Rayville Boat Houses, Apollo review: Boat-house comforts

Read our writer's views on this property below

Bob Hefner checks into a retreat with a wood fire and nautical touches.

It's a gloomy late afternoon when we reach Apollo Bay after driving over the Otways. Just inside the township, we turn off the Great Ocean Road into Noel Street and spot the pale-blue-and-yellow timber villas of the Rayville Boat Houses on our right. Half an hour later we've got a crackling fire going in the wood stove and our spirits have brightened.

Our two-bedroom villa is shipshape, with spotless timber floors and a cosy living room decor that matches the exterior paint. There is a well-equipped kitchen, dining area and large bathroom with a spa. Upstairs are two carpeted bedrooms with comfortable beds - a queen and two singles - and a pull-out trundle.

It's ideal for us and our guest - who is on her first visit to Australia from Cornwall - but would easily accommodate a family. Among Rayville's 10 villas there are also lofts, three-bedroom cottages and even a penthouse - perfect for couples or larger groups.

Only a few villas have ocean views but their nautical theme leaves no doubt that the sea is nearby. Sliding glass doors open to a private timber deck shaded by a sail and we can hear the surf just beyond the nine-hole golf course at the end of the street.

Though it's the middle of the week, many of the villas are occupied but the landscaped gardens give a sense of privacy.

Nearby are a covered barbecue and an outdoor shower, for those returning from a swim with sand on their feet.

If you want a round of golf but didn't pack your clubs, several sets are available in reception. You can also pick up brochures about the walks and other attractions in Apollo Bay, the Otways and the Great Ocean Road and borrow books and DVDs for later.

Rayville's amenities - from TV, DVD player, wireless internet and laundry facilities to such little touches as champagne flutes, sewing kit and extra towels for the spa - are more than adequate for our stay.

Advertisement

A breakfast of fresh croissants, plunger coffee and The Age is delivered to our door by the cheerful hostess who lives on site and is in the office or on call days and evenings. These "morning inspirations" cost a little extra, except from May to August, when they're free.

Apollo Bay, a short walk away, with its charming mix of cottages, shops and restaurants, is picturesque against a backdrop of hills that descend to a crescent of beach and bay.

The cottages were named for the SS City of Rayville, an American ship that sank in November 1940 after striking a German-laid mine 14 kilometres south of Cape Otway.

Nine fishermen from Apollo Bay rescued all of the crew except one, who died when he went back to the ship to retrieve personal belongings. Rayville's villas are named for those fishermen and were built by Ross Stephens, a son of one of the rescuers.

Fishing boats are still moored in the harbour near the fishermen's co-op a short walk from Rayville. There you can buy tonight's dinner if you want to eat in, or staff will pack the latest catch on ice for your drive home.

We opt to eat in town and decide - after exploring the options on foot and then ducking into the Apollo Bay Hotel for a glass of wine - on the stylish Deli Seafood and Steak Restaurant on the Great Ocean Road, where our seafood mains cost about $30 each and are worth every cent.

There are many enticing walks near Apollo Bay - to waterfalls, through rainforest, overlooking magnificent coastal scenery - but we are on a schedule and our Cornish guest has just a few days left to see koalas in their native habitat. So, after a walk on the beach, we pack the car with fresh Tasmanian Atlantic salmon from the co-op and drive to Kennett River 20 kilometres east.

There, on an easy 45-minute stroll, we spot several of the photogenic marsupials snoozing and stretching in the branches of the eucalypts. For us and our guest, the koalas provide a perfect photo finish to our days away.

VISITORS' BOOK

Rayville Boat Houses

Address 9 Noel Street, Apollo Bay.

Getting there About 2½ hours' drive from Melbourne.

How much For two adults, a deluxe double villa costs from $170 a night. Add $25 for an extra adult. Continental breakfast is $7 a person (free May to August).

Summary Comfortable and cosy, close to everything in town but far enough away to avoid the madding crowds.

Verdict 16

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.