The Drift House at Port Fairy is a place for complete retreat, writes Melissa Singer.
Port Fairy isn't a passing through sort of town, so the people who come to visit have committed to the long journey from Melbourne in search of a true escape and slow down. This creates a tranquil feel that is lacking in some of the more party beach towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road. The streets are flat and the town is easy to navigate by car or foot, which is handy as Port Fairy has become something of a gourmet food and wine destination in recent years, and is also famous for the annual Port Fairy Folk Festival in March (6-9 in 2015).
As you drive up waterfront Gipps Street, it is hard to overlook this grand dame of a house. Business in the front, party in the back, the 1850s Victorian facade has been lovingly restored by award-winning Melbourne architects Multiplicity, which added the super-modern extension to create four studio spaces that are all completely different in design and feel. Three of the apartments- have outdoor terraces or courtyards. And there's an outdoor pool, if the infamous Port Fairy winds aren't blowing.
Ascend the burnt-orange staircase to room four, open the carpeted door, complete with handle from the original iron fence postings, and you will immediately feel enveloped by plushness and serenity. Aside from the odd view of the owners' residence, clever perforated grilles on the windows and the motorised sun shades create total privacy. Coming from a home decked out with wooden floorboards (thanks to the dogs), feeling carpet underfoot is quite luxurious. The bed – possibly the most comfortable I have ever slept in – can be completely curtained off for darkness, while the open bathtub between the living and sleeping quarters sends a clear message – this is a place where love is ignited and rekindled.
The seachangers who have been migrating to Port Fairy have ensured it has good coffee and plenty of dining options, but if you want to make the most of the film projector (BYO memory stick or choose from the in-house selection) it's easy to prepare a meal in the compact open kitchen. Breakfast is provided and comprises an abundance of local treats as well as Irrewarra sourdough and Gippsland yoghurts and the Nespresso machine is a cinch to use. Extra ticks for the supplied olive oil and vinegar, while toiletries are from Australian label Grown Alchemist. And be sure to try the award-winning yo-yo biscuits, which are also available in the maxi bar to take home, for a small price.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
From a morning walk to coffee at The Farmer's Wife to a romantic dinner at Merrijig Inn or pizza at Coffin Sally, Port Fairy has loads of dining options. Self-caterers should head to the local IGA – it may look shabby but has surprisingly good options for a cheese platter, wine or a quick dinner. And if you love the aforementioned yo-yos, it seems every shop in town is selling them by the bucket.
Beachy, luxurious and totally romantic, Drift House is the perfect base for exploring the far western coast of Victoria, or doing absolutely nothing at all. One of my favourite moments was sitting in the living room, sun beating through, wine in hand just lapping up the silence. And once you hop into the bed, it will be very hard to get out (it's available to buy after you try). Drift House also recently beat several big-brand luxury hotels to win Best Luxury Accommodation at the 2014 RACV Victorian Tourism Awards.
HOW TO GET THERE
Port Fairy is about a 3.5-hour drive from Melbourne. Take the M1 past Geelong and follow signs to Warnambool. Head along the Princes Highway until you reach Bank Street, which is Port Fairy's main drag. Drift House is located along the waterfront.
Rates from $345 a night, with a spring special for $590 for two nights available until the end of November. Bookings 0439 969 282, drifthouse.com.au.