- Take a food fossicking tour in Bendigo, a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
- Pay a visit to the Echuca Distillery for a lesson on all things gin.
- Float down the Murray River on a paddle steamer for a beautiful riverside winery lunch
- Explore the word-class wineries of Rutherglen.
- Indulge and expand your palate in the varied and eclectic dining spots in Canberra.
- Meander through the vineyards and cellar doors of the beautiful Southern Highlands
- Time: 5 days
- Distance: 1,160 kilometres (720 miles)
- Transport: car, caravan
- Nearest major city: Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney
Day 1: Melbourne – Bendigo
Begin your road trip from Melbourne and follow the Calder Freeway up north. Drive for about 1.5 hours and arrive at your first stop, Castlemaine. There’s not storage of hip cafes and eateries here, many of them are located at The Mill, a heaven for foodies, as well as art lovers and vintage collectors. Just outside the town is Harcourt Cider. Make sure you stop here to grab some of the best Apple cider and sparkling apple juice for the trip.
Your drive to Sydney begins on the well-trodden trail for gold. You’re heading for gold-rich Bendigo, but you’ll find a couple of other little gems along the way to explore. A must stop is The Mill in Castlemaine, a dreamland for foodies, art enthusiasts and seekers of the collectable, curious and artisan made. Across the road, the heritage-listed Castlemaine Botanical Gardens gives a perfect glimpse of a 19th century designed landscape. A pit stop at Harcourt Cider should also most definitely be on the agenda, they’re producing some of the best apple cider and sparkling apple juice in the country.
Bendigo added another exceptional string to its bow when UNESCO named it as a Creative City of Gastronomy. The food scene is thriving with paddock to plate experiences, food fossicking and vibrant farmers markets, this is a place for serious eating and drinking. Dining spots can be found in the most creative of places, alongside the tiny laneways, airy rooftops, and cosy basements you’ll find you can dine in an old school hall, a former glass factory or even a bank vault. Local food heroes are known as ‘food fossickers’ and it’s possible to meet them at the profusion of farmers markets, fresh food providores or on a food fossicking tour. If that wasn’t enough the region also boasts more than 50 cellar doors including Balgownie Estate, where you can sip and sample through a cellar door tasting, feast on a gourmet dining experience and then spend a magical luxe-glamping night amongst the vines.
Day 2: Bendigo – Echuca/Moama
From Bendigo it’s just a short drive to Echuca-Moama so take the time to enjoy a leisurely morning exploring Bendigo.
Sitting on the shores of the Murray River the twin town of Echuca Moama is one of the most revered food and wine spots on the river, so take time to talk to the locals and find out their hidden secret places. Echuca has a warm, mellow vibe and within its grasp you’ll find outstanding wineries, cool bars, and some truly sensational places to eat. If time is on your side why not follow the Echuca Gin, Beer and River Trail and a visit to the Echuca Distillery is a must for lovers of all things gin.
Those with a sweet tooth should call into the Echuca Chocolate Company, the wonderful range of chocolate truffles, bars and liqueurs are all hand made by traditional methods on site. Free tastings of their scrumptious chocolate liqueurs are available daily. The Murray River is a constant reminder of a bygone era. For something a little different why not step aboard one of their vintage paddle steamers for a Wharf to Winery cruise matched with a relaxed lunch and wine tastings at a beautiful riverside winery.
Day 3: Echuca/Moama – Albury/Wodonga
Today’s drive takes you deep into the heart of the Sun Country on Murray, so called for the sheer number of golden sunshine hours the region is blessed with, even more than Queensland. Follow the Farm Gate Trail and discover an abundance of delicious local produce. Call into Byramine Homestead and Brewery, where alongside the range of beers and ciders brewed on site, you’ll find the locals favourite tipple – Quinn’s Poison. Just a few minutes down the road the Rich Glen Olive Farm is a lovely place to shop for olive oil treats of the gourmet and wellbeing kind, then relax with a providore-platter lunch in the sunny gardens.
Before coming to a stop for the day in Albury Wodonga, pause for a while to drink in the views over Lake Mulwala and call into the wineries of Rutherglen. Known for world-class fortified wines, gutsy reds, and crisp white wines since the early 1800’s, the cellar doors here have more than a touch of history about them.
This evening enjoy dinner in one of the excellent restaurants that are doing a sensational job showcasing the exceptional local produce.
Day 4: Albury/Wodonga – Canberra
Head out for a hearty breakfast in one of the many outstanding cafes before hitting the road again. Your destination is Australia’s cool capital city – Canberra.
Make a small but worthwhile detour to Beechworth, surrounded by heritage gold rush buildings this lovely village is home to a highly acclaimed food and wine scene. Make your way towards Canberra with a hop and a skip into quaint country villages to break the drive. Jugiong is a good lunch spot with the Long Track Pantry, and The Sir George long known as well-kept foodie secrets. As you continue towards Canberra, you’ll pass through one of Australia’s lesser-known but still exceptional cool-climate wine regions. We have it on good authority that the Shiraz and Rieslings are not to be missed.
Canberra is unusual for a capital city in that it is small, but it is also perfectly formed. Feed your soul in some of the country’s finest restaurants covering a wide and eclectic mix of dining styles. It’s true to say that Canberrans have a long and well-established love affair with outstanding food and wine.
Day 5: Canberra – Sydney
Start the day as you mean to go on with a great breakfast and the perfect coffee. Exceptional food is served at vibrant cafés across Canberra and the quintessential Aussie flat white is pulled by some of the best barristers in the world!
If your travels coincide with the cooler months of the year, then you might well find yourself immersed in all thing’s ‘truffle’. With a climate akin to that of Northern Europe, where the truffle originated, this region provides the perfect growing environment for this prized culinary treat. Every year Canberra succumbs to the truffle-obsession and there’s a whole festival dedicated to it.
From Canberra the final drive of your journey takes you to the beautiful harbour city of Sydney. Take the drive through the Southern Highlands, a patchwork quilt of rolling green fields, picturesque villages and a renowned wine region that now plays host to a veritable feast of fabulous cool climate wines. With over sixty vineyards and fifteen cellar doors you might find yourself wanting to spend a little longer before heading into the city.
(Travel tip: extend your trip with some coastal glamour. From Canberra, follow Kings Highway to Batemans Bay, and travel along the coast to Jervis Bay, before making your way up to Sydney.)