DAYS are dark, the temperature has plunged below brisk, and even the hardiest of souls battling this bleakest of mid-winter months are dreaming about a break.
While the sun and sea of holiday islands like Fiji and Bali are tempting, those with less vacation time in the bank are looking closer to home.
And Victoria is delivering with hidden gems in the landscaping stretching from Melbourne providing the perfect place to spend a long weekend or mid-week break lounging by an open fire, sipping red wine, and gazing at storm clouds.
Here are 10 locations perfect for that rejuvenating July escape.
The Kilnhouse, Bright
A working cattle station — at the base of Mt Buffalo near Bright in Victoria’s High Country — is home to The Kilnhouse which is a retreat that combines lots of luxury, a little local history, and a very scenic location.
Inside each of the three kilnhouses — The Sorting Shed, Chinaman’s Kilnhouse, and Cavedons Kilnhouse — there are ample windows to frame a view that stretches from vineyards to snow-capped peaks as well as a wood fire and heated floors to keep the space toasty.
Mill House, Walhalla
A cottage built during the 1890s is now Walhalla’s most charming place to stay with the hillside cabin renovated to include those features modern travellers demand while retaining heaps of period charm.
Walhalla Mill House has a large front veranda, where guests can sit to gaze across a hamlet that’s floodlight after dark, and is centrally located which means it’s perfectly placed for strolling around this historic gold-mining town.
Ocean View Villas, Skenes Creek
On a stormy day, when the southerly gales are howling across the Otway Ranges and western Victoria’s coastal mountains have their heads in the storm clouds, the place to be is snuggled up inside one of Beacon Point‘s self-contained villas with a log fire burning.
Beacon Point has one and two-bedroom villas that sit above Skenes Creek — just a few minutes from Apollo Bay — and suites have views, a DVD and CD player, log fire, fully-equipped kitchen, and outdoor area with a barbecue.
Craig’s Royal Hotel, Ballarat
Ballarat is the perfect place to take a winter break as there are restaurants, bars, galleries and shops as well as the region’s famous tourist attractions.
Check into one of the elegant period rooms at Craig’s Royal Hotel to become part of the city’s golden history, with the hotel that opened in 1853 hosting everyone from the Eureka Stockade Royal Commission to Mark Twain in the early years.
Oak Tree Lodge, Phillip Island
Phillip Island has 101km of coastline, some of it flanking the calm beaches of Western Port Bay and other parts open to the wild water of Bass Strait, with a walk on the sand a brisk way to occupy an hour between rain storms.
Oak Tree Lodge in Rhyll is one of the island’s most charming accommodation options with the property a stone’s throw from the beach offering a selection of dwellings.
There’s the main house with multiple bedrooms, the Boat House, Acorn, and snug Oak Leaf but my favourite is the Gate House which is a quiet cottage perfect for wintertime hibernating.
Boroka Downs, The Grampians
If waking to kangaroos feeding on the grass just outside your bedroom window sounds like the perfect way to start your winter break then reserve one of the suites at Boroka Downs.
The address sits on 121ha of land beside the Grampians National Park, patches of Grampians bush separate the dwellings to guarantee “tranquillity and privacy”, and big floor-to-ceiling windows make it easy for after dark star gazing.
Lindenwarrah at Milawa, Milawa
Lindenwarrah at Milawa feels like a grand country estate with the 40-room hotel surrounded by the King Valley’s grape vines.
It’s just across the road from Brown Brothers which means it’s perfectly placed to do some tasting or enjoy a lengthy lunch at the winery’s Epicurean Centre without having to worry about driving home.
From the outside it feels like a fancy French estate, but inside the rooms are more like an Australian homestead, and while ground-floor suites lead to the gardens the doors in the chambers upstairs open to a balcony providing an outlook across the vines.
Hepburn at Hepburn, Hepburn Springs
A string of modern cottages is surrounded by eucalypts on the edge of this central Victorian village with each a private sanctuary offering luxury inside and views of the bush from a secluded veranda.
Flinders Hotel, Flinders
Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is a cold-season favourite with holidaymakers keen to enjoy the delights of a destination that’s famous for wineries, artisan food producers, fine-dining establishments, and a wild stretch of coastline.
The Flinders Hotel is a foodie destination, with the handsome watering hole a celebrated enclave for eating, and there’s a collection of urbane rooms in Quarters for those seeking a smart and serene place to stay.
From here guests can stroll around Flinders or jump in the car for the short drive to any number of sweet settlements.
Casa Luna Gourmet Accommodation, Myrrhee
On a clear winter’s day, when the air is crisp and cold, the table with the best view at Myrrhee is the one just inside the dining room window at Casa Luna Gourmet Accommodation.
Here you will see neighbouring vineyards and farms, while each guest room is also placed to make the most of the bucolic vistas, and as well as providing a breakfast worth lingering over this B&B’s owners treat guests to a homemade dinner .