Within walking distance of the pristine beaches of Somers on Westernport Bay, Kalang Retreat is located in the historic Banksia Estate. The street layout, suggestive of the planning style of Walter Burley Griffin, contains a central bushland reserve, the Banksia Square. Roads veer off the square in different directions like spokes of a wheel. Some roads are cordoned off by reserves to discourage thoroughfare. A serene natural environment suitable not only for those who need a working space in a beautiful setting, but also for the wayfarer who prefers to walk and explore. Somers is a small off-the-track community surrounded by large rural acreage, close to bustling Melbourne – a starting-point to numerous places of interest on the Mornington Peninsula.
Kalang Retreat acknowledges the traditional Boonwurrung custodians of this land both past and present.
Click here to view a map of Banksia Square.
Built with hand-crafted clay bricks, Kalang Retreat is a testament to 1980s modern design. Architecturally striking, the house was created to draw the landscape into the interior. In one room, large wooden windows encompass some seventy percent of external wall space, inviting surprising sensory experiences from various viewpoints. Wooden beams, slate and timber are part of an era when designers preferred organic materials and motifs.
Furnishings are a mix of contemporary and restored pieces, with an eclectic array of Australian artwork and curios from around the world. Offering garden views, each bedroom is unique, well-appointed with a bed, writing desk, storage facilities and heating. Informal sitting-rooms allow for relaxed conversation. You are welcome to join other guests in the dining-room to share meals or take part in writing sessions. There is a mature indoor cat called Fish who may wander into rooms or onto laps. A large undercover deck has a table and seating, with a wood fire. You can gaze upon one of the many impressive sunsets from a deckchair, or cast your eye over a distant night-time galaxy.
Discover little nooks in the garden set away from the house, perfect for private time. Nearby, the Banksia Square reserve provides further places for you to sit and reflect – a picnic table and other well-positioned benches are often in use.
Soak in the exceptional atmosphere as you roam the garden at Kalang. The cherry tree’s winter boughs call for peaceful reflection. The welcoming fragrance of daphne and wisteria greets you on arrival in spring’s high bloom. Walk beneath large gum-trees as the grevilleas and banksias talk amongst themselves in the understory. In the dim-lit ferneries, the towering monstera spreads its canopy over the bromeliads and flowering clivias. You can cast culinary opinions over the vegetable and herb garden as you delight in the delicious pickings on offer for mealtimes. It is a garden that provides not only a habitat for little creatures within the rocks, those buzzing idly from flower to flower, but a place for you to connect with nature.
You are certain to experience one of the many seasonal encounters with marsupials and birds, reptiles and inquisitive insects. Koalas are well-known to the area; some visit gum-trees in the garden, others can be heard calling from the Banksia Reserve. After rain, you might hear the distant refrain of banjo frogs. Prepare yourself for some spectacular displays of birdlife. You might glimpse galahs feeding on flowering gums or spot a fleeting tawny frogmouth on its hunt for dinner. Flocks of yellow-tailed black cockatoos fly overhead, tiny eastern spinebills with their long beaks sip the lemon tree’s blossoms. The occasional visiting shorebird, such as a solitary white-faced heron, might parade the perimeter. More than thirty birds have been identified in the vicinity of the house (Download our current survey list), with many more to be discovered on coastal walks. Shy skinks and blue-tongue lizards appear briefly from under logs, ringtail possums run the heights of treetops. The St Andrew’s Cross spider might create her extraordinary web for you within the thickets.
Westernport Bay summers are pleasantly mild and hospitable, with only a small number of days exceeding 30˚C. Kalang Retreat has a central air-conditioner that can moderate interior temperatures when needed.
Winters are cool, with mean maximum temperatures in the range of 14– 16˚C, and minimum mean temperatures of around 6–8˚C. There are two gas heaters that keep Kalang Retreat warm in winter and every bedroom has further heating.
Michelle Leber is the director of Kalang Retreat, and an Australian poet. Known for her involvement in the Melbourne poetry community for decades, Michelle has participated on festival boards and worked with not-for-profit organisations assisting in showcasing literary events. Often seen performing her work, Michelle has collaborated with poets in theatres, gala events, fundraisers and festivals, at other times launching poetry books for colleagues. Her poems have appeared in international publications and in Australian newspapers and anthologies, including three times in The Best Australian Poems series. She is the author of The Weeping Grass (APC, 2010), and a non-fiction poetry collection, The Yellow Emperor (FIP, 2014). She moved to Somers to fulfil a new vision of a writers’ hub, and to how this remarkable location can stimulate creativity.
Michelle lives on-site with her partner, Troy Framstad, affectionately nicknamed ‘The Professor’. Troy, Kalang’s chef, has worked in several restaurant kitchens, and over the years has been involved in the visual arts, artist-run galleries and antique restoration. He is also a musician, with a history of collaboration, and this offers him the technical skills to successfully manage the audio requirements during Kalang's Salons. Troy is a humble and talented contributor at Kalang. He works steadfastly – repairing, chopping wood, preparing meals – to ensure that each residency runs smoothly.
Kalang Retreat is supported by a group of enthusiastic local volunteers.