Allenvale Cottages: Two hours from Melbourne, three minutes from Lorne on the Great Ocean Road

Allenvale Cottages along The Great Ocean Road offer the best of the beach and the bush Two hours from Melbourne, three minutes from Lorne and a million miles from anywhere, Allenvale Cottages offer the perfect low-key retreat that combines the best of the beach and the bush in a bucolic valley behind Lorne along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. My husband and I and our two teenage daughters arrive in Lorne in the middle of the madness that is Christmas week. The main street is clogged with cars, the campground is chockers, surfers jam into milk bars, and couples push prams along crowded footpaths. Then we drive over the hill, past Qdos art gallery and restaurant, and down a dirt road to the entrance of the Great Otway National Park, which encircles Allenvale’s 50 acres.Allenvale Cottage are surrounded by the bush outside of LorneA rustic sign and a bank of agapanthus and hydrangeas greet us as a gaggle of ducks waddles across the path from Henderson Creek. We all collectively let out a deep sigh.

Four cottages in a bucolic landscape

Four wooden cottages are dotted around the historic property, established by the Allen family back in 1872 as a dairy and orchard to supply the guesthouses in Lorne long before the Great Ocean Road was built post World War I. Two of the cottages, Kero and Rose, are original buildings from when the Allens leased some of their land to a logging mill that provided housing for its workers. Allenvale’s current owners, Jenny and Quentin Young, who made a sea change to Lorne thirty years ago, built the other two (Gables and Riverbank) from recycled timbers to resemble the originals. They live in a lovely home down another dirt road on the property. I am immediately transported to our summers in the Hamptons, when my girls were little and we lived in New York City. We used to rent a 17th century cobbler’s cottage surrounded by cottage gardens on the outskirts of East Hampton, a short bike ride from the beach. Allenvale embodies the same shabby chic aesthetic, its furniture and collectibles similar to what we had found in yard sales at the mansions dotting the former potato fields.

 

Gables

We stay in Gables which is partially screened by a garden of cosmos, roses and artichoke flowers. Its spacious wood-ceilinged living room has polished floors, a wood stove, comfy couches with piles of pillows, candles affixed to wooden spools atop a rustic dining table, a sideboard filled with art and garden books, and a flat screen television and DVD player on an antique chest. The style is a dash of Francophile with not a touch of twee anywhere. Bowls of fresh country flowers add a welcoming touch.

 

Cables is one of the cottages at Allenvale near Lorne on the Great Ocean Road
The two bedrooms are set on opposite sides of the house, one with a queen-size bed and the other with two single beds that can be joined to form a king. Each has a cupboard evocatively painted with Porter’s Milk Wash that gives a chalky well-worn look. A bright country kitchen, with all the essentials for a self-contained holiday, has a kitchen table and pretty dresser decked out with white crockery and piles of Gourmet Traveller magazines. There is just one bathroom, with a shower inside a full-size bathtub, plus a separate toilet and a washer and dryer.  A recycled rustic front door opens onto the front porch that catches the morning sun.

 

Close to wildlife and the bush

Allenvale Cottages are immersed in the bush behind Lorne on the Great Ocean RoadA couple of red and green parrots join us for nibbles as we barbecue on the electric grill on the spacious back deck, which sports a huge picnic table and a wicker basket filled with firewood.  Koalas growl in the manna gums and a large Eastern grey kangaroo grazes nearby.  The bush is just a shuttlecock toss away, eucalypts on the hillside and grass trees, ferns and ivy closer to the gully where the St. George River meanders into the Great Otway National Park. Next morning we wake to the crowing of a rooster and take out some deck chairs to enjoy our coffee on the lawn in the sunshine. There are some sensational hikes nearby and, after breakfast, we meander through Allenvale’s organic orchard of apple, pear, peach, plum and quince trees on the way to Phantom Falls along a track above the St George River. It is so nice to start walking from our front door and hikes such as these are particularly popular during winter sojourns at Allenvale. The days pass dreamily, with swims at the beach, berry picking at nearby Gentle Annie’s farm, and forays into Lorne for supplies. The nights are cool and we snuggle in front of the wood stove poring through all the gorgeous books before falling asleep to the exquisite luxury of pure sweet silence.

 

The verdict

Allenvale is a tucked-away gem just over the hill from Lorne’s busy beachfront strip. It appeals to families seeking a low-key country retreat with plenty of outdoor space as well as pre-codgers with a love of Euro-tinged country charm. The style is Meursault on a Chardy budget. We loved Allenvale’s understated rustic cottages and bucolic setting brimming with wildlife. They felt like old friends’ unpretentious country houses filled with interesting furniture and books.   Kero is one of the rustic-chic cottages at Lorne along the Great Ocean Road

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Allenvale Cottages

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Allenvale Cottages -38.541721, 143.960724

Sue Gough Henly

Sue Gough Henly is award-winning travel writer and photographer whose bi-line has appeared in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, The Guardian, The Toronto Star and all the major Australian publications. Her travel blog, Genuine Journeys, is full of insider tips on the best places for authentic experiences and luxury splurges. She is also the author of Australia’s Best Places travel app. When she doesn’t have sand between her toes or a pack on her back, she writes about food, wine and culture.

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