*January 2008 "World's Best"

Travel + Leisure Magazine (US) has featured Craig's in their "World's Best" issue for 2008 

* December 2007  "Made Up and Made Over"

Australian Traveller Magazine voted Craig's as one of the the best renovated and refurbished hotels for 2007/08.

The Age Wednesday August 9th, 2006

John's labour of love

Craig's Royal Hotel has been the scene of glittering social events in Ballarat as far back as 1865, when a group of visiting American Civil War officers waltzed blushing Ballarat belles around the hotel's ornately decorated ballroom at a subscription ball held in their honour.

Built in 1862 on the site of Bath's Hotel, Ballarat's first officially licensed pub, Craig's has been a goldfield icon since Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, slept in its ornately decorated rooms in 1867 and Dame Nellie Melba famously sang from its balcony in 1908.

Situated in Lydiard Street, one of Australia's most important heritage streetscapes, Craig's is nearing completion of a multi-million dollar restoration that has returned this grand colonial building to its former glory.

For owners John and Mary Finning, who purchased the hotel in 1999, the renovation has been a slow, painstaking yet exhilerating journey into the past. "We knew the building was historically important - for example, the Royal Commission into the Eureka Stockade uprising was held at the site. We felt it would be a crime to consider a contemporary renovation."

The fact that Craig's is located in Ballarat was equally important to the couple. "While Ballarat is already a significant tourist destination for both domestic and international visitors, its close proximity to Melbourne and Tullarmarine Airport means enormous future potential as a tourist destination," says John.

"Visitors are attracted by the city's fine colonial architecture. Even now, before the renovations are complete, we're finding that guests love to stay in the midst of the history that they travelled to Ballarat to see."

Renovation of 41 elegant suites and rooms bedecked with antiques and, with a touch of the 21st century, plasma televisions hidden inside classy cabinets, is complete. The lavish Melba suite regal mahogany bed; the Tower Suite has sweeping views across Lydiard Street, and the Oriental Suite boasts a an elaborately carved 600 year-old Chinese wedding bed.

Over the past 5 years, inappropriate reconstructions created during the past 50 to 60 years, such as lowered ceilings, have been removed, handmade brickwork restored and stunning archways and marble fireplaces uncovered.

"It has been a challenge to include contemporary mod cons like air conditioning and internet connections while retaining an historic setting," says John. While researching the hotel's renaissance, the couple toured some of Europe's most beautifully restored historic hotels, including French chateauxs, grand London hotels, an a magnificent former monastery in Florence designed by Michaelangelo and now a five-star hotel. "We wanted to get Craig's right," says John.

Transformed into a comprehensive hospitality venue, Craig's features several bars, including the original Craig's Bar restored to its 19th century grandeur, a coffee shop, five-star restaurant and conference facilities.

The hotel's public areas will re-open in October, with one of its first major functions a charity event being held in the same ornate ballroom visited by the Shenandoah officers 141 years ago.

When fully operational, more than 50 staff will be employed at Craig's in the areas of food, beverage, kitchen and housekeeping.

Applicants with experience in these areas who would like to further their careers in hospitality can email a CV to John at finning@craigsroyal.com.au.