This is a handy corner of Geelong and at the corner of this apartment hotel is a heritage building opened in the 1850s as the Belle-Vue Hotel. By the 1950s it was a boarding house and by the 1990s in such a state it was empty and stayed that way for decades. That bit has been restored and behind the heritage facade are nine floors of hotel rooms and apartments (128 of them in all). It only opened in March, so everything's as fresh as can be and while, apart from a cafe, the hotel facilities pretty much start and finish with a reception desk, it is staffed by as friendly and informed receptionists as you'll ever hope to meet and greet.The R Hotel is also dog-friendly (within size limits), with certain apartments set aside for the woofers and the people at the other end of the lead.
The R Hotel is on the edge of the CBD and a block back from the foreshore of Eastern Beach and all its walking paths, parks, pools, cafes and bars. There's car parking on site but it's just over a kilometre from Geelong Station if you don't want to drive. Alternately, if you want to travel from Melbourne Docklands via Port Phillip and Corio Bay, the ferry terminal is 650 metres from the hotel; the ferry takes about 90-minutes and costs $36 return (portphillipferries.com.au).
Ours is a one-bedroom apartment described as "park view" but actually has generous views over the bay without having to stretch the neck. The bedroom has sliding doors so it can open to or be separated from the living space. The bathroom is a good size with a small laundry and walk-in shower. There's a big smart TV that has cable channels included and the apartment kitchen comes with refrigerator, oven, microwave, coffee-pod machine and a dishwasher (the apartments have the kitchens but not the rooms). The balcony is big enough for a couple of people to relax and have a drink or meal if the weather's on their side.
Le Cafe, on site and behind the heritage facade, opens from 7am to 11am and serves very good coffee along with light snacks and breakfasts, but the best breakfast nearby may well be at Eastern Beach's The Beach House (thebeachhousegeelong.com.au). For restaurants, there's Igni, in Ryans Place (restaurantigni.com), one of the best restaurants in Australia, not just Geelong and it's a 10-minute walk. About the same amount of time on foot will get you to Little Malop Street and there you'll find inventive Italian with excellent service at The Continental (facebook.com/thecontinentalgeelong) or cross the street and try The Arborist with its indoor/outdoor settings and plates to share (thearboristgeelong.com.au). Cooking in? There are supermarkets a block away or try the Fresh Food Merchant around the corner in Malop Street for something more interesting.
Not so long ago it was all about breezing through, as Geelong's access to the Great Ocean Road and Bellarine Peninsula made it a quick stopover or made it mostly bypassed. There's plenty to stop for now though. On foot stroll the foreshore up to the Botanical Gardens in Eastern Park. If you have a car, head for the old Paper Mills at Fyansford for a quirky collection of art and design studios and outlets and the very good Provenance Winery and restaurant (provenancewines.com.au). In North Geelong there's another mill revival, this time the old Federal Woollen Mills near the bay, a precinct in itself of low-rise offices and studios and a smart gin distillery by the name of Anther (anther.com.au) which opens for tastings on the weekends. The Geelong Library is also worth a visit, winner of many architecture awards and a vibrant and welcoming place (grlc.vic.gov.au).
R Hotel fills a niche in a city rich in attractions for travellers but a little light-on when it comes to quality accommodation. All the same, don't expect a full-service hotel, this is an apartment hotel with a friendly reception desk and a cafe attached. The rest is up to you.
Rooms from $199, 10 Bellerine Street, Geelong, Vic. Phone 03 4206 0500. See rhotelgeelong.com.au
The views over the bay and parks and the smart balcony.
Light on for lifts - one in the lobby (there's another in the car park), albeit as efficient as it can be, isn't enough in a building like this.
Jim Darby was a guest of Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine, see visitgeelongbellarine.com.au