Guinea pigs, actual pigs (on the run!), beers named after farm dogs, olive oil jelly… There’s a hell of a lot of surprising stuff going on once you get beyond the city’s limits, and if there’s one regional destination that absolutely needs to be ticked off your list this summer, it’s Sun Country on the Murray.
I know what you’re thinking; it sounds like a totally imaginary place, right? Well, we hit the roads leading north of Melbourne to find out exactly what’s so great about this state border region. We started off our adventure with a visit to the award-winning, jaw-droppingly beautiful Rich Glen Olive Estate—an olive grove, cafe, delicious tasting area and guinea pig garden all rolled into one.
Rich Glen Olive Estate is the brainchild of Rosalind and Daimien Vodusek, a couple who started a small olive farm and shop on their property, 7 years ago, and now run one of the largest farms in the area. With five varieties of olive in their stunning groves, and over 200 product lines on the go—from skincare, to flavoured oils, to the best cheese-paired condiments we’ve tasted in a loooong time—Rich Glen is no small fry. In fact, what was once an operation that took place in one room of their house (it’s now taken over the whole property to the extent that they’ve had to renovate and relocate to another property on the estate), is now one of the shining stars to be found on the Farm Gate Trail—a self-guided tour of the best things to eat, drink and do along the Murray River.
The thing that really blew us away about Rich Glen Olive Estate is the sheer creativity of the team at work there: Skincare, flavoured oils, regular oils, pastas and sauces, chutneys, jams and jellies, tea, just about everything you can imagine! Led by Rosalind—a total champion of the olive in all of its many shapes and sizes—the team supplies olives and oils to venues including All Saints Winery, CBD haunt Whiskey And Alement, and even to Parliament House. Building on two centuries of olive-based creations, Ros’s most recent olive baby is a men’s skincare range, which is set to launch this Spring.
With a cracking menu on site too, not to mention a refreshing ginger, mint and raspberry punch that’s worth the drive in its own right, Rich Glen is about *so* much more than a wander through the neighbouring groves. Here are our top recommendations in the area, perfect for that weekend road trip or camping holiday you’ve been talking about but need to actually get round to locking in:
#1: Try Cheese, Glorious Cheese, At Boosey Creek Cheese
Cheese is our thing. When the apocalypse comes, we’ll be locked away in a bunker of brie, camembert-ing until our hearts and bellies are content. And if you’re looking for something to stockpile for those summer picnics, the accolade-laden dairy, Boosey Creek Cheese in the aptly named Boosey, has to be on your Sun Country itinerary. The farm gate shop here is located slap-bang in the middle of the dairy, which means you know everything you’re tasting is 100% fresh, local and chemical-free. Better yet, if you’re lucky you can sneak pet some calves… Just watch out for the run-away neighbouring piglets on the drive to the farm!
#2: Eat The Most Epic Ploughman’s Lunch Ever At Byramine Homestead Brewery & Cider House
When it comes to creativity, Byramine Homestead on the outskirts of Yarrawonga is right up there, having transformed a historical homestead property into a brewery, cidery and all-round foodie hot-spot. The variety of beer on offer here is impressive, from seasonal stouts to German lagers named after farmyard kelpies, and their lemon and lime-spritzed cider and ginger beer are ones to pick up for those hot summer BBQs. Food fans: Yes, that’s their ploughman’s lunch board that you see a snapshot of in the video above, and yes, it tastes as good as it looks.
#3: Inland Beaches?! Yes, They Exist!
Victoria, you just keep on surprising us with the weird and wonderful feats of nature that lie around every corner. If you’ve always dreamed of living by the beach but couldn’t handle living in fear of coastal erosion (maybe that’s just me…), check out Forges Beach. This picturesque inland beach, complete with sandy banks and riverside campsite stretching along a length of the Murray River, is a fantastic base for all your Sun Country exploring. Adventure, ahoy!
#4: Get Out On The Water With Action Bike and Ski
Get that adrenaline pumping! Kayaking, waterskiing, trail and mountain biking are all offered by Action Bike and Ski, who run tours and hire out equipment for your more seasoned watersports pros. These outdoorsy-types will gladly deliver you whatever you need for your own fun-fuelled day working off all that cheese, olive chutney and beer. Thankfully, you can see a stretch of the Murray River without having to make the return journey—the Action Bike and Ski team can pick up your boat or bike pretty much anywhere. Maximum sight-seeing, minimum effort.
#5: Learn A Thing Or Two About Growing Your Own With Katamatite Garlic
If you’ve ever dreamed of moving to the country and starting your own farm, Katamatite Garlic is juuuust the place to start honing your skills. This cute garlic farm is a hive of horticultural activity, thanks to owners Grahame and Lisa Eddy, who have transformed the property into a hub of drool-worthy garlic products (think jellies, jams, pickles and dried garlic varieties for seasoning your own dishes). The pair also run workshops which can be booked in advance. Time to transform that window box into your very own herb garden, people!
Ready to take an adventure to Rich Glen Olive Estate and the other incredible hot-spots in Yarrawonga and the Sun Country on the Murray region? Check out the Rich Glen Olives website for everything you need to know, and visit the Farm Gate Trail website for more ideas of where to add to your itinerary.
Melbourne is an incredible city, but sometimes we all need to get out of town for a weekend. The Urban List has partnered with Visit Victoria to bring you our Get Out Of Town! series—the ultimate guide to Victoria’s rural gems. For more ideas about where to wander in Sun Country on the Murray, click here.
Video Credit: the Phoenix Effect