The vision of the founder and owner of Jackalope, Louis Li, was to create a most unique escape – a surreal hotel set in a bucolic, dramatic landscape. He was inspired by the cinematic visions of Stanley Kubrick and Wong Kar Wai, and fuelled by a desire to merge his love of film and the arts with his family hotel legacy. The fabled North American Jackalope (a ‘fearsome critter’ with friendly yet ferocious associations) informed an overall attitude of dramatic contrasts as well as a multitude of intriguing references.

The interiors celebrate the mystery and whimsy of alchemy and the art of transformation with tonal elements of gold, silver, copper and bronze. Spaces reflect and embrace the alchemist’s workshop – eclectic, experimental and contemporary in detailing. The hotel’s signature bar, Flaggerdoot, marks the start of the journey sparking curiosity in an edgy salute to experimentation and intrigue. Flaggerdoot’s narrative reflects distillation, the first stage of alchemy. Cocktails are served with theatre-like ceremony from behind a slab of marble – fondly referred to as the alchemist’s workbench.

Doot Doot Doot – the hotel’s restaurant – is an atmospheric, intimate space where the ideas of brewing, bubbling, simmering and movement allude to the alchemic process of fermentation. A spectacular 10 x 8-metre light installation floats above the main fine dining room and is defined by 10,000 globes shaped as flasks, test tubes and beakers. Framed views to the vineyards beyond evolve with the seasons.

Guest rooms purposefully juxtapose the drama of the public spaces with a sense of refined dignity and sophistication. The feeling is one of tranquillity and retreat – an escape – to balance with the high theatre and visual stimulus of the public realm. Four guest suite typologies align variously with understated metallic tones. The rooms are purposely art free, with framed views of the landscape providing a sense of reprieve and restfulness.

The Geode, a crystal-like pavilion designed as a multi-functional event space, is dramatically sculptural and more akin to an installation – like a meteorite embedded in the ancient landscape. Ideas of crystallisation, the reflection and refraction of light, discovery and intrigue were explored in detail. Bathed in golden light as the sun sets over the vines, the pavilion’s fractured mirrored interior walls glow and radiate taking on an identity of their own.

Carr’s design represents an otherworldly experience rich with narrative and imagination. Jackalope invites guests to be part of its story. The storytelling promotes a transformative and cohesive guest encounter – an experience where the mind is allowed time to be curious and inquisitive whilst indulging in the quiet nature that surrounds at Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. A unique and rare space, Jackalope is not just a hotel but an experience.

Photography: Sharyn Cairns