Read our writer's views on this property below
Kate Nancarrow finds a quiet cottage retreat where adventure is just over the hill.
In my experience, feeling like you're in the middle of nowhere is far superior to actually being in the middle of nowhere. In the real middle of nowhere, there's peace and quiet - but there's never great food, wine, coffee, restaurants, markets or beaches nearby. And, as the Mornington Peninsula gets busier, finding the best of both worlds is hard. Gooseberry Hill Olive Grove and Cottage at Moorooduc manages the mix well, offering a quiet unfussy retreat with a deck overlooking nothing but water and olive groves, yet all within 10 minutes of everything.
Moorooduc, strictly speaking, isn't all that isolated - it's an hour from Melbourne - but it's easily overlooked in the rush to the peninsula's fancier playgrounds. And Gooseberry Hill Cottage itself is down a little track off the dirt-road end of Graydens Road in a small pocket wedged between the Devils Bend Reservoir and the golf course of the same name. Finding it on a dark and stormy night after a long week at work would be tricky but the owners kindly email comprehensive directions beforehand.
The cottage is a small cedar house set across the grounds from the olive grove owners' grander house. Facing different directions and separate enough to ensure privacy, there's no sense of being overlooked by anyone. The six-hectare mini-farm is surrounded by other similarly productive acreages.
Gooseberry Hill's 700 olive trees are set around the large lake-like dam that provides water for the gardens and trees, and the cottage sits on a rise staring out to the water and the olive grove - from the large deck, we don't see or hear a soul. The house has a home-like (rather than hotel-like) comfort that encourages a sink-in-and-stay feeling, perhaps with a a short walk around the corner to one of the Moorooduc Estate's monthly Sunday lunches or to the Jones Road Winery for brunch in its converted barn.
The cottage has been given a (gentle) French provincial makeover and pine walls have been limed or painted a soft white and there are natural materials throughout - wicker, timber, calico, cotton. The living and dining room has an efficient and easy-to-operate wood heater, as well as airconditioning for summer visitors. Sliding doors open to the large timber deck with a vine-clad verandah and pergola. The two bedrooms sit either side of the living room and have en suites.
I had planned to bring the husband, children and dog along and while all were welcome at Gooseberry Hill - even Bertie, the Westie - the child-friendly activities I'd thought of didn't work out. The glass-bottomed boat at Mornington has closed, the Dromana Drive-In has nothing kid-friendly and the McClelland Gallery is dismissed by the boys as "been there, done that". So, I take a friend instead and happily revert to adults-only fun that includes the ever-evolving Red Hill market, the charming La Petanque French restaurant around the corner, a visit to a seaglass jeweller at Mount Martha and a drop-in on Dame Elisabeth Murdoch's open day at Cruden Farm.
In between, we drink wine and cook a bit in the cottage's well-equipped kitchen, which has lovely glassware and crockery, a huge fridge-freezer and extras such as Tintin cups and saucers just for fun. The bedrooms look out on to the gardens and the main bedroom has sliding doors on to the verandah. It should be relaxing. But at night, the silence is deafening and the dark enveloping. But then the frogs start croaking. All over the world, frogs are disappearing, for reasons not quite clear. But not at Moorooduc.
Being a cynical city type, it crosses my mind that the owners - who have thought of providing everything I love - might just have added a sneaky frog soundtrack.
Gooseberry Hill Olive Grove and Cottage
Address 170 Graydens Road, Moorooduc
Bookings Phone 5978 8053 or 0402 331 685; see stayz.com.au/80789; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting there Moorooduc is about an hour's drive south of Melbourne, either via the Mornington Peninsula freeway or the EastLink tollway.
Cost From $180 a night. Dogs and children welcome.
Summary An individual cottage with stylish comfort that manages to mix isolation and peace with access to the Mornington Peninsula's attractions.
The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable.
All weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for by Traveller.