Ballarat’s new romantic retreat by the dam side

Words By Della Vreeland
Images by Nikole Ramsay

The duo behind the highly-coveted Pyrenees accommodation space Grayling’s Gift has opened up its second unique venture – this time in the form of a van, by a dam.

Aptly called Jean-Claude, the vintage caravan is nestled among the gumtrees and overlooks the serene acreage located on the owners’ secluded property.

Jean-Claude co-owner Annie Brereton says she and her husband Shane decided to take on the project after witnessing the incredible success of Grayling’s Gift, particularly following the onset of the health pandemic.

‘We soon realised experiences that provided people with much more than a bed were going to be needed in our new normal,’ Annie says.

‘COVID has made us all evaluate our lives to various degrees, and for us, it meant committing fully to providing people with inspirational places where they could take a real break from the busyness and mess of everyday life.’

Annie and Shane made the move from Melbourne to Ballarat in order to fully commit to their aforementioned business aim.

During their search for somewhere to live, they made sure to purchase a property that could also house another accommodation offering.

‘We had stumbled across this beautiful, but very unkempt, parcel of Australian bush just 10 minutes from the heart of Ballarat,’ Annie says. ‘The house needs a major renovation and the acreage had been let go, but we had a vision for something special on the little dam.’

And so Jean-Claude was born – a lovingly-restored 1970s caravan perfect for a much-needed romantic getaway.

The van boasts a king-size bed dressed in luxurious French linen and includes a cosy nook for reading.

The van’s outdoor shack houses a toilet and warming shower, plus a covered area for food preparation and washing-up, as well as a small bar fridge, esky and BBQ – allowing guests to truly appreciate their natural surroundings by the glistening water.

In true Annie and Shane style, much of the decor and furnishings have been sourced second-hand and from vintage sellers, adding to the overall allure of the space.

‘Our vision is to create an experience unlike any other,’ Annie says. ‘I like to refer to it as old-fashioned hospitality combined with modern luxury.

‘Gone are the 1000-count cotton sheets and sterile hotel styling. Ours is a more welcoming, but no less luxurious offering, that strives to make each and every guest feel like they are being wrapped in a giant hug from the moment they enter any of our properties. ¬†Spaces to reflect, reconnect and wonder.’

Just recently, Annie and Shane rebranded their business from Grayling’s Gift to the Wonder Inns in order to accurately represent their vision and ever-expanding accommodation offerings.

‘We have plans for further expansion and this will enable us to keep growing,’ Annie says.

‘Next year we embark on the renovation of a little city apartment above a shop in the Main Street of Ballarat. ¬†Our properties are all very different from one another but are all designed to offer the same opportunity for couples to come and reconnect amongst unique, inspiring settings.

‘We are striving to create something so far removed from home in order to give our guests the opportunity to dream their own dreams and hopefully return home inspired to take action.’

WHAT: Jean-Claude
WHERE: Mount Helen, Ballarat

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