9 February 2024

Ambitious plan for luxury chalet in Mullengandra hills takes shape

| Vanessa Hayden
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Man and woman stand together on top of hill

Gerard and Allysa will be transforming the highest hill on their Mountain Creek Road farm into a private luxury stay for clients looking for a unique Australian experience with all the trimmings. Photo: Vanessa Hayden.

A Mullengandra couple is one step closer to realising their dream of building a five-star luxury chalet high on a hill of their 250-acre property which overlooks Lake Hume and the mountain peaks beyond.

Gerard Lawry and his wife Allysa Leverton plan to start construction in April and it will be no easy feat given the narrow track and steep incline that leads from their home to the site on the summit of the property.

The final result is expected to be something very unique to the Riverina and potentially like nothing else in Australia.

“I’m really looking forward to the day when Jennifer Aniston’s assistant rings to book the chalet,” laughed Allysa.

The yet-to-be-named chalet is expected to attract the highflyers and those looking for an exclusive, luxurious, secluded experience where everything is provided for, from degustation dinners to champagne sunrise breakfasts and 24-hour service at your beck and call.

“Sometimes I think we are dreaming,” admits Gerard, “but it’s quite attainable.”

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The two are no strangers to big dreams, challenges and hard work.

Their farm, Eaglerise, was bought in 2000 as a subdivision of a typical Australian merino sheep property “with only 36 trees on it” and has since been transformed into a multi-enterprise farm growing enough food to feed a community.

“I wanted land at the end of a road to have the privacy and I wanted the top end of a valley for the organic farming and I’d always visualised having a bush block where at the back I could build some cabins, so establishing tourism accommodation is not a new idea, it was something I’d considered right from the start,” said Gerard.

Their dream of a hut on the hill was borne out of a love of nature and outdoors and the idea to build something that they could escape to themselves as a retreat from the hard slog of farming.

“One thing we realised early was that you had to get off the farm to have a break. We were looking at going to places in the region and paying $300 or $400 a night and essentially getting a similar view as the one we have here,” said Gerard.

“We love the farm,” says Allysa. “I’m a homebody and I love it here, and it’s not as though I’m not happy to pay someone else, I love going on holidays, but I want to stay here!”

An artistic render of the new chalet at Eaglerise Farm which will begin construction this year. Pictures: Gerard Lawry.

And it’s no wonder. It’s a million-dollar view from the top and an ocean of green. There may not be the sound of the sea but the vista is infinitely more interesting than the solid blue hue of water, with valleys, Lake Hume and six mountain peaks in sight.

“So, we generally don’t want to go anywhere else, but we want to be away from the house and the habit of looking around and seeing all the jobs we have to do,” said Allysa.

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The pair had original plans for tourism accommodation on another part of the property and a simple cattleman’s style hut for themselves up on the hill. After some serious number crunching, a lot of soul searching and very timely advice from a mentor at Destination Riverina Murray NSW the new concept grew.

“We took our mentor to the site we had planned for our tourism venture and we also took them up to the top of the hill and when she got out of the buggy and looked around she said, ‘This is it, this is the spot, it’s a no-brainer’,” said Allysa.

“One of the reasons it’s such an incredible location is that the hill is very high and most other hills like this in NSW and Victoria are in state forest so you can’t build on it. We are very lucky – we own the top of a hill and we can build on it.”

Gerard and Allysa have their sights set on high-end clientele which they’ve identified is a niche market they can service well. Their research showed there were limited experiences in Australia offering the same level of luxury and attention they will provide.

Man and woman looking at view from top of hill

Gerard and Allysa stand at the location of the proposed chalet which will offer far-reaching views over the countryside when it is built. Photo: Vanessa Hayden.

A stay will include transfers to and from the Albury airport, guided farm tours if requested, sunrise and sunset picnics, farm fresh organic produce and there’s even talk of constructing a helipad for those who want to chopper in.

“It’s going to be an experience, from the moment you book. It will be all of our own food that is prepared and served; I produce all the lotions and potions myself; we have our own vineyard and it’s going to be all about the service from start to finish,” said Allysa.

“When people go out of their way, people remember that. Experiences are so important; I want them to say, wow, those people cared about us, we are important to them, we are not just paying the money, they really wanted us to have a good time.”

And what can you expect to pay for said experience?

The final tariff is not fully ratified yet.

“But basically we are building something that we wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in ourselves!” said Allysa.

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