To call Stephanie King a local would be an understatement. The owner and Host of the Bellarine Peninsula’s cosiest Airbnb cabin stay, The Woods, is a fourth-generation resident of Ocean Grove and knows this wind-whipped stretch of Victorian coastline better than anyone – even if it took a round-the-world trip to truly appreciate it.
“When I got home after a few years travelling, I remember going for a walk up to the Barwon Heads bluff, looking down over the sea and back across Ocean Grove and I thought, ‘Oh my god – this is just as amazing as everywhere that I’ve been.’ I saw my hometown in a new light and I thought it was too good not to share.”
Stephanie’s passion for this beautiful beachside town, just an hour-and-a-half south-west of Melbourne, is palpable at her two stylish cabins, where 100-year-old Bellarine yellow gums shade perennial gardens, generous lawns and private outdoor soaking tubs.
“Spending time in nature is one of the easiest ways to de-stress and relax. If you sit down low on the beanbags and look up it feels like you’re nestled under the gum trees. And you’ve got giant Jenga sets sprawled out on the lawn amongst flowers and the fire pit to sit around and toast marshmallows under a clear sky full of stars.”
Both of the property’s two cabins (available to book separately) overflow with creature comforts. Among the temptingly tactile interiors – think jade green velvet bedheads, buttery leather sofas and natural timber accents – guests will find thoughtful touches such as Nespresso machines, French flax linen sheets, yoga mats and dough ready for the outdoor pizza oven.
“We've purposely set up lots of moments like that outdoors – there are little meandering pathways to each of the cabins, the swinging chair and the daybed on the verandah so you can just sit there and enjoy the garden view.”
Cabin One is a couple’s retreat du jour, while Cabin Two sleeps up to four guests. Both feature kitchenettes, split-system air-conditioning and heating, yoga mats, outdoor cooking facilities and an open-air claw-foot bath and shower. There’s also a tennis court, putt putt golf green and fire pit on-site.
“There's what I call magic hour, between about four and six o'clock in the afternoon and in a little spot in the garden you just get the sun beaming down, while all the butterflies are flying around. It's just gorgeous.”
About the Host
“When the property came up, my husband Jason and I jumped at it. My dad was a real estate agent in town for decades and actually sold The Woods to the original owners, who had it for about 40 years before we bought it from them. So it was sort of meant to be.
“I love getting the place all ready and setting it up for guests. Putting the lamps on, the music, some candles. Before they get there, I’ve already been thinking about the guests. I want everything to be perfect.”
Just for you
“I always fill the cabins with fresh greenery from the gum trees and other botanicals straight from the garden. To go with the bath, I make homemade bath salts with rosemary from the garden and also a signature scent that I worked on with a perfumer.
“We want to share a taste of the local area. We give people little complimentary local brownies and we've got some delicious local gin that we offer as part of our honesty bar system.”
Where to eat and drink (and grab coffee!)
“I recommend a cafe called Groove. It’s run by a lovely local couple Tony and Ivy. They do awesome coffee. If you’re going to linger longer, I would go to Garage, which is set in an old service station with places to sit and spread out – the food is locally-sourced and super tasty.
“Basils Farm is another one of my lunch favourites. It’s a cute rustic house with this expansive veggie garden, great seafood and amazing views over Swan Bay. Merne at Lighthouse is a two-hatted Modern Australian restaurant in nearby Drysdale. That’s a special occasion place; delicious locally-sourced food in a grazing style.”
Things to do
“You don’t really need to leave the cabins. There’s putt-putt and the tennis court and places to just sit back and soak it up.
“First thing in the morning I’d head down the beach, a five-minute drive away, and go for a walk along the sand or do the rugged cliff-top walk that leads you to the Barwon Heads bluff.
“The one place I tell people they can’t miss is The Whiskery. They distil a gin there called Teddy & the Fox and they have an amazing cocktail list – it’s a really fun daytime place to visit.”
Stay a little longer
“If you’ve got more time up your sleeve, there’s so much to do. Hire a board or take a surfing lesson with Go Ride a Wave. Go paddleboarding in the Barwon River – it’s flat and just gorgeous.
“If you have a bit longer, head down towards the Great Ocean Road. Lorne is about an hour from here and you can stop at Bells Beach or one of the little coastal towns along the way. The drive is just spectacular.
“One group of guests recently hired out both cabins over a weekend and for a few days into the week and actually worked here remotely. They were lawyers, so they set the cabins up as an office. They loved it – they would work really hard but for their lunchbreak, they’d go down to the beach for a walk and some food. Then they’d knock off about four o’clock and sit on the deck, have some drinks and make pizzas.”