A Grand Plan to Revitalise a Grand Hotel

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

A large crowd of locals gathered for last drinks in March this year as testament to a much-loved landmark. Portarlington Grand Hotel has retained an imposing presence on the town’s main street since 1888, overlooking the foreshore and Port Phillip Bay. Nine months and many millions of dollars later, it will reopen this summer to much excitement from those same locals as well as visitors alike.

It takes a considered approach with plenty of skill and experience to marry the old and the new in a project of this scale. It turns out Melbourne-based architects, Technē Architecture + Interior Design, were just the people for the job. And if you’re getting a similar vibe to that of The Espy in St Kilda, you’re not wrong – they’ve had a hand in many a hospitality makeover.

What’s on offer at the Portarlington Grand Hotel 2.0?

Probably most importantly, dining options abound in this new incarnation. Choose from the airy Atrium beer garden for seaside vistas with your wood-fired pizza. The Lawn will be on your hit list if bringing the family (Rover included) with picnic tables, yellow and white striped umbrellas and seafood platters. Perhaps it’s a casual meet-up with colleagues in the front bar for a light snack you’re after or maybe plans include a leisurely meal with family and friends in the bistro.

Food will be that clever balance between pub classics we all look for, as well as an emphasis on local seafood, naturally. Portarlington, after all, has been the home to a mussel festival since 2007.

Beverages will draw from the region’s award-winning local wineries, as well as craft beers and signature cocktails. So, even if you’ve taken advantage of Port Phillip Ferries’ 70-minute ferry journey from Melbourne’s docklands, you can get a taste for the region’s extensive brewed, distilled and fermented options. We know you’ll be back…

Accommodation can sometimes be an afterthought at regional hotels. Not here. With 18 boutique rooms blending original design details like ornamental fireplaces and archways with luxury finishes, when bookings open for stays beginning January, they’ll be hot property.

Portarlington is the perfect spot from which to explore the Bellarine Peninsula with all it has to offer, whether you’re after a pristine beach to stroll along, adventure activities in the great outdoors or a scenic drive exploring local producers. What are you waiting for?


WHAT: Portarlington Grand Hotel
WHERE: 76 Newcombe St, Portarlington
WHEN: Opening summer 2021
MORE INFO: portarlingtongrandhotel.com.au

We wish to acknowledge the Wadawurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Iconic Warburton Motel returns to its mid-century glory

Words by Della Vreeland
Images supplied

Warburton’s iconic motel is currently undergoing a series of renovations in order to return it to its former glory. The mid-century motel, first built in 1966, has been owned by Richard and Simone Stanwix since 2017, who have grand plans to bring it back to life.

‘Put simply, we saw the rare opportunity to acquire a 1960s motel which – while run down, open and running modestly – was almost completely original in its design and construct,’ Simone says.

With previous accommodation experience in Gippsland, and with Richard’s grandparents having owned and operated the first motel in Tasmania, accommodation definitely runs through the Stanwix veins. They moved to Warbuton just over four years ago in search of an opportunity to do something new.

‘Richard grew up in and around (motels), experiencing the tapestry of life that a motel presents,’ Simone says. ‘We had been visiting Warburton for years and always loved what it offered.  One time we arrived, parked the car and immediately saw a Chihuahua wearing a sombrero riding a donkey in the main street. We instantly knew Warburton was for us but didn’t think for a second it would be in this context.’

Lamenting childhood memories of family road trips, Richard and Simone decided to gallantly take on the project with the aim to preserve original elements of the motel whilst connecting guests to its history and the natural environment. Rooms boast premium beds, crisp white linen and towels, soft furnishings and eco-friendly toiletries. A broad-roof deep veranda leading to an in-house wine bar will reinforce the motel’s indoor-outdoor attitude.

‘We don’t want to turn it into something it was never intended to be,’ Richard says. ‘It’s all about simple pleasures in an unpretentious environment that’s so damn close to Melbourne. It’s a 1966 motel and that is how we want guests to feel when they stay.’

Richard and Simone also offer a series of adventures for guests to enjoy during their stay, including a fleet of bikes, river tubing, toboggans for the wintertime, a specially created wine and dine tour, as well as curated hikes ideal for exploration.

Warburton’s greatest attribute is that it is an immersive experience in nature and we think in the future it will form part of the antidote to the lockdown blues. We love that the river runs through town like an artery. You know that everything is alive here. You can smell it, hear it and see it. It fuels your soul.

‘We can’t believe Warburton is so close to a huge city and yet a world away. It’s a quintessential village atmosphere where people care about how you’re doing, kids roam and there is plenty to entertain the grown-ups in great eateries, bars and quirky shops,’ Richard says.

Over the last 18 months, the Warburton Motel has been closed more than it’s been open. Richard and Simone are encouraging people to book direct instead of an online service, which sends a large percentage of fees overseas.

‘This allows us to do more at the motel, gives our team more hours and circulates the money in our local economy,’ Richard says. ‘We look forward to playing our role in enabling that.’


WHAT: Warburton Motel
WHERE: 4 Donna Buang Rd, Warburton
FIND OUT MORE: warburtonmotel.com.au or via Instagram.

We wish to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Luxury hotel with sustainability focus set to open in Ballarat

A brand new luxury hotel is set to open its doors in Ballarat next year, embracing a sustainability path less travelled.

Owned and restored by David Cook-Doulton and Martin Shew – the creative gurus behind the city’s Lascelles accommodation brand – Hotel Vera is set to be an all-embracing experience where guests can relish in refined luxury, abounding sleekness and ultimate slowness.

The hotel has been named after David’s maternal grandmother, who he says exuded unconditional love and grace.

‘There are those rare people who touch our lives in very special ways. They guide us with their love, wisdom and humanity,’ David explains. ‘When I think of love, I see my grandmother’s face, smiling, reaching for an embrace. I want this hotel to embody this unassuming, yet extraordinary woman.’

According to David and Martin, the virtue of grace lies at the heart of the hotel, since this was one of Vera’s most striking attributes. That being said, both David and Martin have ensured their latest venture has been founded on sustainability.

‘Injecting the hotel experience with a commitment to eco-friendly practices has been of paramount importance to us,’ Martin says.

We understand that true luxury needs to be founded on environmental integrity.

The couple’s commitment to sustainability is made evident through the restoration of an historic building, the recycling of demolished materials, the lush on-site gardens, the paddock-to-plate ethos, the installation of solar panels, and also through their partnering with Ballarat social enterprise Fifteen Trees which planted 250 trees in order to help offset the impact of the hotel build. 

‘Fifteen Trees is also set to plant one tree for every guest who books in at the hotel. These trees will all be planted together in the region, allowing guests to return to the space at a later date and remember their stay more vividly,’ Martin says.

‘We are focusing a lot on sense memory through this enterprise, and hope that the Vera experience will live on with our guests long after they’ve departed.’

Boasting seven personalised suites, each a sanctuary in its own right, as well as its very own high-end restaurant and even a car stacker and EV charger, this hotel is a one-of-a-kind luxury offering in the Ballarat accommodation space.

Hotel Vera is set to open its doors in April 2022.


WHAT: Hotel Vera
WHEN: Opening April 2022
FIND OUT MORE: hotelvera.com.au

We wish to acknowledge the Wadawurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Your Guide to the Goulburn River and Ranges

The Goulburn River might not have the PR team of the mighty Murray but as Victoria’s longest river it has long been a part of peoples’ daily lives. It is the region’s lifeline of agriculture, a cultural and historic touchstone as well as a magnet for outdoor activities.

Your road trip offers so many waterways to choose from, including one of Victoria’s largest man-made lakes, enchanting waterfalls and secluded fishing spots. No matter the season, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking scenery, pretty little towns and down to earth hospitality as you wind your way through this special part of central Victoria – all within a short, easy drive out of Melbourne.

Here’s an itinerary to get you started.

Grampians Road Trip with Tim Bone

Like many Victorians, Tim Bone’s (Masterchef 2019) first experience of the Grampians was campfire songs and orienteering at school camp.

There is so much more to explore in this region which is rich in wildlife, indigenous history and fantastic food and wine. So we thought it would be fun to send Tim back out on a Grampians road trip to rediscover the region with fresh eyes.



Hit reset at the Fire and Spice Wellness Retreat

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If lockdown 4.0 hit you hard, the itch for a vacation is turning into a rash, and you’re scrolling through the explore feed on Instagram, you’re probably in need of a little reset. We’ve done some digging for antidotes and discovered the Fire and Spice Wellness Retreat – your ultimate weekend getaway to zen out and hit that reset button.

Hosted by Masterchef alumni Dani Venn, the wellness retreat is inspired by fire and spice and designed to get you totally blissed out on good food, good vibes and good company – all within the luxurious Lon Retreat and Spa in Point Lonsdale on the Bellarine Peninsula.

The three-day retreat will see you learn the art of cooking with spices in a Masterclass run by Dani herself, soak the winter out of your bones in the warm mineral springs, stretch out on the mat in a few yoga classes, and have your fill of local gin or wine by the fire at night.

In keeping with the spirit of ‘me-time’, guests have the opportunity to take part in each activity or take things at their own pace. With two nights accommodation at the exclusive venue surrounded by stunning farmland and ocean, relaxation is guaranteed.

Dani, who is best known for lighting up our screens on Masterchef in 2011, 2012 and 2020, will join guests in activities and share her encyclopaedic knowledge of spices and cooking delicious meals along the way.

“After running wellness retreats in Bali and Sri Lanka, I am thrilled to bring my one-of-a-kind retreat closer to home at one of the most relaxing places on earth. I cannot wait to cook for you, laugh with you and create unforgettable memories you will hold onto for a lifetime,” says Dani.

Tickets are selling fast, so head to the website soon before they’re gone.

WHAT: Fire and Spice Wellness Retreat
WHEN: Friday 25 to Sunday 27 June, 2021
WHERE: Lon Retreat & Spa, 25 Gill Road, Point Lonsdale
MORE INFO:  Dani Venn 

Street art and eco-luxury come together in this pop-up hotel

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You must’ve been living under a rock not to have heard about the Silo Art Trail. Stretching over 200km in Victoria’s north-west Wimmera Mallee region, it’s been called Australia’s largest outdoor gallery for good reason. Whatever direction you’re visiting from, you’re going to need somewhere to stay. For one month only, your best bet is the Silo Art Pop-Up Hotel on the edge of pink-hued Lake Tyrrell.

The hotel is the brainchild of Contained – a group that have re-purposed shipping containers as restaurants, bars, offices and much more. Each eco-pod may have a low carbon footprint but doesn’t skimp on the finishing touches: Australian-made toiletries, minibar stocked with locally-sourced treats, luxuriously soft bed linens, continental breakfast and a private deck for you to drink in the peace under more stars than you’ve seen in a long time.

Each pod will also feature bespoke art thanks to street art agency, Juddy Roller.

First pod features work by Matt Adnate, a well-respected creator of multicultural portraiture whose work can be seen at the Sheep Hills silo (completed in 2016). His paintings exhibit a bold energy, dramatic use of light and shade and a sensitive approach to Indigenous culture and stories.

Drapl will team up with The Zookeeper to adorn a second hotel pod. Their 2019 work at the Sea Lake silos celebrates the local Boorong people’s strong connection to nearby Lake Tyrrell. It is a haunting image, especially at night as the massive artwork bleeds into the night sky.

Former lawyer and now street artist Kaff-eine will adorn the swimming pool container with a colourful mural. Her photorealistic portraiture is imbued with symbolism and narrative, securing her a loyal following locally and abroad.

Visit Victoria has compiled a field guide with plenty of resources to help you plan your trip.


WHAT: Silo Art Trail Pop-up Hotel
WHERE: Lake Tyrrell, near Sea Lake
WHEN: Friday 11th June – Monday 12th July 2021
MORE INFO: booking details here

Sleep under the stars at Daylesford’s new Skyview Bubble Tent

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For even the most ardent camping lovers, winter can spell an unavoidable abstinence from the great outdoors. Our state’s chaotic weather doesn’t make for the most reliable holiday destination. But rest assured there is a way to experience the total immersion with nature camping brings, without the soggy socks and ice-cold nights. May we introduce Daylesford’s newest glamping accommodation sure to quench that thirst?

Meet the Skyview Bubble Tent, one of regional Victoria’s most unique getaway accommodations, nestled right on the edge of Wombat State Park in Daylesford. Brought to life by local couple Anita and Richard Payne, the new luxury stay has been fitted with all the finest details to make your camping experience one to remember.

The clear circular roof gives you almost 360-degree views of the surrounding woodland where you will likely see several kangaroos hopping past, or maybe even one of the alpaca’s the pair keep on their farm. And of course, the magic of thousands of stars at night, completely uninterrupted by nearby lights.

After discovering the bubble tent phenomenon in Europe, Anita and Richard set the wheels in motion to create Victoria’s first one a couple of years ago. Much evolution has seen the tent transform into a fully equipped getaway experience. Inside there is a Queen-sized bed with luxury linen, beanbags to squish into and tea and coffee facilities to get you really cosy. While the outdoor area features a wooden deck with a log fire (and pizza oven) and gas BBQ, outdoor shower, kitchen facilities, cantilevered umbrella with fairy lights and even a bush hammock to soak it all up.

“Our intention was to give people a sense of seclusion and privacy… and it’s just been fun putting it all together,” Anita says. “It really is just a magical experience in the Aussie bush.”

So pack your winter woollies (or your hat if you’re booking ahead) and your adventurous spirit, the Skyview Bubble Tent is ready to greet you.

WHAT: Skyview Bubble Tent
WHERE: 162 Brandy Hot Road, Eganstown
WHEN: Check website for availability
MORE INFO: Bookings via Dayget Daylesford

Luxury awaits at Five Acres Accommodation

Images by Marnie Hawson
Styling by Belle Bright

Set on rolling farmland overlooking the ocean, Five Acres Accommodation is the newest (and maybe coolest) place to stay in Phillip Island.

Between raising three children, running the popular business The Pantry Phillip Island and building three luxurious seaside cabins, you might wonder when Phillip Island-based couple Katie and Rommy Lamaro sleep.

The hardworking duo, who just two weeks ago opened the doors to Five Acres, first purchased the farmland back in 2018 with a simple aim: give Phillip Island the luxury accommodation it deserves. And may we say, they have well and truly succeeded.

Located in Ventnor, less than two hours drive from Melbourne, these three flawless cabins stand side-by-side with sweeping views of Western Port Bay. Designed in tandem with Mitch Bagley from Onsite Design, each one features the same floor plan but with different finishes. One is underpinned with earth tones for a grounding stay, another is a little dark and moody, and the last has been finished with greenstone for a bright and lively feel.

Interiors have been thoughtfully curated by renowned stylist and decorator Belle Bright for a cosy, minimalist feel. High-end finishes like handcrafted Tasmanian oak furniture, custom-made concrete baths, bespoke upholstery and art from local artists makes each of the spaces truly unique. You’ll be photographing from every angle when you get there.

And of course, let’s not forget the exterior. The micro-farm is indeed working, with over 90 fruit and nut trees and an abundance of veggie beds growing up a storm. As for the cows and sheep that roam the property? Well, Katie says they’re more like pets.

Guests staying in the cabins can expect a continental breakfast (made in part by Katie herself), as well as a small bottle of complimentary gin from a local distillery. For the ultimate respite, we recommend cracking open a bottle of red from one of the wineries nearby, putting your feet up in front of the natural wood fireplace and enjoying the ocean views.

Unforgettable relaxation is the mainstay at Five Acres, and now that Melburnians are travelling regionally more than ever, the Lamaro’s may even get some rest themselves.

“It’s been a busy time, but we’re so glad to be where we are now. We can’t wait to welcome people,” Katie said.

WHAT: Five Acres Accommodation
WHERE: 46 Mchaffies Lane, Ventnor, Phillip Island
WHEN: Check website for bookings and availabilities
MORE INFO: Five Acres


Farm stay, bar and soon to be kitchen; the restored Hotel Granya has got it all

Nestled on the banks of Lake Hume in Towong Shire, the historic Hotel Granya has woken from its decade-long slumber thanks to Bridget Bowe and Gary Paxton.

The couple, who share over 25 years of hospitality experience, purchased the pub at the beginning of 2020 while operating their other venue, The Bethanga Hotel, and proceeded to spend the year carefully restoring the property when COVID-19 hit.

The result is nothing short of magical. Bridget and Gary have transformed the Hotel Granya from classic country pub into a charming farm stay, bar and soon-to-be pub kitchen – all set on 6 acres of rolling hills with alpacas, ponies, sheep and chickens to boot.

The idyllic lakeside property features two self-contained dwellings, The Cedar House and The Silver Gum Lodge, whose bespoke interiors blend country style with Scandinavian touches, as well as a hotel dormitory perfect for those looking for a place to rest their head while exploring the region.

While the farm stay and bar is already in full swing giving travellers a home away from home, the pub kitchen is planned to launch in May 2021, and things are looking pretty delicious. Chef David Barrows is leading the charge after working with Gary at Bethanga Hotel, and will be dishing up share platters with the likes of Black Spice Salt and Pepper Squid, Croquettes and Lamb Koftas, to name a few. Pub classics will also be on offer.

If you fancy bringing along your own tucker before the kitchen opens, Bridget encourages punters to enjoy the grounds with their BYO picnic or barbecue. They’ve even got picnic grazing boxes on offer on weekends.

The team have big plans for The Hotel Granya, which Bridget says are only just getting started. With her background in the arts and community service, Bridget hopes to link community groups with the property by running gardening programs.

“We would love to use the grounds to host community events and open it up to artists and creatives to run workshops. We hosted a floral wreath making workshop just prior to Christmas, and have a Clay one coming up in April. We are also in consultation with a local Yoga Teacher with the plan to host a Yoga Retreat here later in the year.” Bridget explains.

Despite being hit with a pandemic, this innovative duo are proving that creativity doesn’t stop with difficulty. So drop in for a cold one if you are in the area and add a night in their stunning accomodation. They even give you fresh eggs and fruit from the orchard if you do!

WHAT: Hotel Granya
WHERE: 3100 Murray River Road, Granya
WHEN: Accommodation and bar now open, kitchen opening May 2021
MORE INFO: Hotel Granya Farmstay