Chestnut Hill Country Retreat, Swan Reach review: Breakfast feast for the eyes

Read our writer's views on this property below

Rod Myer explores the Gippsland Lakes from the comfort of a country retreat.

A last-minute change of plan means a friend and I are looking to spend the weekend at the Gippsland Lakes.

With its 600 square kilometres of pristine wilderness within three hours' drive of Melbourne, it is a treasure that seems somewhat undervalued in the state's tourism consciousness.

Nonetheless, finding pleasant accommodation within cooee of the lakes for one of the year's busiest weekends is a challenge at short notice. The glamorous waterside locations at Metung and Paynesville are all booked - as is much of Lakes Entrance.

But a call to Pearl Findlay-James at Chestnut Hill Country Retreat yields success. An easy three-hour drive from eastern Melbourne puts you at Swan Reach, where the Princes Highway crosses the Tambo River. Take a right turn at the Metung sign, drive half a kilometre then take a left to Chestnut Hill.

The relatively modern bed and breakfast sits at the top of a rise overlooking the Tambo River. There are three attractive suites connected to the main house, each with en suites, queen-size beds and comfortable and attractive in-room furniture. Two have private balconies overlooking the river and one looks over the lush rose garden created by Findlay-James and her husband, Malcolm. All are airconditioned and served by a fridge and kettle in the hallway, with tea and coffee provided. The decor has an English flavour.

There are also two separate chalet-style units offering river views, plenty of room and privacy. One has two bedrooms and both have spas. Chestnut Hill has a large breakfast room, again with river views, and outside is a patio with a barbecue available by arrangement.

Breakfast is served until 10am, with Findlay-James cooking a tasty range of egg and vegetarian dishes. The toast, cereals and fruits that make up the rest of the menu are available for late sleepers who smile the right way. Sitting in the breakfast room overlooking the river is one of the true joys of Chestnut Hill. The river is lined with drooping gums and tall grasses. Swans, waterbirds and the occasional angler are common sights; motor boats, yachts and even racing eights pass by.

There is a comfortable lounge in the breakfast room for those who feel like reading or mooching and there is a computer to assuage the anxiety of not being connected to the cyber-world. The only downside of the lounge area is that the couch faces the back wall, not the river.


The real beauty of Chestnut Hill is its proximity to the lakes. Metung, with its restaurants and pub, is a few kilometres down the road. Lakes Entrance, with its beaches and cafes, is 12 minutes away. One particularly pleasant idea is fish and chips from a Lakes Entrance takeaway shop, eaten on the beach with a glass of wine. Lakes Entrance also offers beautiful fresh fish from wharf-side trawlers and eco-friendly boat tours in which you might see waterbirds, sea eagles, fish, dolphins and seals.

Accommodation is adults only, so look for somewhere else to take children under 14.


Chestnut Hill Country Retreat

Address corner Metung Road and Bylands Court, Swan Reach.

Bookings (03) 5156 4146, 0408 891 246

How much? Between $210 and $250 a night a couple.

Getting there Allow 3½ hours from central Melbourne. Follow Princes Highway through Bairnsdale to Swan Reach. Take the Metung turn-off and Bylands Court is 500 metres on the left.

A comfortable and attractive retreat in the traditional English country bed-and-breakfast style. Suites are not particularly roomy but are more than adequate for a pleasant stay. The real selling point is its proximity to the lakes and regional tourism centres.

Verdict 17

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.