Tonic Hotel

Lovedale, Hunter Valley, Australia Book from

Reviewed by Nadine Mellor
Innovative, romantic and restorative retreat in the north of the Hunter Valley, 2 hours from Sydney
Tonic is inspired by the great Aussie shed. But don't get the wrong idea, these sheds have style - bucketfuls of it - and a setting to match. From its 8 contemporary-chic rooms, big picture windows and verandas look out onto the dams, endless valleys and rich wildlife of the northern Hunter valley. From the moment you arrive, your soul feels restored.

Tonic's original founders, Tom and Nic, gave up life in Sydney to create their ideal hotel, with their own (lack of) rules; and the current owners Ian and Janelle have stayed true to this approach. So: no formulaic hotel breakfasts - instead, your maxi-bar is bursting with all the ingredients for your perfect start to the day. No strict check-in times - instead, you choose your entrance code and let yourself in and out when you want. Expect an eclectic mix of modern and vintage furnishings, gloriously comfortable beds, underfloor-heated bathrooms, a slinky swimming pool, a funky lounge, kangaroos and black swans on your doorstep. It's all wonderfully refreshing after the trad-fad of other Hunter hotels.


  • We loved the contemporary, innovative and proudly Australian design
  • Utter peace and tranquility - you need never speak to another soul in your entire time here
  • There's a lovely Italian restaurant nearby, and some great wineries too
  • Guests rave about waking up to chirping birdlife, or watching lightning storms from their balconies
  • Charming hosts, who are happy to advise and arrange, but also to leave you alone if that's your wish


  • Not in the heart of the Hunter, but it's much more peaceful than Pokolbin, which is only 15 minutes away
  • Don't expect staff or catered meals; this is more for self-sufficient types (though Ian can offer advice)
  • The rooms aren't large but they are perfectly formed
  • No children under 15 - this hotel is designed for couples
  • A power line goes through the valley but you soon don't notice it

Best time to go

Easter is very popular as it's harvest time, with misty mornings, cloudless days and vines turning the copper colours of Autumn. May is the Lovedale Long Lunch period when all the local Lovedale wineries and restaurants join together to do the long lunch. Bank holidays get booked up too. Spring (October and November) is another ideal time, with lots of food and music festivals. Winter (June-August) can be rainy, but you don't need hot weather to go wine-tasting! Book ahead if you want to come on a weekend.

Our top tips

Book a pasta- or sushi-making class at Sandalyn in nearby Lovedale: they're great fun, and end with a yummy 2-course lunch al fresco. If you really want to impress your partner, book a helicopter tour - it lands on the hotel grounds, then takes off for a scenic flight round the Hunter Valley.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 6 + 1 apartment for 4
  • Self-catering (breakfast provided)
  • Over 15s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available


Don't be put off if your room appears small on the outside; inside the sloping roof and big windows ensure a light and airy feel. All eight rooms share the same minimalist design: white walls and polished concrete floors contrasting nicely with bold colours in the headboard, cushions and modern artwork. Kingsized beds are plump with goose-down duvets and dressed in crisp linen and velvet throws. We even had a welcoming message on the blackboard offering cake, and a friendly teddy smiling at us from the pillow.

Sliding screen doors lead out to your balcony overlooking the dam; louvre windows with mosquito netting allow cool breezes to flow through and the air-con to stay switched off. There's a white table inside and an aluminium one on the balcony - either will do for breakfast. Seating ranges from bean bags and squashy pouffes to funky modern chairs and rattan cubes.

There is also an apartment which has a living/dining area with fireplace, a larger kitchen and maxibar, and two kingsized bedrooms each with an ensuite bathroom.

Bathrooms are sleek and spacious, with an extra-long bathtub, a separate power shower wet-room, twin round porcelain sinks, Aesop toiletries and marble tiles with underfloor heating.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Iron
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi


There's no restaurant; instead the maxibar in your fridge provides a copious continental breakfast of Tonic-made muesli and juices, bread and croissants, butter and jam; and you can top up (at extra cost) with local bacon, smoked salmon and eggs from the mini-deli in the Tonic Lounge. After a week of hotel stays, we really appreciated waking up when we wanted, breakfasting at our own pace, and choosing what we ate.

The lounge also has deli bites (cheese, paté, dips) if you fancy a light lunch in; and a freezer full of curries (with drinks from your maxibar) for lazy dinners. There's a guest kitchen with BBQ and full crockery.

But most will venture out for dinner. The nearest and most popular option is Mojos (2km away; closed Sunday), which offers great food simply presented, as well as picnic feasts. Leaves and Fishes (closed Tue-Wed) specialise in seafood at reasonable prices, while Tatlers wine Bar also serves lunch and dinner 2-3 days/week, alongside superb Semillons and Chardonnays.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Toaster


  • You're in the Hunter so wine tasting has got to be on the agenda. Recommendations nearby include Thalgara, Peterson's Champagne House, Waverley Estate ,and Audrey Wilkinson (take a picnic)
  • The hotel's lake and 25 acres abound with bird- and wildlife: we saw kangaroos, hares, ducks, herons, swamp-hens, falcons, parrots, butcherbirds and plovers in 1 hour before breakfast
  • Go horse-riding through the Molly Morgan Ranges; stables are just 5 minutes away.
  • There are 2 world class golf courses within 10-15 minutes' drive, and more within 45 minutes
  • Hot air balloons are a familiar sight over the hills and ridges - the nearest centre is 15 minutes' drive away.
  • Ramblers and hikers will find walking trails galore, and can book restorative massages back at the hotel
  • Explre the beautiful Brokenback Mountains and the Wollemi Ranges National Park

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Wildlife


This hotel is geared towards couples and groups of friends and as such is not really suitable for children.

Kid Friendly:

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