Australia is burning. Since September, nearly 150 bushfires have raged through the southeast corner of the country. The two largest ones recently merged to form a megafire that’s consumed more than 1.5 million acres. Billions of animals and almost 30 people have lost their lives. Thousands of homes have been destroyed. Firefighters are utterly exhausted. There’s no end in sight.
Right now, manpower, supplies, and money are desperately needed. Eventually, the cleanup and the rebuilding will begin. It’ll take years to recover. The loss of tourism dollars certainly won’t help. So, in addition to making a sizeable donation, keep planning your next trip Down Under.
Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, one of the hardest-hit states, was supposed to be your jumping-off point. You planned to eat your way around the country’s second-largest city, drink wine in the Yarra Valley, drive down the Great Ocean Road, hike in Grampians National Park, and visit fairy penguins on Phillip Island. You still can. You need to add some downtime to that packed itinerary, though.
You can slip in some quiet time on the Bellarine Peninsula between Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road. Or after Grampians National Park. Or at the very end of your trip. The west side of Port Phillip’s mouth is pretty low-key. It’s known for its family-owned wineries, quiet nature reserves, and windswept beaches. Point Lonsdale, a laid-back coastal town with cafes across from the beach, makes a good home base. It just happens to be the location of the chic Lon Retreat.
Lon Retreat is the type of place around which you could plan an entire trip. The rural property sits on a hill overlooking the peninsula’s south shore. Its 200 acres, owned by the same family for seven generations, is full of orchards and gardens. Two years ago, they added seven suites and a Mineral Spa. The former feels like sanctuaries that were curated by a glamorous friend. The latter uses water from the property’s natural springs. It’s the perfect spot to slow down.
When you arrive in Lonnie, you’ll find a long, winding driveway that leads to Lon Retreat. Its sandstone buildings are eco-friendly with concrete walls, wood-burning stoves, and handmade furniture. Suites are named after clouds and decorated with tones that match the fields, the sea, and the sky outside. Each one features a kitchenette, so you can create breakfast from the welcome hamper, order platters from Annie’s Kitchen, and try regional beer, wine, snacks, sweets from the Makers & Growers Pantry. The poolhouse, spa treatment rooms, and the fire pit are just steps away. The sound of the surf isn’t far beyond that. You’re ready. Hopefully Australia will be soon, too.