From the classic escapes – think: coastal getaway or spa retreat – to new holiday ideas you've probably never thought of but definitely need to try, these are the best long weekend getaways in Victoria to start planning for now.
For the peninsulas: Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas
From beach to winery, two luxe travel packages offer the best of these neighbouring destinations. En route to the Bellarine Peninsula’s Lon Retreat & Spa, which is hidden in rural terrain overlooking the ocean, I pass a sign: RIP VIEW LOOKOUT. It takes a moment for me to read it as intended – a direction to a water-viewing spot – instead of as an acronym suggesting I should, in fact, rest in peace here. Either fits, though, because the Lon – a family-run, sevensuite “home hotel” just 150 metres from the beach – is so restful that by the end of my stay I’m peeking beneath linens to find its pillow brand, hoping to replicate the same deep sleep in my own bed.
Co-owners Claire and Rob Gemes transformed Claire’s one-time family home into an intimate space, starting with rotating artworks at the entrance. Claire gives each local artist, who’s asked to draw inspiration from the surrounding landscape, the same brief: “Your work should make the viewer exhale.”
But with a stay at Lon being like a warm embrace, the Gemes wanted their guests to have a contrasting experience on the second of Victoria’s iconic peninsulas, Mornington, famous for its wineries and culinary offerings. Enter the luxury threeday Lon to Leo and Lon to Laura packages (available until December). With each, guests are spirited across the bay for a three-course lunch at Pt. Leo Estate Restaurant or an eight-course dégustation at the winery’s fine-diner, Laura. The afternoon includes entry to the estate’s Sculpture Park, with pieces by KAWS, Andrew Rogers and Antony Gormley, among others.
Could there be a headier way to pass the days? Actually, yes. In Lon Retreat’s Alto suite, an oversized bathtub features a brass knob that pumps in the property’s mineral water while the tub gives you views of bucolic farmland and outdoor artworks. (“That one’s realistic,” I say to Claire. “No, that’s an actual cow,” she tells me.) Fellow guests are elusive but you catch sightings of them in their robes, ducking into the swimming pool or spa.
I follow their lead and sign up for the Blissful Marma Massage, or “heaven on a stick” as my therapist dubs it while she works on my chakra points and notes of clove fill the air. “It’s the best massage I’ve ever had,” I tell her and she nods. She’s heard this before.
The next day at Laura I get lost, too, when I’m served a small chestnut canapé, melding ice-cream, almond brittle and shiitake. Hot smoked barramundi follows then pan-fried bone marrow and rum baba, paired with unexpected wines (such as the Moriki Shuzo sake with its manga-comic label).
I have ample opportunity to discover other forms of art as I explore the Sculpture Park. Spanning almost seven hectares and exhibiting more than 60 Australian and international works, it’s a different kind of feast but equally enriching. I pass another sign, this one an artwork by Richard Tipping and what seems to be an invitation: “Private Poetry”, it reads. “Trespassers Welcome”. – Rachelle Unreich
For high-country: Mansfield
Nestled in the foothills of the Victorian Alps, historic Mansfield is the unofficial capital of the High Country. Just 15 minutes drive from town, architectural masterpiece BullerRoo combines two sometimes incongruous concepts: luxury and farmstay. Survey the Barwite Valley down to the Broken River from the chalet’s rooftop terrace, which has a bar and barbecue, or stretch out in front of the wood fire, the property’s rural setting silent beyond the vast glass walls of the living area. When heading into Mansfield, it’s hard to resist the lure of The Fields, a bar and eatery with a snack-happy Asian menu of dumplings, katsu sandos and Japanese loaded fries. At the Astroturfed outdoor “village green” of Luna Bar at the Mansfield Armchair Cinema join locals for a craft beer or Espresso Martini (don’t worry, the bar’s heated in winter). You can even explore the great outdoors in style with Mansfield Bushwalks, which has guided, pack-free walks to secluded waterfalls and mountain lookouts with indulgent add-ons, including a catered bush brunch or gourmet picnic pack.
For wine: All Saints Estate
Flex your vigneron muscles at the stunning All Saints winery in Victoria’s lauded Rutherglen wine region, just shy of the NSW border. Led by chief winemaker Nick Brown, the Winemaker for a Day experience takes you deep into the viniculture process – exploring the science of tending the vineyard and the alchemy of the barrel room – before a personalised tasting and multi-course lunch in the acclaimed Terrace restaurant. Feel like staying the night? The estate’s accommodation includes the cosy Winemakers Cottage, which sleeps two.
For a coastal getaway: Port Fairy
Historic churches, wide streets lined with Norfolk pines and an excellent old-school Chinese restaurant… there’s a dreamy nostalgia to the coastal town of Port Fairy, at the western end of the Great Ocean Road. Stay at Drift House (pictured), a five-minute walk to the wharf and its bobbing boats or a cruisy bike ride to the beach (they’ll provide the bikes). The six suites combine the old with the new and our favourite is Suite One, which features an open fireplace and a large freestanding stone bath.
For a hip retreat: Geelong
Once upon a time, Geelong was a place Melburnians would bypass to get somewhere else – the Great Ocean Road or the waves at Bells and Torquay beaches. Not any more. Victoria’s second-largest city has come a long way from its industrial past, with its heritage warehouses now converted into hipster haunts, such as Zigfrids, a restaurant and bar in what was once a panelbeater’s workshop. Its interiors – high ceilings and exposed brick walls – are characterful reminders of the past but the food is all about the present: ricotta dumplings with caper and raisin dressing, say, or braised lamb shoulder with labne. If you’d prefer fine dining, book a table at Bistrot Plume, which specialises in classic French dishes, such as cheese soufflés, steak tartare and chateaubriand. There are plenty of gorgeous Airbnbs in town but if you want your digs to be as divine as your dinner, drive 20 minutes south-west to Leopold and base yourself at Campbell Point House (pictured top) a waterfront mansion with eight exquisitely furnished suites and an infinity- edge pool. There’s also a spa on site, where you can sign up for a hydrating facial or give in to a Turkish rose massage.
For a houseboat holiday: Boatel, Mildura
A houseboating weekend doesn’t have to be hokey. Not on the Murray River, anyway, where the sleek glass-and-steel Boatel feels akin to staying at a floating luxury hotel. There are five staterooms – ideal for a group of friends or a big family – and each features an ensuite, walk- in robes, automatic blinds and large picture windows. There’s also a fully equipped kitchen so don’t forget to take provisions or – for an extra cost – ask local Mildura chef Yigal Benchmo to cook up a feast for you.
For a historic retreat: Mount Ophir Estate, Rutherglen
Europe might be off the cards but you can still spend the night in a castle with a French Provincial tower. Just make your way to the Rutherglen wine region in country Victoria, where Mount Ophir Estate beckons (pictured above). Stay in the tower, which sleeps two, with its spiral staircase and top-floor marble ensuite; or take over The Gatehouse or The Residence, which accommodate up to eight or 10 guests respectively. There are no restaurants or bars on the estate but some of the region’s best dining and drinking spots – such as the hatted Terrace Restaurant (open for lunch Friday-Sunday) – are a short drive away.
For couples: Yarra Valley
Mark this one as to-do once travel restrictions ease in Melbourne: the Spa Suites at Balgownie Estate, with private balconies and uninterrupted vineyard views, take the effort out of organising a romantic trip away – all that’s left to do is take the credit. Enjoy a soak in the spa bath before heading further afield to sample the wares at some of Yarra Valley’s best wineries – De Bortoli and Yering Station are close by.
For wellness: Sky High, Mount Franklin
The twin towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are renowned for their high concentration of restorative mineral springs. And while there’s no shortage of accommodation here (Lake House Daylesford, for instance), a stay at the Sky High holiday house in nearby Mountain Franklin feels like coming home – if your home were an architectural masterpiece with walls of glass to take in panoramic views of the countryside. Aside from its proximity to the “spa capital of Victoria”, the four-bedroom property offers its own roster of wellness activities – think private yoga and meditation classes.
For a gourmet hike: The High Country
There are plenty of ways to experience Victoria’s scenic High Country but this one rewards you with a bounty of hyper-local produce. From December, Hedonistic Hiking offers weekend escapes in the region that include three nights’ accommodation in a brand-new townhouse and two days of private guided hikes that wind their way through Bright and nearby towns. Minimum group size is two and while guests are responsible for their own breakfasts and dinners, picnic lunches are part of the package.