WHEN you live in what you feel is the prettiest town in the country, it is surprising to find another town that could claim that title.
Leura in the Blue Mountains is the most attractive town we've visited in Australia outside our own: Noosa.
When you think your own town is unparalleled in the beauty stakes, this comes as quite the shock. Leafy, with an abundance of flora we don't see in the tropics - think dazzling displays of tulips and flashy shows of rhododendrons - Leura is a palette of striking colours at this time of year.
Apart from the alluring gardens all over the shire, much of the action centres around The Mall, Leura's main street.
The Mall is no shopping mall, rather a leafy strip of boutique shops, glamorous galleries, award-winning restaurants and cafes with vibe.
Down the centre length of The Mall run flourishing cherry blossom trees. See what we mean about pretty?
Leura's enchanting shops and stylish galleries with their tempting wares, reminded us of those in Carmel in California, a town favoured by celebrities for its unique take on pretty.
A discovery that delighted us as much as the beautiful gardens and galleries was Bygone Beautys, a quaint tearoom serving time-honoured high tea, and home to the world's largest private collection of teapots.
From the traditional to the quirky there is a teapot here you will have to claim as your own. In our case, a red dazzler complete with extravagantly coloured feathered bird perched on its lid.
Fortunately, many of the teapots are for sale. Bygone Beautys also has a prodigious assortment of antiques and collectables as well as beautiful quality gifts. Set aside hours for a visit to this beauty of a bygone era.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to excellent restaurants serving beautiful produce and local wines.
We loved Leura Garage, once the site of a garage/workshop, now carefully converted into a restaurant so hip, savvy Sydneysiders happily make the trip for a lunch of antipasti featuring Serrano ham cut before them on a restored 60-year-old continental slicer.
Within easy walking distance to everything that is so good and attractive in Leura is Varenna, a lovingly restored three-bedroom Edwardian home.
In 1800 square metres of manicured gardens it is up-to-the-minute luxurious and cleverly combines old world charm (think four poster beds, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, rose petal pink walls) with modern comforts.
Varenna is the perfect base to discover all of Leura, and has room aplenty with its self-contained kitchen and old-world living and dining room.
The gardens work wonderfully for wedding receptions, especially with a pretty church next door.
Leura is the ultimate escape from Queensland's steamy summer weather.
You'll feel as though you've stepped into another more refined world.
A mini-break becomes a long holiday, a long holiday becomes a lifetime memory.
- Varenna is one of four historic homes in Leura and Katoomba under the Mountain Whispers range; mountainwhispers.com.au
- Bygone Beautys is open 7 days a week for traditional high teas and purchases; bygonebeautys.com.au
- The Leura Garden Festival runs until October 13 but the gardens are beautiful all year round.
- If you can tear yourself away from Leura, a hop-on, hop-off trolley bus will take you from Leura to Katoomba, stopping at 29 attractions along the route. An all-day ticket costs $25; trolleytours.com.au
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