Exploring South West Victoria

 

 

Having needed a week’s break for a while, we decided to take off to explore some of Victoria. Our main aim was to visit the Great Ocean Road so I started researching what else we could pack into our week’s itinerary.

What ticks our boxes are plenty of walking, great views, good food and wine. I was excited to see that a few days in the Grampians (a mountain range north west of Melbourne with plentiful options of hiking trails and amazing  views) would fit in nicely. We flew into Melbourne about 9.30 am, picked up a pre-booked hire car with Europcar and headed straight out towards Daylesford. My aim was if we were in time, to have lunch at ‘The Lakehouse’.

Well we couldn’t have planned it better. We pulled into the driveway of ‘The Lakehouse’ at 12pm. The day was dreary (cold, raining and misty). We optimistically called into reception & were thrilled to find out that they could fit us into lunch & were ushered into the lounge to sit in front of the fire with a drink from the bar. The dining room was gorgeous.. a large light filled room overlooking the lake with the colour of the autumn leaves on the trees outside adding a gorgeous vibe to the whole scene. We chose the degustation menu which didn’t disappoint. Every dish was as good if not better than the last and the wine list was a great accompaniment.

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The Lakehouse Dining Room

 

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After departing well fed and watered, we picked up some food & grog supplies for our next few days on our way to Halls Gap in Ballarat and arrived just on dusk. The house which I’d booked through ‘Stays’ was very adequate for the two of us. We got the fire ready and enjoyed a light snack & a glass of wine before turning in for the night.

We woke to a cold and overcast day. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about with regards to the beauty of the area as everything we could see was encased in fog. We walked 10-15 minutes into town and called into the Visitor’s Centre to scope out the best walks for the few days we were there. After picking up some fresh bread etc we walked back to the house, packed some snacks, then drove back to the start of the walk to the ‘Pinnacle’.

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It was a lovely walk called the “Wonderland Loop” which took us about 4 hours. It started behind the pool in an area populated heavily by kangaroos. We trekked by the creek along a well marked parth. At one point we passed a foam ring which looked just like a giant rubber ring that you can ride in at Jamberoo! We passed beautiful waterfalls and admired the rugged stone formations.

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By the time we got to the peak we couldn’t see 1 metre in front of us for the fog so there was no looking at the view. Some highlights along the way were the “Canyon”, the waterfalls and “Silent Street”. It’s not the easiest of walks and required some scrambling over rocks & some very steep uphill walking but it was definitely worth it. In fact, on the way back down in the fog & mist we took the wrong turn and found ourselves quite lost. But after some backtracking we rediscovered the path & were on the “straight & narrow” so to speak. Walking down the other side of the mountain we were able to get glimpses of the valley below where our little home stay was located

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The area around Halls Gap is quite pretty, even in inclement weather and you will encounter a number of wallaby and kangaroo mobs.

The following day greeted us with the same mist and cold weather. But not to be thwarted we took off in the car up to the ‘Boroka Lookout’ which was quite spectacular as by the time we got there we were above the clouds and the view was spectacular. It was quite ethereal looking down on the clouds. Then it was on to ‘Reeds Lookout’ where the weather had cleared completely and we were out of the mist and clouds and I really appreciated the beauty of the ranges. We took a short walk and enjoyed a couple of different viewpoints.

We then drove onto ‘MacKenzie Falls’ and had a lovely walk down to the falls. We were entertained by some young men doing handstands on a rock at the base of the falls in the middle of the pool while taking photos. Talented or just stupid?

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Reed’s Lookout
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Reed’s Lookout
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Mackenzie Falls
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Mackenzie Falls

 

We then explored a couple of other tracks around the area and watched the resident emus. It was getting close to lunch time so we headed down to ‘Zumstein’s Picnic Area’ where we devoured our premade lunch. It had turned out to be a lovely day and we really enjoyed a 5 km return walk from the picnic ground to ‘Fish Falls’. It’s a lovely fairly even walk along the MacKenzie River.

The following day we checked out of our accommodation, paid a visit to ‘Brambuk’, the cultural centre and Aboriginal information building then headed to Dunkeld and enjoyed a lovely lunch at the ‘Royal Mail Hotel’. It was a lovely drive down through the south end of the Grampians. Dunkeld is just a small village & has a wonderful little shop full of gorgeous Possum wool clothing. I picked up a lovely aqua jacket.

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View of the Pinnacle from the valley
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Driving south through the southern end of the Grampians
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View from the Royal Mail Hotel Dining Room

 

Our final stop of the day (after a brief call into Hamilton (the town where Ned Kenna VC lived) was Port Fairy. Our accommodation was in a “sort of” motel. The apartments were supposed to be self catering but with no stove, microwave or oven, I think this was an overstatement! There was a bar fridge though! The place was right on the outskirts of town & it took us a good ½ hour to walk into town. The position in summer would be fabulous as it’s right on the beach but in retrospect a bit far out for our needs.

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View from our room at Port Fairy

 

We were in time for a long walk which we took along the beach then along the path that followed the coast. We underestimated how far it was and it was dark by the time we returned to the accommodation.

After a shower and a rest, we headed out by car to one of the local Thai restaurants for dinner which was very enjoyable then it was an early night.

The next day saw gorgeous weather and after a long walk along the beach we drove into town. We grabbed a great coffee from “The Hub” then called into the Visitor Centre to get some information about the area. We fell in love with Port Fairy as we meandered past the bluestone cottages and the gorgeous weatherboard cottages of the 1800’s and out to Griffiths Island. The area is just lovely. We strolled out to the surf club on Eastern Beach and had a great lunch and beer overlooking a superb view.

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Back to the accommodation for a shower and rest then it was time to go to dinner at ”Fen”. It didn’t disappoint! What a fabulous restaurant. We had a superb meal!! Definitely recommend it!

Much to our disappointment it was time to depart Port Fairy and the next morning we headed out to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve on the way to the Great Ocean Road. This is definitely worth taking the detour to explore. We only did one of the major walks but managed to see 3 koalas in their native environment.. something neither of us had seen in our 50 years!

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Tower Hill Conservation

 

We then spent the day travelling along the Great Ocean Road. I had no idea it would take us so long but I guess I didn’t factor in the time it would take getting in and out of the car exploring the various lookouts. The scenery is truly spectacular. The weather was “come and go” with rain coming in and then it would clear up and it was very windy, but it didn’t detract, in fact it added to the atmosphere. Our last tourist stop of the day were the 12 Apostles and it unfortunately was sooooo touristy but we managed to block them out and enjoy the view for what it is. I seriously can say that the coastline along the Great Ocean Road is spectacular and really didn’t disappoint.

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I’d booked us into a small motel in Apollo Bay for the night. As we were driving in at dusk we nearly ran over a koala. His eyes lit up in our headlights as we were heading down the hill and luckily as we caught up with him he was sitting on the side of the road. The motel was comfortable and we had a great dinner at a local Italian restaurant ‘Casalingo’.

We started the next morning with a stroll along the beach watching the sun rise followed by a great breakfast at one of the cafes on the waterfront.

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It was then time to head off for our next part of the journey. First stop was “Mait’s Rest” named after a fellow Maitland. It’s just a short 800m walk over a boardwalk through a lovely example of rainforest. It was then a relatively short drive out to the lighthouse at Cape Otway. I would definitely recommend both these stops for both their historic and environmental interest.

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The one fact that struck me at the lighthouse was the story of the missing plane and pilot Frederick Valentich in 1978. The last contact that was heard from him was reporting that the aircraft he’d earlier seen was above him and it wasn’t an aircraft.. he and his aircraft was never seen or heard of again!

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On northwards we travelled, stopping at Triplet Falls nestled amongst the ancient forests of Mountain Ash and Myrtle Beech. We didn’t see another soul on our 2km loop walk and had the whole beautiful area to ourselves. Rod even managed to find the rare black snail!

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We then headed north inland towards Brae at Birregurra. This is the number one restaurant in Victoria and in the top 50 in the world. We had booked into the accommodation at this little farm too. We stopped in Birregurra at the pub on the way through which was just terrific but nothing compared to our accommodation at Brae. Every detail was attended to & the whole experience was amazing.

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View from the room

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As to the dinner… well all I can say is it’s out of this world! Words can not describe it so you just have to experience it for yourselves but can I say the parsnip dessert was exquisite. The whole menu is seasonal and they grow their own produce. We enjoyed wandering through the expansive vegetable gardens and checked our the bee hives!

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Frozen Oyster
DINING ROOM
Dining Room
GARDEN
Vegetable Gardens
PARSNIP DESSERT
Parsnip Dessert
PEA TART
Spring Peas in tart
PRAWN
Prawns done two ways
RESTAURANT
The Restaurant

 

 

The weather the next day wasn’t the best so we headed off after our breakfast. Down through the Otway National Park we travelled and went via Bell’s Beach where we spent some time watching the surfers on the most amazing swells. It’s mesmerising watching the swells come in and the surfers catching the odd wave. They seriously have such amazing talent!

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We stopped on the Bellarine Peninsula at a winery for lunch..’St Regis’ winery just outside Geelong. It was fabulous and I thoroughly recommend the food, view, and the Pinot!!!

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We had some time to kill before getting to the airport to catch our flight so stopped in Geelong and visited the National Wool Museum. This was very interesting and worth stopping for. So after exploring this we made our last journey to the airport and eventually back home.

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