When stress levels have risen throughout the week, it’s time for a weekend getaway
It’s not always feasible to hop on a plane and jet yourself to Bali or Koh Samui – certainly not for a weekend anyway – so it’s handy to have our very own island just a 90-minute drive from Melbourne. It’s amazing how sometimes just a change of scenery and pace for the weekend can melt the week’s stress away – at least until that Monday morning meeting.
These cosy homes away from home are the perfect place to unwind and escape from city life. If you think of an idyllic, cute country cottage, you’re on the right track. Located in Rhyll, Oak Tree Lodge is out of the main strip so you get some peace and quiet, but it’s only a five to 10-minute drive from Cowes, so you’re not far from it all.
The four self-contained cottages that comprise Oak Tree Lodge are all unique – the layout is anything but boxy. There are pitched roofs, stained glass windows, working fireplaces and numerous quirky features that make them feel like home. But although they have ample character, they aren’t old and cold – the bathrooms and kitchens are brand new. Upon your arrival the kitchen is fully stocked with an array of brekkie items so you don’t have to leave in the morning to get a good feed. There are free-range eggs, smoked bacon, tomatoes, juice, organic muesli, fresh country bread, jam, honey and natural yoghurt – there’s even a coffee machine.
Oak Tree Lodge: www.oaktreelodge.com.au / (03) 5956 9090 / 32-34 Walton St, Rhyll
A meal at one of the newest additions to the Phillip Island food scene The Cape Kitchen is a must. The modern structure is perched on the edge of a cliff, and as such offers sweeping views over the Southern Ocean and coastline. Panoramic windows spanning the length of the restaurant allow diners to really take in that view.
There’s a strong focus on regional produce and unique Aussie flavours throughout the menu. For the seafood inclined there are freshly shucked Sydney Rock oysters, as well as crispy skin Tasmanian salmon with carrot and vanilla puree, pickled beets and crème fraiche. Or if you’re after a more meaty meal, the twice-cooked pork belly with charred zucchini, cauliflower purée and quince jus is a winner – glazed, crispy skin; tender, juicy flesh. The Cape Kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch, and also hosts pop-up dinners and various events.
The Cape Kitchen: www.thecapekitchen.com.au / (03) 5956 7200 / 1215 Phillip Island Road
From the moment you walk into this warm and inviting space you get a sense of the loving restoration that the owners have done. And just recently, too – this is one of the island’s newest restaurants. As the name suggests, the space was actually a shearing shed in its former life, and elements of that are proudly dotted throughout like a historical ginger bread trail.
The modern Australian menu features locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. Having said that, the menu does draw influence from a number of international locales – for example there’s saganaki with rocket, a balsamic reduction and lemon. Containing the likes of sous vide pork belly with black pudding and caramelised pineapple; and slow-cooked egg with a Jerusalem artichoke purée, walnuts and truffle salt, the starters section is by no means an afterthought.
The steaks are a very popular main – they’re juicy, tender and served with potato dauphine, broccolini, heirloom carrots, onion jam, and with your choice of red wine jus or porcini mushrooms. And if you’re a cheese board fan, theirs is delicious, sizeable and well worth an order.
The Shearing Shed: www.theshearingshed.com.au / (03) 5952 3928 / 116 Gap Road, Cowes
Perched on a slight hill, this pretty winery is a bit of a Phillip Island legend. Purple Hen is family owned and has won a host of awards, which you can see lined up along the walls. It’s particularly famed for Pinot Noir and Shiraz, although there’s a full set of varietals on offer for you to peruse in a tasting.
It’s an ideal spot to visit on a sunny day when you can enjoy a tasting and then head out to the benches on the grassy banks with your drop of choice. From here you’re offered stunning views over the adjacent lake and vines.
Purple Hen Winery: www.purplehenwines.com.au / (03) 5956 9244 / 96 McFees Rd, Rhyll
This exciting, high-speed tour takes you around the beautiful, rugged coast of Phillip Island to see the local fur seal colony. Lasting for 90 minutes, this eco-tour is not one of those whale-watching gigs where you’ve got a slim chance of actually seeing a single whale – you’ll see hundreds of seals, up close.
The boat stops when you reach the seals’ habitat for you to get a better look and take some snaps, before you embark on another wave-jumping journey back to Cowes Jetty. And don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled throughout because it’s not that uncommon to also see whales, dolphins, penguins and other seabirds.
Phillip Island Nature Parks Adventure Boat Tour: www.penguins.org.au / Meeting point: Start of Cowes Jetty
By Christina Wylie
Contributing photographer: Jasmine Zehetner