Lon Retreat & Spa, consisting of seven deluxe suites perched on an exposed hilltop overlooking Port Phillip Bay, calls a 80-hectare farm with a 150-year-old family pedigree its home. But fear not. There's absolutely nothing hokey about this low-key wellness retreat which opened a year ago this month. No expense has been spared in the design and construction of what is a salubrious, style-rich establishment, the inspired product of Claire Gemes, literally the farmers' enterprising daughter.
The Bellarine Peninsula, more or less the gateway to the Great Ocean Road with some stunningly stark coastal scenery, has been enjoying a growing reputation for the quality of its food and wine in recent years. The opening of Lon Retreat & Spa has only served to enhance its aura. An hour and a half south-west of Melbourne, the retreat is reached after passing through a quasi-suburbia residential area of Point Lonsdale, known to Victorians as "Lonnie", a small, fashionable coastal township near Queenscliff with Geelong the nearest major city. For interstate visitors, the closest airport, should they wish to skip Tullamarine, is Avalon, near Geelong, and just over 45 minutes away.
Hidden away within the main complex, where a more prosaic bed and breakfast called Lonsdale Views was once located, is a large heated indoor mineral pool with its waters drawn from the springs that circulate through limestone caves beneath the property. The pool is complemented by a spa which features treatment rooms with ocean views, soaking tubs fed by the mineral waters, a sunroom, private gardens and sundecks. But you could easily enjoy a stay here, should you choose, without even dipping a toe in the healing waters.
Each of the retreat's capacious stone and timber suites is individually designed and lavishly appointed right down to the stone baths that receive therapeutic waters from the springs. From the rooms there are beckoning ocean and farm vistas, though in the cooler months fireplaces in two of the suites, Alto and Cumulus, offer the temptation of remaining snug indoors and enjoying the luxurious in-room amenities. Many of the stylish furnishings, as well as lighting and artwork in the rooms, are drawn from the local region.
One deficiency – and there aren't too many of 'em – at Lon Retreat & Spa is the lack of a restaurant. However, suites do feature kitchens and cooking facilities with an artisan breakfast hamper, reflecting the fine local produce, included in the tariff. It's also possible to order food in the form of barbeque packs for two, picnic hampers to artisan selections drawn from the fine local produce. If you fancy heading out there are plenty of casual all-day dining options in and around Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff, while the Bellarine is also home to Good Food Guide-calibre restaurants in the form of Igni, Merne at Lighthouse and Tulip. For smaller, snack-like items check out what's on offer at carefully curated, honesty form-based Makers & Growers Pantry and bar in the lobby, all purchases from which can be enjoyed back in the considerable comforts of your room.
There's much to explore around the property – classed as rural and conservation land, with "cloud watching, star-gazing and walking without a map" among management's breezy activity recommendations. The retreat is within easy reach of the beach, via a private track lined with tea trees and surrounded by dunes, though the less exposed bay beach at the Point Lonsdale village is preferred for swimming. Guests are encouraged to explore the property on foot, with an illustrated map of the farm provided on check-in, while Lonnie and its famous lighthouse, which in its various forms is more than a century old, is an easy 20 to 30-minute stroll from the retreat.
Your reviewer's visit, on a detour from the Great Ocean Road on a return trip to Melbourne, was much too brief. But you don't need to spend too much time at the superb Lon Retreat & Spa to be wholly impressed by its quality, facilities and setting.
Anthony Dennis was a guest of Lon Retreat & Spa and Visit Victoria
Where do you start? Let's try the tranquil and bucolic seaside setting on which this beacon of style resides.
The absence of an onsite restaurant, or even a café, is a notable omission but you can't have everything.