June 30, 2012
Wild shore... Wytonia's contemporary roof design echoes the surrounding seascape.
Melanie Ball enjoys a view of the Southern Ocean from her contemporary beach house.
It's all well and good planning a weekend escape to a historical coastal town but when your partner is 1.93 metres tall and has a pathological aversion to beds with wrought-iron footings, traditional heritage accommodation is off the menu.
An online search brings up a selection of modern lodgings in Port Fairy, though most are full on our weekend. However, there is room at Wytonia Beachfront Accommodation, on the town's western edge, and 4½ hours after leaving Melbourne my husband and I turn off the Princes Highway and follow signs through a paddock dotted with cows.
One of a string of houses along the Southern Ocean shore, Wytonia is a contemporary two-storey corrugated-iron construction with a split-level roof rounded like rising waves. Two guest studios and the owner's residence open off the small hall and stairs lead to the penthouse suite, the tenants of which arrive shortly after we do.
The deal maker Our host has gone out but left a key so I unlock our door. Inside I stop, transfixed by the view through picture windows: cerulean sky, aquamarine sea, black volcanic rocks, pale yellow dunes, verdant coastal shrubs and a patch of rabbit-chewed lawn. The scene glows in the afternoon sun but I can already see myself holed up here in winter watching a Southern Ocean storm batter the coast.
It is unplanned but apt that the book I've brought investigates the wreckage of a grain brig off Cornwall, England's "Shipwreck Coast", in 1842, a year before the first of nine known ships foundered along Port Fairy's East Beach.
Our room (Studio 2) is not huge, but ample for a queen bed, a small, circular coffee table, two hard-backed chairs and two more comfortable cane chairs. Everything is in seaside hues - sand gold, driftwood grey, kelp brown, cuttlefish white - including the lone artwork (an abstract tree). More hangings would only distract from the view.
Inside the floor-to-ceiling wardrobe is the expected hanging space as well as folded deckchairs and a kitchenette with microwave, toaster, kettle and tiddler bar fridge. There is a corkscrew (handy for opening one of those now-rare wines sealed with a cork) and a sharp knife perfect for slicing a lime for the afternoon gin and tonic we drink purely to prevent scurvy.
The bathroom is lined with sea-green glass splashbacks and there is a beautiful glass sink and a glassed-in shower with room for two.
Stepping out The property's front gate opens to a rock-strewn beach, from where it's a 20-minute walk into town. We have brought bikes, though, and spend Saturday pedalling around Port Fairy, visiting poignant graves in the cemetery, checking out shops selling jewellery, shoes and local produce, admiring the boats moored in the Moyne River and inspecting the impressive old cannons aimed at the Russians who never came.
We catch the local footy club, the Seagulls, in action on the riverside oval and walk around Griffiths Island between mutton-bird burrows.
And then we ate Having lunched on calamari at Wisharts - "Is the calamari local?" "That's the squid boat just there!" - we drive back into town for a scrumptious dinner at the Merrijig Kitchen in Merrijig Inn (1841). We then sleep the sleep of the well exercised and relaxed.
A couple of minuscule gripes: we sometimes hear the penthouse guests moving around upstairs and the flat-screen television occasionally pixellates and loses signal. But who needs television with such a view and breaking waves to lull you to sleep?
Wytonia Beachfront Accommodation
Address 27 Thistle Place, Port Fairy.
The verdict Stylish, unfussy comfort overlooking the sea but close to town's good food and rich maritime history.
Price $175 a night off peak (penthouse $220).
Bookings 5568 3425; see port-fairy.com/wytonia/#location.
Getting there A four-hour drive on the Hamilton and Princes highways. Turn left onto Thistle Place several hundred metres beyond the turnoff into Port Fairy proper.
Perfect for Couples looking for an ocean-view retreat with plenty to do nearby; walkers; cyclists.
Unsuitable for Children or pets.
Wheelchair access No.
While you're there Cycle around Port Fairy and walk around Griffiths Island; drive inland to Tower Hill for insight into koalas, volcanoes and local Aboriginal culture and traditions.