Great escapes: Victoria's best weekends away

From city staycations to a plethora of chic country and coastal retreats, Victorians looking for a short break are spoilt for choice.

THE CHURCH HOUSE

25 Wirilda Way, Fish Creek; 0413 940 501; Thechurchhouse.com.au

THE LOCATION Fish Creek, about 2½ hours' drive south-east of Melbourne, is the gateway to Wilsons Promontory. "The Prom", as it's known, is the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, reached by a snaking road that passes secluded bays full of granite boulders, vertiginous lookouts across Bass Strait and emus in the wild. It can be busy around the hub of Tidal River, but there are enough walks and vantage points for everyone – trek to Tongue Point to ditch some of the day-trippers.

THE PLACE The Church House is a 19th-century wooden Anglican church that was saved from demolition in Melbourne and rebuilt on the crest of a hill by hosts Mary and Peter Reidel – and if this sounds like an episode of Grand Designs, that's because it was. The Church House is a passion project with original wood inlaid into the stone floor, work from local artists on the walls and a church pulpit (now a cubby for the grandkids) on display. Mary's former life as an interior designer has produced an engaging interior, from the centrepiece silk lamp by Venetian design house Mariano Fortuny to the hand-painted silk wallpaper in the signature Chinoiserie Suite.

THE EXPERIENCE This stay could be about the building or interiors, but it's really about food. The Church House sits on a hill of plenty, with artichokes lining the outdoor deck, a diverse orchard and a kitchen garden brimming with seasonal vegetables. There are pickles and jams and a cellar full of home-made salumi and local wine. Passionate home cooks and natural-born hosts Peter and Mary enter their enviably large kitchen and turn out whatever is to hand, such as canapés of artichokes topped with their own pancetta or a duck salad. This is a foodie experience with negligible food miles.

DON'T MISS The play of light across the surrounding hills of the Hoddle Ranges in the afternoon as the sun leaps from hilltop to hilltop. Watch it through the church's arched windows with a glass of pinot grigio from the neighbouring Waratah Hills Vineyard.

IDEAL FOR Foodies up for the ultimate paddock-to-plate experience. - Paul Chai

$495 a night for Chinoiserie Suite.

Tony Ellwood.

Photo: Luis Enrique

My favourite getaway: National Gallery of Victoria director Tony Ellwood reveals his destination of choice for a rapid recharge.  
 

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THE LAKE HOUSE

4 King Street, Daylesford; (03) 5348 3329; Lakehouse.com.au

The Lake House, Daylesford, Victoria.

The Lake House, Daylesford.

THE LOCATION Just 80 minutes from Melbourne, Daylesford gives good country escape. City slickers needn't fret about their caffeine fix: there are plenty of cute cafes for macchiato and smashed avo toast, plus quirky galleries and quality bookshops. Heritage townships, hikes through the forest and healing mineral springs are all within easy reach.

THE PLACE It started as a restaurant but Alla Wolf-Tasker's The Lake House has blossomed into a full-blown gourmet retreat, with its own cooking school and 30 rooms scattered through the 2½ hectares of country gardens. The light-filled Waterfront Suites are hard to resist, with their textural fabrics, original artworks and couches to curl up on.

THE EXPERIENCE A stay at The Lake House is a feast for the senses. Morning mist draped over the lake; vases filled with sweetly scented blooms; velvet sofas; eye-catching canvases by Alla's husband, Allan. Above all, it's about tempting your tastebuds. The seasonally driven menus draw inspiration from across the globe: visitors might opt for a tempura of Moreton Bay bugs in nori, spiked with hits of coriander, chilli and wasabi, or local smoked eel wrapped in pancetta. The wine list is equally impressive: ask to take a peek at the cellar, which holds 12,000 bottles.

DON'T MISS A session in the Salus Spa, surrounded by leafy treetops, is the ultimate Lake House indulgence. Before that, enjoy a mineral-rich soak in one of the tubs overlooking the lake.

IDEAL FOR Food fans and bon vivants. - Ute Junker 

From $500 a person for a Waterfront Suite, three-course dinner in the restaurant, and breakfast. Two-night minimum stay.

KYNETON OLD RECTORY

61 Ebden Street, Kyneton; 0439 867 480; Kynetonoldrectory.com.au

Kyneton Old Rectory, Victoria.

Kyneton Old Rectory. Photo: Supplied

THE LOCATION Kyneton, just over an hour north-west of Melbourne by train or car, is a country town on the rise thanks to its food and wine offerings and those of the nearby Macedon Ranges. It also holds its history close, evidenced in buildings like this and its position as a centre for lost trades, with artisans such as chair maker Glenn Rundell calling Kyneton home.

THE PLACE The Old Rectory is the oldest house in Kyneton and one of the oldest in Victoria, but it has one of the smartest and most recent renovations. The update is in keeping with the building's Georgian and Victorian influences, with beautiful antique furniture in the living room and bedrooms, and each of the three bedrooms boasts a modern – and vast – bathroom.

THE EXPERIENCE The interior is sublime, as is what's outside. An avenue of crab apple trees walks visitors to the front door located on a large verandah draped by wisteria. The gardens stretch over almost 2000 square metres, hedged to make separate secret and sunken spaces, and to the north a 160-year-old walnut tree sits in the centre of emerald lawns. There are no end of options for dining outside or relaxing with a local wine. Breakfast is supplied and a chef is available for meals at an extra charge.

DON'T MISS Eating across the road at Midnight Starling or Source Dining, a pair of innovative and highly rated restaurants.

IDEAL FOR Couples, food, wine and garden enthusiasts. - Jim Darby

Whole house from $1500 a night for up to six adults (18 and over). Two-night minimum stay on weekends, three nights on long weekends.

THE DACHA

402 Morses Creek Road, Bright; 0428 602 302; Thedacha.com.au

Dacha, Bright, Victoria.

Dacha, Bright. Photo: Supplied

THE LOCATION Tucked away in the Wandiligong Valley, 4½ kilometres from Bright, in the foothills of the Victorian Alps, The Dacha looks out onto rolling hills and lofty mountains. It is perfect for those searching to chill and reconnect with nature, with the assurance that good coffee and gourmet dining are but a short drive away. Wandiligong village has a population of about 250 (not including dogs), while Bright is known for its cafes, restaurants, wine bars and shops.

THE PLACE Catering for up to six, the luxurious self-contained three-bedroom, three-ensuite house features a well-equipped kitchen, perfect for whipping up a feast of local produce, and a spacious living area with comfy couches. Children can be accommodated in twin beds.

THE EXPERIENCE Bathe in a tub with mountain views while being serenaded by birds, snooze on the couch in front of the fire, or sip a local drop on the deck overlooking Mystic Mountain – a paragliders' haunt – while listening to the babbling Morses Creek as it runs by. Further afield, nibble on Milawa cheeses, Mount Buffalo olives and other treats at Feathertop Winery overlooking manicured vines, and later enjoy a lively chat with locals at the revamped Porepunkah pub.

DON'T MISS Cycle part of the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail, a 92-kilometre sealed bike path almost at your doorstep, from Wandiligong to Wangaratta. Wandiligong stages a nut festival every May as part of the Bright Autumn Festival, and the Mount Buffalo National Park offers bushwalking and guided walks.

IDEAL FOR Country explorers and family flocks. - Sue Wallace

From $320 a night for two guests. Two-night minimum stay.

MOORABINDA LODGE

129 Olinda-Monbulk Road, Olinda; 1300 488 448; Valleyrangesgetaways.com.au.

Moorabinda Lodge, Olinda, Victoria.

Moorabinda Lodge, Olinda. Photo: Supplied

THE LOCATION This small town in the Dandenong Ranges, an hour's drive east of Melbourne, is a great base to explore the winding roads (through mountain ash trees and fern-fringed forest), curated English gardens and farm-gate produce. Well known as a family fun spot where you can ride the steam train Puffing Billy, the Dandenongs also offers a foodie trail with modern Argentinean diners or brunch at Piggery Cafe, owned by Shannon Bennett (Vue du Monde).

THE PLACE A former family home designed by renowned architect Robin Boyd, a champion of epic windows showcasing the outdoors, Moorabinda Lodge is a glass temple built in reverence to the sweeping Yarra Valley views. The changing light plays in widescreen across the two bedrooms, the Aga-dominated kitchen, long dining table and lounge. The kids' bedroom sleeps four, the luckiest in a rooftop cubby bed.

THE EXPERIENCE Moorabinda Lodge is owned by neighbouring Coonara Springs restaurant, so just open the gate and cross the lane to dine out with chef Adrian Upward. Dishes might include a prawn tian or a dessert of rhubarb and liquorice mousse – and there is no need to Uber home. Chef Adrian also fills the fridge with house-made delights like smoked bacon, smoked salmon and sausages – so that's breakfast sorted as the light show over the Yarra Valley starts all over again.

DON'T MISS Sunrise. The property is at its best as the sun fills the rooms with pale morning light and long shadows.

IDEAL FOR Architecture buffs who want to experience Boyd's visionary style. - Paul Chai

From $360 a night for two; $460 a night for four.

JACKALOPE

​ 66 Balnarring Road, Merricks North; (03) 5931 2500; Jackalopehotels.com

Jackalope, Merricks North, Victoria.

Jackalope, Merricks North.

THE LOCATION Merricks North, an hour out of Melbourne, has Red Hill one way and Balnarring the other. Expect signature rolling hills, pine tree windbreaks, gum trees and world-famous vineyards.

THE PLACE Dramatic black structures centre around a small working winery, an historic homestead, a 30-metre heated infinity pool and a hot tub, and all enjoy spectacular 360-degree rolling vineyard views. Interiors and exteriors benfit from the owners' attention to detail, much of it dazzling, from the massive jackalope sculpture (it's a mythical horned jackrabbit) in the equally big entrance piazza to little statements such as the beautiful black pencils on the desks.

THE EXPERIENCE Dark, neon strip-lit hallways lead to 46 rooms, with three different interiors, understated and calm in bronze or silver and black, while the two blingtastic premium "lairs" feature black marble and shiny gold with a jet fireplace and a giant Japanese stone tub all fronted by a huge terrace. The real treats, though, are those incredible vistas – and the food. Executive chef Guy Stanaway has some splendid offerings in both the casual cellar-door restaurant, Rare Hare, and the fine diner, Doot Doot Doot. The hotel's bar, Flaggerdoot, is a kooky, fun space with surrealist decorations.

DON'T MISS Dining at Doot Doot Doot. While great food abounds in the area, Stanaway's combinations of technique, texture, presentation and ingredients are magic and the wine list is superb. The included breakfast is a treat, too.

IDEAL FOR A good old-fashioned dirty weekend? It's all rather sexy. - Julietta Jamerson 

From $650 a night. Two-night minimum stay.

VANTAGE POINT

15 Summerhills Avenue, Lorne; 0400 544 925 www.stayz.com.au

Vantage Point, Lorne, Victoria.

Vantage Point, Lorne. Photo: Supplied

THE LOCATION The town of Lorne is a beachside beauty at the start of the Great Ocean Road, two hours drive south-west of Melbourne, that attracts surfers, families and beachcombers. It's also on the doorstep of the waterfalls, forests and ferns of the Cape Otway National Park.

THE PLACE Set in the nosebleed section of Lorne's steep hillside, Vantage Point is an angular wooden creation where every room strains to offer a beach view. The house spills down the slope, with the reading room at the apex, the main living space, balcony and bedroom next, and three more bedrooms and a games room at the bottom.

THE EXPERIENCE While only minutes from Lorne's busy cafes and eateries, there may as well be a sign saying "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here", because this property is too good to leave. Hit Lorne Foodworks to stock up on fresh seafood, local cheeses and craft brews, and then kick back. The success of a self-catered stay can live or die on how quickly you feel at home, and with attention to detail like a packed board games cupboard and an easy-to-use Bose stereo, Vantage Point makes homey easy.

DON'T MISS Lunch at the Wye Beach Hotel, 25 minutes away. Perch on the balcony under the watchful eye of the pub's wooden mermaid and tuck into some great pub food.

IDEAL FOR Those after an instant home away from home. - Paul Chai

From $750 a night. Minimum two-night stay.

MELETOS

12 St Huberts Road, Coldstream; (03) 8727 3030; Meletos.com

Meletos Farmhouse, Yarra Valley.

Meletos Farmhouse, Yarra Valley. Photo: Ben Frazer

THE LOCATION An hour north of Melbourne in the Yarra Valley, home to wineries, orchards and breweries all overlooked by the glorious Great Dividing Range.

THE PLACE A formal entrance via a small sitting nook at The Farmhouse at Meletos leads to a charming lounge furnished with leather chesterfields nestling in front of a vast fire – where, in colder months, the smell of hot chocolate tempts new guests. It's part of a two-year-old precinct of lodgings, cafe and providore spaces with a photo-perfect backdrop. The 23 guest rooms are spacious and blessed with far-reaching views across vines and lawns to the mountains; the top-floor rooms, with their fine wrought iron-framed balconies plus views, are the ones to book.

THE EXPERIENCE There's a sense of Tuscany gently colliding with pared-back Australian style in this collection of old farm buildings. A sprinkling of Indonesian influences provides extra colour and texture, especially in the adjoining providore space, where locally made products can be bought. Manicured gardens feature old crab-apple trees and shady eating nooks. The lounge area is where friendship rituals, short and sweet, happen.

DON'T MISS Wine maker Domaine Chandon will open its new tasting room in November. Or visit Hanrahan Winery, where Otis the wine dog keeps a beady eye on the pinot noir.

IDEAL FOR Couples exploring the Yarra Valley's wineries and art galleries. - Ralph Bestic 

From $500 a night.

ROYAL MAIL HOTEL

98 Parker Street, Dunkeld; (03) 5577 2241; Royalmail.com.au

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria.

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld. Photo: Supplied

THE LOCATION Dunkeld (population 460), about three hours west of Melbourne, is best approached from the south as an extension to a Great Ocean Road adventure or from the north following exploration of the Grampians. The Royal Mail is about the only show in town (the Arboretum is nice) and one in five locals work there.

THE PLACE The comfortable, modern and spacious rooms overlook Mount Sturgeon and given you've come for the fine-dining experience, the easy stroll back to your room is a plus. You can always work it off on nearby hiking trails, or rock climbing amid waterfalls and spring wildflowers, and then put it all back on again at excellent cool-climate wineries.

THE EXPERIENCE It's really all about the restaurant, which was awarded two hats in The Age Good Food Guide three years in a row. Rebranded post-renovation as "Wickens at the Royal Mail Hotel", the legendary five- and eight-course degustation dinners remain. Splurge on the French Collection wine-matching – you won't regret it. A perfect pre-dinner aperitif is the wine tour, featuring the 28,000-bottle cellar, tastings and the erudition of sommelier Matthew Lance.

DON'T MISS The chef-led daily tour of the organic kitchen gardens. You'll find fruit and veg, herbs and edible flowers, and ducks patrolling for slugs and snails.

IDEAL FOR Couples or groups seeking a unique and secluded epicurean adventure. - Mal Chenu.

$325 a night for twin apartments. Dinner from $260 a person.

TREASURY ON COLLINS

394 Collins Street, Melbourne; (03) 8535 8535; Treasuryoncollins.com.au

Treasury on Collins.

Treasury on Collins. Photo: Darren Henderson

THE LOCATION The 95-room hotel is inside an historic 19th-century building with a near-perfect location on bustling Collins Street. And being within the CBD fare-free tram zone means no pass is required if you stay within its limits. It's also close to the main department stores and retail outlets, renowned restaurants, cafes, bars and famed laneways. Until recently, it operated as the Sebel Hotel. 

THE PLACE Erected in 1876 as a two-storey neoclassical-style building, three further floors were added in 1930. The building's soaring ceilings – a legacy of its 19th-century heritage – allow for plenty of space and split-level rooms, with apartments starting at around 40 square metres.

THE EXPERIENCE A Nespresso machine in most rooms along with Netflix access and gratis Wi-Fi make things homely. Breakfast is served on the mezzanine level but you may want to head out and experience Melbourne's celebrated laneway cafe culture.

DON'T MISS The historic building in which the hotel operates is an attraction in its own right. Grab a copy of the excellent self-guided tour of the fascinating structure.

IDEAL FOR Catching a special show, exhibition or event in the city. Please note, children may not be allowed to stay in some spaces due to steep stairs. - Anthony Dennis

Doubles from $228 a night. Two-night minimum stay for weekends and special events.

PROVENANCE

86 Ford Street, Beechworth; (03) 5728 1786; Theprovenance.com.au

Provenance, Beechworth, Victoria.

Provenance, Beechworth. Photo: Erin Hartwig

THE LOCATION Ned Kelly's old stomping ground, Beechworth, about three hours' drive from Melbourne and 40 minutes from Albury, is a former gold-mining town that has retained its charm – more than 30 National Trust classified buildings with grand facades stand proud. It's a great haunt for foodies, history lovers and city dwellers in need of a country fix.

THE PLACE Formerly the stables and carriageway belonging to the Bank of Australasia, constructed in 1856, the four deluxe suites face a shady courtyard amid a pretty cottage garden in the heart of town. They feature oriental touches, spa baths and double showers.

THE EXPERIENCE Dine at Provenance restaurant where owner-chef Michael Ryan has collected two chef's hats for the past six years in The Age Good Food Guide (plus the 2013 Chef of the Year gong) and his partner, winemaker Jeanette Henderson, has taken accolades for best regional wine list. The cellar is housed in the old vault. The menu, which is strong on local produce, often has a Japanese flavour and there's an excellent sake menu. Beer lovers will be delighted to strike gold with brews at Bridge Road Brewers – back in the 1860s there were 61 ale houses catering for 20,000 gold seekers.

DON'T MISS BYO bicycle or hire one for an exhilarating 16-kilometre downhill ride from Beechworth to Everton – but arrange a pick up at the other end unless you're a serious cyclist. Reward yourself with a delicious ironbark honey ice-cream at Beechworth Honey Experience.

IDEAL FOR The city-stressed and food-obsessed. - Sue Wallace

$310 a night for two people.

QT MELBOURNE

133 Russell Street, Melbourne; (03) 8636 8800; Qthotelsandresorts.com/Melbourne

QT Hotel, Melbourne, Victoria.

QT Hotel, Melbourne. Photo: Supplied

THE LOCATION The old rag trade district near the Paris end of Collins Street. You're in the heart of the CBD, so shopping and eating options abound. QT even has its own laneway, home to a Japanese-Korean fusion restaurant, Hot Sauce.

THE PLACE Light pours into the double-height atrium from three sides, showcasing the eye-catching furniture and contemporary art. The rooms are generously sized, with clever detailing for fans of design.

THE EXPERIENCE The QT Gel Bed lives up to its hype, and the minibar features local favourites such as Chocamama chocolates and hand cream from Kleins Perfumery. The herringbone tiles and pinstripe glass in the bathroom reference the rag trade, while a clever set of sliding doors lets you either close the bathroom off or open it up.

DON'T MISS Thanks to executive food director Robert Marchetti, QT restaurants are always a highlight. From the wide-ranging breakfast menu to the sumptuous desserts, the hotel restaurant is an all-day delight.

IDEAL FOR Grown-ups on a cheeky getaway. - Ute Junker

From $320 a night.

NARINGAL STATION

1551 Lismore Pitfield Road, Wallinduc; 0458 507 655; Naringal.com.au

Naringal Station, Victoria.

Naringal Station. Photo: Supplied

THE LOCATION Naringal Station, 45 kilometres from Ballarat, is one of the area's oldest pastoral holdings, with a couple of tiny villages nearby.

THE PLACE A renovated turn-of-the-20th-century grand home, with seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms, a heated pool and spa, spacious barbecue gazebo, tennis court, a beautiful garden by Edna Walling that's perfect for a Pimm's on the lawn and a wraparound verandah.

THE EXPERIENCE Hit the tennis court, the pool, or snooze under big trees. Inside, laze by the fire on cool days, or dress up for dinner in the stately dining room. Naringal is also a fisher's dream. Rods are supplied, as are bicycles.

DON'T MISS Buddy, the resident maremma sheepdog.

IDEAL FOR A group getaway to celebrate a special occasion. - Julietta Jamerson

From $1750 a night for the whole house. Minimum two-night stay.

LUSSO KV

871 Wangarattta-Whitfield Road,Whitfield; 0400 994 943; Lussokv.com.au

Lusso KV, Whitfield, Victoria.

Lusso KV, Whitfield. Photo: supplied

THE LOCATION Whitfield, one of two picturesque towns that service the King Valley wine-producing region, three hours or so from Melbourne. 

THE PLACE A three-bedroom, two-bathroom holiday house that sleeps up to eight (there's a fold-out sofa bed). Inside, it's comfortably decorated in a generically modern mode. A toasty gas log fireplace services the huge dining table and snug living area. Enjoy a large back deck with barbecue and fire pit.

THE EXPERIENCE Lusso KV backs onto Dal Zotto's cellar door and restaurant (with a paddock in between), so it's a short walk back when you're done enjoying the famed first family of prosecco's Italian hospitality. The Pizzini family-run gourmet pub, the Mountain View, is three minutes walk down the road. Other great King Valley wineries such as Pizzini, Politini and Chrismont (producers of La Zona) are within easy striking distance. Pick a designated driver!

DON'T MISS Cast a line or drop a canoe into Lake William Hovell. Take in the gorgeous scenery from Powers Lookout.

IDEAL FOR Friends wanting to tour the wineries and providores of this region, then whip up a locally sourced feast back at home base. - Julietta Jamerson 

From $300 a night. Minimum two-night stay weekends, three on long weekends.

Some writers stayed as guests of the properties.

 

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