For all you car-less Melburnians out there who think that leaving your inner city nests to explore greater Victoria is strictly off-bounds, you’re wrong. Our great regional train and coach system is right at the tip of your fingers. And so is your Myki…
Now, we’re not talking about the usual suspects along the Great Ocean Road—because, heck, we all know them—and frankly they’re just not as fun in winter. Instead, we’ve scouted out more hidden gems so we can dish out their best food, drinks, shops and sights on offer.
This weekend, avoid those nasty toll roads and hop on a V-line train for yo' next adventure.
Stop 1: Kyneton
See: Historic Piper Street
Feel that old town charm with a stroll down Kyneton’s Historic Piper Street. You'll stumble across a load of quirky cafes, restaurants and pubs, galleries, antiques and homewares stores. An insiders tip: avoid visiting on a Monday or Tuesday as most the stores are shut.
See: Lauriston Press Studio & Gallery
This unpretentious gallery is full of little surprises that will leave you nothing short of inspired. The delightful owner Sarah Gabriel showcases her own works as well as selected prints, paintings, ceramics and jewellery from regional artists.
Eat: Little Swallow Cafe
Don’t let the name fool you, Little Swallow Café is big on flavour and a favourite amongst the locals. We recommend the eggs benny and the ricotta pancakes from the extensive all-day breakfast menu. Also, we won’t be surprised if you hit your third round of coffee… it’s that good.
Indulge: Source Dining
If you're looking for some hatted noms, then head to Source Dining for a casual, yet high end dining experience. Most of their food is sourced either on-site, in the chef's garden, or from the local area (hence the name), and it's definitely an indulgent experience. Don't skip the desserts.
Stop 2: Castlemaine
See: The Buda Historic Home & Garden
Go back in time and see the home of the creative Leviny family still intact from the gold rush era. You can walk through the historic house (now museum) and wander three acres of heritage garden containing original sculptures created by the family. Partaking in the ‘Sunday Arts & High Tea’ event will make the experience even more sweet.
Eat: Castlemaine Farmers Market
Located just half a kilometre from the station, the Castlemaine farmers' market boasts over 50 stalls of breathtaking local produce and makes for a top-notch picnic lunch. Warning: you need to coordinate this one with your calendar, as it runs only on the first Sunday of every month.
Stop 3: Bendigo
See: Bendigo Art Gallery and Twentieth Century Fox Present Marilyn Monroe
You pretty much have to get your butt to Bendigo—at least before July to see the ground-breaking exhibition about the life of the iconic Marilyn Monroe. The exhibition showcases never-before seen clothing, memorabilia and personal artifacts.
Shop: The Meadow
Yes, Bendigo does fashion too—and The Meadow is where you want to check it out. This fashion haven offers both menswear and womenswear from international designers and local favourites like Alpha60, Vanishing Elephant, the Horse and Pigeonhole.
Eat: Masons of Bendigo
After dining here, we guarantee you will want to stay in Bendigo all over again. Husband and wife team Nick and Sonia Anthony have mastered ‘casual chic’ with this all-day operation. The menu is dictated by availability of local produce and thus can change at a moments notice—so get down and be surprised.
Drink: Handle Bar
Drink like a local in this hidden beer garden tucked away behind Naked Espresso’s Mitchel St location. Select from an extensive range of tap and craft beers, while enjoying the live music and perhaps a game or two of Connect Four.
Stop 1: Geelong
See: Boom Gallery
Boom is a contemporary gallery, retail space and café all in one—and it's bloody awesome. Appreciate the work of talented local creatives from a distance, or perhaps join in on the fun with an art class or workshop.
Shop: Lunar Concept Store & Gallery
Run by a dynamic mother/daughter duo and their cat Nigel, Lunar Concept Store & Gallery offers an assortment of beautiful bohemian inspired clothing, jewellery and homewares. We will be very surprised if you don’t walk out with a treasure.
Eat: The Hot Chicken Project
The fried chicken craze has spread westward, and this Southern American-inspired eatery, headed by award-winning chef Aaron Turner, is delivering the goods. The menu is simple: you choose your meat, heat level, select a side, aaaand finito!
These guys are servin’ you beers from a caravan bar—cool, huh?! Decked out almost completely with recycled materials, this is your ultimate chill spot for a few cheeky bevvies.
Stop 2: Sherwood Park
Eat & Drink: Flying Horse Bar & Brewery
Get off at Sherwood Park purely to visit the Flying Horse Bar & Brewery. Their award-winning beers go hand in hand with an extensive modern Australian menu that features all your pub grub favourites. Be sure to try the ‘Dirty Angel’, their signature flagship brew.
Stop 3: Warrnambool
See: Whale watching
Your visit to Warrnambool would not be complete without a stint of whale watching from the dunes of Logan Beach. The season runs from May to September…so, perfect timing?
Do: Warrnambool May Racing Carnival
Yippee, you’re just in time for the internationally acclaimed Warrnambool May Racing Carnival running from 3-5 May. Do not miss the highlight: the Grand Annual Steeplechase is the longest thoroughbred race in Australia, with the most jumps of any horserace worldwide.
Eat: Cheese World and museum
Us Melburnians are obsessed with our cheese and we can’t think of a better way to experience it than at a place wholly dedicated to the food group. It's a food group, right? Hop on a bus from the station and get educated about the local dairy industry while gnawing on complimentary tastings of Warrnabool Heritage Cheddar. You’ll be sure to leave feeling cheesy…
Stop 1: Trentham
See: Trentham falls
If you’re stopping off in Trentham, a visit to Trentham Falls, the longest single drop waterfall in Victoria, is an absolute must. Autumn/winter is the best season to go as you’re practically guaranteed a good water flow.
Eat: RedBeard Bakery
This is the most delicious authentic sourdough you’ll ever taste—even George Calombaris and Maggie Beer think so. You may decide to book a tour or workshop, or simply watch the bakers at work for free. Our suggestion: head in prior to the waterfalls and pick up some supplies so you can enjoy a picnic in the magical setting.
Stop 2: Daylesford
Do: Hot Mineral Springs
Enjoy some serious R&R at Daylesford’s infamous hot mineral springs. There are a number of easily accessible and free springs at the Hepburn Mineral Springs reserve—perhaps treat yo’self to a spa day at the oh-so-luxurious Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa. C’mon, you only live once.
Eat: Farmers Arm Hotel
We easily could’ve suggested one of Daylesford’s renowned fine dining establishments for your eating experience, but we thought that after a day of travelling you would be more into an unpretentious gastro pub feed with the locals at the Farmers Arm Hotel. How does eye fillet mignon or goats cheese chicken breast sound to you? Mmmmmm. The perfect wintery night indeed.
Drink: Daylesford Cider Company
With 17 varieties of English-heritage listed cider apples organically grown here on the farm, this is the most authentic cider you’ll ever taste. The cider styles range from traditional dry ‘still’, reminding us of the good ol’ days, to lightly sparkling and sweeter styles.
Looking to stay a bit longer in beautiful Bendigo? Check out our ultimate guide, 11 Reasons You Really Need To Check Out Bendigo, for some more killer activities.
Image Credit: Hepburn Bathhouse