Having travelled extensively around the world, I have visited a lot of youth hostels so staying at a backpackers is second nature to me. My mother, on the other hand, is used to creature comforts and a little bit of luxury so I was a little surprised when I found out that my dad had booked rooms for us at a youth hostel during a recent family holiday as part of a stopover at Apollo Bay, along the famous and scenic Great Ocean Road.
It looks really nice from the pictures," he insisted. That was an understatement, and I decided to write about it because it was easily the best youth hostel I have ever stayed in.
From the outside, the Apollo Bay Eco YHA did not look like a hostel at all; it was architecturally interesting with balconies, a rooftop deck and clean, tinted glass windows, channelling a comfortable apartment residential building.
Inside, there are three huge living rooms to relax in, with original wood heaters and comfortable sofas with summer breezes through its many external doors and windows as well as tinted windows to maintain room temperature. There is a large television available as well as movies to borrow as well as two self-catering fully equipped kitchens.
Used to dirty and well-used hostel kitchens, the large bright kitchens at Apollo Bay Eco YHA felt like I was cooking a home-cooked meal at home. With the soothing sounds of jazz music playing in the kitchen and in the living areas, it is definitely a great place to unwind. Even better, organically grown herbs are available from the garden to use and there is free tea and coffee provided for guests. If you don't feel like cooking inside, there are barbeques available to use as well. If you don't feel like cooking at all, the hostel is located within easy walking distance of local pubs and restaurants and it is 100 metres to the nearest food store.
If you are looking at a holiday home without the huge price and do not mind getting to know new people whilst relaxing and reading a book in the living areas, this is the place for you to unwind after a hike in the Otway Ranges, a kayak in the ocean or a refreshing swim in the crystal blue sea. Visitors will have plenty of outdoor activities to choose from including surfing, horse-riding, fishing, visiting the nearby Cape Otway lighthouse, rain forests and waterfalls. There is internet and email available as well as a tourdesk.
The distinguishing feature of the hostel is its environmental initiatives. I took a hot shower without feeling guilty since a solar hot water system contributes hot water for the 9 showers at Apollo Bay Eco YHA. Three 2400 litre rain water tanks provide water to irrigate the landscaped gardens and lawns and water saving devices are fitted on all the hostel's taps and shower heads. If you would like to go one step further, there is a Bokashi bucket composting to reuse kitchen waste on the hostel gardens located in the kitchens and guests can use buckets supplied to save shower water for the gardens. The hostel tries to educate its guests by placing signage around the hostel regarding its environmental initiatives.
In building the hostel, materials were chosen for their ability to act as thermal mass to assist in maintaining a stable internal temperature. The building maximizes winter sun penetration and minimizes sunshine into the building in summer through its passive solar design and north facing walls use a lot of glass to maximise winter sunlight. Reverse cycle overhead fans in the main guest lounges are used in winter to push warm air from the heaters back down into the lounge. In summer, they are used to cool the lounges.
A major design feature to reduce energy consumption is the designation of zones. During the winter months there may be periods when the hostel operates at reduced occupancy. Should this occur the building is designed so that an entire floor of bedrooms and bathrooms can be closed off, thereby reducing heating and lighting requirements. Similarly, kitchens and lounges are duplicated and can be closed if under-utilised.
You can choose from 7 family rooms, 3 twin rooms, 9 double rooms and 5 four-share dormitory rooms. Rates start from $28-$38 per bed for a four-share dormitory, $80-$95 for a double room and $98-$115 for a 4 share family room. This hostel is suitable for children. Apollo Bay Eco YHA is located 186km from Melbourne and 44km from Lorne. I recommend the Apollo Bay Eco YHA as a great and comfortable stop-over destination along the Great Ocean Road.