We set off to Barwon Heads on a sunny Saturday morning, heading straight for Annie's Provedore & Produce Store for coffee – served in gorgeous bison ceramics – and supplies. The walls are lined with delicacies (from biscuits to preserves and oils), goods hang from the ceiling amongst woven baskets and cold cases are heavy with cheeses and meats, cakes and slices. It's heaven. We can't resist stopping for breakfast and it's predictably delicious. Gathering up a Zeally Bay sourdough and some supplies for later, we head around the corner to settle into our accommodation.
Rolling up to Seahaven Village, you might feel as if you're heading into an upmarket housing estate. The townhouses tower over garages, and there are quirky additions here and there, like the jauntily painted beach shack in the garden and a friendly resident cat. The apartments have been designed by owner David Littleton and are Green Star accredited.
The living room of our cottage has soaring ceilings, a generous kitchen and balcony. There are two bedrooms and a bathroom with a huge bath. We're quickly assessing whether it's entirely necessary for us to ever leave. But, goods stashed in the kitchen, it's time to explore Barwon Heads.
The main drag might not look much, but it's easy to lose a few hours wandering. Highlights include Kiitos, one of the shops housed in an old service station. Beautiful homewares, a covetable range of Marimekko clothes and fabrics and beautiful shoes are illuminated in the all-white interior. If you're mad for the green, Jo's Organic Treats has just opened next door, with seating under the garage awning. A little further back into town you'll find Frith, selling quirky, original and beautiful gifts and clothing expertly curated to have you oohing and aahing over divine pieces.
Should you not be the wandering type, the patio of the Beach House provides the perfect place to survey your compatriot's shopping expedition whilst taking in a cleansing ale or wine. The bar snacks menu offers up a dim sim to challenge South Melbourne markets', and for Snickers fans there is an icy treat lurking in the dessert menu.
For a special dinner, you can't go past 360Q, a short drive away in Queenscliff. Yerring Station has put together this waterfront restaurant and it shows in the architecture – lots of bare stone and glass (not to mention quite few barrels bearing their moniker). The service is a little more relaxed than Yerring’s other venues, but friendly and efficient. Seafood is the name of the game but the steak is just as good and, truth be told, dessert outshines everything. If you'd like a peek at the locals in their natural environment swing past The Esplanade for a pint, otherwise off to bed for an early rise.
Far be it from us to advocate waking early on your break in usual circumstances, but these are no usual circumstances. Sea All Dolphin Swims run tours from the wharf (just beside 360Q in fact). Make sure you take a look over the jetty during the day – there are usually a couple of huge stingrays doing laps. Sea All will equip you with a wetsuit, flippers, snorkel and goggles. If you're not a snorkeller, definitely use the first test swim to get your technique right because there is much to see. At a few drop off points you'll get to swim with seals, and on a good day, dolphins. There are not quite words to describe holding onto a rope by the boat, looking down into the water where dolphins are swimming beneath you.
A few hours pass quickly and when you get back to shore you'll have a hefty appetite. Which is good, because Queenscliff's best kept secret right now is the seafood chowder at Q Seafood Provedore, just a few shops down the jetty once you've gotten into some dry gear. French Chef Steph McGlynn fills a Zeally Bay bread bowl with the most divine seafood chowder you have ever tasted. The rest of the menu is divine, but why settle for that when sublime is on offer? They own the fish 'n' chipper a few doors down too – so if your group has mixed tastes you might be able to ask the affable staff if you can bring your battered gear in.
To round off your day take a visit to Salt Contemporary Art in Queenscliff. Artist David Beaumont had his eye on the building for years before it became available, so he rescued it from disrepair and it's now an airy gallery showcasing some of Australia's best artists. It's run by David's partner, teacher-cum-curator Fiona Kelly.
Unwound, relaxed and content, it's time for a drive back to reality.
Annie's Provedore & Produce Store
2/50 Hitchcock Avenue, Barwon Heads
(03) 5254 3233
3 Geelong Road, Barwon Heads
(03) 5254 1066
Sea All Dolphin Swims
Queenscliff Harbour, Queenscliff
(03) 5258 3889
Q Seafood Provedore
Shop 4, Queenscliff Harbour, Queenscliff
(03) 5258 1333
Shop 2, 5–7 Bridge Road, Barwon Heads
(03) 5254 1835
Jo's Organic Treats
5–7 Bridge Road, Barwon Heads
(03) 5254 1886
Shop 1, 58 Hitchcock Avenue, Barwon Heads
03 5254 1811
48 Hitchcock Avenue, Barwon Heads
2 Warf Street, Queenscliff Harbour
(03) 5257 4200
Salt Contemporary Art
33-35 Hesse Street, Queenscliff
(03) 5258 3988