phillip island's glamping surf and stay
There’s nothing like grabbing a bunch of girlfriends and hitting the road for a weekend of laughs and leisure. For some, invigoration comes in the form of a grueling mountain hike, while others find relaxation in a bottle of fine wine and a long lunch. Either way, here are some of the best girly getaways in regional Victoria:
Australia’s spa capital, Daylesford is the perfect spot for the ultimate in pampering and relaxation. Bathing in its relaxing waters, visitors can rejuvenate with a natural mineral spa and massage at Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, Mineral Spa, Daylesford Day Spa or The Lake House. The town has an amazing choice of restaurants including Mercato, Sault, Larder Café, The Argus and great places to enjoy a drink including Daylesford Cider Company and Passing Clouds Winery. After browsing the boutiques in the main street ladies can immerse themselves in art at David Bromley & Co and the beautiful Convent Gallery.
The Yarra Valley, one of Victoria’s premier wine and gourmet regions, is another stunning spot for the girls to indulge in life’s great pleasures of food, wine, nature and inspiring arts. There is an abundance of farmers markets, cooking schools, golf courses, specialty shops, flower farms and restaurants only 45 minutes from the Melbourne city centre. Groups can pay homage to the grape at boutique cellar doors such as Soumah Winery, Kellybrook Winery or Sticks Winery. Go all upscale at the new and stunning Levantine Hill, or do a behind the scenes barrel room tasting at Dominique Portet. For food, groups can linger over a meal with fresh local produce by chef Matt Stone at Oakridge Winery; sample some of local cheese at the Yarra Valley Dairy; indulge in peach melba at Dame Nellie Melba’s former residence Coombe Estate; or a Sunday High Tea experience at Chateau Yering set among beautiful historic gardens. Art is a great way to break up the wine and a fascinating program of international and local artists are on show at TarraWarra Museum of Art or there is Healesville Contemporary Art Space and other small artist studios dotted around the region. Accommodation includes Yering Gorge Cottages, Chateau Yering and Balgownie Estate.
On the stunning coastal region of the Mornington Peninsula, girls can choose from beaches, boutique wineries, and some of the best regional restaurants in the country, plus the famous Peninsula Hot Springs, cafés and galleries – all within just an hour from Melbourne. For foodies, a no stress way of exploring the Mornington Peninsula is with MPPlunge Tours. Owner and regional authority Arthur O’Bryan invites you to plunge deep into the heart and soul of the region with a tailored food and wine adventure that seeks out the finest and most interesting makers and producers. Or horse lovers can saddle up with Horseback Winery Tours and sample some of the region’s best drops from the lofty heights of theses awesome animals. Water lovers can make the most of the calm aqua waters in the area and try the art of stand-up paddle boarding or get in the water with the seals and dolphins with Bay Play.
On the other side of the bay, the Bellarine Peninsula is the perfect place for relaxation and indulgence; at Point Lonsdale, visitors can indulge at either Mud Day Spa or Queenscliff Day Spa, and follow it up with the Vue Grand’s Grand Afternoon Teas at Queenscliff. Those who are more active can walk along the beach, hire a bike at BIG4 Beacon Resort and enjoy a drink on the rooftop bar at the Vue Grand. Over at Portarlington, luxurious Starhaven Retreat in Indented Head offers magnificent views over the bay. There is no need to leave, as the house is complete with a jet stream swim spa and sauna, and even a “Gold Class” style 15-seat cinema.
A popular getaway for any kind of group, but particularly outdoor/adventure types, the Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives. Around two to three hours from Melbourne, active women can trek the Great Ocean Walk from Apollo Bay to the magnificent 12 Apostles and weave through beautiful parks, deserted beaches and rugged coastline. Activities also include surfing lessons, canoeing to see platypus on Elizabeth Lake at sunrise, kayaking to seals, zip lining through the Otways and horse-back riding along the region’s spectacular coast line. Foodies can taste their way around the area sampling the local gourmet produce, craft beers, ciders and cool climate wines, finishing their experience with a meal at Chris’s Beacon Point enjoying the menu and equally impressive view.
Girls can gather for a weekend away in the glorious town of Bright. ‘Pedals, Pilates & Lattes’ is a boutique two-night getaway at Leader Reef accommodation, nestled on the side of a hill in this stunning Alpine town. After enjoying breakfast from the hamper filled with local produce, guests can get invigorated with a Pilates or yoga session followed by a gentle 20km return bike ride along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail to Feathertop Wines where a platter of cheese, meats and other goodies awaits along with stunning views from the cellar door terrace. Bright Chocolate offers award-winning delights for the sweet-toothed, before grabbing a spot out on the sunny deck at Bright Brewery overlooking the crystal clear Ovens River. Ladies can browse through a fabulous collection of clothing and homewares boutiques and pop by local favourite Coral Lee for one of their famous house baked sweet treats then return back to home base for a dinner prepared in-house by a local chef.
Another great place for a girls escape is Ballarat – a thriving hub of contemporary arts, events and food and wine, with a fascinating heritage backdrop. Ladies can enjoy the regions wineries followed by an exploration of retail offerings of the town, dropping in for a latte at Fika, picking up some beautiful fashion labels from Lark and Milk & Mock, or stocking up on beauty products from Sweet Fern Perfumery. Quality dining experiences about at places such as Kittlety’s, Fu Man Lou and the hatted Thai restaurant Catfish. Mitchell Harris , a converted garage, stocks delicious local wines and beers to wash it all down. Ladies can also enjoy the collection of Australian art at Australia’s oldest and largest regional gallery the Art Gallery of Ballarat or catch a show at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
And over at Phillip Island, girls happy to get their feet wet can try out one of the new Glamping Surf and Stay Packages. The packages include a Lotus Belle Tent which is all glammed up before visitors arrive, and equipped with a comfy bed and bedding as well as an esky for cool drinks, lanterns, picnic set, kettle and toaster. In addition, a 1.5 hour surf lesson – with a female surfing instructor – is included.
At the foot of Mount Sturgeon, the southern tip of the Grampians and the Great Dividing Range, is the village of Dunkeld. Dunkelds charming main street features shops, cafes and the Royal Mail Hotel which is regularly voted one of the best dining destinations in Australia. This beautiful town has a picturesque Arboretum with a walking track that meanders past hundreds of trees including many giant red gums. Girls willing to don their comfortable shoes can enjoy a hike up Mount Sturgeon, Mount Abrupt or the Piccaninny, while those more invigorated by indulgence can spend time at Griffins Hill Health Retreat, focussing on yoga and healthy food.
And further afield,the Murray River provides a wealth of water-based activities to keep even the most active girls entertained. From fast paced waterskiing to paddling through Kings Billabong in a canoe to hiring a houseboat for the weekend and simply cruising along, there are plenty of ways to explore the majesty of the river. Nearby Mungo or Barmah National Parks offer an abundance of wildlife-viewing opportunities, as well as the chance to explore a range of diverse landscapes. Intrepid explorers can head out to the Murray Sunset National Park to see the famous Pink Lakes, which are made of solid salt and change colours throughout the day, from a deep pink to a bright white.