For some, it's a ritual. In the car at 5am, texting mates to make sure they're on the road. Stopping at the Little River servo to organise the convoy and get a pre-dawn egg sarnie. Others take a more relaxed approach, starting the day a little later and forsaking a killer camp site for a decent sleep in and shorter queues at the gate.
We all do the drive to Meredith differently, but for most festival-goers, once we're on the road, we stay there. This year, we've found a few reasons to take some strategic detours. The drive might only take an hour and a half, but if you're prepared to let it stretch a little longer, we guarantee you'll be glad for what you find.
Mirepoix Foods Cafe
32 Staughton Street, Meredith
This cafe has been open little over a month, but we're betting it will fast-become a new pit stop for even the longest standing festival attendees. Stained glass bay windows, antique furniture and the smell of baked goods in the air, walking inside Mirepoix feels like one of the better visits to grandma’s house. For a bit of childhood nostalgia (and food colouring induced hyperactivity), order a spider with your slice of cake. Look for the colourful bunting out the front.
The Batesford Hotel
700 Ballarat Road, Batesford
When was the last time you had a counter meal at a country pub? Having won regional awards for their food, the Batesford is a cut above, with friendly staff and classic fare piling on the local charm. Settle in for lunch on the way home and celebrate your first meal in a proper chair with one of the Batesford's killer steak sandwiches, or their "very special" green pasta.
Brisbane Ranges National Park, Anakie Gorge
Staughton Vale Road, Balliang
While it may not be the most direct route to Meredith, a stop at Anakie Gorge is worth the detour. One of the best worst-kept secrets on the road to or from the festival, the gorge is home to Victoria’s richest wildflower habitat and has VIctoria’s highest concentration of koalas. There’s also a great picnic spot for a kip under a tree.
Clyde Park Vineyard & Bistro
2490 Midland Highway, Bannockburn
Sitting atop a dramatic ridge, Clyde Park Vineyard produces cracking chardonnay and pinot noir among other varieties, while the bistro serves simple, rustic meals with a focus on regional produce. If you don't feel like settling in for too long, you can also buy bread, cakes and pastries – all baked on site – to go, but with numerous vegetable gardens supplying the cafe, the property is worth spending a little time on.
Moorabool Ridge Winery
37 Spiller Road, Lethbridge
While it's extremely unwise to have a glass of wine on the road to or from the festival, we can't mention this area without tipping a cap to Moorabool Ridge. What once was a shepherd’s hut on the edge of the Moorabool River is now home to the cafe, tasting room and cellar door of one of the region’s best wineries. With the hospitality of owners Tim Harrop and Katarina Romanov-Harrop, you can stock up on house-made pickles, jams and relishes, taste wines or get a slice of cake and a coffee.
The Royal Hotel
Corner Staughton Street and Midland Highway, Meredith
Also known by locals as "the bottom pub", this newly renamed hotel might be your last chance to pick up drinks for the festival. Don't forget to grab a stubbie holder with your slab of cans.
Foxy’s Family Restaurant & Cafe
55 Midland Highway, Meredith
Part pizza shop, part cafe, part ornaments garden, Foxy’s has fingers in many different pies. Both takeaway and dine in are available – stop for a pizza and who knows, you might find the concrete sheep statue you didn’t know you were looking for.
Meredith Corner Store
15 Wallace Street, Meredith
The basic range of groceries stocked will suffice for last minute snacks and forgotten toothbrushes. Some takeaway food is available too.