Cast anchor at Drift House hotel in Port Fairy, whose masterclass on beach-boutique features pops of colour, salvaged timber and bathrooms decorated with Japanese tiles. Instead of a restaurant, you'll have breakfast in the stylish salon and have a generous maxibar in your room; in the place of formal staff, you have two charming owners acting as hosts.
Six suites: two in the original bluestone building, two in the modern extension and two in the Edwardian Villa.
11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £296.72 (AU$532), including tax at 10 per cent.
Continental breakfast, served in the Salon, is included.
Don't leave without nibbling on the in-room yo-yos, which have nabbed first prize in Port Fairy's regional baking competition several years in a row. Internet addicts: expect to be pleasantly surprised by the high-speed WiFi, something of a feat for regional Victoria.
At the hotel
Library, stash of CDs and DVDs, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, DVD player, radio, iPod dock, maxibar, bathrobes, Aspar bath products. Each room also has tea- and coffee making kit.
Our favourite rooms
Forget cookie-cutter rooms: each of Drift House's six suites is completely different. We’re particularly fond of Five, which takes up half of the Edwardian villa. The interiors are flooded with light and furnished with eye-catching contemporary pieces, creating a striking contrast with the building's historic façade. Decorated in muted tones, Six was designed to be particularly serene, with an open fireplace and a daybed in the living area.
There's a rectangular 10m solar-heated pool in the gardens, shielded by a reclaimed rock wall. (Of course, you've also got the beach close by.)
Your smart phone for Instagramming the interiors and a bottle of champagne to sink in one of the tubs. If you’re bedding down in Three, bring thick socks to pad across the polished concrete floor in.
This hotel is for adults only – leave the little Smiths at home.
Your own: each suite has a kitchenette and cosy dining area. Both Two and Three have outside space with a table and chairs (ask Colleen or John to light Three's outside fire on cold nights).
Match your suite: pops of emerald for One; monochrome prints for Two; wooden jewellery and white linen for Three; colourful knits and aqua hits for Four.
There’s no restaurant as such, but a delicious Continetal breakfast is served in the salon each morning. The produce is all locally-sourced of homemade, including sourdough bread and granola from Irrewarra Estate, cold cuts from Salt Kitchen and cheese from Heidi Farm. Fresh and poached fruit, yoghurt and homemade cake are always on offer too, as is artisanal tea and coffee. Each suite has its own kitchenette with a hob (all suites except One have a microwave, too), and have maxibars stocked with baked beans, pasta, parmesan, pasta sauces and other nibbles. If you do want to dine out, Port Fairy has a clutch of tempting restaurants.
Play barman and barfly in your suite, which has a stash of locally sourced Basalt Vineyard red and white wine in its maxibar, along with beer, cider, sparkling juices and fizzy water.
There’s no room service, so dip into your maxibar, stocked with organic crisps, nuts, popcorn, chocolate and locally produced yo-yos.
Drift House is in scenic Port Fairy, at the very end of the Great Ocean Road.
Melbourne airport is closest, a four-hour drive away (http://melbourneairport.com.au/).
Warrnambool station is 30km from the hotel. You can catch the train straight to Warrnambool from Melbourne (using the V-Line service) and then hop on the bus to Port Fairy (a half-hour journey).
It takes around three-and-a-half hours to drive here from Melbourne (stop off at the delightful Red Door café in Inverleigh to break up the trip); allow six-to-eight hours if you take the Great Ocean Road. From Adelaide, the drive is around six-and-a-half hours. There are two car parks close to the hotel: Gipps Street is just a stroll away, and the second is on Regent Street, close to Suite 3. The hotel also has a few spaces just outside. Each one has an intercom; buzz this and a member of staff will arrive to welcome you.
Hop on a coach from Melbourne and be dropped off just a short walk from the hotel, in the centre of Port Fairy. If you’re planning a slightly more glamorous arrival, Port Fairy has its own air strip where guests can land their helicopters.
Worth getting out of bed for
Be sure to head down to the beach (a short walk from the hotel) to admire the surfers or to hop on your own board. If you want some guidance on the waves, give Go Surf a call. Explore Griffiths Island, strolling down the walking track from the carpark at the end of Gipps Street and following the loop anti-clockwise around to the lighthouse via white sand coves and rocky outcrops (allow an hour and a quarter for the walk). Hire a bike and pootle along the rail trail to historic Koroit. In need of pampering? Book a treatment at Port Fairy Day Spa. Potter around Port Fairy, buying lollies from the traditional sweetshop, collectibles from the antique shops, homewares (we picked up some colourful Danish candles) from the little design shops and clothing and gifts from the boutiques. Hop in your car and drive to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve (10 minutes away) for a scenic walk; alternatively, drive for 40 minutes to reach Budj Bim National Park (take picnic provisions with you). Nautical types will enjoy a boat charter trip to Lady Julia Percy Island. If you’re here between May and September, go whale watching. Wine buffs should visit Basalt Vineyard (especially if you like the bottle left in your room).
Coffin Sally on Sackville Street will have you thinking you’re in Fitzroy, thanks to its laidback young surfer owners, mellow tunes and fuss-free brick interior. The pizzas are excellent, as are the cocktails (alternatively, sink a jug of Pimm’s). For something a little more formal, book a table at little Merrijig Innat 1 Campbell Street. The ambitious chef rustles up dishes worthy of their price tag, including hot-tea-smoked salmon salad with smoked tomato, radish pods and a seafood consommé jelly with samphire. For relaxed lunches, fresh salads and delicious brownies, head to The Farmer's Wife Harvest Café.
Beach-obsessed Aussies love a weekender within two hours drive of the city. However, I find beach towns further out of town more desirable for their quiet demeanour and lack of day-trippers. Quiet, calm and recharge: our mottoes this weekend during our stay at home-away-from-home Drift House hotel in Victoria.
City lights fade behind us as we settle into the picturesque evening drive to Port Fairy passing through the golden landscape of the Western Plains. We arrive late and are greeted by our friendly host who offers to show us two available rooms for us to select from. Both are large and uniquely decorated – a difficult choice, as they both entice for our two-night stay. We choose the suite on the historic building’s first floor; it’s painted a calming soft green, and French doors lead to a large private veranda – the host agrees with our choice given the expectant fine weather. A breakfast hamper for the next morning is delivered and our newspaper preferences noted; we’re wished good night and left to settle in.
When the door closes my habit of inspecting hotels like I’m buying them kicks in: what’s in the hamper? Where is the storage? Which toiletries are there in the bathroom? Tick, tick, tick… More apartment than hotel room, the suite is divided into living and sleeping spaces by a pod containing the ensuite bathroom. The living room has a large designer sofa and a selection of inspiring books and magazines. A kitchenette is integrated into a long sleek bench, with a hob, sink and concealed appliances. There are no electric corded kettles here, rather a classic kettle we place on the hob to make herbal tea before bed. Under a small glass cloche are two home-made yo-yo biscuits, just like my grandmother used to make. A card extends informs us that these biscuits have won second place at the Port Fairy Show for three years in a row. Biting into one, I understand why. We unpack our belongings onto a long timber bench (much more practical that a wardrobe) then get comfy in bed, leaving our city thoughts behind.
In the morning we sit at our table for two in the living room to enjoy home-made granola, poached pears and coconut sheep’s milk yoghurt followed by soft-boiled eggs, avocado, Illawara bread and house-made dukka. Having to make your own breakfast on holiday sounds tedious, but it’s a pleasure to eat when you please, in your quiet sanctuary. The room’s well equipped with teas and a Nespresso machine, but we head into town for a hit of caffeine.
We discover a farmers’ market in full swing. 'Ooh, a market', I exclaim, Mr Smith rolls his eyes. Markets are my weakness, particularly flea markets with vintage trinkets just too good to leave behind. No vintage here, but a neat row of tents display local wines, lavender-scented skin products, home-knitted booties, freshly picked veggies and baked goods. Generous take-home tubs of yo-yo biscuits catch my eye. I resist, this time. A small sign signals the Farmer's Wife, a bijou café accessed via a narrow, stone-walled path. We order coffee and house-made chocolate brownies, then sit outside and savour, before wandering the quiet streets, admiring the extensive heritage buildings, many built in the 1850s. Their robust bluestone façades and external stone chimneys take you to another time, when Port Fairy was a booming fishing hub.
We buy some local delicacies to take back to our room for lunch, to enjoy with the free local Pinot Gris by Basalt in our room. Our veranda sits in the shade of Norfolk Island pines as old as the handsome stone hotel, and our elevated viewpoint overlooks the Moyne River mouth and a snippet of ocean – just enough to check the surf at Eastern Beach. The finely structured wine goes down nicely; just as I'm contemplating a siesta, Mr Smith suggests a walk to the lighthouse. We follow the river, inspecting delightful old-school timber fishing boats and cruisers tied to the jetty. The historic lighthouse stands alone on Griffith Island; it’s a unique nesting ground for shearwater birds (who migrate to Alaska each year!). We take the boardwalk path around it and sit on large beach rocks to take in the view. Later we opt for a casual dinner at pizzeria Coffin Sally, which is thronged with people on this balmy night. Known for their pizza, they live up to their reputation serving up topping-heavy 11-inchers that would fare well against Melbourne’s finest. We enjoy the short walk home before we ‘pull up stumps’ for the night.
We wake up, and with nowhere to rush to Mr Smith boils our eggs and we sit down for a long, lazy breakfast. When noon arrives we pack our bags, including a stash of show-winning yo-yo biscuits from the maxibar. As we say goodbye to our host in the fledgling garden, we realise we didn't visit the small plunge pool, a recent addition still settling into the landscape. But, it’s good to have a reason to return. We begin the scenic drive home, fuelled by yo-yos, both quiet, calm and recharged. Tick, tick, tick.