WHEN it comes to travel, nothing beats a personal recommendation from someone who has already made the trip. Here, seven Victorians share their favourite part of the state.
Robin Wickens – executive chef, Royal Mail Hotel
More people that pass through the Grampians need to make time for walking in the national park and you don’t have to be an expert hiker to take on a trail like The Piccaninny which offers unbeatable views of my hometown Dunkeld and the southern Grampians. It’s also a great way to work up an appetite before dining in our new restaurant, Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel (below) which opened in October.
Rowly Milhinch – winemaker, Scion Wine
There’s a palpable energy in Rutherglen with new wine styles, produce and ideas emerging around the historic region. The Brown siblings from All Saints have breathed new life into Mt Ophir Estate (below) and reopened it as luxury accommodation — including an impressive French provincial tower — and for events. Wine and art converge at the Rutherglen Estates’ complex which is now home to a new cellar door and Aboriginal exhibitions gallery that’s a collaboration between the winery and art collector Hans Sip.
Craig Mitchell – owner, Mitchell Harris Wines
Ballarat’s food and wine scene celebrates local producers and our seasonal climate with local drinking at Hop Temple, Athletic Club Brewery and Mitchell Harris Wine. For dinner The Forge, Meigas and vegetarian Chat for Tea offer casual options while Catfish and Underbar are fine-dining ambassadors. After a lap of Lake Wendouree (below) — by foot, bike or boat — caffeinate at L’Espresso, Fika or Webster’s and there’s always something to delight in our Arts Precinct with major exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ballarat or something more edgy at Backspace or Lost Ones galleries.
Lyndsay Sharp – general manager, Jack Rabbit Vineyard
The Bellarine is a pocket rocket with history, beaches, incredible food and wine, activities, scenery and style. Passion abounds at the 20-plus wineries — all family owned and operated — crafting award-winning wine while gourmands can immerse in fresh produce along the Bellarine Taste Trail (below) from the famous Portarlington mussels to the impressive array of fresh ingredients including cheese, honey and herbs. For those able to escape the beach there’s golf on famous fairways, meandering around coastal villages, and Segway tours.
Rebecca Bingham – owner, Refuge Cove Cruises
Wilsons Prom (below) is one of Victoria’s must-see locations. This hidden jewel is surrounded by sea on three sides and renowned for rugged granite mountains, lush rainforests, and pristine beaches. The Prom’s best features can be seen on board the new Refuge Cove Cruises vessel which sails to mainland Australia’s southernmost point to view seals at Kanowna Seal Colony and the remarkable Skull Rock as well as previously inaccessible parts of the national park.
Danielle Field owner, MP Experience
The Mornington Peninsula is built by locals passionate about what they produce and while we’re only an hour from Melbourne it feels a world away from the busy city. For something new, visit St Andrew Beach Brewery which offers tastings in the original horse stables, Alatonero is a Greek restaurant on the McCrae beachfront, Jackalope (below) is an amazing five-star hotel at Willow Creek Vineyard, and during winter MP Experience is running truffle hunts matched with cooking classes or degustation dinners.
Kim Rycroft – owner, Saladin Lodge
It’s the seasonal activities that keep the region vibrant and, for something new, those seeking adventure can make the downhill mountain bike run from Lake Mountain to Marysville. New things are happening at Saladin Lodge including regular music events, art expeditions, and fly fishing courses which are the perfect experience in an area known for trout and salmon (below).