Spending 24 hours at Lon Retreat acts as a catalyst for appreciating the simple things in life.
“Simplicity is the essence of happiness.” ― Cedric Bledsoe
It’s often only when we carve out the space to slow down that we can truly bear witness to, and appreciate, the present moment. Once we start paying attention―― —― even to the most ordinary things — ―everyday moments can become remarkable. My most recent experience with this profound life teaching occurred during a stay at a farm and former family home turned luxurious coastal escape, Lon Retreat.
A serene environment
Perched on 200 acres of rural conservation land in Point Lonsdale on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, at Lon Retreat, I feel my body and mind start to unwind as soon as I enter. Founders Claire and Rob Gemes renovated the sandstone farmhouse in 2018 and the homestead now features seven luxurious suites, an indoor heated pool fed by natural mineral springs directly from the earth and an impressive day spa. Claire tells me that her children are the seventh generation of the family to live on the farm, which means that Claire’s family has been on this land since the 19th century.
Our guide to the property comes in a beautiful pocket-size illustrative map that Claire’s mum, Sue Hanley, drew, which highlights walking trails to Point Lonsdale’s back beach, Lake Victoria and the property’s farm, as well as a bird sanctuary, olive grove, moonah forest and apiary. Lon is uniquely positioned with panoramic ocean views and private beach access, with each suite showcasing picturesque vistas of the Bass Strait, Point Lonsdale Lighthouse and Lake Victoria.
“I would describe the Lon experience as the ultimate slowdown. Being able to disconnect from the busyness of your life, press pause and just watch the weather roll in, the ships pass by,” explains Claire. “It’s about finding space and time, and then reconnecting with yourself, the person who you go there with, and the nature and environment around you.” The coastal retreat has been consciously curated to complement the surrounding natural landscape, featuring earthy materials and natural finishes. Claire believes that the synergy of the property helps guests embrace the simple luxuries of the environment. “The colours, the textures and everything we used right from the beginning and in the rooms was all about that focus on doing nothing … everything is leading towards a relaxed state and taking the pressure off you having to do anything.”
Massage treatments are a natural way to relax and restore, but you can never underestimate the rejuvenating power of a facial. Minutes after I arrive at the retreat, I don one of Lon’s cosy bathrobes and make a beeline for the spa to enjoy a 60-minute Rose Quartz facial with facialist Sue. Harnessing the potent blend of gua shua pure rose quartz and 24k gold with Eastern cellular wisdom, the super-hydrating facial aims to brighten the complexion and boost skin elasticity. The experience feels almost euphoric as I soak in the relaxation of a head and scalp massage (with warmed Indian hair oil based on Ayurvedic principles), while a rose crystal mask covers my eyes. I’m in a realm of relaxation as the aromatic healing blend of rose and essential oils helps to melt away my muscle tension.
In a blissed-out state after my facial, I meet my boyfriend, Lachie, upstairs in our luxurious suite, Alto. Two glasses of champagne and a delicious farm grazing platter are dropped off for us to enjoy as we witness a wild storm roll through.
At 76 square metres, Alto is spacious and elegant. The largest suite in the guesthouse features a cathedral ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of the ocean, with heated flooring making it extra comfortable. The suite contains an open-plan kitchen and living area with a bedroom, bathroom, toilet and separate bathroom with a mineral-water-fed stone bath. Earthy timber and brass features complement the natural tones of the suite, with locally sourced and handmade furniture and artworks adorning the space.
The bath is as soothing as it sounds, and is where I spend the late hours of the afternoon cloud gazing and admiring the landscape. “When I was thinking of the names for the suites, I wanted something that resonated with the property,” explains Claire, which resulted in each suite being named after a cloud type. “Alto is on the second storey —― it’s high up and has those 180-degree views — ―and Alto is actually the highest cloud type, so that made sense.”
At sunset, instead of watching a light show of colours splash across the sky, we witness forks of lightning dart across the landscape. As we’re unable to make use of the private furnished balcony in these conditions, when dusk turns to night, we instead get cosy on the lush leather sofa opposite the double-sided fire and simply bear witness to nature. After each clap of thunder, I gaze into Lachie’s eyes and wait in trepidation for the lightning to momentarily illuminate his face. From the comfort of the king-size bed in the spacious bedroom, graced by luxurious Cultiver linen, we fall into a deep and restful sleep as the storm continues to wreak havoc. “It’s that idea of hygge — of cosying, cuddling and snuggling,” shares Claire. “I think the Victorian coastline is made for that kind of experience.
Sure, we have our lovely days, but that experience of putting on a beanie and going out in the wild weather and then coming into the cosy crackling of the fire and a beautiful glass of red wine — that’s the soothing of the soul,” she continues.
We slowly wake to howling southerly winds from the sea and the smell of the ocean. A power outage from the wild weather still ravaging around the region allows us to truly practise the art of doing nothing. Every seemingly ordinary action turns into something extraordinary. In the spacious double rain shower, I feel each droplet of water not just cleansing my body, but also rejuvenating my mind. Each bite of food turns into a piece of presence as we enjoy a farm-sourced artisan breakfast hamper that features Lon’s very own homemade muesli, fruit compote and harvested honey.
Following the map, we brace the elements and take a mindful walk around the property in the crisp morning air, appreciating the thriving food forest and apiary sitting pretty under the gum trees. “In the early 1900s to the 1970s, the farm was used as an orchard, so there’s a lot of remnants of that, which is how Mum has built up the food forest on the property. That’s how the heirloom vegetables and heritage garlics all came about, because they were still in the earth itself,” reveals Claire.
If there’s ever an environment that forces you to slow down, it’s a restful retreat such as Lon. Combine that with a blackout, and it’s the ultimate surrender into stillness. When an environment lends itself so naturally to space and calm, you’re able to harness the power of mindfulness to restore and reset your system. And by being more present to the beauty of everyday moments in life, such as a relaxing warm bath, delicious homegrown breakfast or refreshing nature walk, you’re able to move through life feeling more grounded and content.
The writer was a guest of Lon Retreat & Spa. For more information, visit lonretreat.com.au.
Words ALLY McMANUS Photography NIKOLE RAMSAY