Rooms to explore, history to discover


Captain’s Retreat in Williamstown is the perfect quiet little B&B for that much-needed R&R

Looking at the stately two-storied four-and-a-half-star bed and breakfast, you wouldn’t imagine the Captain’s Retreat was once a brothel, which reinvented itself as a nunnery, then refurbished itself as flats and offices. Located in Williamstown, a quaint seaside suburb, a stone’s throw away from the bustle of Melbourne, this beautiful Victorian house may have had a chequered past but it has now come to rest squarely on its reputation as one of the most serene spots on the Williamstown foreshore, for a weekend of R&R, a complete retreat from hectic city life.

Captain’s Retreat was built as a single four-room cottage in 1862, then extended in 1880 for tugboat captain James Dean and his family. Today, the alluring heritage-listed double-fronted B&B, steeped in maritime history, and with its two kitchens, three living rooms, seven bedrooms, and eight bathrooms, is both charming and intriguing.

The house expands out the back to include six guest rooms, three with spas and two with private lounges. Owing to its varied and eventful history, the rooms interestingly come in odd angles, but with breath-taking views. One of the rooms for instance, faces the sea of yachts moored at the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, founded in May 1853. The Captain’s Spa suite has a balcony overlooking Ferguson Street.

One of the rooms here was once home to Australian novelist, playwright, and poet Harold (Hal) Porter. In fact, in his 1966 memoir, The Paper Chase, he speaks of his room, and his favourite painting—a copy of Isle of the Dead by Swiss painter Arnold Bocklin—which he enjoyed looking at before bed and first thing in the morning. The historic Retreat’s present owner Melissa Meek-Jacobs has had the painting copied on the wall.

Captains Retreat
Address: 2 Ferguson Street, Williamstown
Phone: 9397 0352
Cost: From $165 a night, which includes full breakfast
Getting there: Williamstown is 12 kilometres south-west of Melbourne’s CBD; 20 minutes by train from Flinders Street Station.
When here: try a slice of “Aunty Marie’s banana cake” and Aunty Marie’s homemade relish.
What to see: Williamstown Botanic Gardens is nearby


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