Just when you thought that Melbourne was only all about its fancy architecture, hipster coffee spots and vibrant street art, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Travel a little further into the High Country and you’ll be treated to a picturesque view of the surrounding mountains and lush land; fondly touted as the beautiful backyard of Melbourne by our guide.
Just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Melbourne, we travelled with our friendly Visit Victoria guide, Samantha, who showed us what the country towns have to offer.
It was Autumn at our time of visit, and the countryside was painted in red, yellow and all the other glorious colours that Mother Nature has blessed us with — we were immediately mesmerised by the sights and crisp air, even before we were introduced to the activities that were lined up for us.
If you’re planning on visiting, go when it’s the High Country Harvest in the month of May, where you’ll get to sample the best produce of the season. Here are 15 things you have to include in your itinerary to make the most of your trip there:
1. Taste Wine & Enjoy The View At Chrismont Winery
The state-0f-the-art Chrismont Cellar Door, Restaurant and Larder overlooks the beautiful scenery of the upper reaches of King Valley and offers all-day dining.
Surrounded by mountains, you’ll feel right at ease while sipping on wine and soaking in the view.
The cellar is spacious and open, with lots of natural sunlight flooding in. Start off with an introduction to the available wines by owners Arnie and Jo Pizzini.
The cellar contains a wide variety of Chrismont, La Zona and Riserva wines (starting from AUD 17, approx. S$17.89), that you can sample before deciding to buy a bottle home, or have during lunch.
Lunch is a must at Chrismont — just look at the colourful spread we had, a reflection of the seasonal menu. The menu is inspired by the Pizzini’s Sicilian and Northern Italian heritages and includes recipes that have been passed down from older generations.
You’ll want to ask if the Garlic Prawns (AUD 16, approx. S$16.83) are available when you visit; they were plump and fragrant from the herb butter, and of course, super delicious. When you’re almost done, use the bread to soak up the remaining sauce, don’t waste it!
2. Sample Artisanal Flavoured Butter At King Valley Dairy
The humble King Valley Dairy was started in 2010 and in just a mere seven years, the establishment has already gained recognition for its premium butter and is planning on making its presence known internationally.
The butter is made with traditional methods, adding lactic acid to ferment the cream overnight. Interestingly, the butter will then be cut into smaller blocks with a sausage cutter, a piece of equipment that has seen the company through from the very beginning.
We sampled the various butter flavours that King Valley Dairy makes and were impressed with how fresh they tasted. It wasn’t heavy on the palate and didn’t taste oily — a massive step up from what we get at Singapore’s supermarkets.
Go for the lightly salted or unsalted for daily consumption, and the other flavoured ones, such as Wild Thyme (AUD 12 for 150g, approx. S$13), Confit Garlic (AUD 14 for 150g, approx. S$15.20) and Australian Truffle (AUD 16 for 150g, approx. S$17) to have with grilled meats.
We also tried a bottle of the buttermilk which is full of live cultures like Yakult or Vitagen, only creamier without the sugary, assorted flavours.
Right outside of the butter factory, we were introduced to a thriving garden/farm growing in various plots made from up-cycled materials; these vegetables are grown in a reused crate, whereas others have roots and stalks intertwined in old mattress spring coils.
Check this out when you’re there because it’s definitely not something you see every day.
King Valley Dairy: 107 Meadow Creek Road, Moyhu VIC 3752 | Tel: +61 3 5727 9329 | Opening hours: (Daily) 10am – 4pm | Facebook
3. Learn About Bees & Honey At Beechworth Honey
We caught a glimpse of the process behind Beechworth Honey through an informational self-guided tour that brought us to different thematic rooms made to resemble the different stages of how the 100% pure and natural honey came about.
You’ll get to learn about the fourth generation beekeepers and have a look at artefacts that were passed down from the first generation.
There’s even an actual honeybee hive within the store, enclosed behind a viewing window of course, where you can observe the busy bees at work.
Sample the wide varieties of flavours, which are categorised into four distinct profiles: Delicate, Fruity, Warm and Bold.
I loved the fruitier ones, and bought a bottle of the Orange Blossom (AUD 7.50, approx S$7.94), which had citrusy and tangy undertones, great for drizzling over baked scones, pies and just about anything.
Beechworth Honey: 31 Ford Street, Beechworth, VIC 3747 | Tel: +61 3 5728 1433 | Opening Hours: (Daily) 9am – 5:30pm | Website
4. Stay In A Heritage Bed & Breakfast At Barnsley House
The Barnsley House is a lovely, Victorian-style B&B to put up at when you’re visiting Beechworth, nestled within a quaint manicured garden complete with a water fountain.
The warmth and hospitality from owners Steve and Eileen made the stay feel like we were visiting relatives instead of just resting our heads at a B&B. Especially so when we were greeted by their two adorable Scotties.
We were spoilt for choice every morning as the homemade breakfast menu changes daily.
The conservatory is absolutely charming and it overlooks the garden, conducive for lounging with a book in hand or just sitting around with a cup of tea.
5. Indulge In A Degustation Dinner At Provenance
We’ve noticed that Melbourne is big on its degustation, and it’s not difficult to see why as all the fresh produce is easily available throughout the land.
We had a great night hiding in the warmth at Provenance, which is a restaurant that’s housed in an 1856 building that reflects the grandeur of the gold rush era.
We happily tucked into a 6-course Degustation Menu (AUD 115, approx S$121.12), and couldn’t stop singing praises of the dishes. The Duck Breast with Spaghetti Squash was tender and well-marinated with tangy and sweet ingredients complementing the star of the dish.
Provenance Restaurant: 86 Ford Street, Beechworth, VIC 3747 | Tel: +61 3 5728 1786 | Opening Hours: (Tues to Sun) 6:30pm – 9pm, Closed on Mondays | Website
6. Forage For Mushrooms With Patrizia Simone
This was an exciting activity for us, I mean, how often do we get to go into a pine forest and forage for mushrooms? We even learnt how to identify the different edible species (though we only saw two types that were edible) and the poisonous ones to avoid.
Watch out for these toadstools – the Amanita Muscaria may look straight out of a fairytale but the bright colours mean that these are poisonous and when consumed, will have dire consequences on your health.
These muted orangey caps are what we were looking for, usually hidden under the pine needles that will require sharp eyes before finding them peeking out from the ground to get a little sunlight.
We were taught to cut the pine mushrooms instead of plucking them out, leaving behind a little of its stalk so that it can regrow again. On the flip side, you’ll find its pores in light orange, with its sap staining our fingers as if we just crushed a load of Cheezels.
We went back to Patrizia Simone Country Cooking School with baskets full of pine mushrooms and were taught a simple bruschetta recipe that we can easily recreate back at home.
Stir fried with garlic, olive oil, homemade tomato puree, and seasoned with a dash of salt, the earthy mushrooms soaked up the flavours, and our harvest quickly turned into delicious appetisers. Lastly, sprinkle some cheese and basil leaves, and you’re ready to host a party.
Patrizia Simone Country Cooking School: 18 Riverside Avenue, Bright 3741 | Tel: +61 3 5750 1774 | Website
7. Pick & Roast Chestnuts With Patrizia Simone
Along the way back to Patrizia Simone Country Cooking School, we stopped to pick up chestnuts that were ripped and had fallen all over the ground. As you can see, they looked a bit like “landmines” with their prickly exterior.
Laugh at me if you must, but I never knew that chestnuts grow on trees. I’ve always only seen them already in carts or roasting in charcoal and assumed that since they taste earthy, they must have come from beneath the soil.
The chestnuts must be stepped on in order to get the seeds out of the spiky exteriors without getting our fingers pricked. Soon, we had bags full from becoming slightly obsessed with picking the chestnuts.
Roasting the chestnuts is simple; score a line across the seed and place them on a barbecue pit. When done, the shells will come off easily in halves, revealing the nut.
Patrizia Simone Country Cooking School: 18 Riverside Avenue, Bright 3741 | Tel: +61 3 5750 1774 | Website
8. Get Handmade Sweet Treats At Bright Chocolate
Bright Chocolate isn’t far from Patrizia Simone’s cooking school, just across a road you’ll find the craft chocolate store.
A mini factory of its own, here’s where chocolates are made from scratch. Don’t be fooled by its size as there is a wide variety of chocolates available on display. A great place to pick up some souvenirs!
Bright Chocolate: 8/3 Riverside Avenue, Bright, VIC 3741| Tel: +61 3 5755 2022 | Opening Hours: (Daily) 10am – 5pm | Website
9. Have Lunch At Feathertop Winery
Feathertop Winery is just a short drive out of Bright, and it was a great stopover for lunch just before we headed back to Beechworth.
The restaurant would serve as a beautiful wedding venue, providing a rustic country feel whilst overlooking its vineyard. Look into this if you’re planning for your big day and want your Pinterest wedding dreams to come true.
Sip on some of the winery’s varieties, and opt to have wine pairings with a 3-course meal (AUD 69, approx. S$72.67), consisting of an entrée, main, and dessert.
I cannot begin to emphasise how tender the McDonald meats Black Angus eye fillet was, with the meat falling apart so easily. Served with smoked bacon, Jerusalem artichoke puree, locally-foraged pine mushrooms, charred broccolini and watercress, this dish was the highlight of our lunch.
Feathertop Winery: 6619 Great Apline Road, Porepunkah VIC 3740 | Tel: +61 3 5756 2356 | Opening Hours: (Daily) from 11am | Website
10. Get Boozy At Brown Brothers Winery
When I saw that we were visiting Brown Brothers Winery, I was stoked. I’ve had more than my fair share of wine from this familiar brand in Singapore, and to think we were going to see where the magic happens.
No matter the day of the visit, just being on the premises will make you feel like it’s a lazy Sunday. With chairs and a life-sized chess board, we could definitely spend the entire day there.
It felt surreal being there and gazing at the sheer amount of wines in the cellar door made my inner alcoholic scream for joy.
The Moscato 2015 will rock your boat if you fancy sweet wines with fruity, crisp notes.
From here you can pick up a bicycle to pedal to the produce in the vicinity, but the bicycles were far too big and tall for our petite forms, so we decided to take a walk instead.
Brown Brothers Winery: Meadow Creek Road, Milawa VIC 3678 | Tel: +61 3 5720 5547 | Website
11. Come Face To Face With Mother Nature’s Creations
Along the way, we were greeted by a herd of cows grazing and looking at us inquisitively.
And a couple of handsome-looking ponies, peering their heads through the wired fence, causing us to stop in our tracks for a while to feed them some grass.
12. Power Through 17 Mustard Flavours At Milawa Mustards
Housed in the Old Emu Inn, the Milawa Mustards is a home brand that sells a total of 17 different seeded mustard flavours, from mild honey mustard to flaming hot mustard.
The bottles are all lined up along the counter table and free for tasting. My favourite was the Balsamic Mustard, tangy and mellow in flavour and great for pairing with roasts.
Milawa Mustards: 1597 Snow Road, Milawa, Victoria | Tel: +61 3 5727 3202 | Opening Hours: (Daily) 10am – 5pm | Facebook
13. Try A Variety Of Cheeses At Milawa Cheese Company
At Milawa Cheese Company, you’ll be treated to a wide range of cheeses and produce that is painstakingly handmade, using traditional methods while advocating sustainable living.
In line with that philosophy, no machinery and preservatives are used to make these cheeses. The milk is collected from neighbouring farms and left to process and age naturally.
While you’re there, don’t miss out on trying some cheese-centric dishes available at the restaurant on site.
Milawa Cheese Factory: 17 Factory Road, Milawa VIC 3678 | Tel: +61 3 5727 3589 | Opening hours: (Daily) 9am – 5pm, Cheese Tasting till 4:30pm | Website
14. Learn About Melbourne’s Coffee Culture At Aunty Peg’s
You can’t say you’ve been to Melbourne without experiencing its spectacular coffee culture. We popped by Aunty Peg’s, a coffee place cum roaster, with a small retail section and everything catered for the radical coffee aficionados.
Get a caffeine high by sampling all the different kinds of speciality coffees brewed in every way possible — nitro coffee, the chemex, pour over coffee, and many more.
Aunty Peg’s: 200 Wellington St, Collingwood VIC 3066 | Tel: +61 3 9417 1333 | Opening Hours: (Daily) 9am – 5pm | Website
15. Feast On Beautiful Dishes At Higher Ground
Not just any regular cafe or watering hole in Melbourne, Higher Ground breaks away from the norm and offers the hip city an elevated cafe and restaurant experience.
Set within a refurbished warehouse befitting of its dapper branding and character, the place offers tastefully plated dishes that are a feast for both the eyes and taste buds.
Higher Ground: 650 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 | Tel: +61 3 8899 6219 | Website
There is just so much to explore in Melbourne (read our other guides for more) and its High Country, and our five-day trip seemed to have only scratched the surface. Definitely, extend your holiday if you must to make the most of this itinerary!
We left with yearning hearts, promising to return again to uncover the other aspects that make up this thriving, creative and vibrant city. For a more in-depth and personalised trip, join the tours with Visit Victoria, or read up for more information on what to do before your trip.
We know a great holiday should always start with a great flight, and you can trust Qantas to take care of that for you. Return flights to Melbourne from Singapore start at S$1,055 for Economy, and S$3,800 for Business (prices include taxes, fees and carrier charges).