Looking for the perfect coastal escape – a place to get away with family, a group of friends and even the dog? This dreamy, pet-friendly beach house – and its matching bungalow – on the Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s coolest low-key beach stays.
Just outside the Surf Coast township of Anglesea, south-west of Melbourne, the breezy, character-filled home ticks the boxes for position and style, thanks to the curatorial eye of Airbnb Host Virginia Morris. And yes, as the name suggests, the beach is literally 100 steps away, down a shady bush track accessed via the back gate.
“I always say that if you’re going to have a house by the beach, you might as well make it front row,” smiles Virginia. “This little pocket outside Anglesea is like the Hamptons of the Surf Coast. It’s tucked away just off the Great Ocean Road, down a no-through road right next to the beach so it’s all about quiet, sandy-toed luxury.
“The bush really does meet the beach here – you can take the Surf Coast Walk, wander up the beach to a great café, have a swim or just sit back and enjoy this very serene stretch of sand on your own.”
If you don’t bring your entourage, that is. The main house is big enough for a family or large group of friends but if you’re after a more intimate couple’s stay, look no further than the button-cute bungalow next door.
“Whether you’re in the house or the bungalow, both of them are like their own perfect, private little worlds. I see my job as Host as making sure you can just relax and know that everything has been thought of.”
And while it feels a world away from everyday cares, this little patch of paradise is just 45 minutes’ drive from Avalon Airport or 90 minutes from Melbourne Airport.
“The house was built in the 1980s and reveals itself slowly. I love the way it’s unassuming from the street then you step inside to a different world. It’s bright, light and breezy, with great airflow keeping it cool and comfortable even in the heat of summer.
“The main house has three separate living areas so there’s loads of space to stretch out. Even the backyard has zones for different purposes – there’s the spa and plunge pool, a lawn area with wicker pod chairs, a decked area with more chairs and room to spread out a towel, plus a dining table for a lazy lunch.
“The single-bedroom bungalow next door is obviously smaller but it takes the same approach, with different areas for different moods – and for chasing the sun! Plus, both have completely private outdoor showers.
“When I’m staying, I love to kick back with a book in the undercover hanging wicker chair, though I’ll admit it’s also perfect for doing absolutely nothing.”
“I spent my childhood having summer holidays in Anglesea and when this house came on the market 10 years ago, I just fell obsessively in love. It was a long, drawn-out process with the vendor overseas so it took a year and a half of nailbiting tension to call it my own – but it was worth the stress.
“Moving in felt like coming home. This coast is the best part of Victoria and it’s such a close-knit community. This is something I hope to inject into the stay so my guests can feel it, too. I get a lot of satisfaction from my repeat guests. There are quite a few – they see this as their holiday home and come back every year or even more often. It’s been a tough year for everyone so I’ve been working hard to accommodate all the people dreaming of their summer holidays.
“I love to stay here with my two teenage boys. We all love the beach; I’m a life member at a local surf lifesaving club and we hit the beach for a surf every evening after I finish work.
“The house definitely reflects my style; I gravitate to colour and plants, and the house is full of both. Donna Pollock’s brilliantly colourful abstract painting Play hangs above the blue velvet couch. I love the energy of her work so much and I tracked her down to her nearby studio in Winchelsea. The vases and textiles are all by local artisans. The enormous graphic rug near the wood heater was custom-designed and there are even pops of colour in things like the luxe bedroom linens, though the overall aesthetic is uncluttered and clean.
“My approach to hosting is to remember that people are busy and just want to relax and not worry about anything on their holiday. Perhaps they don’t even want to interact, which is absolutely fine, though I make sure I go above and beyond in any communications. It’s all here so guests can just kick back the minute they walk in and simply enjoy themselves.”
Just for you
“The pantry is stocked with the essentials you need. You know... olive oil, Vegemite, tomato sauce – the kind of things you don’t want to go to the local shops to buy when you arrive. And I always leave some premium chocolates as well as doggie treats for any canine guests.”
Where to eat and drink
“It’s always worth jumping in the car for the 10-minute drive to the best restaurant on the coast. A La Grecque is an amazing Greek taverna that’s been overlooking the water at Aireys Inlet for decades and it’s won every award going. When I’m keeping it casual, I love to go to Fish by Moonlite on Anglesea’s main shopping strip. It serves the best fish and chips in Victoria, using local seafood, and the best potato cakes – cooked by an award-winning chef. Or you can pick up some fresh seafood to take back to the house and cook up yourself on the barbecue.
“For a drink or coffee, I’ll head to the Anglesea Surf Life Saving Club. They’ve recently rebuilt the deck and it overlooks all the action on the beach. And just 500 metres from the house, either walking along the beach or road, the Point Roadknight beach kiosk is open in the summer months and does takeaway coffee and snacks. They even do light meals for a lovely dinner on the sand.”
Things to do nearby
“One of the great things about this house is its location. It’s tucked away in a quiet little pocket of bushland and, even at the height of summer, I often find I have this stretch of beach all to myself.
“The house and bungalow have surfboards you can use to try catching a wave and, if you’re really into surfing, the Australian National Surfing Museum is a short drive away in Torquay.
“The Surf Coast Walk goes in either direction from the beach or you can head into Great Otway National Park for other stunning walking tracks. And follow the Otway Harvest Trail for a great range of farm-gate stalls, cellar doors and farmers’ markets as well as interesting places to eat and drink.”
The Instagram moment
“If you’re a morning person – or even if you’re not – seeing the sun rise is magical. I like to set an alarm and head down to the boat ramp near the kiosk. Or there’s a lookout along Melba Parade where you can see the first glimmers appear before the full lightshow.”
For the family
“The house works really well for a family. I call the upstairs lounge area ‘the kids’ retreat’ and there’s a great selection of books, every board game you could possibly name and an Xbox with loads of games. The house, but not the bungalow, is pet-friendly. There’s a doggie door, too – my dog likes to come and go as he pleases, so the backyard is fully secure.”
Soundtrack for your stay
“The stay has the whole summery, happy vibe going on so I can’t go past Lovely Day by Bill Withers as my signature track. Keep the shimmery sunshine going with Otis Redding, Richard Clapton and anything by Stevie Wonder.”
What guests say
“People always say that the minute they step inside they’re engulfed by a beautiful wave of relaxation. Everything is well considered, whether that’s the design or just the feeling that everything you could need has been thought of, and that it’s so comfortable and clean.
“It feels like a real home with personality, which makes it conducive to people creating their own memories. And you can drift off to sleep at night while listening to the sound of the ocean. That’s pretty special.”