Moonlit and marvellous
Inside the Moonlight Head lodges, designed by Australian architects
Glenn Murcutt and Wendy Lewin.
Be careful what you ask for if you visit the luxurious Moonlight Head lodges in the Otway Ranges - because you'll probably get it.
Want to drive along the Great Ocean Road in a hot, eye-catching Ferrari? No problem, Moonlight Head will organise one for you. Feel like a gallop along the beach or river flats on horseback while watching the sun set over the water? Again, no problem, that can be organised, too.
How about a short trip to the Twelve Apostles or along the coast to Apollo Bay? Consider it sorted. Would you like to do that in a helicopter?
How about your own chef to cook up a sumptuous dinner of your choosing? No problem there, chef Paul is part of the deal (and he's quite witty). And how about some champagne to celebrate your indulgent stay? It's in the fridge waiting to be opened.
That's the kind of place Moonlight Head is. Nothing seems too difficult to deliver.
The setting for the two-year-old lodges is a 40.5-hectare parcel of land surrounded by green Otway forest. The lodges are a short drive west of Lavers Hill, about two kilometres on the water side of the Great Ocean Road, and about 70 kilometres west of Apollo Bay.
In its current format, Moonlight Head consists of two large, sleek, separate lodges, designed by award-winning Australian architects Glenn Murcutt and Wendy Lewin. They are among only a small number of Murcutt-designed homes in Victoria.
When complete, there will be five lodges, arranged in a design resembling fingers fanning out from a hand. Although the lodges are close together, you get a feeling of privacy because you cannot see one lodge from another.
The third lodge is being built and is expected to be completed in October, while the final two are expected to be built next year.
So if you're at the lodge on a weekday, you might find the third lodge attended by utes and workmen rather than holidaymakers. But apparently they'll stop working if you ask them to.
Inside, the lodges are heaven for designer junkies who know their Murcutts from their meerkats. There are Philippe Starck ghost chairs, cashmere throws on the Italian leather sofas, Jo Malone toiletries and Bang & Olufsen sound systems.
The lodges are stylish and furnished with most of the best and the latest. Sit down on one of the eye-catching Starck chairs and you'll be surprised at how comfortable a perspex seat can actually be.
While the designer features and trappings might please some visitors more than others, the lodge promises a focus on service that will probably appeal to all. Its website invites visitors to be pampered "with a range of treatments to soothe and soften".
The website also pledges: "If you can't sleep at 3am, we will bring herbal teas; if you want to wake for the sunrise at 4am, we will have fresh coffee brewed. Breakfast in bed, or a champagne picnic on the beach. Cheeses as the sun sets, or dinner under the stars, we will go out of our way to make your stay everything you imagined and more."
Your own housekeeper and a chef are included in the base accommodation price. This level of service - housekeeper Judy, for instance, is an all-rounder available 24/7 who does everything from cooking breakfast to child or pet-minding, tour guiding and baking fresh bread - helps explain the price tag, which starts at $3500 a night for two adults.
Moonlight Head owner Mark Banning-Taylor says there are no
limitations on the things that can be organised for guests. The
lodge will organise a flash sports car for you to drive from
Melbourne to Moonlight Head along the Great Ocean Road, helicopter
transfers to and from Melbourne or a plane trip to King Island for
sightseeing and a game of golf if you
wish, he says. "We can book anything from a Mini Cooper Sports to a Bentley convertible turbo to drive the Great Ocean Road," he says.
But the flashy cars and helicopter trips will cost extra.
Despite the lodge's many stylish features, Moonlight Head's luxury is deliberately understated. There is no spa, swimming or plunge pool, and no gold-plated taps. And if you book a group into one of the four-bedroom lodges (which can accommodate up to eight adults), you'll be sharing two bathrooms.
While the view from the lodge is impressive, it is not a sweeping ocean view that will knock you out. Instead, you get some views of the ocean and a close-up of green Otway bushland and wildlife. Wander higher up the hill, though, and the ocean view opens up.
For heating, in addition to hydronic heating throughout, a large
open fireplace separates the dining area from the living area. Also
designed by Murcutt, the stainless-steel fireplace is painted a
striking red and contains two channels either side of the fire that
are each full of rocks to retain heat.
After a delightful dinner served by the chef Paul and some lovely red wine in front of the fire, all you need to do to get to your master bedroom is negotiate a hallway measuring the best part of 30 metres. But it's easy - the hallway is lit by soft uplights in the floor, much like an aircraft runway.
Waiting for you at the end of the hallway, just past a separate
dressing room, is a handmade Savoir bed, made by Savoy. The bed is
imported from England. Many adjectives could be used to describe
it, but two do it best: big and comfortable. The bed is simply
gigantic. It is so big that although there may be two of you in it,
you can stretch out completely and
not be in danger of elbowing anybody in the ribs, back, or anywhere else, for that matter.
It is also ultra-comfortable and virtually guaranteed to deliver a good night's sleep.
If you do happen to wake in the night, the lodge has a pleasant
surprise. On a clear night, the Otway night sky combines with the
lodge design to bathe the inside of the building in moonlight. It
was so bright during my stay that I could easily find the main
bathroom in the middle of the night without going near a light
switch. The moonlight streams into the
lodge through a series of windows set at regular intervals in the sawtooth roof.
A powerful telescope sits in the living room, inviting you to
look skyward - and on a clear night, the view is tremendous. There
is no glow from Melbourne to interfere, nor are there street lights
or industrial lighting to interfere, either. Standing outside with
the inside lights off during my visit, listening to a night-time
chorus of frogs and crickets, the moonlight
seemed bright enough to mow the grass by.
Waking up in the main bedroom is delightful. After drawing the curtains, I see six kangaroos grazing contentedly just a few metres away on the moist, green grass.
Banning-Taylor says the native wildlife on the property is one
of the key features. He says a "mobile zoo" of Australian wildlife
lives on the property, including a mob of about 90 kangaroos, plus
wallabies, kookaburras, echidnas, lorikeets, fruitbats and two
Primarily, Banning-Taylor says, the lodges are aimed at international clients "who are looking for an escape. Be it away from northern Europe or North America, and we're now starting to pick up more and more inquiries from Japan, and obviously there's an element of the domestic market that's also coming to stay at the private lodges. Typically they're families
who are coming to stay," he says.
"In terms of the international clients, they're looking for space and adventure and a range of experiences that they don't pick up in downtown Berlin or Zurich or Paris or London."
It is easy to see why a Moscow millionaire and his wife or Japanese pop star and her entourage might pay upwards of $3500 a night for this experience. The calm, wildlife and beauty of Moonlight Head and surrounds would be priceless to an overseas visitor, many of whom have only a week to see the whole of Australia. For the wealthy local, however, the attractions are not so obvious. But what Moonlight Head is banking on is that wealthy domestic tourists won't own a stunning lodge designed by Glenn Murcutt just off the Great Ocean Road, staffed with a housekeeper and chef and operated on a service philosophy that aims to indulge.
Darren Gray travelled courtesy of Moonlight Head.
Moonlight Head Lodge is about 225 kilometres, or about three hours' drive, from Melbourne. From Apollo Bay it is about 70 kilometres, or about 45 minutes' drive, along the Great Ocean Road.
All-inclusive prices start at $3500 a night, per lodge, for two adults. Children under 12 stay free. Four adults can stay in a lodge for $4000 a night or eight adults can stay for $5000 a night.
The starting prices quoted include housekeeping and concierge services, chef, meals, alcohol, internet access, telephone, mountain bikes, DVD library and other features. The prices do not cover extras such as helicopter trips and sports car hire. See www.moonlighthead.com.