When Rebecca Miller and her husband Peter Munster dreamed of a sea change for their two boys Oscar, 5 and baby Henry, they never thought their beach house would turn into revamping the Hawkesdale pub.
But after falling in love with the country venue, the couple purchased the property in March, the same day they welcomed Henry into the world, and began renovating almost immediately.
The Hawkesdale Hotel opened in September - the first time the venue had been operational in more than two years - and almost the whole town was welcomed through the doors.
"The town has been amazing, everyone has memories of the pub and it's great to hear them," Ms Miller said.
"We opened by accident; it seems we tend to do a lot of good things by accident. Some restrictions eased in September and we thought we'd open for the night and let everyone know we're here.
"I reckon we had about 100 people in. We thought, 'that went pretty well, we'll have to open again next week'."
The family comes from Heathcote and was looking for a south-west property with a bit of land to grow grapes for wine.
With a farm in their home town and two full-time jobs, Ms Miller and Mr Munster began travelling back and forth to start the enormous renovations on the hotel.
"The whole place had to be gutted, everything repainted and we had to take the whole kitchen out," Ms Miller said. "We were living in our camper because the house had been completely taken over by animals.
"We still don't have proper functioning kitchen but we have a kitchenette and we've rebuilt the bar so we can do light meals. It seems everyone decided to renovate during the pandemic so it's been impossible to get builders in.
"We've renovated a few houses before, done a whole heap of painting and building flat packs; we're pretty good with an Allen key. So far we've done most of the renovations ourselves but for the big things we'll get builders in.
"The restrictions have really been a good thing for us; it's allowed us to start slowly and measure the market."
Once Ms Miller finds full-time work in the south-west, the family plans to make Hawkesdale its permanent home and put all its energy into creating a Henty region artisan wine experience.
"COVID-19 has taught us we can't rely on having a business for our whole income, so I will work full-time and Peter will be the food and wine guy behind the bar, chatting away," Ms Miller said.
"We want to make the venue a place for the community and focus on wine and wine tasting.
"We want to bring in tourists, let them sit down and enjoy a Henty region wine tasting with a good selection of local wines and enjoy the view. That is where our passion is."
The family plans to grow pinot grape vines on the property, add a second bathroom to the accommodation suites and expand the kitchen capabilities.
Opening on Fridays for dinner and Saturdays from 2pm, the Hawkesdale Hotel has already been booked for Christmas parties and weekend stays.
"It's a completely different place to what it was before with much different feel," Ms Miller said. "We want to attract a new crowd to the venue while keeping the old crowd.
"We've done a few Christmas functions but it will be a beautiful space for weddings and that's something I would love to do.
"It will be a while before we're true locals but everyone has been amazing, the support has been overwhelming."
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