Australia's best beach houses: coast with the most

Sheriden Rhodes discovers retro furnishings and a personal chef in Australia's most alluring seaside retreats.

Something akin to an internal alarm clock sounds within almost every Australian who grew up within cooee of the coast about this time of year. As the temperature rises and we tumble into the pre-Christmas rush, a voice somewhere inside tells us it's time for a beach holiday.

We've scoured the coastline to find some of the best beach houses: from the cute retro shack with the sandy path leading to the beach, through to the new-wave beach houses that are in a class all of their own.

Pretty Beach House

Central Coast, NSW

Owned by ad man John Singleton, this property brings the Aussie beach house to a whole new level of luxury. And there's no need to BYO your own groceries and alcohol. The house, on an escarpment overlooking the beach, features the food of Italian chef Stefano Manfredi, who divides his time between Pretty Beach House and nearby sister property Bells at Killcare.

Dine in the atrium dining room, within your own pavilion, in the wine cellar or al fresco surrounded by ancient angophoras and eucalypts. Each pavilion offers water views, a king bedroom with dressing room, open-plan sitting area, fully stocked bar, combustion fireplace, private deck with a day bed and a heated plunge pool. There's loads to explore on the nearby Wagstaffe Peninsula, including secluded bays, fisherman's shacks and lovely beaches.

Exclusive use of Pretty Beach House starts from $6000 a night (off-peak) including accommodation for six guests in all three pavilions, all meals, selection of premium wines, champagne, spirits and daily guided bushwalks. Phone 1300 773 889 or see prettybeachhouse.com.

Susan's Beach House

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Broken Head, NSW

This charming 1960s shack transports you back to your carefree childhood holidays of sunburn, hot chips and ice-cream. But inside there's no need to air musty rooms. Instead, lime-washed polished concrete floors, cedar shutters and a daybed on the north-facing veranda invite you to kick off your shoes.

The place has been stamped with tropical chic thanks to owner Susan Harris's touch on everything from the gourmet kitchen and charming rear bungalow with its deep, white bath and pretty shell curtains through to the white Apple Mac with free internet access.

There's an open-plan lounge with cable television, dining room with white bifold doors leading on to to a deck, two queen-size beds and a third king-size bed in the bungalow, which has a second en suite bathroom.

After your surf, take a hot or cold shower in the frangipani-filled tropical garden and watch the visiting scrub turkeys. You're near enough to all the action of Byron Bay but it's just a two-minute stroll along a sandy pathway to Broken Head Beach, which is one of Australia's most famous surfing beaches.

Susan's Beach House is $350 a night for the main house or $450 for both the house and rear bungalow. See www.stayz.com.au/18402.

Ala Moana

Hamilton Island, Queensland

Push open this home's solid timber wooden door, slip on a kaftan and revel in uninterrupted views over the sublime turquoise waters of the Whitsunday Islands. Inside you'll find an open-plan kitchen, dining area for dinner parties using your private chef (at an additional cost), separate living area with Aboriginal artwork, custom-made oversized lounge and groovy armchairs from Space Furniture, a TV room, chic Dedon outdoor furniture and more. Pietra Grigio marble is used throughout the house and a soothing water feature runs down the building's spine into a bubbling spa and infinity pool. There are also five luxurious guest rooms.

If you get first pick, go for the master bedroom with its classic egg bath, private bar, lounge area and a wraparound deck. With the flick of a remote, electronic blinds expose 360-degree water views. Thrown in with the rate is use of Ala Moana's private 13-metre cruiser and skipper for a day of exploring the islands, game fishing or snorkelling.

Ala Moana costs $5500 a night (house only) or $6250 a night including host and all meals. All bookings include airport transfers, access to golf buggy, daily housekeeping and one day on the Ala Moana cruiser with a skipper. Phone (03) 9387 9712 or see alamoana.com.au.

1770 Beach Shacks

1770, Queensland

These rustic beach shacks are located in the lee of the town of 1770's headland on the shores of The Inlet, a tranquil, safe anchorage. Designed to catch the tropical breeze, each of the one- and two-bedroom bungalows features local and imported timbers, four-poster beds with romantic (and practical) mosquito nets and wide decks for gazing out at the bay and headland views. Nearby in the twin town of Agnes Water, you can hit the waves at Queensland's northern-most surfing beach, head to Lady Musgrave Island and spot migrating humpback whales, pods of dolphins, the resident dugong colony and sea turtles.

The shacks cost from $178 a night a couple in low season. See 1770beachshacks.com.

Zealandia

Portsea, Victoria

This classic 1950s beach house has an old-time Hollywood glamour feel with its retro lines, classic designer furniture and backyard pool. While the house is filled with the likes of Eames and Nelson, Florence Knoll and Noguchi furniture, Italian lighting, original artwork and other classic curios, it somehow remains unpretentious. Named after a New Zealand ship that once sailed between the heads of Port Phillip Bay, Zealandia has three bedrooms, a slate fireplace, central heating, a leather Eames recliner and quirky fixtures such as an old surfboard suspended on the living room wall and indigenous artefacts including fish traps and tribal sticks.

Zealandia costs from $380 a night. Phone 0418 121 779, see zealandia.com.au.

Altitude Beach House

Great Ocean Road, Victoria

This newly opened beach house is set within the Otway National Park on a hill with coastal views and is big enough for groups of 12. Children get their own retreat and rumpus room, while adults can relax with everything at their fingertips, including deep window bath with panoramic views and sumptuous master bedroom with a large circular window. There are another three bathrooms, two outdoor decks, barbecue, modern kitchen and home appliances (including two TVs with DVD, Foxtel and integrated surround sound system). Bush-walking tracks are on its doorstep, surfing beaches within sight and the famous Wye River Pub is a short stroll away.

Altitude costs from $600 a night for two. Phone (03) 5237 4201 or see altitudebeachhouse.com.au.

The Summer House

Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia

With its “Hamptons” inspired feel, this three-bedroom retreat brings a new level of sophistication to the Fleurieu Peninsula. The all-white home features dark timber floors, designer furniture, king-size beds, two king-size single beds and a modern kitchen. A covered deck made from spotted gum forms the hub of the house, with french doors leading from the living room and master bedroom. A short stroll along a scenic coastal walkway is Horseshoe Bay, where you'll find the Flying Fish Restaurant and Kiosk, while the cute township features eclectic stores. Everything about this place is a notch above the average beach house, including the Natuzzi Italian leather sofa, stylish bathrooms, three flat-screen TVs and DVD collection.

The Summer House is from $137.50 a person (minimum two) a night. See pebe.com.au.

Bay of Fires Lodge

Tasmania

This iconic eco-lodge is located at the Bay of Fires, which Lonely Planet describes as the “hottest travel destination for 2009”. Once the exclusive domain of guests taking the four-day Bay of Fires Walk, the lodge now can be hired for private use. The four-wheel-drive driven by our young and capable host virtually swims through rivers to reach the wild coastal destination. After showing us to our comfortable guestroom, one of 10, we are treated to a feast of “fish in a bag” and dessert accompanied by local wine. There's no TV or mobile reception.

Bay of Fires Lodge costs $450 a person including meals, drinks and activities (valid May 7 to September 12, 2010). Phone (03) 6392 2211 or see bayoffireslodge.com.au.

Avalon Coastal Retreat

Swansea, Tasmania

Like your own children, a reviewer should never have favourites. But this is one sensational beach pad. We arrive on dusk just as the sun turns the sky a glorious shade of pink. From the front door, a long hall of polished concrete opens up to reveal 360-degree views of Great Oyster Bay across to Freycinet – almost completely distracting you from this striking steel girder and glass home designed by award-winning architect Craig Rosevear.

The house, which comes with its own secluded beach, has three bedrooms with queen-size, Stuart Houghton-made Tasmanian oak beds. Each guest room has its own bathroom (including one with a huon pine bath), while there's also an open fire, heated floors, espresso machine, DVDs, books and stereo with Bose surround-sound speakers, modern art and quality linens. Every cupboard reveals thoughtful inclusions from books and magazines to wetsuits and boogie boards. The gourmet food and wine provisions are outstanding and offered at cost price.

Avalon costs $770 a night for a maximum of six people, including breakfast provisions. Children under 12 not permitted. Phone 1300 361 136, see avaloncoastalretreat.com.au.

Ron Roozen's place

Margaret River, Western Australia

Set into sage-coloured scrub that rolls back from the surf at Prevelly on WA's south-west coast, this shack is a dedication to surfing, the elements and the enviable Margaret River lifestyle. Owned by local artist and surfer Ron Roozen, there's a 180-degree view of the Indian Ocean from every room, including the three king-size bedrooms and bathrooms. Every detail has been factored in – a pantry service, personal chef, daily servicing and wine touring can all be arranged.

From $550 a night for two people. See ronroozen.com.au.

Photos: Australia's best beach houses

FAST FACTS

Other notable beach houses

Obsessed by the Sea, NSW, see obsessed.com.au.

Alinghi, Agnes Water, Queensland, see 1770beachaccommodation.com.au.

Partridge Cottage, NSW, see takeabreak.com.au/Partridge-Cottage-on-the-Beach.htm.

Kooljaman, Western Australia, see kooljaman.com.au.

Wagait Beach Bush Retreat, Northern Territory, see takeabreak.com.au/LitchfieldRegion/TopEndDarwin/Wagait-Beach-Bush-Retreat.htm.

Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, NSW, see sealrockslighthouseaccommodation.com.au.

Reading

Contemporary Beach Houses Down Under, $59.95, and A Pocketful of Beach Houses, $24.95, both published by Images Publishing.

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