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?


THE DETAILS

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.’


THE DETAILS:

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.


THE DETAILS

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.

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.


THE DETAILS

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

The Trawool Estate

It takes some serious imagination and no small amount of bravery to look at a property between two small-ish regional centres in an albeit idyllic valley, and transform it into a destination restaurant. It seems to be that when you apply imagination and bravery, along with no small amounts of skill and doggedness, that no amount of hither-to unknown-ness of a location will impede the success of a venture. Apply this to the small valley between Yea and Seymour, and you have The Trawool Estate.

Transforming this property between Yea and Seymour on the Melba Highway was no small task. All the accommodation was gutted and refitted along with the restaurant. The business is entirely renewed. Food could be described as sophisticated regional, but that would do both descriptors a disservice. It’s sophistication is not pretentious, but lies squarely in the treatment of the outstanding produce. The commitment to regional comes from understanding where the property sits – squarely in one of the most productive and beautiful parts of regional Victoria.

Details are everything, or so the old saying alludes. These are not lost on the folks at The Trawool Estate. The little pre-mixed cocktails that kept those in-the-know satiated during lockdown are now served in those very same single serve bottles to guests in the rooms. The cocktail list is as extensive as the wine list is considered, and again local producers are to the fore. Speaking of cocktails, if you’re up for it, don’t miss the master-classes – definitely a stay-over event.

Make sure you follow the social media pages – The Trawool Estate runs some fairly astonishing events, with many planned ahead.

A sweet retreat good enough to eat

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A new retreat that looks good enough to eat has recently opened up its doors in Daylesford – further enriching the town’s accommodation offering, but with a twist.

Owned by the husband-and-wife duo behind the acclaimed Sugar Republic events, Sweet Retreat officially launched last month. The newly-renovated cottage is decked out in the colours, feels and drool-worthy props that Sugar Republic is known for, making for a one-of-a-kind holiday.

Owner Allison Jones says she wanted to create a space that took people away from their every day, making an escape to the country extra special.

Each room in the space has its own theme – there’s a light-filled Lucky Rainbow room, a cosy Tea & Biscuits room and a neon-glam Sweet Love room.

Of course, Sweet Retreat wouldn’t be complete with those elements of nostalgia that are typical of Sugar Republic’s installations and much of the decor is inspired by iconic Australian snacks. The dining area is characterised by its Milk Bar art and giant Paddle Pop sculpture, one of the rooms has its own ball pit, and the cherry-scented hallway wallpaper really is, well, the cherry on top.

“The styling is basically inspired by Sugar Republic.  It was a really interesting challenge to take the concept we have created for an event into a residential space, and it allowed me to enact some ideas I’ve had for a while, like scratch-and-sniff wallpaper, which wouldn’t work in a venue that has hundreds of visitors every day,” Allison says.

“We did all of the decorating ourselves – our team has some crazy skills – and most of the art comes from our events.

“The overall feeling is of being a child again, letting go of your worries and allowing time to pass slowly.”

Sweet Retreat is now open for bookings. Visit their Instagram Page or AirBnB listing to book your getaway pronto, and get set for a deliciously unique experience.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Sweet Retreat
WHERE: Daylesford
FIND OUT MORE: airbnb.com/h/sweetretreatdaylesford


	

A fleet of airstreams rolls into Mitchelton

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There’ll be more than just Prosecco sparkling at Mitchelton this summer. The Nagambie winery has expanded its accommodation offering, with a fleet of seven Airstream RVs.

Seven of the vintage-style American caravans, known for their distinctive rounded shape and polished aluminium finish, have rolled into Mitchelton to adorn the Estate and offer a unique, year-round accommodation option for guests.

Continuing with the caravanning theme, the Airstreams each have their own deck area with a barbecue so you can whip up some bacon and eggs to have alongside a bottle of Mitchelton sparkling for a DIY proseccie-breakie. Each morning you’ll find a premium breakfast hamper delivered to your door and if you’re in need of a snack, the dry minibar is included.

Mitchelton’s Airstreams are just a short walk from the winery’s existing accommodation, the Mitchelton Hotel, and Airstream guests will also have access to the rest of the facilities including the pool, gym, day spa and Australia’s largest commercial gallery dedicated to Indigenous art.

When it comes to dinner options, you won’t have to go far, with the on-site restaurant, The Muse, offering a menu that favours local, sustainable and ethically farmed ingredients, to be enjoyed alongside a glass or two of wine from Mitchelton’s awarded cellar.

Martin Garrett, Mitchelton Hotel General Manager, said, “Mitchelton isn’t just a winery – we have an incredible Estate in the heart of the Nagambie region which is ripe for exploring. The Mitchelton Airstream Hotel can help do just that – take our guests into the heart of nature for an experience like no other.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Mitchelton Airstream Hotel
WHERE: 470 Mitchellstown Rd, Nagambie
WHEN: Coming soon
MORE INFO: Mitchelton Airstream Hotel