Eco-friendly bolthole Lon Retreat is made up of just seven suites, each overlooking the foam-tipped waters and rolling dunes of the Bellarine Peninsula. Peaceful and rugged in equal measure, the landscape practically begs you to slow down and take stock of things – which is precisely the feeling the owners want to encourage. Named after seven types of cloud, the inch-perfect suites are clad in woods that echo the golden sand and are finished with colours swiped from the fields, sea and sky. The retreat’s pacifying power is bolstered by a small but stylish spa, fed by mineral-rich springs that bubble up from beneath the property. In terms of dining, you can order hampers from local deli Annie’s Kitchen or try the local area, a gourmet’s playground that’s thick with vineyards and disposed to the farm-to-table philosophy.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £216.17 (AU$390), including tax at 10 per cent.
There’s isn’t currently a restaurant, so rates don’t include any meals, but do include an artisanal breakfast hamper of granola, yoghurt and fruit toast for your first morning. There’s a minimum stay of two nights.
Owners Claire and Rob want the hotel to be a place that encourages guests to slow down and disconnect, which is why it doesn’t have WiFi. There’s good 4G coverage, though, so you won’t be forced to live a hermit’s life against your will.
At the hotel
Sunroom, private gardens, firepit and direct access to the beach. In rooms: flatscreen TV; kitchenette with a mini fridge, microwave and sink; wireless Bose speaker; tea and coffee kit; Weber barbecue; working fireplace and Subtle Energies bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Daubed with earthy and oceanic colours, the seven suites are designed to be inherently relaxing, and have large windows that make the most of the coastal views. The most indulgent of the lot is Alto, which has panoramic sea views from the living room and a stone soaking tub overlooking the lighthouse.
The poolhouse cuts a suave figure with its pitched metal ceiling, jet-black walls and statement stonework. Windows overlook the rolling coastline on either side, and there’s a light-flooded sun room with chairs and sunloungers. The pool is heated and filled with mineral water tapped from the limestone caves beneath the hotel.
Lon Spa is made up of three minimalist treatment rooms, each with a massage area, soaking tub and steam shower, both of which draw their water from the mineral-rich springs that work their way through the sand dunes. Each room has sweeping views of the ocean, local lighthouse and rolling coastline, creating a placid backdrop for the treatments on offer, which range from aromatherapy steam baths to indulgent facials involving 24-karat gold leaf and minerals extracted from pearls and conch shells.
With no WiFi at the hotel, you couldn’t ask for a better place to catch up on your reading list.
All common areas are wheelchair accessible, as is one of the Luxury Suites.
To preserve its peaceful ambience, the hotel only accepts over-16s.
Very – the hotel was built with maximum energy efficiency in mind, making use of the latest green materials and building techniques. Solar and wood-fired heating minimise their use of electricity and gas; natural springs feed the spa, baths and showers; and rainwater is collected for use on their organic farm, which supplies produce and flowers. They also recycle waste and use recycled and local products wherever they can.
Each suite has a stylish dining table topped with timber, marble or glass.
Minimalist threads in earthy, organic colours.
There isn’t a restaurant yet, but there are plans for one in the future. For now, you can pre-order hampers to your suite; there’s a ready-to-cook breakfast hamper filled with bacon, eggs, goat cheese and fresh bread and tomatoes, antipasto and cheese hampers, a picnic-ready basket of goodies and a hamper of local artisanal treats to choose from. You’ll also have round-the-clock access to the Makers & Growers pantry, which is stocked with artisanal products sourced from the local area.
The honesty bar reflects the bounty of the local area, home to first-rate wineries, cider houses and small-batch distilleries.
Lon Retreat is on a stretch of hilly coastline in Point Lonsdale, a township on the fertile Bellarine Peninsula.
Avalon Airport is closest, and can be reached directly from Sydney, Adelaide, the Gold Coast Airport and Kuala Lumpur International. It takes around 45 minutes to drive from Avalon to Lon Retreat; the hotel can arrange a private transfer for up to four people for AUD120 each way.
Geelong Railway Station is a 30-minute drive from the hotel, and can be reached from Melbourne in just over an hour.
It’ll be worth having your own set of wheels, which will make it a breeze to get to award-winning wineries, distilleries, historic towns and stretches of unspoiled coastline. If you want to hire, the Smith24 team can arrange it. There’s open-air parking in front of the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
If the beauty of the Bellarine beachfront isn’t enough to coax you out of bed on a sun-washed morning, we’re not sure what will be. Tufted with swaying grass, the dunes in front of the hotel lead down to a stretch of sand that’s positively crying out for a morning jog (or leisurely stroll for those that prefer to ease into the day). Once you’re back at the hotel, go for a dip in the mineral-rich pool or one of the private soaking tubs, then sample a stress-busting massage or rejuvenating skincare treatment, which make liberal use of fragrant oils packed with purifying properties. After an afternoon stroll to Lake Victoria or the Back Beach (ask at reception for the route), retreat to your stove-warmed suite with a bottle of the local chardonnay and one of the hotel’s antipasti hampers, which are put together by local deli Annie’s Kitchen. On the subject of life’s finer foodstuffs, this fertile pocket of Victoria is peppered with award-winning wineries, cider houses, distilleries, cheese-makers and olive groves, making for a first-rate foodie tour. The Bellarine Taste Trail collates more than 50 of foodie stop offs, all within driving distance. Point Lonsdale is also one of the best places to reach the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, which has more diverse marine life than the Great Barrier Reef, making for excellent diving and snorkelling. There are several local surf spots too, but always do your research before heading out – the turbulent Bass Strait is nicknamed The Rip for good reason. If fishing is more your thing, try your luck from the rocks at Point Lonsdale, where you’ll have a chance of landing salmon, snapper, mullet and barracouta.
Perched on the end of the jetty at Barwon Heads, At the Heads is the spot for a leisurely waterfront breakfast, open from 9am daily. Try one of the tropical smoothie bowls, the lemon myrtle panna cotta or the pancakes, topped with caramelised banana and salted macadamia ricotta. For lunch, book a table at 360Q, owned by chef Barry Liddles, who has cooked for some of the country’s greatest stars (he even made Kylie Minogue's 30th birthday cake). Perched on the edge of the marina in Queenscliff Harbour, the restaurant unites local ingredients with international flavours, with dishes borrowing from Vietnamese and Korean cuisine. Formerly the Barwon Heads fire station, laid-back restaurant the Beachhouse has a mod-Australian menu and a bar stocked with some of the best local wines. The simple interiors and warm service lend themselves to casual dinners of oysters, local seafood and pasture-fed beef. For a fine-dining splash, try celebrated Geelong eatery Igni, where the menu changes every single day, reflecting the chefs finds (some ingredients are even foraged or grown in-house). Head chef Aaron Turner has a talent for taking humble ingredients and transforming them into something extraordinary, making his eight-course tasting menus feel like a journey of rediscovery. Book well in advance.
Noble Rot is an intimate wine bar stocked with a judicious selection of bottles from home and abroad. Owner Jordan has lived and worked in the Bellarine Peninsula for 15 years, and he and his team will happily guide you to old favourites and winning upstarts.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this eco-friendly hotel in the Bellarine Peninsula and unpacked their cold-pressed olive oil from Manzanillo Grove, a full account of their coastal break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Lon Retreat in the Bellarine Peninsula…
Time to slow down. That’s the invitation extended to every guest that stays at Lon Retreat, who’ve made the phrase something of a motto. In this day and age, that’s no small ask, and a hotel needs to be sure it’s sufficiently pacifying to deliver that timeless sense of tranquility. Thankfully, the owners of Lon Retreat have nothing to worry about, as their slice of sanctuary is calming by design. A family-owned farm on 200 acres of protected coastline, the retreat is set apart from its neighbours, giving you ample breathing space for head-clearing strolls over the dunes, beach and farm. On the inside, this extra legroom makes itself known in the abundant daylight and sweeping views, which take in the white-tipped waters that lap Point Lonsdale’s shore. The blues, greens and sandy colours of the surrounding landscape have also made their way inside, lending an organic look to each of the suites, which have handmade furnishings, wood-burning stoves and alfresco dining areas. If that’s not enough to get you feeling zen, make a beeline for the spa, where the steam bath and pool – both fed by natural springs – will soon wash away any lingering worries.