There are plenty of reasons to fall in love with the area around Geelong – the beaches, the restaurants, the seaside villages. But how much do you know about the Moorabool Valley, a lesser-known gem of the region?
Take the drive to Geelong down the M1 (roughly 65 minutes from central Melbourne) and check into your accommodation. Vue Apartments is one of Geelong’s newest boutique options, offering views to beautiful Eastern Beach and on the edge of the CBD. Or there’s Quality Hotel Bayside Geelong right by the bay and with unrivalled views of the water.
Grab a southern-style dinner at The Hot Chicken Project, opened last year by award-winning chef Aaron Turner. Choose your chicken (wings, tenders or dark meat), the heat factor (from mild through “so damn hot” to “evil”) and sides (’slaw or fries).
After dinner move on to Geelong Cellar Door. This wine bar/shop in a restored corner building has cosy chesterfield couches where you can settle in for a nightcap and a cheese platter.
Get a cup of Axil Specialty Coffee and breakfast at Box Office Café in the Pakington Street precinct. Items from their creative menu (which includes vegan options) can be viewed on Instagram @boxofficecafe. Head out to Golden Plains Farmers’ Market (Bannockburn) – held on the first Saturday of every month and celebrating the food and wine of the Moorabool Valley.
Lunch at Clyde Park Vineyard and Bistro – wood-fired pizzas, Bannockburn Country Fried Chicken, fine wine, and breathtaking views of the Moorabool Valley are all on offer. Drop by the cellar door of Lethbridge Wines, a top-quality biodynamic winery. Austins Wines, a family-run winery whose cellar door is open for special events, is worth the visit for wine connoisseurs.
Return via SageFarm to pick up free range, hormone-free, ethically farmed beef and lamb. Get back to Geelong in time for dinner at Igni. Winner of two Time Out Melbourne Food Awards 2016, Aaron Turner’s flagship restaurant has an emphasis on the charcoal grill.
On your way to Inverleigh get brekky at award-winning King of the Castle Café, renowned for its coffee, sweet treats, and retro fitout.
Take the Hamilton Highway to the quaint township of Inverleigh for some food shopping. Farmer’s Daughter Produce Store, a local produce grocer, and the Inverleigh Bakehouse, a country-style bakery, occupy the same charming address. Before heading home, get lunch in this sweet country town. Stop by the Inverleigh Hotel for a pint and pub lunch, and stick around for a Sunday session in their beer garden, where the pub often hosts great local music talent. Or there’s the famous Gladioli restaurant in a restored cottage, showcasing the Modern Australian cuisine of Matt Dempsey over five- and eight-course degustations.