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River Drive Motel

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  1. Street view of River Drive Motel.
    Photograph: Moth Design
  2. Motel room with a double bed and extra bunk beds.
    Photograph: Moth Design
  3. Motel bathroom with hanging bathrobes, a mirror and sink.
    Photograph: Moth Design
  4. An array of breakfast dishes and mugs laid out on a wooden table.
    Photograph: Moth Design
  5. Motel living area with a TV,  kitchenette, desk. and stool.
    Photograph: Moth Design
  6. Motel living room with couch, dining table and chairs.
    Photograph: Moth Design
  7. Pink-tiled bathroom with mirror and shower.
    Photograph: Moth Design
  8. Tables and chairs outside of motel rooms.
    Photograph: Moth Design
  9. Box of goodies.
    Photograph: Moth Design

Time Out says

This stylish sanctuary is perfectly situated for exploring the best of Gippsland – and you may just never want to leave

Nestled in the crook of the picturesque Andersons Inlet, Tarwin Lower is a small, unassuming town in Gippsland. Aside from an old-fashioned church, town hall, gallery, pub and supermarket with an adjoining café, much of the area’s appeal lies in its quietly blissful surroundings: the hushed river that flows parallel to the main strip, the stunning blue of Venus Bay just five minutes away and the lush green countryside. It’s got dream road trip destination written all over it.

And while, at first glance, a boutique retro motel might seem like an unusual addition to the township, it’s for reasons just mentioned that it indeed couldn’t have found a more perfect home. Life and business partners Kate Hannaford and Dic Coates (who live in nearby Fish Creek) first noticed the opportunity on a drive past the unloved property back in 2021 – and they’ve never looked back since.

The dynamic duo has lovingly restored it into a stylish sanctuary with five self-contained rooms, surrounded by an acre of communal gardens. Driving in, we’re met with a generous lawn and barbecue area with surprisingly charming touches: a swing hanging from a big shady oak tree, a large closet of classic games like Jenga and Finska, beach towels and sporting equipment, and a smattering of picnic tables and chairs. Long and lazy al fresco dinners with wine and cheese platters come to mind – and in a place like Gippsland that's been crowned the food bowl of Australia, you won't have any trouble sourcing the latter. “It’s very peaceful around here,” Hannaford tells me as I unload the car. 

But it’s the Insta-worthy rooms that impress the most. Hannaford and Coates have taken inspiration from the surrounding landscape, using an earthy palette of eucalyptus greens, wattle golds and dusty pinks to give each space a natural feel. Artworks from upcoming Aussie – including young and First Nations – artists add a splash of colour to the walls, with each room showcasing its own unique collection. While polished chrome, corduroy and cork finishes appear decidedly modern, custom-designed Victorian hardwood furniture and joinery with a few vintage touches sprinkled here and there evoke country nostalgia. The space is instantly welcoming and supremely comfortable. 

Another interesting feature is the security system. Instead of fiddling around with keys or swipe cards, you enter your room by tapping a numeric code (texted to you on arrival) on an electronic access keypad. The system makes River Drive Motel the perfect hub for a self-guided trip away, where you can come and go as you please. There's no reception desk or need to liaise with Hannaford at all, though her number's available if you need it.

“We wanted to reinvent the concept of what holiday accommodation can be by providing a home away from home that is both modern and nostalgic," says Hannaford. "With kids of our own, we love the idea of being able to simply drive up, unpack and enjoy your own adventure."

Speaking of adventures, though there’s no shortage of things to see and do around Gippsland, you could easily spend a few days at River Drive Motel without setting foot outside the property and still have a grand old time. Everything you need is at your fingertips; the mini bar comes fully stocked with some of the region’s finest products, including rotating beers, gins from Loch Distillery and Brewery, Gurneys Cider and WaWa Chocolate. Hungry for something more substantial? The motel has also partnered with local caterer Acacia Edibles to offer all-day seasonal grazing boxes, and they're jam-packed with artisan cheese, free-range small goods and fresh produce. You can pre-order one when you book.

If it's rainy outside or you're simply tired from the previous day’s adventures (Wilson's Prom is less than an hour away), there’s a wide-screen TV with Netflix, a kitchenette fully decked out with appliances, free Wi-Fi, a Bluetooth speaker and cushy large beds to stretch out in. My neighbour is delighted to report that her room comes with both soft and hard pillows, and I’m grateful to discover the same in mine – visitors can choose their preference. Again, it’s the attention to detail here that really makes you feel at home. There’s also a basket on the table brimming with luxe goodies available for purchase, things you typically need on holiday but might forget: sunscreen, lip balm, a hat, tote bag, toothpaste and more.

Sitting with a freshly brewed pot of complimentary herbal brew from Love Tea out on the verandah on the last morning of my stay, I marvel at the serenity. A hot bubble bath inside with Ashley and Co body products and one big breakfast later, and I’m ready to take on the day – though I really don't want to say goodbye. River Drive Motel is a special place; a place to unwind, relax and play – and return to your everyday life, fully refreshed. 

Time Out tip: Definitely enjoy something to eat and drink from the mini bar because everything's delicious.

Lauren Dinse stayed as a guest of Visit Victoria and River Drive Motel. Bookings can be made online at the website and rooms start at $275 per night with a minimum two-night stay.

Wondering what to do around Gippsland? Check out our guide. Keen to check out more of Victoria's cutest motels? These ones are worth taking a road trip for.

Lauren Dinse
Written by
Lauren Dinse


19-21 River Drive
Tarwin Lower
From $275
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