Signature checks into… Starhaven Retreat, Victoria
Traveller: Gwen O’Toole
Room: Star Suite
Address: 13 Calimo Place, Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria Australia
Date: September 2016
Best for: Romantic getaways and corporate retreats with an intimate touch.
Visiting the very stylish Starhaven Retreat on the Victorian Bellarine Peninsula is like visiting the (albeit very swish) weekend home of a family friend. You’re immediately comfortable and it feels more like a holiday home than a hotel.
The Signature factor
Starhaven Retreat is luxury all the way, but it’s also homey too. Over its three levels and with only five suites, guests can enjoy plenty of privacy and indulgence as the B&B-style retreat also offers a private cinema, sauna and swim spa, a games area with billiards table, a cocktail bar and beach frontage with views over Port Phillip Bay.
With such a sophisticated design, you certainly don’t have to be an architecture enthusiast to understand why the retreat was chosen to be featured on the television series Grand Designs Australia.
Starhaven Retreat is less like your typical B&B-style accommodation and feels more like staying at the luxury weekend home you’ve always dreamt about. With four incredibly spacious ‘Star Suites’ and one premium ‘Haven Suite’ you’re guaranteed a peaceful and indulgent stay with plenty of privacy. It’s also adults-only so those looking for a bit of quiet time will find it here.
Rooms are modern and designed with neutral colours and Balinese-inspired beach flair. Stays include complimentary Wi-Fi, 3D LED flat-screen televisions, a huge choice of free on-demand movies and luxury bathroom amenities from L’Occitane.
It’s a short drive into the Bellarine region so it’s the perfect weekend getaway for a bit of indulging at local wineries, too.
Starhaven Retreat is set among residential houses so it truly feels like you’re pulling up into your weekend holiday house. Once you enter you’ll be greeted by owners Ian and Rob (and possibly the residential house cat, Socks) to say hello and show you around the retreat. Expect a very warm welcome and expect to feel as though you are a world away from the buzz of the Melbourne CBD.
Staying in one of the Star Suites, I had plenty of space, a balcony, a luxury bathroom with a rain shower and walk-in robe with a bar fridge, complimentary tea, coffee and bottled water and big comfy bathrobes. The entertainment system in the room runs via Apple TV so if you have an iPhone, you can also integrate your own music through the sound system. If you’re there to do a little bit of business, there’s a large desk and free Wi-Fi. There are also a few separate sitting areas by the window to unwind in or watch a film on the large HD television. Guests can enjoy one of several sitting areas around the retreat where you can dive into a great book or grab a comfy chair next to one of the large windows to soak up sunshine with the newspaper.
The ‘Haven Suite’ is pretty remarkable and ideal for couples seeking the perfect romantic getaway (rumour has it a proposal has also taken place at Starhaven). The top suite offers everything you’d find in the Star Suite with king-sized ‘sleep number’ bed, a private spa with an infinity bath that just begs to be enjoyed, a two-person steam shower and its own private lounge area with a fireplace, balcony and views over the bay into Melbourne. If you’re looking for an ideal spot to celebrate an anniversary or simply enjoy a few nights of romance, this is where you want to be.
On my plate
Breakfasts are included and definitely plentiful. You’ll even find special touches such as house-made kombucha, locally baked breads and more.
The Bellarine region offers plenty for foodies, including some of the freshest seafood around, especially Australian blue mussels and angasi oysters. You’ll also find plenty of local wineries, local bakeries and fine food providores and little roadside cafés where you can get a tasty lunch. If you’re looking for fine dining, they have that too, all no more than 10-25 minutes away.
I wish I could take home…
Nothing says an indulgent retreat more than a good old-fashioned sleep-in and the beds here are certain to be the most comfortable you’ve ever slept on.
Staying at Starhaven Retreat means you’ll have access to the onsite sauna, spa and swim spa anytime your heart desires. Just a few minutes away, the Bellarine Day Spa offers individuals and couples a variety of treatments to choose from including massages, body scrubs, facials even manicures and pedicures.
Staying in for the ultimate unwind is definitely worthwhile as you’ll have so many options that many guests simply don’t get time to enjoy everything the property offers. Enjoy some time in the spa and sauna or bring back some local wine and cheese and enjoy them under the stars on the rooftop terrace. Guests can also enjoy a cocktail or two at the gorgeous little bar that’s located just outside the 15-seat private cinema. It’s the perfect gold class-style treat, especially as guests can sit under a canopy of stars enjoying both popcorn and ice-cream during the film. Alternatively, why not delight in an old-school games night with a full-sized billiards table or one of the several board games (also goes well with the wine and nibbles) or simply stay in your plush bathrobe, relax in your room and catch up on the latest films with free on-demand movies available.
The Bellarine Peninsula is truly one of regional Victoria’s tastiest destinations. With the recent launch of the Bellarine Taste Trail visitors to the region can spend a day enjoying some of the best fresh produce the region has to offer. Pick up a map at Starhaven Retreat and plan your journey where you can visit wineries such as Oakdene Vineyards, Jack Rabbit Vineyard, Scotchmans Hill and more. Seafood aficionados can enjoy some of the best mussels around at Scully’s Oyster Bar & Grill, White Fisheries and Advance Mussel Supply.
Some of the region’s finest olive oils, cheese and produce can also be enjoyed at places such as Barwon Heads Winestore, Rolling Pin Pies and Cakes, Drysdale Cheeses, PIKNIK, Saltbush Fine Foods and more.
Plan ahead and book your stay during one of the food and wine events that take place in the region including the Portarlington Mussel Festival in early January, the Wallington Strawberry Fair and Ocean Grove Apple Fair in March as well as ‘Toast to the Coast’ in October, celebrating the local wine regions with plenty of tastings, music and great food.
Golf enthusiasts are never too far from a day on the green as Portarlington’s 18-hole course is just a short drive from the retreat and if you’re keen to feel the sand beneath your toes, simply stroll across the street for an area so quiet it’ll feel like your own private beach. Guests can enjoy the location even further by chartering a boat for a day of fishing the bay or scuba diving a local paddle steamer shipwreck, the SS Ozone.
Need some retail therapy? Nearby Queenscliff is a short drive away with quaint boutiques and cafes.
Starhaven Retreat comes highly recommended with the following honours:
- TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Award 2016 and 2015
- TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2016 and 2015
- Australian Good Food and Travel Guide Readers Choice Award 2016 and 2015
- Best Luxury Retreat 2015- Luxury Hotel & Spa Awards
- 2016 Luxury Travel Guide Global Awards finalist
Adding blinds to accompany the curtains on the bedroom windows would be a great addition for light sleepers who are keen on indulging in a bit of extra shut-eye when the sun comes up bright and early.
Where to find it
Starhaven Retreat is located on Indented Head, Portarlington Victoria. The Bellarine Peninsula region is south-west of Melbourne and roughly an easy 80-90 minute drive from the city. Searoad Ferries also connects the Great Ocean Road and The Bellarine region to the Mornington Peninsula.
by Gwen O’Toole
Gwen O’Toole is a Melbourne-based travel and food writer who is always on the lookout for a new restaurant or bar to check out or an exciting new destination to discover. Having been bitten by the travel bug early in life, she’s lived in a variety of cities around the globe before making Australia home. Follow her on Instagram at @gwennieo