With a plethora of town and country accommodation choices, Victoria has the short break sewn up.
LON RETREAT & SPA
25 Gill Rd, Point Lonsdale; (03) 5258 2990; lonretreat.com.au
THE LOCATION Set amid 81 hectares of rural farmland right on Port Phillip Bay in sleepy Point Lonsdale, this windswept coastal property has been in the same family for seven generations.
THE PLACE A stay at Lon is like visiting a fabulously stylish, discreetly minted friend's upscale holiday house. The place used to be a B&B run by owner Claire Gemes' parents, but the former accountant has achieved her 20-year dream of transforming the family home into an understated luxury retreat. Seven individually designed suites and an on-site spa make this a decadent experience for grown-ups only – all guests must be over 16.
THE EXPERIENCE The stylish, beachy interior is like a warm hug, with golden sandstone and luxe furnishings throughout. A variety of local artisans are championed around the place, including Annie's Kitchen breakfast packs and crisp Cultiver linens. The property's spa is open to the public from Wednesday to Saturday, offering a range of indulgent Subtle Energies treatments, from massages to mud-wraps, in three private rooms. The best part? A natural mineral spring runs beneath the farm and its healing waters are pumped into a lush indoor pool, as well as directly into baths in the two flagship suites, Cumulus and Alto.
DON'T MISS The Bellarine Peninsula is emerging as a gourmet destination to rival Mornington, over the ditch. Check out nearby dining options such as Merne at Lighthouse, Jack Rabbit, the buzzing Whiskery gin bar, the charming Little Mussel Cafe or the Curlewis Winery cellar door – a friendly hidden gem.
IDEAL FOR Those who fancy blissing out at Victoria's newest design hotspot.
FROM $395 a night; minimum two-night stay. Michael Harry
UNITED PLACES BOTANIC GARDENS
157 Domain Rd, South Yarra; (03) 9866 6467; unitedplaces.com.au
United Places Botanic Gardens. Photo: Supplied
THE LOCATION This is the newest, coolest kid on the block, directly opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens. It may, in fact, be the newest, coolest kid on any block in Australia's capital of cool.
THE PLACE A 12-suite, no-expense- or accoutrement-spared apartment hotel inside a discreetly modern building, United Places bills itself as "a new concept in boutique accommodation" and boasts a tariff to match. Indeed, there are "butlers" to greet and serve you on arrival in a long, narrow, slightly forbidding entrance – intended as tribute to Melbourne's famous laneways – and then personally escort you to the rooms.
THE EXPERIENCE It's really all about the hip, designer furniture-festooned rooms (and the garden outlook on the Domain Road side of the hotel). Inside them are plush, auto-operated velvet curtains, French bed linen, exclusive toiletries by Le Labo and a bottle of Tasmania's Sullivan's Cove Whisky as part of the curated minibar offering. Pre-ordered, designer breakfast platters come direct from Matilda 159 Domain, the hotel's almost-in-house restaurant.
DON'T MISS Located in the same building, chef Scott Pickett's lauded Matilda 159 Domain restaurant (named after Pickett's daughter), serves edgy, yet simple dishes cooked over an open fire and hot coals, in a lively setting.
IDEAL FOR Cashed-up creatives with a foodie bent.
FROM $650 a night. Anthony Dennis
RACV CAPE SCHANCK RESORT
Trent Jones Dr, Cape Schanck; (03) 5950 8000; racv.com.au
The RACV Cape Schanck Resort features a warm, salted relaxation pool. Photo: Supplied
THE LOCATION This sleek new addition to the Mornington Peninsula is like a lighthouse reimagined with a few hundred guestrooms. Perched high on the coast, take your pick between duelling views of Port Phillip Bay or the wilds of Bass Strait.
THE PLACE The view, along with the building's curvaceous, rust-red exterior, will be an Instagram favourite and the rooms are comfortable but still in the practical RACV resort style. The Lighthouse Bar is the communal heart of the place, where people meet for dinner or to dissect a day on the golf course.
THE EXPERIENCE Come here for exec chef Josh Pelham's creative takes on local produce at signature restaurant, The Cape. You can find dishes such as a citrus-cured ocean trout with daikon radish, avocado, finger lime and shiso or a tangy cheesecake featuring goat's cheese from nearby Main Ridge with blueberry meringue and sorbet, rosemary and Peninsula honey. If it's golf you're after, there's the Trent Jones snr-designed course and a huge pro shop. The resort's spa features a warm, salted relaxation pool. Families are well catered for, with games rooms, a casual pizzeria and huge swimming pool.
DON'T MISS A walk out to the Cape Schanck Lighthouse in the Mornington Peninsula National Park along the wave-battered, black-rock coast. You can also explore the neighbouring beachside towns of Rosebud and Flinders, or visit the Bass and Flinders distillery for a gin using indigenous ingredients.
IDEAL FOR Everyone, really, but foodies will love The Cape.
From $304 a night for non-RACV members, from $228 a night for members. Paul Chai
MOUNT OPHIR ESTATE
168 Stillards Ln, Rutherglen; (02) 6035 2222; mountophirestate.com.au
Mount Ophir Estate. Photo: Supplied
THE LOCATION Gold-rush town Rutherglen is exactly halfway between Canberra and Melbourne, the main street a mix of the best old-school bakeries and city-standard wine bars. Famous for its durif, shiraz and muscat, Rutherglen is also breaking new ground with excellent sangiovese and rosé styles.
THE PLACE A tower for two in a century-old French provincial-style winery – if you can't get romantic at Mount Ophir, there's no hope. The interiors are slick and the surrounds are pure Australian, all rolling vineyards and flocks of sheep.
THE EXPERIENCE The slimline, three-storey tower occupies one corner of the 115-year-old winery. For an Alice in Wonderland flashback, open the shiny black front door to the kitchen-diner, then climb a spiral staircase up to the lounge, where there's a vintage typewriter, TV and library of must-reads, then up more steps to the bedroom and bathroom at the top. Devise a game plan, so you're not scampering up and down all night with bottles of wine tucked under your arm.
DON'T MISS A shopping session at Rutherglen's cellar doors. Then stock up on great local antipasti, cheeses and your new best friend, smoked butter, at the Indigo Food Co's produce store in All Saints Estate at nearby Wagunyah.
IDEAL FOR Romantic gourmands.
From $550 a night, including a bottle of wine and continental breakfast provisions; minimum two-night stay. Belinda Jackson
ROYAL MAIL HOTEL
98 Parker St, Dunkeld; (03) 5577 2241; royalmail.com.au
Royal Mail Hotel. Photo: Emily Weaving
THE LOCATION Dunkeld is at the southern end of the Grampians National Park, about 270 kilometres due west of the CBD. There's something about driving a few hours away from Melbourne that makes for a richer getaway: the air is cleaner, the sky bigger, the birds louder – and yes, the flies more insistent.
THE PLACE Go to the Royal Mail for its degustation restaurant, Wickens, and be pleasantly surprised by its other amenities, most particularly its pool and its 40 simple but spacious rooms. Owned by Melbourne silk Allan Myers QC, the hotel has had foodie cred since the early 2000s. But being in the Grampians – all rock escarpments and gumtrees – is an equal part of its charm.
THE EXPERIENCE The Wickens dining room must be one of the nicest in the country, with floor-toceiling windows offering views to Mounts Sturgeon and Abrupt. Windows into the kitchen, meanwhile, allow diners to watch chef Robin Wickens and his team work on your five-course ($160 a person) or eight-course ($195) meal. For $25, you can book a half-hour tour of Myers' 28,000-strong wine cellar, with its famed collection of burgundies and bordeaux. If you have another 45 minutes spare, you can also tour the extensive kitchen garden.
DON'T MISS Climb Mount Abrupt for an incredible, 360-degree view of the Grampians and surrounding Western District farmland. Set aside 2½ hours; it's worth it.
FROM $180 a night. Katrina Strickland
2335 Old Sydney Rd, Mickleham; 1300 105 718; marnongestate.com.au
Marnong Estate. Photo: Mike Semple
THE LOCATION Just 15 minutes' drive from Melbourne Airport, Marnong's bluestone homestead on 445 hectares was once home to Victorian pastoralist, politician and philanthropist William Angliss.
THE PLACE Part of a $35 million conversion includes a stylish, four-suite hotel: take a single room or take the lot for one big house party. Decked out in moody charcoal and spotless white, with claw-foot bathtubs and hidden minibars, the spacious rooms are complemented by a lounge and well-equipped kitchen. The restaurant addition is a new build – all glass and timber, angled with its back to the city to capture vast pastoral views.
THE EXPERIENCE Make like the laird of the land and cast an eye over Marnong's vineyards and healthy herd of Angus cattle, not to mention the pet camel, donkey and herd of goats. Chef Matt Coates was poached from the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour and he's been dry-ageing steaks like a man possessed. The Bankvale Run restaurant's signature "1000 Guineas" scotch fillet is hung over Himalayan salt bricks for up to six weeks. If you're hard core, order the one-kilo tomahawk and pair it with Marnong's own shiraz. You could forego the continental breakfast in your room for a slap-up here with the usual suspects: eggs, avocado, espresso, champagne …
DON'T MISS A sunset drink in the Bankvale Run, with unexpectedly expansive views out to the Macedon Ranges. The staff can hook you up with winemakers in the cool, dry Sunbury wine region, which was established in the 1860s but makes an art form of flying under the radar.
IDEAL FOR Steak lovers and fans of twee-free country style.
FROM $395 a night at weekends; including continental breakfast. Belinda Jackson
166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North; (03) 5931 2500; jackalopehotels.com
Try for a room that overlooks the vines. Photo: Supplied
THE LOCATION An hour's drive south of Melbourne in the Mornington Peninsula's rolling farmland lies this boutique luxury hotel, which is set on a vineyard and opened in early 2017.
THE PLACE Beyond the giant Emily Floyd sculpture of a – you guessed it – jackalope, this hotel has 45 rooms, or as it likes to call them, "designer dens", which ooze minimalist chic thanks to their black and grey palette, Hunter bathroom products and focus on clean lines. Don't forget to plunge into the pool (black, naturally) – preferably as the sun is setting. There's a popular bar and two restaurants to choose from: Doot Doot Doot, which offers an upmarket degustation menu and has arguably the best chandelier in the hospitality game; and Rare Hare, a family-friendly bistro.
THE EXPERIENCE The options range from peak buzz to peak tranquillity, depending on whether you want to dine in one of the restaurants, both of which are very good, or simply hang out on your balcony, sipping champagne. Staff are super-nice, and the room price includes breakfast, minibar, Wi-Fi and on-demand movies.
DON'T MISS The pool bar, which has live music over summer. The nearby Point Leo Estate is worth a swing by, too, for both its sculpture park and restaurants run by Rockpool alumni Phil Wood.
FROM $675 a night; minimum two-night stay on weekends. Katrina Strickland
LINDENDERRY AT RED HILL
142 Arthurs Seat Rd, Red Hill; (03) 5989 2933; lancemore.com.au
Lindenderry at Red Hill. Photo: Supplied
THE LOCATION This country-house getaway on the Mornington Peninsula is worthy of a BBC period drama.
THE PLACE The established 20-year-old hotel has had a major makeover from design gurus Hecker Guthrie. The multi-winged building has been subtly renovated with soft, muted tones and polished finishes. Forty guest rooms are linked by shared relaxation zones: libraries with overstuffed couches and roaring fireplaces, a billiards room and an expansive indoor pool.
THE EXPERIENCE Popular with wedding parties and canoodling couples, the traditional rooms have been smartly updated, and many offer sweeping views of the property's lavish grounds, all 14 hectares of them. It's worth taking a stroll around, past the lawn tennis courts and private lake. There's a fine-dining restaurant, The Dining Room, helmed by chef Paul Witherington.
DON'T MISS Red Hill, in the Mornington Peninsula hinterland, is prime wine-tasting territory.
IDEAL FOR An old-school romantic getaway in the vineyards.
FROM $320 a night; minimum two-night stay during some peak periods. Michael Harry
PAN PACIFIC MELBOURNE
2 Convention Centre Pl, South Wharf; (03) 9027 2000; panpacific.com
Pan Pacific Melbourne. Photo: Adam Bruzzone
THE LOCATION A river runs through it. Sure. But until recent times, the average visitor to Melbourne could be forgiven for overlooking the city's unfairly maligned Yarra, beside which, at South Wharf, the Pan Pacific Melbourne resides. That'd be a mistake, since this part of town has a lively riverside restaurant and bar scene.
THE PLACE This eight-year-old, 396-room establishment unveiled a multimillion-dollar makeover earlier this year. Its new colour scheme of whites, blues and greys better references the adjacent South Wharf precinct's abundant maritime heritage.
THE EXPERIENCE Largely unimpeded by surrounding highrise buildings, east-facing rooms deliver knockout views, especially by night, of the Yarra and the city skyline, all the way down to Flinders Street Station and beyond. Each of the hotel's sizeable tarted-up rooms has been repainted, re-carpeted and kitted out with chic new desk lamps, armchairs, ottomans and side tables. Elsewhere, the hotel plans to open a rooftop bar on its 20th floor to further exploit those city and river panoramas.
DON'T MISS It can be worth paying a bit extra to gain access to the hotel's level four Pacific Club Lounge, where house guests can relax in surrounds reminiscent of an airline business class lounge.
IDEAL FOR Interstate visitors and Victorian staycationers alike.
FROM $289 a night. Anthony Dennis
CLIFFTOP AT HEPBURN
209 Main Rd, Hepburn; 1300 112 114; clifftopathepburn.com.au
Pamper yourself at Clifftop. Photo: Martina Gemmola
THE LOCATION This handful of modern villas and creatively repurposed shipping containers lines the main road through Hepburn, 90 minutes' drive northwest of Melbourne.
THE PLACE From the outside, the villas are a raw mix of rust and concrete, crushed rock and blasted wood, in contrast to beaming hardwood floors, polished stone benches and understated furniture inside. All villas feature floor-to-ceiling windows, which drink in northern light and overlook a stunning deep gorge.
THE EXPERIENCE Staying at Clifftop is an immersion in luxury and nature, from the cowhide on the floor to the wattles and gums in Spring Creek valley below. The accommodation has tech comforts, too, from Wi-Fi and one-touch heating to an arcade console with limitless retro games (and massage chair). Warm up during winter at the "Tranquility" villa in one of two deep baths (including a twin spa), rinse together under side-by-side shower heads, rug up and head to the daybed on the cliff-top deck, or just sit by the cocoon-style Coonara while a fire crackles.
DON'T MISS Pamper yourself at the nearby hot springs, walk the scenic Dry Diggings Track, or quench your thirst at one of the local spigots of mineral water.
IDEAL FOR Couples on a romantic getaway (although the two-bedroom Tranquility offers added flexibility).
FROM $483 a night; minimum two-night stay. Konrad Marshall
Tidal River, Wilson's Promontory National Park; 131 963; wildernessretreats.com.au
Wilderness Retreat tent accommodation. Photo: Philip Game
THE LOCATION The property sits 200 kilometres from Melbourne but feels somehow more remote, perhaps because it's on the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, deep inside Wilson's Promontory National Park.
THE PLACE The retreats are set away from the dirt tracks that wend through this park, meaning you won't be bothered by camping schoolkids or surfers' shanties. Instead you're free to rest inside an elevated "tent" – with wood floors, queen bed (and single rollout bed), mini fridge, and ensuite with shower. A communal kitchen and barbecue area is there for prepping meals, before retiring to your private deck to toast the serenity.
THE EXPERIENCE The rooms are excellent, but what's outside is better. Wander at night, and spotlight a wombat or six. Stroll through Lilly Pilly Gully, eyes open for emus. Take the sandy path to Norman Bay, jump on a wave, and surf to shore with a seal. The sky seems bigger at "The Prom" and the retreats are the perfect base for exploring that horizon.
DON'T MISS You won't regret a short sunrise/sunset hike to the peak of Mount Oberon. On the way home, stop at the Fish Creek Hotel and ask the publican for the story behind the famous "stunned mullet" sculpture that sits atop the art deco pub.
IDEAL FOR Couples (or small families) seeking some comfortable camping.
FROM $325 a night; minimum two-night stay. Konrad Marshall