of all there’s a gin and wine honesty bar. Pre-made Negroni’s. Teddy & the Fox boutique gin. Chilled Dal Zotto prosecco in the fridge. Snacks. Heaven.
The designer retreat sits on the edge of an organic avocado farm, with views across to the gumtree-lined creek and Pollack Forest. In the morning, kangaroos are feeding, a flock of sheep amble by and perky pink and white galahs nibble on the grass right near our deck. It almost seems stage-managed. When you meet the incredible host, Katrina, you think… maybe it is stage-managed.
All the trimmings
The house itself is single-storey and simple from outside while inside it’s light-filled and spacious, with serene views, polished concrete floors, glowing honey-coloured timber and dark-grey brick lining. A farmhouse table takes in the vista, there’s an oversize Scandi sofa and designer chairs, as well as some vintage family pieces. It’s contemporary, but eclectic and welcoming. Generous shelves have lots of books and some fascinating objects, if you’re one for having a browse – sculptures, pottery, an emu egg, touchstones from travels.
The kitchen is well equipped – yes, you could cook up a storm. But if it’s just breakfast you’re planning, there are loads of avocados, and the fridge is stocked with fresh milk, eggs, bacon, orange juice. There’s a ‘coffee station’ – actually a super-duper barista coffee machine (we were a bit nervous to try it – luckily there was a French press coffee maker). And coffee, of course. Plus drinking chocolate. And marshmallows. Everything you might need (you don’t really need marshmallows, but you know what I mean!).
You can sit outside on the covered deck in the giant swinging basket chair and read a book or just soak up the country air. Or go for a stroll on the farm.
And come night-time, it’s blissfully quiet as you sink into the extra-comfy bed, kitted out with top-notch Carlotta and Gee linens in fashionable earthy hues.
Lost and Found is the country retreat that you wish you owned, but it’s probably better you don’t, because there’s a lot to getting something as perfectly set up as this, and after the weekend (or week!) you can putter off and leave the hard work to hosts Katrina and Tim. Until next time.
Who can stay?
Although it’s ideal for a couple, (romantic weekend?) beyond the breezeway there are two more bedrooms (one a bunkroom) and a second bathroom. It could be two couples, or perhaps a girl’s weekend? It’s not suitable for children, but – hey! – some things need to be adult only.
A wine bar in Barham? Welcome to Ivy Joyce
Although it’s always tempting to stay put when anything is as comfortable as Lost and Found, Katrina suggested driving the 10 minutes into Barham to eat at Ivy Joyce, and we’d recommend you do too.
On a cold dark night, the lights of Ivy Joyce were a welcoming beacon and the general good mood was infectious. This is a place that the locals love. It occupies a shopfront former hardware store with a bar along one side.
Lauren Mathers of Bundarra Berkshires and Cynthia Burbury, a Murray Valley caterer, have named their establishment in memory and celebration of their grandmothers’ cooking. Perfect roasts, Yorkshire pudding, homemade fruit pies are all referenced, but under chef Richard Pattenden, with unexpected twists. The menu is small, simple, delicious and constantly changing – seasonal and local. Warm local olives, a risotto with Alpine truffles, roasted Bundarra chook and an old-fashioned lemon pound cake with raspberry ice cream. Perfect.
The bar itself offers 16 different gins, only one from overseas, and lots of excellent Australian whiskeys. Pony up to the bar and ask for a recommendation. The wine list is sourced mainly from local and smaller wineries, from Mildura to King Valley and Tasmania.
Ivy Joyce is a delightful surprise in this pocket of the world. (It opens Thursday to Saturday and best to book. Don’t miss the pastries and bread during the day.)
Other things to do
Join Murray River Adventures for a kayak tour, leaving from Cohuna, or guided bird-watching. Or head to Restdown Wines and Walking Trail, an organic winery and beef farm for a wine tasting, lunch platter or a walk along the fascinating wetland trails. Both are about 30 minutes’ drive away (but in opposite directions!), bookings essential.
What are we addicted to?We loved the selection of drinks in the honesty bar. Did I mention the marshmallows?
What we need to be more addicted?Perhaps some solar lights to guide our way from the road, to the house, because we city slickers really are babes in the wood when it comes to country driving.