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Ferry & Stay Package – R Hotel Geelong

a tall building in a city

by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt  Published April 19th 2021

Bay, play and stay packages

The first time I saw the Ritz Hotel, I was staying at the Vue Apartments next door. You can see them to the right of the photo above. I looked out and couldn’t take my eyes off an abandoned white building. It was so evocative, a shell of what had once been a magnificent structure, now covered with graffiti and full of rubble. The mysterious comings and goings, suggesting people slept rough here.

I have just learned that the Ritz had been done up and reopened on March 1, 2021, as the ritzy hotel shown. You can stay in the original shell but most of the old building has a modern/hotel ​building sprouting out of the top like a top-heavy mushroom. There are 128 rooms and apartments over nine floors, mostly with views over Geelong’s north-facing waterfront and city skyline.

While they wanted to build up for the views, they couldn’t pull down the old mushroom stalk of a building because it’s a heritage-listed landmark.

Why the Building is Heritage Listed

The Ritz Hotel, in the city’s heart, sat dormant for 40 years. It was formerly known as the Belle-Vue Hotel and built circa 1854. It later became a boarding house before falling on hard times. According to the Geelong Independent, the derelict building drew the ire of mayors, councillors, and Geelong residents, who labelled it an eyesore; “Anger over the condition of the building resulted in the December 2014 introduction of a neighbourhood amenity law, nicknamed ‘The Ritz law,’ allowing the council to fine the owners $2000 a month.”

When the hotel was reopening, there was a kerfuffle with the name.

As The Age cheekily wrote in its headline ‘Hey Geelong Paris Called and Wants Its Ritz Back’. When the famous Ritz Paris, which charges well over $1600 a night, got wind of the fact a little hotel ‘Down Under’ was calling itself the Ritz and only charging $300 a night, they were incensed.

They took the Australian hotel to court to stop it from calling itself The Ritz, which is why you see the sign for the hotel is simply the R, and the way the R is placed, it looks like there were once a lot more letters.

Why Stay Here

One of the best things about the R is its location. ​It is about seven minutes walk to Eastern Beach. Most of the town’s attractions are based here, such as the famous bollard walk, historical carousel, seafood restaurants and access to the stunning botanical gardens. There is also easy access to the shopping area of Geelong and the Arts Precinct. Make sure to visit the Geelong Library, which has a dome with views over Geelong and downstairs a great cafe, called Public, where you can sit overlooking the gardens.
You can arrive in Geelong in style on the new Port Phillip Ferry that opened in 2020. You no longer have to play truck sandwich on that awful stretch of road between Melbourne and Geelong.
Instead, the ferry leaves from Docklands (outside the Marvel Stadium) Melbourne. Unlike Sydney’s heritage ferries, this ferry is sleek and streamlined and zips through Port Phillip Bay. There are dramatic views on both sides.
The You Yangs are particularly prominent from the water. Even leaving Melbourne is impressive. The Docklands is lined with some of Melbourne’s most remarkable architecture.
And you go under the Bolte and West Gate Bridge and past container ships from all over the world and see the vast cranes unloading them.
There is a barista on board making coffees or you can buy alcoholic drinks. Way to go! Or there is the aptly named Away with the Ferries, cafe before you leave.

Staying at the R

The rooms are smart and flash with modern bathrooms, comfortable beds with really crisp lovely white sheets. Rooms have balconies with views. My tip, ask for a room on the Eastside overlooking the park and the waterside. My room was at the back, so mostly overlooked a car park but if I turned my chair, there were side views over the long pier and bobbing boats.

This is a 4.5-star full-service hotel experience with hotel rooms, one and two-bedroom self-contained apartments, a few pet-friendly apartments, and a 24-hour reception. The young women at reception were particularly helpful in booking a taxi, even waiting outside with me until it was in sight.

There are all the amenities you could hope for, such as air conditioning, LCD TV, free high-speed Wi-Fi, free cable channels, a refrigerator, espresso machine, room safes, and laundry facilities. The apartments have a full kitchen with a microwave, dishwasher, and cooking facilities.

If you do drive, there is secure undercover car parking, including a dedicated bike parking area, plus two solar-powered electric vehicle charge stations.

Guests can start the day at Le Café with a continental breakfast, located on the corner overlooking Austin Park towards the bay, in the original building facade. The croissants are yum.

AFL Melbourne return ferry and stay packages

The hotel offers overnight packages with return transfers from Docklands in Melbourne. Catch the ferry, see the game and then spend a night at R Hotel Geelong before returning to Melbourne the next day.

Package prices:
Hotel room: $309
One-Bedroom Apartment: $349*
One-Bedroom Park View Apartment: $359**Third person price includes rollaway bed & return ferry tickets: $86

Your package includes:
Port Phillip Ferry tickets from Docklands for 2
Overnight Accommodation in your choice of Hotel Room, One-Bedroom Apartment, or One Bedroom Park View Apartment.

NOTE: AFL match tickets are NOT included and MUST be purchased separately. Bookings must be made 2 days prior to game day.

The R Hotel staff will book your ferry transfers, so please advise preferred transfer time for your Melbourne to Geelong. Geelong ferries depart 9.15 am or 3.45 pm.

If you’d like to stay an extra night, let them know. Email [email protected] or give us a call 03 4206 0500 to customise your booking.

If you were thinking of heading over to Geelong on the ferry without a hotel package, then ferry tickets are about $18 each way. Concessions also available. Ticket prices click here.

Other Geelong Tips

I went to the Pivotonian, a cute little independent cinema that shows more art-house and less mainstream films. They serve you coffee in real cups and make their own ice-creams.

There is a new restaurant/bar/street-art precinct in Geelong in Little Malop Street. A bit of a take on Melbourne’s famous laneways with their own unique Geelong style.

Sumi, near the Geelong Art Gallery, is a hole in the wall style place doing great Asian influenced bincho-tan BBQ – a unique cultural experience.

Alma is the restaurant to go to but book in advance. South American share plates. Incredibly popular.

Two Chefs – nice people and do great coffee and cake. Across the road is Blue Lotus – with a reasonably priced and impressive menu of Vietnamee dishes. I had the Banh Xio, which had loads of fresh mint and plenty of prawns.

by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (subscribe)

Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I’ll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel