A night in the smartly updated Berrima Bakehouse Motel solved a decade long mystery very pleasantly.
Many times over the years I’ve driven past the Berrima Bakehouse Motel and wondered. Often ferrying carloads of muddy children and dogs home to Moss Vale, still wet from swims in Berrima’s lovely part of the Wingecarribee River, I’ve speculated what the smart two storey brick building neatly tucked away next to the Old Hume Highway might be like.
The motel, which sits opposite fellow village stalwarts the Surveyor General Inn and the Magpie Cafe, always looks so calm and tidy and cared for. Unlike the interior of my car on these trips home, it gives off a kind of serenity and an appealing sense of comfort in its own skin.
I get this feeling again recently. After years of driving by, I am here to check in for a night’s stay, and I’ve been looking forward to it for days. I’ve always had a thing for a hotel room you can drive right up to. It’s the nostalgia of long hot car trips through central NSW made during my childhood, and the heaven of arriving at a faraway establishment with air conditioning. And a swimming pool. And, happy days, Berrima Bakehouse Motel has both.
A child of the 1970s like me, it was originally built adjacent to the village’s original bakehouse, which itself dated back to the 1800s. Owned by Country Inn Motels, which also owns and operates the Bundanoon Country Inn, there is nothing 1970s about the Berrima Bakehouse Motel today. In fact, first impressions suggest it is modern and, like a freshly baked loaf, comforting.
The 19 rooms offer various bedding configurations to suit all manner of guests. You’ll find them breaking their journey on the way to Melbourne or further afield, or attending a wedding up the road at Bendooley Estate, The Loch or even Peppers in nearby Sutton Forest and making a weekend of it. And then there are the corporate types here for a conference and some good old fashioned team building.
The Bakehouse underwent a major refurbishment 18 months ago and the result is pleasantly upmarket with a Scandinavian design influence. Rooms are spotless and spacious, uncluttered and pleasing. Mine is on the second storey with a view to the swimming pool and the slow moving Wingecarribee beyond, with towering European trees planted by early settlers dotting the garden. A colour theme of white and navy bedding is fresh and contemporary, as is the on trend birch ply slatted bedhead, and a neat table and chair configuration with comfy armchair, perfect for a laptop and some relaxed reading.
Motel room staples such as an ironing board, iron and coat hangers are cleverly incorporated as design features on the far wall, and there is a huge paddle head in the shower. The bathroom also features complimentary toiletries such as make remover, perfect for wedding guests returning from late night celebrations. There is a breakfast bar with the usual tea bags and mini packets of bickies, but there’s also an espresso machine with pods and latte glasses, and fresh milk and complimentary bottles of water in the fridge. All thoughtful and welcome touches.
Armed with a decent coffee, I happily browse the hotel room’s information pack. Berrima was built on inns and passing trade, I learn. In the 1830s, Surveyor General Thomas Mitchell sought out a site where the Wingecarribee River could be spanned by a bridge for settlers pushing out from Sydney to Goulburn, Yass and beyond. His new road became known as the Hume Highway and linked Sydney with the southern settlements, and later on Melbourne. A day’s journey by horseback or coach was usually about 16km and, as a result of travellers needing to stop overnight and feed and rest their horses, coaching inns began to spring up along the road.
Many of Berrima’s oldest buildings were built by convict labour so a courthouse was needed, and as Berrima became a major stopover between Campbelltown and Goulburn, larger inns providing better facilities and accommodation were built. By 1834 there were three inns operating in Berrima and this increased to six by the early 1840s, among them the Surveyor General, believed to be the longest continually licensed inn in Australia.
The railway came to Bowral and Moss Vale in 1867 but bypassed Berrima, leading to the gradual demise of the coaching inns as people increasingly chose to travel by rail. Today Berrima is one of Australia’s most historic villages, and in the 1960s the National Heritage Council declared the entire village an historic precinct.
If you love history and Georgian architecture like I do, the Berrima Bakehouse is a perfectly located staging post for exploration. In the evening I cross the now quiet Hume Highway for the colonial Georgian Surveyor General. Fellow motel guests and locals mingle in the busy sandstone pub with its convict laid stones all around. I eat from the Bushranger Bistro and enjoy a grilled burger and a glass of local pinot noir in the beer garden. Later, sleep comes easily as my room’s welcome air conditioning cools dreams of convicts reportedly chained in the Surveyor General’s cellar and bushrangers who frequented these parts.
Berrima Bakehouse manager Peter Fussell says he loves the varied guests who frequent the motel, which received a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in 2018.
‘Our favourite group last year was the Mustang Enthusiast Club from Newcastle. They really brought the motel’s car park alive,’ says Peter. ‘And recently we had a lovely guest from Greece who had traced her genealogy back to the Berrima cemetery, where you will also find the gravesites of German merchant navy personnel held in Berrima Gaol during World War I.
‘This guest stayed with us for a few nights to visit the gravesite of her great grandmother and picked some roses from our beautiful garden to take with her.’
I wake beautifully refreshed in the comfy queen size bed and enjoy watching morning television with no one else reaching for the remote. I breakfast just up the road at Diego Arata’s Berrima General Store & Cafe as the other shops and cafes of this historic village quietly open nearby. There is much to do in Berrima, beginning with a snack at Stones Patisserie, a meal at Eschalot (see our story on page 52) and a visit to original Georgian building Harper’s Mansion just up the hill. You could also catch ‘A Butcher, A Baker, a Bunch of Makers’ at the newly revamped Berrima District Museum or take a stroll along the Berrima River Walk along the nearby Wingecarribee and read all about the POW and German Internment camp there from 1915 to 1919.
And, who knows, if you take the river walk you may well see me and some muddy kids with dogs, no longer wondering. Because now I know the Berrima Bakehouse Motel is an affordable relaxed and stylish local gem that punches above its weigh and happily holds its own. Spread the word.