Neervana Haven, Fairhaven review: Luxe from the subcontinent

Just chill ... Neervana Haven has sparkling ocean views.
Just chill ... Neervana Haven has sparkling ocean views. 

Read our writer's views on this property below

With friends, Jo Stewart discovers an eco-retreat that has all the trimmings.

Having had more than my fair share of nights spent sleeping in rusted dorm-room bunks and on spine-destroying trundle beds, there comes a time in one's life when a little luxury is required. Enter Neervana Haven.

Grabbing a group of friends and convincing ourselves we are, in fact, deserving of a retreat isn't hard. Everyone's got a hard-luck story to justify an indulgence. So with birthdays to celebrate and endings of relationships to commiserate, we head to Fairhaven on the Great Ocean Road for a weekend of luxury, gastronomy and frivolity.

Upon arrival, it's immediately clear the owners have a connection to India. Influences from the subcontinent are peppered throughout the property: embossed silver plates are studded to the exterior, linen handmade in Indian villages adorns the beds, Bollywood movies feature in the film library and fresh spices infuse the pantry with the scent of India. It's rumoured that scenes from the much-loved Bollywood film Salaam Namaste were filmed here and you can see why, the location is stunning and the property is a triumph of creativity, colour and care.

Our entourage isn't used to this level of luxury (we're a shaggy bunch of loveable rogues and rapscallions), so we run from room to room revelling in the finery and appreciating the detail that's been put into creating this retreat.

"There's a bottle of tequila worth $1900 in the pantry!"

"There's a heated infinity wave pool!"

"The library is better than my local library [but let's face it - that's not hard]!"

The house is full of covetable wares - smart appliances, ornate bespoke items and an expensive collection of vintage wine and spirits that we don't dare touch. The same goes for the temperature-controlled box of cigars. It's all very Casino Royale meets Maharaja with a dash of eco-chic.

Green touches confirm that luxury can go hand in hand with nature. Water-saving shower heads feature in the bathrooms, eco-cleaning products can be found in the kitchen and 100 per cent accredited green energy is used throughout the property.

Much of the linen and art is sourced from small village co-operatives in India, which helps to support small enterprise and keep time-worn artistic traditions alive.

After fawning over Neervana Haven, we discover it has a rival - the surrounding landscape is also devastatingly handsome. If this area were a person it would be Brad Pitt - rugged, earthy and easy on the eye. Luckily, Neervana isn't jealous of the scene-stealing landscape and its glass panels happily reveal show-stopping 180-degree views of the ocean.

Cracking open our stash of liquor, we gaze at the sea as the stress of the week is blown off in an extravaganza of food, fun and foolishness. Cranking up the Bose sound system, the night descends into a mirthful melange of dance-offs, impromptu singalongs and fashion parades. There are sore heads the next day but the Nespresso machine provides a heart-starter.

The morning reveals the sublime sight of hang-gliders soaring past the windows, riding the currents. They are so close you can't help but raise an arm and wave. Looking down, groups of horse riders gallop along the beach into view.

After coffee, crispy bacon and juice, we head out on a short drive to Lorne in search of seafood and sunshine. A hot and salty hit of fish and chips aids our slow-motion walk down the Lorne promenade.

Fresh wedding parties, chilled-out surf shops, busy cafes and boutiques glide by as we mosey around. But there are certain things one should never do when hungover - clothes shopping is one of them. Eating and sleeping, however, are acceptable activities, so we retreat to the comfort of Neervana Haven HQ.

The afternoon is filled with newspaper reading, crossword puzzling, scrabble championships, sneaky afternoon naps and a whole lot of lying around. By night, the sea breeze turns to a bitter squall, the fireplace roars and we settle in for a feast. There's fragrant paella, scallops, warming red wine and freshly baked hummingbird cake.

The post-dinner Texas hold 'em poker tournament proves less successful - our food comas have interfered with our ability to bet, bluff or care about the outcome. Plans to watch cult movies from the stellar in-house collection are abandoned as we all succumb to slumber much earlier than intended.

The next morning, the bitter-sweet task of packing up arrives too soon and while the temptation to go into denial (and stay) is strong, we begrudgingly head home, having committed most of the seven deadly sins: gluttony, greed, envy and my personal favourite, sloth.

The owners of Neervana Haven can count themselves lucky we had enough energy to leave.

VISITORS' BOOK

Neervana Haven

Address 25 Banool Road, Fairhaven.

Website neervanahaven.com, email comestay@neervanahaven.com.

Cost From $1500 a night.

Getting there Fairhaven is on the Great Ocean Road between Anglesea and Lorne, about 1½ hours' drive from Melbourne.

Summary Luxury retreat with a down-to-earth spirit.

Verdict 19

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.