For the Peninsulas: Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas

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Article by Rachelle Unreich

From the classic escapes – think: coastal getaway or spa retreat – to new holiday ideas you’ve probably never thought of but definitely need to try, these are the best long weekend getaways in Victoria to start planning for now.

From beach to winery, two luxe travel packages offer the best of these neighbouring destinations. En route to the Bellarine Peninsula’s Lon Retreat & Spa, which is hidden in rural terrain overlooking the ocean, I pass a sign: RIP VIEW LOOKOUT. It takes a moment for me to read it as intended – a direction to a water-viewing spot – instead of as an acronym suggesting I should, in fact, rest in peace here. Either fits, though, because the Lon – a family-run, sevensuite “home hotel” just 150 metres from the beach – is so restful that by the end of my stay I’m peeking beneath linens to find its pillow brand, hoping to replicate the same deep sleep in my own bed.

Co-owners Claire and Rob Gemes transformed Claire’s one-time family home into an intimate space, starting with rotating artworks at the entrance. Claire gives each local artist, who’s asked to draw inspiration from the surrounding landscape, the same brief: “Your work should make the viewer exhale.”

But with a stay at Lon being like a warm embrace, the Gemes wanted their guests to have a contrasting experience on the second of Victoria’s iconic peninsulas, Mornington, famous for its wineries and culinary offerings. Enter the luxury threeday Lon to Leo and Lon to Laura packages (available until December). With each, guests are spirited across the bay for a three-course lunch at Pt. Leo Estate Restaurant or an eight-course dégustation at the winery’s fine-diner, Laura. The afternoon includes entry to the estate’s Sculpture Park, with pieces by KAWS, Andrew Rogers and Antony Gormley, among others.

Could there be a headier way to pass the days? Actually, yes. In Lon Retreat’s Alto suite, an oversized bathtub features a brass knob that pumps in the property’s mineral water while the tub gives you views of bucolic farmland and outdoor artworks. (“That one’s realistic,” I say to Claire. “No, that’s an actual cow,” she tells me.) Fellow guests are elusive but you catch sightings of them in their robes, ducking into the swimming pool or spa.

I follow their lead and sign up for the Blissful Marma Massage, or “heaven on a stick” as my therapist dubs it while she works on my chakra points and notes of clove fill the air. “It’s the best massage I’ve ever had,” I tell her and she nods. She’s heard this before.

The next day at Laura I get lost, too, when I’m served a small chestnut canapé, melding ice-cream, almond brittle and shiitake. Hot smoked barramundi follows then pan-fried bone marrow and rum baba, paired with unexpected wines (such as the Moriki Shuzo sake with its manga-comic label).

I have ample opportunity to discover other forms of art as I explore the Sculpture Park. Spanning almost seven hectares and exhibiting more than 60 Australian and international works, it’s a different kind of feast but equally enriching. I pass another sign, this one an artwork by Richard Tipping and what seems to be an invitation: “Private Poetry”, it reads. “Trespassers Welcome”. – Rachelle Unreich

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