Clare Barry finds star quality in Venus Bay.
South Gippsland's Venus Bay sits on a narrow peninsula bound by Bass Strait and Anderson Inlet. With 500 permanent residents, it's a quiet seaside village for much of the year, but swells to 3000 people when weekenders fill up for the summer.
The celestial theme stretches to the street names: Jupiter Boulevard, Mercury Drive and Milky Way. The night sky here puts on a show, too.
Under the Milky Way is like grandma's place in the country after a smooth retro makeover. Entrance, living, dining and kitchen make up the front section with polished floors and smart Danish furniture. Comfy couches crowd a cowhide rug, and a built-in fireplace anchors the living area. A neat dining setting sits next to the fresh little kitchen, then down the hall to three cool, sparsely furnished double bedrooms. Two have double beds and the third is a double bunk that can sleep three. In the bathroom, original tiles and chunky brown taps go kitsch with the mid-century decor. Out the front there's a wombat hole housing "Warren", who proves elusive, as well as space for kids to play.
There's everything you need here for a beach break, including an Esky, beach chairs and umbrellas. There's a barbecue at the back door, a cupboard of games, plus CDs and DVDs. The kitchen and sideboard are stacked with every utensil and platter a cook could wish for, along with a snazzy coffee machine. Guests may use good-quality basics (such as olive oil, butter and honey) from the pantry.
Under the Milky Way is smart, homely and well-equipped. We light the fire on cool nights and the bedrooms have heaters. The house sits in a dip flanked by trees, and there are fans and plenty of windows to open in summer.
The beds are heavenly; it is blissfully quiet.
We eat good fish'n'chips from the Venus Food Trap on the beach while watching surfers and the sunset. We buy old-school bread from bakeries in Foster and Mirboo North, and lunch at the Koonwarra Store on leek and three-Gippsland-cheese tart, and chicken, almond and saffron pie. The store is stacked with local products including olive oil, cheese, preserves, wine and beer. The house Papa Goose coffee is good and there's a nuggets-free kids' menu. Koonwarra hosts a farmers' market on the first Saturday of each month, Korumburra on the second, Foster on the third and Inverloch on the last.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
It's 50 kilometres from here to Wilsons Promontory, where the mainland's southernmost point stretches a toe into the wild blue of Bass Strait. We make a day trip, walking out to Norman Beach then up and over to the quartz sands of Squeaky Beach, where the surf thunders and kids fling themselves down sand banks. Other days we drive through ridiculously green hills rolling back from the coast. This is rich dairy country dotted with proud, prosperous towns. Closer to our holiday home we walk a couple of minutes to the almost-secret beach track each day, gathering wildflowers on the way and shells from the wide, creamy sands. After dinner on our last night we feel our way along the track with a torch and see a fox in the dunes.
Or is it Warren?
Cool coastal comfort.
HOW TO GET THERE
Venus Bay is about a two-hour drive from Melbourne via the Monash Freeway (M1) and South Gippsland Highway (A440). Between Koonwarra and Meeniyan, take the Tarwin Lower Road then follow the signs to Venus Bay.
Under the Milky Way is in Milky Way, Venus Bay. Book on stayz.com.au. It costs $200 a night off-peak, $220 a night at peak times, with a two-night minimum stay and (negotiable) weekly minimum stay in January. Bring your own towels and linen.