It is masculine, dark and mysterious, painting a picture of stark contrast with its surroundings. It doesn’t blend in, it sticks out, and it isn’t just attractive, it is utterly mesmerising. It is Jackalope Hotel in the Melburnian weekend playground that is the Mornington Peninsula, and it is quite unlike any hotel we’ve stayed at – not just in the region, but in the whole country.

DESIGN Carr Design Group | PHOTOGRAPHY Sharyn Cairns

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The personal passion project of 29-year-old Melbourne-based entrepreneur, Louis Li, Jackalope is a masterful design project where art and storytelling go hand-in-hand. Jackalope is more than just a place to rest your head, but rather a 360-degree sensory experience – a place that completely subverts the norms of the countryside weekend escape Australians have grown so very used to.

Turning these expectations on its head is architectural and design firm, Carr Design Group. The company has steered the ship in successfully realising Li’s unique hotel concept, with Fabio Ongarato Captain of carving out a strong identity for Jackalope.

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No expense has been spared at this reimagined winery hotel. Only the best contemporary furniture is on show thanks to Melbourne furniture makers, Zuster, and then there’s the quite frankly jaw-dropping work by yet another Melbourne artist, chandelier designer, Jan Flook. Her work not only features in the hotel’s restaurant, Doot Doot Doot, but goes so far as to play a hero role in the dining experience, second only to the food itself.

Her eight-by-ten metre lighting installation of 10,000 light bulbs appears to be bubbling down from the roof and is an unforgettable nod to the hotel’s narrative theme of ‘alchemy’ and the wine-making process. In the hotel bar, Flaggerdoot, this theme strengthens further still, with dozens of laboratory-style glass flasks lining the walls of the distillery-imagined room that is utterly experimental, just like the cocktails being created. The stools are reminiscent of giant chess pieces, while the ceiling’s neon light installation carries through to the hotel’s moody common areas, like arrows directing you to your room.

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And just when you thought this was a hotel only for lovers of contemporary design, you realise Flaggerdoot is in fact set in the original building that is Edwarding McCormick House, standing since 1876. The result is a respectful and visually sympathetic addition to the otherwise hard edges of Jackalope’s exterior and a truly gorgeous feat of architecture.

It’s all about dark hues at this hotel, with the common areas characterised by black-on-black, and the bedrooms designed in the style of modern minimalism. The view out from many of the rooms, however, is anything but understated, with the 30-metre black infinity pool and its wooden decking atop with sun loungers giving guests yet another feast for the eyes. Beyond its glassy water lay the symmetrical, organised angles of the Willow Creek vineyard, and nothing but the greenest of green as far as the eye can see.

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Jackalope’s position in Mornington Peninsula’s Merricks North means guests are a stone’s throw from the region’s 50 plus cellar doors, with more outstanding Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays than you can taste in a single weekend sojourn. Yabby Lake and Montalto have interesting sculpture gardens for those wanting to continue the artist’s trail tone set by Jackalope, while Montalto as well as Ten Minutes by Tractor, Port Phillip Estate and Paringa Estate wineries all have Chef Hatted restaurants on-site. Clearly, this is destination location for the ultimate gourmet escape.

At Jackalope, you might feel like you’re in an urban hotel inside, but you only have to step onto your room’s balcony to get the most comforting reminder that you are at home in Australia’s beautiful countryside. So while this hotel is undeniably a work of art and an all-consuming journey of design and storytelling, it is also a place where you can completely relax – and there’s nothing scientific about that.

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Jackalope is more than just a place to rest your head, but rather a 360-degree sensory experience – a place that completely subverts the norms of the countryside weekend escape Australians have grown so very used to.

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