Local Escapes

Winter Road Trips You Need To Lock In, ASAP

By Phoebe McRae - 08 May 2018


Winter is coming. The Lululemon puffer jackets are out, mulled wine becomes a thing, and the sun takes a well-deserved European vacay. But there’s something about the cold that makes us want to get out of the concrete jungle. In fact winter is one of the best seasons to explore regional Victoria. Cosy cottages you never want to leave, winter festivals galore, and hearty pub meals by the fire—Victoria just does winter better than other states, LBH.  

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Visit Victoria to suss out all the places you need to visit this winter. Don’t forget your thermals—they're the secret ingredient to getting the most out of those crisp wintery days that won't be around for long.

EAT

There’s a whole bunch of new restaurants in Ballarat with menus that are overflowing with winter warmers (and given snow isn’t unheard of here, winter warmers are kind of necessary). From the smooth and strong coffee at FIKA to the potato waffles at Webster’s Market & Café, frosty weekend mornings are going to become your new fave thing. David Bromley’s latest endeavour, The Pub with Two Names, is where you’ll want to unwind for dinner (order one of everything off the Argentine grill to beat the chill) and if you’re feeling it, try to score yourself a booking at Underbar, the 12-seater restaurant that will blow your mind (and taste buds).

DRINK

Regional Victoria and gourmet produce go hand in hand, and the wineries around Ballarat are proof. When it comes to exploring the wineries in winter, Summerfield and Mount Buninyong Winery are our top picks. But if you drive a little further, you’ll find the award-winning Blue Pyrenees Estate —a beautiful cellar door that serves up grazing boards jam-packed with local produce, selected to match their wine. If you prefer Gin, hit up Kilderkin Distillery. Beer drinkers? You’re guaranteed to love the Red Duck Brewery. And guess what—they’re on the same site, so you can do both at once #winning. If you’re looking for somewhere in town where you can snuggle up with friends, make the hidden Lost Ones Basement Bar your go-to.

DO

Do as the locals do and make the most off all things winter at (you guessed it) Ballarat’s Winter Festival. There are things happening all over town, including a pop-up ice rink, potato festival (yep, spuds for days) and Winter Wonderlights—the most epic Christmas in July event of the year! If you’re after a bit of culture (or just feeling wintered out), make your way over to the Art Gallery of Ballarat for a peek at the latest display, Into Light (it’s running till 9 September). Oh and foodies, don’t you dare go home without getting amongst Plate Up Ballarat (on now until 23 July). The annual food festival showcases the best of the best of all things delicious, with events and workshops popping up all over the city throughout May. There’s even an official search for Ballarat’s best pie—yes, you should absolutely try each and every single one (there’s 20!), you have until 23 July.

STAY

Ballarat is home to some of the sweetest little cottages in Victoria. Perfect for winter feels. It’s time to curl up to the fire and make yourself at home. If you’ve got time up your sleeve, book in for a night at Tuki Trout Farm (40 minutes north of Ballarat) and set up camp in a stone cottage with a fireplace (obvs), cathedral ceilings and a veranda built for sunsets. Doesn’t get much more romantic than that.

EAT

Bendigo’s foodie scene just keeps getting better, and winter’s a pretty good time to check it out. When the wind’s whipping through your puffer jacket, you should check out The Woodhouse, which specialises in everything and anything red gum wood (we’re talking smoked steak and crispy woodfired pizza), Bendigo Wholefoods and Kitchen (known for fresh to death winter produce like rhubarb, mushrooms and tangelos), and local hero, Masons of Bendigo. Order the saltbush-roasted lamb shoulder if you can’t feel your feet.

DRINK

Bendigo is heaven for a warming winter tipple. From the insta-worthy cocktails at The Dispensary on Chancery Lane (they’ve got a cracking collection of single malts), to the craft beers at  Handle Bar (a hidden beer garden that cranks the heaters), you’re in good hands. If you’re out on the road exploring, don’t forget to step back in time at country Victoria’s oldest pub, Tooboorac Brewery, as well as pop by the stunning Sutton Grange Winery and biodynamic Bress Winery on your way back home—these two were made for frosty winter afternoons. Last tip? Flight Bar. An epic fried chicken and beer bar that brew their own range of hot sauce. Nothing warms you up like a mouth full of chilli.

DO

You’ll never run out of things to do in winter in Bendigo. It’s got one of the best galleries in Australia, AKA Bendigo Art Gallery, and you can easily spend an entire day checking out the famed Marimekko Exhibition (on until 11 June) or New Histories (on until 29 July), as well as their massive permanent collection. While the Yarn Bomb Tram (which kicks off on the first weekend of June) is an obvious must but if you’d prefer more of an outdoor adventure, take on the 49km O’Keefe Rail Trail between Bendigo and Heathcote. If the weather’s really bad, just take shelter at Dudley House Gallery or Gallery 369. Our advice: jam-pack your schedule and do it all. 

STAY

Glamp the weekend away at one of Balgownie Estate Winery’s luxe bell or safari-style tents. Complete with a queen size bed that’s decked out in baby-soft linen plus enough rugs, blankets and squishy couches to keep you comfy for days, glamping doesn’t get much more luxe then this. They’re also got a split-system heater in there, which you can crank if things get icy. If you’d rather stay indoors, try The Schaller Hotel (a quirky yet modern boutique hotel) or a classic Victorian cottage escape (we like Kips Cottage and Harper House for cosy fireside vibes).

EAT

You can’t go to Daylesford in winter and not treat yo’self to a long lunch at The Lake House. It’s on like every season of Masterchef for a reason. Overlooking Lake Daylesford, the view alone makes the inevitable food coma worth it. Walk off the meal with a visit to Bookbarn on the lake (second-hand book paradise) and once you’ve recovered, be sure to get some seasonal snaps to make all your Insta-friends jell. As soon as your belly starts to grumble again, be sure to hit up Frank & Connie’s Kitchen for a taste of their mouth-watering lamb ribs and Cliffy’s, just near the Botanic Gardens.  Doesn’t get much warmer than Cliffy’s in winter—sort yourself out with a hot chai and some of their signature hash browns for extra snug vibes.

DRINK

Hit the road and defrost with a red wine tasting at Grange Bellinzona in Hepburn Springs. Surrounded by wilderness, their crackling fireplace is one of the best in the biz, and—we’re telling you now—you’ll be so warm, you’ll never want to leave. If you’d rather stay in the town centre, rug up and make your way to The Daylesford Hotel or The Farmers Arms Hotel for laid-back, cosy pub vibes.

DO

Winter was made for pampering, so from Melbourne, head straight to Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa. The leaders in all things relaxation, try a healing mineral bath or go all out with a full-body massage and aromatic herbal exfoliation. Once you’re looking like a human lotus flower, shop till you drop at The Mill Market (Australia’s largest indoor market of antiques and collectables) or check out the newly opened French Brocante, an impressive boutique full of all things French. We recommend staying indoors so once you’ve spent a few hours buying gifts for yourself (and your loved ones), re-caffeinate with a hot coff then get lost at the famous Convent Gallery—the winter exhibits are always worth a squiz. 

STAY

Hotel Frangos and the new Farmers Arms Art Motel (that features guest artists on rotation) are two of the best hotels in town, but if you’re looking for something a little different, round up a crew and book yourself into the lavish Villa Parma at Hepburn Springs. Inspired by all things Italiano, this four-bedroom villa has its own private gardens and sauna. Your own private sauna. Need we say any more? For romantic B&B snuggle-up-by-the-fire vibes, hit up Alchemy House in Hepburn Springs or Illoura @ Hepburn.

EAT

ICYMI, the foodie scene is the Macedon Ranges goes OFF in winter and the produce coming out of this region is second to none. Olive Jones is the place to be if you want pizza (the steak menu ain’t bad either) and Source Dining in Kyneton (with a menu that evolves with the change of seasons) never disappoints. But it’s the maltagliati at Colenso in Kyneton that’s your ultimate cold-weather companion. Complete with a meat ragu and Parmigiano-Reggiano, you’ll never want the sun to come back again. FYI the new rustic Japanese joint in Woodend, Kuzu Izakaya, should also be on your winter hit-list.

DRINK

Even if you’re not a fan of wine (weirdo), it’s almost a mandatory that you visit each and every winery in the Macedon Ranges during winter. From the stunning Hanging Rock Winery to the homely Cloud 9 Farm, panoramic views are a given, and it’s a great way to sample some of the best reds coming out of Australia. Granite Hills Wines and Cobaw Ridge are two of the region’s best-kept secrets, and Mount Towrong Vineyard has a yummy Italian kitchen if you’re looking for a long lunch spot. Need another excuse? Wine will keep you warm. Duh.

DO

The Macedon Ranges covers a huge area of regional Victoria, making it one of our faves places to road trip around in Australia. Hanging Rock will be cold, but nothing you can’t tackle with some mittens and trail mix. The winter mists are also the perfect time to check out the Mt Macedon Memorial Cross. Reward yourself after with a defrost package at Lancefield Day Spa. The farmers’ markets at Kyneton, Gisborne and Riddells Creek are also worth a look (and bulk shop)—the veggies here are fresh to death. One last one, whatever you do, don’t miss a trip to the charming Edgar’s Mission—a rescue farm for animals from the meat and dairy industries. You haven’t felt true love until you’ve seen (and cuddled) the resident sheep, Saturday, zooming around in her custom-built wheelchair. Right in the feels, honestly.

STAY

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to Macedon homely B&Bs. Honestly, once the trees have lost all the leaves, it feels like you’re driving through a magical winter wonderland in the countryside—you know, the kind you only ever see in the movies. The Flop House is your best option, with a whole range of luxe, chic houses, most in Scandinavian style, Harpsichord Studio, and the converted Welsh Church. If you’re after something a little more low-key, book the oh-so-charming Farm House, complete with all your fave board games. Who needs sunshine when you’ve got Cluedo and a fire going? 

Editors note: This article is sponsored by Visit Victoria and proudly endorsed by The Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

Image credit: Visit Victoria + Michelle Jarni

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