Feast on Victoria

Set your travel table with three courses of the state’s finest regional bounty, advises travel writer Kerry Heaney, and enjoy some remarkable scenery on the side.

Surrounded by an abundance of fresh produce, it’s no wonder Melbourne is one of Australia’s food capitals. You can savour it in the urban sprawl or travel straight to some of the best sources, all within an hour’s drive of the city.

Head away from the big smoke to the south-east, where you’ll soon reach the delights of the Mornington Peninsular.

Start by taking in the sweeping golden beaches of the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas from the 304-metre height of Arthurs Seat. A stop here is a ritual for travellers because of the views, which even stretch to Melbourne’s skyline. Always wanted to soar like a bird? Take your chance with a gondola seat on the Arthurs Seat Eagle that will sweep you to the top in just 14 minutes.

The Mornington Peninsular is home to a vibrant range of local producers. It’s a place to pick up those just- laid free range eggs, bite into a bio-dynamic apple, or spread your bread thick with local cheese.

The rich red soils of the Mornington are best known for their top-rate chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot gris wines, with more than 200 vineyards operating 50 cellar doors. The region is one of the few in Victoria where coastal villages and hinterland hamlets offer casual cafes, chic restaurants and Chef’s

Hat fine dining showcasing local mussels, whiting, beef, artisan cheeses and handpicked berries.

You can visit Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm and pick your own, wander through the lavender gardens at Ashcombe Maze, or settle back for an extended graze over the tapas and wine menu at Green Olive at Red Hill. Make sure you have plenty of room for take-home purchases from the Farm Shop, or learn how they make those delicious sausages and wood-fired pizzas with a cooking course.

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The Tastes of Victoria

The Yarra Valley Dairy showcases the best of farm produce.
Fine dining at the Lake House, Daylesford

From here it is just over an hour’s drive to the Yarra Valley where slow food doesn’t mean waiting a long time for lunch. Instead, this is a region where the finer things in life are celebrated in a leisurely fashion in architect-designed wineries and cideries, or over a pinot noir or sparkling wine from one of the 40 local cellar doors.

The Yarra Valley is known for its lush farmland that yields an impressive array of artisan dairy produce. The freshwater fish are jumping, so try them with organic fruit and vegetables, seasoned with gourmet relishes and preserves.

Farm gates and roadside stalls are plentiful, or you can stop at an orchard and pick your own, with an invitation of course! Learn about food provenance at the region’s farmers’ markets and come away laden with food. Fill your baskets at the Yarra Valley Regional Farmers’ Market, Yarra Valley Permaculture Organic Market, or the Hurstbridge Farmers’ Market.

"And if the mood takes you, see all the picturesque beauty of the Yarra from the basket of a hot-air balloon at sunrise, followed by a champagne breakfast at a local winery."

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Explore the great outdoors

National Seniors Travel_The Adventurer_Feast on Victoria_Daylesford

Another hour and a half on the road and you are walking up the rise to the summit of Mt Macedon for vistas of Melbourne and more. The Memorial Cross and lookout is a poignant place to visit, given it commemorates those who gave their lives in World War I and is the most significant war memorial in the state, apart from the capital’s Shrine of Remembrance.

The Macedon Ranges are the gateway to the riches of the Daylesford region, where fine food and wine are balanced by mineral spas and wellness centres.

It’s also the home of the intriguing Hanging Rock, the focus of Peter Weir’s 1975 film from Joan Lindsay’s novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock. More than just a rock, this small, steeply-sided ancient volcano has been weathered over centuries to create unusual formations. See if you can resist the chance to wander through the boulders calling for Miranda. At the very least, take a picnic to enjoy.

It won’t be hard to pack a basket, as this area is home to orchardists, beekeepers, winemakers and farmers. From restaurateurs and organic grocers to celebrity chefs, the region has a love affair with fresh produce and seasonal delights, including spring lamb, Morello cherries in summer, autumn’s forest mushrooms, while root vegetables and rare, pungent truffles flourish in winter.

Daylesford is filled with country pubs and historic streetscapes where art, craft and antique treasures await your discovery, along with chic spas where you can indulge in mineral spring bathing, massages, body wraps, facial, hand and body therapies and exfoliations.

You won’t want to leave, but when you do, you’ll feel completely sated.

If your tastebuds are tingling at the thought of sampling Victoria’s food and wine, contact National Seniors’ fully accredited travel consultants on 1300 883 750. They can provide information on package tours or help you plan a personal itinerary. Don’t forget members are entitled to discounts on bookings made through National Seniors Travel.

This article by Kerry Heaney originally appeared in the Spring edition of 50 Something magazine (September 2017).