On the high ground

Rod Myer finds a retreat in the rolling hills above Apollo Bay.

The road out of Apollo Bay traverses the picturesque flood plain near Marengo then begins to climb upwards into the Otway Ranges. It's a world in transition as the dairy farming and grazing enterprises that dominated the 20th century slowly give way to a more leisured and creative society of semi-retired baby boomers on their small farmlets, and the homes of potters and sculptors.

The scenery is a mixture of cleared paddocks and patches of bushland, traditional farmhouses and some creative constructions built by newer arrivals in the district. As the road rises and falls, snapshots of the spectacular hills and ocean surrounding Apollo Bay come in and out of view.

At the 5.7-kilometre mark from the Apollo Bay post office, a rustic sign on the right-hand side of the road signals the turn off to Lime Tree Cottage, a bed and breakfast established by Melbourne escapees Rob and Philippa Spielman on part of an old farm purchased in recent years. Although just off the roadway, the spot is quiet and bucolic with established English trees, lawns, timberbounded vegie patches, ferns, stone terraces and gravel paths.

The cottage nestles on the hillside and was originally a farm shed transformed out of all recognition into a studio apartment consisting of a roomy queen-sized bedroom with an en suite. There is also a large sitting room with a kitchenette and a balcony overlooking Apollo Bay and surrounds.

Lime Tree Cottage has the feeling of a rural getaway. The owners live in the original farmhouse, a beautiful, raw timber-clad, verandahed home just across the garden from the cottage. And the immediate landscape includes farm sheds and yards although they are not close enough to impinge on the gardened environment.

The interior of the cottage is atmospheric, with pine board-lined walls and ceilings and old Baltic pine floorboards. The decor is an eclectic mixture of the comfortably timeless; soft couches and Moroccan rugs, along with some Edwardian furniture and fittings, evoke the atmosphere of the adjoining farmhouse without a cluttered feel.

There is a well-stocked library including novels, non-fiction and coffee-table offerings as well as a TV, stereo system, a generous collection of CDs and a grab bag of games (non-electronic) to help while away the leisure hours.

The kitchenette includes a fridge, electric kettle, microwave and the owners provide the makings of a European-style breakfast, which includes a range of local breads and jams.

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Toiletries, sheets and thick towels are provided and the bed and quilts are comfortable. But the thing that really impresses is the view.

The cottage looks out on the sweeping vista of Apollo Bay and the surrounding coastline backed by largely cleared hills that are redolent of parts of Scotland. Closer to hand, the vista takes in rolling paddocks inhabited by fat-looking sheep and clumps of bushland and remnant rainforest.

Dusk settling over Apollo Bay can be spectacular and getting up early to watch the sun rise over the town is a must, particularly when the sky is clouded and twisting into bright oranges and pinks. The morning bird life is another highlight.

The cottage is secluded enough to turn off from the rest of the world for a day or two. But if it's activity you want then the surrounds provide plenty.We eat one evening in one of Apollo Bay's clutch of bustling restaurants and walk on the waterfront and around the pretty marina.

Lime Tree is also within easy reach of the Otway Ranges, the Otway Fly Treetop Walk and the 91-kilometre Great Ocean Walk. We discover the short walk circuit known as Maits Rest a few kilometres into the Otways from the cottage. It passes through beautiful rainforest that in prehistoric times covered the region.

VISITORS' BOOK
Lime Tree Cottage
Address
570 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay.
Bookings 5237 7445.
Getting there Apollo Bay is about 190 kilometres from Melbourne. The most direct route is through Geelong, Winchelsea and Gerangamete. The more scenic and challenging route is to follow the Great Ocean Road through Lorne.
How much $150 to $170 a night.
Summary A tasteful and cosy cottage in a secluded spot with spectacular sea and bushland views. No children or pets.
Verdict 18
The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable.

Weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for by Traveller.

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