The Spring-healing properties Pre-European settlement, Coonara Springs was significant to the native Woiworung, Bunurong and Taungurong clans, who gathered here on ‘neutral’ territory to nurse their wounded and sick in the healing waters of the natural spring , still located at the base of the property.
1893-present – over 100 years of history In 1893, the Dandenong Forest Village Settlement was established in this area, and an early selector built this Victorian homestead in anticipation of things to come.
By the early 20th century, The Dandenong Ranges had become a popular tourist destination for urban dwellers that were attracted by the cooler climate, fresh air, and of course the visual feast that accompanied each season. Australian landscape painter Arthur Streeton, and Prime Minister William ‘Billy’ Hughes, were among the notable Melbourne residents who established ‘weekenders’ in the hills.
In the 1920’s, two enterprising women, Mrs Faulds and Mrs Hall, started the Coonara Springs Tea Gardens and set-off a long tradition of hospitality on this property. A 1937 advertisement invites guests to enjoy the ‘quiet tranquillity of the beautiful scenic gardens’ with ‘Lilly-of-the-Valley growing en masse’. Morning and afternoon teas were served on the lawns or glass-enclosed balcony.
In the 1940’s, Coonara Springs was purchased by the well-known American opera singer Grace Angelau who continued to run the tea rooms as well as a nursery on site. Writing under her married name of Hutchinson, Grace was the food editor for The Argus newspaper and in the 1950’s she wrote fervently about exotic new additions to Australian cookery such as fish, herbs, garlic, rice…staples of our modern day diet that were not commonly used at the time.
Visitors to Coonara Springs from the 1960’s onwards are bound to remember the personable Mrs Bankin and her famous scones with homemade jam and clotted cream. Joyce Bankin made Coonara Springs a hills institution and introduced fine dining in the 1980’s. Her dishes included Turduken, Chestnut Soup, and Popovers, all prepared in the Aga that has been restored and converted to include as part of the journey to celebrate the past. Sadly Mrs Bankin passed away in 2003, and Coonara Springs was purchased by a Melbourne businessman who leased the property for ten years.
Newly Restored Enchanted by its history and potential, Sally and Adam Whitford purchased Coonara Springs in 2013. Recognising that the property was in a state of disrepair, Sally and Adam had a romantic vision to restore the property to its former glory and re-position Coonara Springs as the iconic dining destination it once used to be.
Over the past three years, Coonara Springs has been meticulously restored to celebrate its wonderful history and achieve modern appeal. This is reflected in the décor and artefacts including the restored Aga, old menus framed on the walls, original crystal hanging chandeliers, red brick open fireplaces and timber beams. These unique historical treasures have been subtly blended with modern, luxurious interior finishes resulting in an intimate and refined dining experience.
In addition, the 7 acre gardens have been magnificently redeveloped to showcase the Edna Walling inspired intricacies and reclaim the fame once recognised by these breathtaking gardens.