Hawthorne Suites, Barwon Heads review: Home on the range

Read our writer's views on this property below

Alice Russell finds herself surrounded by golfers during a fleeting seachange.

We squint against the morning light as we take in our first view of the scenery attached to the apartment we didn't reach until after dark. Green expanses stretch away right, left and centre, a few clouds float overhead, birds flit by and lots of yellow blobs lie on all that green.

Fauna? Too still. Flora? Too round. Golf balls?

Yes, golf balls.

Our home for the weekend is smack dab in the middle of a golf course, with a view across a driving range that clearly pulls the Saturday morning crowds. Once suitably reinforced with breakfast, we too venture out and soon pick up signs that direct us across and between the fairways and players.

Fifteen minutes later, we look down over 13th Beach and the clusters of wetsuit-clad surfers, like black hieroglyphics against the blue, waiting patiently for that perfect wave amid the ceaseless flow.

Surf. Golf. That's two integral aspects of the Barwon Heads way of life already covered. Now, did somebody mention caffe latte?

A short drive away, Hitchcock Avenue is humming. Even on a chilly weekend, the visitors are out in force, reading the newspapers, chugging down the caffeine and, as far as anyone can tell, busily escaping full-scale city life for the heady variety of ... small-scale city life.

Barwon Heads is, of course, no ordinary seaside village. Locals, or at least that small proportion of them we call our friends, have their own way of measuring time. Leave BC and AD to the rest of the world: here it's all Before SeaChange and After SeaChange.

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That popular ABC TV series turned a backwater into a tourist magnet but – as happens with tourists everywhere – their very presence inevitably wounds the original charm.

Even the quintupled property prices are a mixed blessing for long-term residents and as for the villas and townhouses popping up and destroying the old feel of the place (along with the native vegetation), the frock shops, the gift shops, the "Melbourne-style" restaurants and the whole "it's starting to look like Lorne east" factor – well, harrumph.

Fair enough. But for the visitor, it's still an eminently likeable place.

And there's no denying the appeal of a place like At The Heads, where we test the coffee and find an excellent version of the dreaded muffin species, consuming both while looking over the water from the vantage point provided by a leather couch beside an open fire.

Not that you are limited to such idle pursuits. This is good fishing territory; there is river and sea water to boat on, swim in and take walks alongside; and there's golf.

Two well-regarded clubs call this small town home: the long-established Barwon Heads Golf Club and the much newer 13th Beach Golf Club, also containing the Hawthorn Suites, where we are staying.

The suites, which happily open their doors to non-players, are in a two-storey building, with an outdoor pool and tennis courts nearby.

Our comfortable apartment has a calm and stylish air: the bedroom has a king-sized bed, crisp, white sheets and a small, wall-mounted television; there's a good-sized central bathroom; the kitchen and living area opens to a large balcony with table and chairs; and everything is in soothing, natural tones of brown and grey and cream. There's another television plus a DVD/CD player in the living area, along with a comfortable couch, an armchair and a small dining setting.

The kitchen, fitted neatly along one wall, has plenty of cooking and eating utensils, a small dishwasher, fridge, oven, microwave and two hotplates. It lacks only an eagle eye on the previous occupant's washing-up technique.

Outside, the expanse of golfing territory ensures a peaceful environment, though there's an occasional frisson from signs warning you to watch out for golfers or their wayward balls.

You can eat in the clubhouse restaurant but we bypass it in favour of dinner in town at Annie's Provedore with the aforementioned friends. In a crowded, deli-type atmosphere that could have been air-freighted from Prahran, good pizzas and bottles of wine at $20 a pop disappear with alarming rapidity.

Signs of regret about this modern incursion, at least, prove elusive.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.

VISITORS' BOOK

Hawthorne Suites

Address Barwon Heads Road (in 13th Beach Golf Links Estate), Barwon Heads.

Bookings Phone 5254 1777, see hawthornsuites.com.au.

Getting there Turn left at the Barwon Heads exit in Geelong. The 13th Beach estate is just before Barwon Heads.

Cost One-bedroom suites from $160 a night; two-bedroom from $210; three-bedroom from $300. "Stay and Play" golf packages for four people include four rounds of 18 holes, overnight accommodation and breakfast for $130 a person.

Summary Comfortable, nicely set up apartments, best suited to golfers but non-players should not be deterred.

Verdict 16

The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable.