Ocean Grove hideaway shines on Airbnb
It was serendipitous that Steph King should find herself living on a beautiful bush block in her hometown of Ocean Grove.
Fate played a hand in where she finds herself today – raising a family in the area where four generations of her family have lived and running The Woods, the bespoke bush stay she has nurtured to become an in-demand Airbnb destination.
During four years of travelling the globe in her twenties – soaking in every detail of the places she stayed – Steph’s passion for accommodation came alive.
“We stayed in such a variety of accommodation over the years from sleeping in hammocks in a bungalow in South America through to guesthouses in Poland, camping grounds in Serbia and little pensions in Portugal.
“Every time we arrived somewhere new my friends would be off organising what local sangria or wine we would be drinking that night and I would disappear and walk around the properties and write little notes about things I loved.
“I was always in charge of booking the accommodation because I loved it and cared about it and the others couldn’t care less where they slept.”
After returning to Australia, Steph saw the Bellarine through a different lens and was struck by the world-class beauty of her childhood playground.
“I was going for a walk up The Bluff at Barwon Heads and looking back over Ocean Grove and I remember thinking ‘this is amazing, this town and what we have here is just as amazing as everything I have just seen’.”
Fast-forward to 2016 – when Steph and hubby Jason were searching for a family home – a series of weird coincidences led them to the 1.6-acre property which the previous owners had called home for 50 years.
“We were doing an inspection of the house and the owners were Sharon and Bill King and my dad (Ken Guyett) said ‘oh yeah, I sold the empty block of land to them when the Woodlands Estate first opened’,” Steph explains.
“Looking through the house there was a picture of my grandma on the wall because she was friends with Sharon’s grandma. And Sharon even has the same initials as me, S.E. King.
“And there were already two cabins – it was like all paths led to this property because Jason had this dream on living on a bit of land with oodles of room for landscaping. Being a landscaper, he was looking at the amazing setting here and his eyes were just alight.
“We just knew it was for us.”
The couple spent three weeks refurbishing the cabins before listing them on Airbnb and starting the journey of sharing their slice of paradise.
“Over the years we’ve added layers and kept tweaking. They look beautiful but the thing I have spent more time on is enriching that experience for people.
“All the little extras that people don’t expect, that’s the stuff that makes the biggest impact for people’s stays and their memories.”
The cabins are nestled within landscaped gardens which attract native birds and boast beautiful perennials, meandering pathways, an edible garden, and lush expanses of lawn – all designed by Jason who, together with Steph, runs King’s Gardens & Pools.
Each luxe cabin features gorgeous furnishings and décor such as French flax linen sheets, a stylish kitchenette, coffee machine, and homemade pizza dough ready for the outdoor oven.
Local produce is showcased and promoting other local businesses is a priority for Steph who has even created a winery map she dubs “The Woods’ Tipple Trail”.
When they are not out exploring the region, guests can savour a glass of local wine in the shade of 100-year-old Bellarine yellow gums, enjoy a soak in the private outdoor claw-foot tub, play a round of giant Jenga, and have a hit of tennis or putt-putt golf.
At night they can relax while toasting marshmallows in the fire pit beneath a starlit sky.
It is little wonder The Woods has featured in many high-profile national publications such as Country Style Magazine and Australian Traveller.
Most recently, The Woods was chosen to be part of a Qantas campaign with Airbnb, featuring in Travel Insider, which has an online audience of more than one million people, as well as being highlighted in the June issue of Qantas magazine.
It is a testament to Steph and Jason, who have two gorgeous girls – Frankie, 7, and Maggie, 4 – and what they have lovingly created on their tranquil bushland hideaway in the heart of Ocean Grove.
“Travel has become very personal and people want their creature comforts, to be looked after and to feel safe,” Steph says.
“It’s not that sort of disposable travel that I think we once just took for granted where you go on your resort holiday and you come back and tick the box of having had your holiday for the year.
“Now people are really wanting richer experiences.
“I think back to all those amazing experiences I had when I was overseas, I wanted to be able to offer that to people here at The Woods.”