If there's one thing more fun than stickybeaking at an open house, it's getting a look inside a really incredible house. And as the new season of Phil Spencer's Stately Homes proves, nowhere does old-school elegance and all-out grandeur quite like the UK.
But you don't have to head OS to get your historic house fix, there are actually plenty of homes right here in Australia to explore. We went on the hunt to discover the most magnificent historic residences across the country so you can unleash your inner Lady of the Manor this weekend.
Overlooking Berrima in the NSW Southern Highlands, Harper’s Mansion is a dreamy taste of another era. It was built in 1834 by local publican James Harper and then later was owned by the Catholic Church. The house was restored more recently by the National Trust and is furnished in authentic colonial style so you can really see how the Harper family lived, and there’s also a fantastic hedge maze and two acres of garden to explore – perfect for a day out.
Open to the public Saturday, Sunday & Public holidays 10.30am to 4.00pm
Built in 1847, Como is a mix of Australian Regency and OTT Italianate architecture.
Here you can go all Downton and explore the elegant dining and reception rooms still furnished with heirlooms belonging to the original owners, the Armytage family. Take a stroll through the servants’ areas, kitchen and laundry which have been preserved as they were back then, or just bring your own picnic and wander through the beautiful garden.
Open to the public Every Wednesday at 2.00pm and on Weekends at 11.00am, 12.30pm and 2.00pm.
The house used in the filming of A Place To Call Home, Camelot is now a little bit famous – and rightly so, it’s absolutely stunning! Situated at Kirkham near Camden on Sydney's western outskirts and set among rolling green pastures, it has cottage-style gardens and a winding, tree-lined drive from the gates. The home was designed by John Horbury Hunt in 1888 with 55 rooms (including six bedrooms) over three storeys, with turrets, chimneys and gables galore. What a star!
Open to the public on open days only, and available for weddings.
Rippon Lea is a large nineteenth century mansion surrounded by a huge Victorian pleasure garden, listed on the National Heritage Register because it’s one of the finest examples of an original suburban estate in Australia. Amazingly, it’s only 20 minutes from Melbourne's city centre. There’s also a windmill, lookout tower, heritage orchard, lake, waterfall, fernery and – a far more modern – coffee shop.
Open to the public
May to August 10am – 4pm (Last entry 3.30pm)
September to April Gardens: 10am – 5pm (Last entry 4.30pm)
This place prides itself as Australia’s grandest rural colonial estate and, set in seven hectares of parklands on the banks of the South Esk River, it’s not hard to see why. The three-storey Georgian house, built in 1838, has servants’ quarters, a heritage garden, several farm buildings and a gorgeous avenue of elms. Entry to the estate includes the gardens; the Clarendon Fashion Collection with precious gowns from the 1830s to 1960s; and the Norfolk Plains Heritage Centre, which has a great photo collection.
Open to the public Tuesday – Sunday 10am– 4pm for tours and is also available for hire for special occasions and weddings.
A Victorian filigree-style mansion that really has to be seen to be believed, Woodbridge was built by newspaper proprietor Charles Harper in 1883. Every room still has items that once belonged to the Harper family too, including a two-metre, gilt-edged mirror, silver-embossed brushes and combs and hand-painted crockery produced especially for the family – in a home that really has all the bells and whistles: iron lacework, parquetry, polished jarrah, tessellated tile floors. You can wander around here and get a feel for the place, and there’s even a café on site.
Open to the public Thursday to Sunday 1pm to 4pm.
Jimbour is generally agreed to be the only true example of an English-style country mansion in Queensland, but while visitors are welcome to tour the magnificent grounds and gardens which are open daily for a donation, the home itself, built in the 1870s, is off-limits. That is, unless you get married here – you see, newlyweds can stay overnight in the mansion’s master suite.
Gardens open to the public daily.
Adelaide’s finest Victorian-era home, this spectacularly restored property is one of the last remaining grand nineteenth century residences that once lined the North Terrace, right in the heart of the city. This opulent family home entertained the cream of SA society for years and these days you too can party in style here. Ayers hosts exquisite weddings but if you’re not getting hitched, you can pop in an visit the museum. For history buffs, guided tours of the house are held hourly, and cost an additional $5 per person on top of the entry price.
Open to the public 10am-4pm, Tuesday-Sunday