Travel: Victorian Highlights

I‘m going out on a limb with this post, taking a risk, throwing caution to the wind, heading into troubled waters . . .that’s a bit dramatic. Posting this piece on Victoria today, 1 June 2021, while the state of Victoria is in a state of lockdown feels a little ambitious? Yes? No? Victorians have suffered the lockdowns due to COCID-19 worse than any other state in Australia and businesses, and industires, such as the travel industry have been fraught with closures, and empty beds and coffers. BUT it WILL bounce back, it was but now, (today) it’s not bouncing at all, barely a foot shuffle. AND when it does open up again let me invite all Aussies and our Kiwi neighbours to visit and enjoy the beautiful state that comes good on all its promises of natural beauty, great food and wine, classy attractions and sincere hospitality.

A small state but packed like an overflowing picnic basket, Victoria has a taste sensation that covers city to country, ocean to mountains and fine food and regional fare to match the perfect wines. Need to know more? Go there.

Melbourne

Gateway to Victoria, the state’s capital city Melbourne is a river city and a class act. A walkable city or the best way to discover the ‘neighbourhoods’ is to hop a tram and head out of the CBD, But before you enter boho Brunswick, precious Prahan, edgy Fitzroy or to be in the sharp breezes of St Kilda beach, get your bearings in and around the city.

Nobody can persuade Melburnians that their coffee and their restaurants aren’t the best in Australia (and maybe the world when you really push the argument). And they do have damn fine food and java too. Also the proliferation of small bars over the past decade has made the social scene uber cool. Tiny, bespoke bars tucked away in alleyways that have survived city development are almost invisible during daylight hours when you do the laneways tours of wall art that is pretty spectacular.

One of many colourful and irreverent laneways of Melbourne.
The best!

Don’t miss a trip to the Victoria Markets for all that’s edible and wearable; cruise the Yarra River for a new perspective; go see the brilliant National Gallery and the instagrammable features of Federation Square. Take this city slowly and seek out sporting venues, memorable parks and gardens and some quirky, individual shopping adventures.

To market, to market . . .

Yarra yabba do!

Just an hour outside Melbourne is the splendid Yarra Valley boasting elegant vineyards and boutique wineries. This cool climate region produces high quality winning wines and they are there for the day trippers tasting. Chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon are star players and big name labels such as De Bortoli and Domaine Chandon promise fine tipples.

There are tea rooms, restaurants and hotels along the way for a longer stay and close by is Healesville Sanctuary which has a breeding progam for the uniquely designed platypus.

In the region of the Dandenongs here there are beautiful, classic gardens to stroll around, one of the finest being Alfred Nicholas Gardens, Sherbrooke

Great Ocean Road

Near Port Campbell and famous for the string of rock stars, the Twelve Apostles, bold rock formations, sitting in the Southern Ocean beyond mighty cliffs are a sight to behold. The drive along the Great Ocean Road yields rugged landmarks, beautiful beaches and holiday towns (Torquay, Apollo Bay and Lorne). Inland are caves to explore, waterfalls and rainforest. But it’s all about the drive, which is exhilarating where some of the road hugs the cliffs and winds around headlands. Zoom, Zoom.

P.S. There are only eight of the 12 Apostles left standing. The rocky stacks have been washed by wild seas and time and tide has taken its toll.

Apostles, from the Great Ocean Road.

The ‘B’ cities

Doubling up here with the two big Victorian ‘B’ cities – both inland cities that have been built on the back of gold! Ballarat and Bendigo are separated by 120km. Ballarat is closer to Melbourne and you can catch a train there (1 1/2-hour journey) or drive the 115km.

Both cities have bold charm as they have beautiful architecture from neo-classical, to gothic and Federation styles. All this built with shiny money.

Ballarat’s Regent Thetre.

Ballarat’s wealth from the goldfields began when gold was discovered in 1851, an event that took over sleepy sheep grazing paddocks. Within days of the first nugget being extracted the ‘rush’ was on, and thousands of hopeful miners descended on the, what was to become known as the ‘Ballarat Diggings’.

Ballarat and Bendigo have embraced the coffee culture and cafes flourish as well as classy restaurants and bars. And both cities boast splendid regional art galleries that have snaffled up extraordinary exhibitions that the big smoke have missed out on. Culture in the country? Sure is.

In Ballarat’s Fine Art Gallery, see the original Eureka Stockade flag and a wide selection of Australian artists’ work. Also visit Her Majesty’s Theatre which was once graced with the presence of Dame Nellie Melba.

In Bendigo admire the epitome of gold-boom architecture with the Shamrock Hotel, four flamboyant stories high!

So high, silo

Ballarat is a good base camp to take a six-hour (round trip) drive out along the wheat belt of Victoria with viewing stops along the way to discover the Silo Art Trail, an inspired outdoor gallery.

The concept of having the towering (up to 27m high), cylindrical concrete towers as the canvas for murals started with Guido van Helten’s stupendous ‘Farmer Quartet’ in the tiny town of Brim. Decommissioned wheat silos define the landscape here, and honouring farmers and farming history has turned into a smashing success engaging the
entire community.

First stop heading north on the 200km trail is at Rupanyup, with a double modern silo decorated by Russian artist Julia Volchkova. This artwork is not for the faint-hearted, given the artists craft their works while working alone, hoisted in a cherry picker. Next stop at Sheep Hills is a four-silo effort by Adnate, where children of the local Indigenous clan dwarf all who stand below.

Silo mural of four locals by Guido van Helten in Brim, Victoria.

Onward at Brim is the extraordinary Farmer Quartet, an overwhelming vision with the subtle hues of the landscape humbly depicting four characters from the region – now modest celebrities of the shire.

Further into the Mallee, in Lascelles is the two-silo artwork by Rone. Here, a man and a woman, fourth generation farmers, curve around the silos and are as much a part of the landscape as the Mallee root tree.

The top of the trail is at Patchewollock – a town of dwindling prominence that is the most isolated on the trail. Artist Fintan Magee chose a subject from the only pub in town in Patchewollock: farmer Nick Hulland – a reluctant pin-up.

High Country

North east-ish is Victoria’s High Country where the Alpine National Park is home to ten of the state’s highest peaks. The massive park is a space for all seasons: great ski fields in winter; and in summer, miniature wildflowers cover the grassy plateaus above the tree line and the north-eastern small towns are awash with gold and red hues of the autumn parade.

Another two ‘B’ towns that are local celebrities are Bright ands Beechworth. Beechworth is one of Australia’s best preserved gold-rush towns with more than 30 National Trust-classified buildings, a sight for architecture fiends! Also not to be missed here is the Beechworth Bakery, famous for the much sought after Vanilla Slice trophy. You decide!

Autumn in Bright, Victoria.

Provenance in Beechworth is one of the best regional restaurants in Australia, with chef/owner Michael Ryan a Hatted chef many times over. Also, Bridge Road Brewers Bridge Road is fantastic for its range of locally made ales from locally grown hops, as well as its outstanding pizzas. Ox & Hound Bistro is also a gorgeous little French restaurant.

Bright is close by to the ski fields of Mount Hotham and Falls Creek. The town is charming and in April/May it outs it’s colourful attitude into party mode for the Bright Autumn Festival when the deciduous light up, shiny and bright.

Bright is on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, a 100km sealed, off-road walking and bike trail between Wangaratta, Beechworth, Rutherglen (wonderful fortified wines here) and Bright.

Short sections of the trail can be accessed from towns along the route. (My recommendation as the food and wine here is pretty special – so why waste too much time walking?)

To explore the food, wine, nature, cycle, accommodation, experience options in the region of Victoria’s High Country visit: victoriashighcountry.com.au or ridehighcountry.com.au 

And there’s more . . . the Mornington Peninsula (golfers go crazy for the much-awarded Dunes Golf Links at Rye); Phillip Island and Gippsland (national parks, heritage villages, a penguin parade and the classic fishing town of Port Albert); Spa country – Daylesford and Hepburn Springs – and the Lakehouse Restaurant; the Grampians National Park, an area of magnificence – a landscape of rock-encrusted ranges perching high above the Western District.

Visit: https://www.visitvictoria.com/

and https://www.visitvictoria.com/Regions

How to sip and glamp

How to sip and glamp

 

In the gentle grip of the grape. 

When you are ready and able to take a road trip out of Sydney, head towards Orange in the central west of NSW.

Rustic but refined, this experience sets you in the middle of classic Australian terrain – generous glamping and a spectacular cellar door next door. Everybody needs good neighbours.

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 Was I having sheep dreams? I wake to the sounds of a variety of bird song, some chirpy, some a little glum, some positively raucous. Then the bleat of sheep. But I was in the middle of a vineyard. I stepped outside and on a narrow path through one of the vineyard rows I spied a line of sheep, cream coloured except for one black sheep being led by a haughty alpaca. In front on the lawn was a duck and two rabbits. To my right I turned to see the soft glaze of an early morning mist still settled on the land looking all the while like a scene from a Hans Heysen painting. Where was I again?

I’m standing on the deck of a splendid ‘glamping cabin’, one of two sitting on the edge of 17 hectares, 900 metres above sea level in the Nashdale Lane Vineyard, just outside the western NSW city of Orange.

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To the left I see the rather cool building that is a repurposed 60-year-old apple packing shed, now a rather fine cellar door with large windows drawing in the view of the surrounding rolling land, neighbouring vineyard, a few wandering cattle and the view to Mount Canobolas.

I give a silent nod of thanks and respect to the the mountain – it’s because of this extinct volcano that the rich, fertile land gives guts and glory to the wine grown here.

Take a sip

Nick and Tanya (Ryan-Segger) Segger (below) took on this property in 2000 and have turned it into a productive, all Australian owned winery. Wine and cellar door is the core business of this property with small groups turning up for serious tastings and considered purchasing.

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Wine tastings of the full range of wines include:

Whites –  “the social” blanc (Pinot Gris, Riesling & Arneis blend), Pinot Gris, Riesling, Fumé Blanc (lightly oaked Sauvignon Blanc), Chardonnay.

Reds – “the social” rosé, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Shiraz.

The labels are creatively designed, with a delicate graphic edge. The necks of the bottles have coloured stripes that indicate the type of wine the bottle is housing.

After a relaxed and comprehensive wine tasting in the afternoon we at Nashdale Lane Wines we head to our accommodation for the night. The glamping cabins are large and impressive (there are two only, which adds to the exclusivity of the destination).

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Now, I’m not a camper but I am a glamper. This accommodation suits the terrain and has a rustic, familiar and distinctive Aussie short break attitude. And it promises a carbon-neutral footprint with the almost au natural experience of camping – with benefits!

Glamping here does not compromise on comfort and style. (Nashdale Lane Glamping Cabins are designed for couples only and children are not allowed.)

We step up on the outdoor deck (barbecue sitting patiently and ready for action) and unzip the front door. The floor is hardwood throughout and the entire construction is to a high standard of state-of-the-art fabric.

There’s a well-designed little kitchen with everything you need to whip up a gourmet meal. Coffee, tea, salt and pepper, muesli and local olive oil are at the ready.

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There’s a large couch, an eclectic selection of books and magazines, a four-poster bed with high thread cotton sheets and a romantic muslin net folded around the beams. I particularly loved the bathroom, smelling all woody and Scandinavian. The fab shower (which is hot and powerful) is in an open rectangular curve of corrugated iron. There’s a basin and toilet and a couple of windows to roll up for extra light.

But on this chilly night the star of the show is a wood fire (totally safe) and with the wood cut and supplied it promoted a roaring blaze, a heady scent of wood and mighty warmth.

And for a short couple of days we immersed ourselves in ‘disconnection’. Relaxation, frequent naps, pristine mountain air and the fully Monty of a glorious night sky thick with stars.

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The zipper on the cabin door was a little stiff as we tried to leave – was it the universe trying to tell us to stay longer?

(And back to the sheep and alpaca on the early morning walk: they are called the ‘lawn mowing team’, lent to the Eggers by a generous neighbour to keep the grass down in a gentle way.)

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The Cellar Door is open 7 days a week. Sunday to Friday – midday to 4pm.Visit:

Saturday – 11am to 5pm. Enhanced food & wine tasting available. 

Tastings are $10 per person redeemable on purchase.

To ensure delivering a great wine tasting experience, groups of six or more are encouraged to book ahead.

Visit https://nashdalelane.com

Nashdale Lane Wines are located just under 10 minutes outside of Orange, NSW. We can be found by searching us up on Google & Apple Maps or by entering our address 125 Nashdale Lane, Nashdale, NSW.

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Five local highlights

Five minutes from Nashdale Lane Vineyard to Orange and you are in the heart of excellent food, so try myriad gold standard restaurants and cafes – there are more  than you can poke a fork at.

  1. Mr Lim – we had the drunken duck and dumplings. The standout dish of the trip was sweet and sour pork – divine. $$$
  2. Lolli Redini – slow cooked wagyu beef, barramundi and a splendid souffle at this classic Italian restaurant. $$$$
  3. Visit the Orange Visitors Centre – lots of great info from really lovely, informed staff. And there are regular exhibitions on too.
  4. Drive to the top of Mount Canobolas for brilliant views of the city and surrounds.
  5. On the drive back to Sydney and a few minutes out of Orange, visit 2 Fat Ladies café and lolly shop. Freshly baked fluffy scones (so good) and a good cuppa are on offer for a superb morning tea. $$