The increased amount of sunshine of late doesn’t just feel nice on the skin – it's working it’s magic on the soil, too. Delicious local produce is beginning to roll into local markets in bountiful supply, and with makers gearing up in time for Christmas, it’s the perfect time of year to take a tour of the state’s best.
Here’s our top-five picks worth exploring.
Red Hill Market – Saturday November 4, December 2
Just a bit over an hour’s drive south-east of Melbourne, the Red Hill Market attracts an epic crowd when it pops up each month. Held at the Red Hill Recreation Reserve on the first Saturday of the month, the sprawling event has more than 300 stalls selling handcrafted goods and homegrown produce.
It’s a mash-up of farmers and makers. A strict policy ensures stallholders must be the maker or grower, so you know you’re speaking to the person who grew those apples or made that cheese. Spring is prime season to visit here and pick up fresh-from-the-field fruit and veggies and seedlings to plant at home, along with preserves, cheese, honey, cider and wine to stock the pantry with in preparation for Christmas. There’s also handmade clothes, furniture, homewares, candles, art, sculpture and natural beauty products should you need to knock a few things off the gift list.
Don’t miss trying a camp-oven-cooked scone from the local scouts and a locally roasted espresso by Swig Coffee.
While in Red Hill …
Drop in to Red Hill Cheese for a tasting plate of goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheeses, followed by Ten Minutes by Tractor for a wine or two.
Halls Gap Market – Sunday November 5
Held only four times a year, the Halls Gap Market is about to round out 2017 with its final festivities on Sunday November 5. Escape the city early – it’s a three-hour drive north-west of Melbourne, but strong coffee, a handmade breakfast and a remarkable landscape worth exploring await at the other end.
This farmers’ and makers’ market is held at the Halls Gap Primary School, a picturesque setting to start a Sunday morning. The Grampians’ towering rocky outcrops encircle the market grounds, and the leafy limbs of tall trees create a peaceful setting for soaking it all in. The outdoor event features all things homegrown and handcrafted, with up to 90 local stalls peddling homemade preserves and pickles; works from local artists and jewellery makers; clothing and textiles; natural skincare and candles; concrete planters and artisan chocolate.
While in Halls Gap …
Dozens of small-scale and historic wineries throughout the Grampians are letting some prized museum releases flow in celebration of Seriously Shiraz wine festival, which runs November 3 to 7. Early November is also a prime time to catch MacKenzie, Ferntree and Splitters Falls, among others, before the summer heat arrives and they dry up for another year.
Point Lonsdale Market – November 12, December 10
Just a 90-minute drive south-west of Melbourne, this market makes for an idyllic start to the day close to the beach. One of the most popular gathering spots on the Bellarine Peninsula, the Point Lonsdale Market features more than 150 stallholders touting local produce and handcrafted wares.
Come spring, the market is flush with plants, from seeds and seedlings to sizeable pots, so visitors can take home some new leafy friends and get digging at home. Fresh spring produce joins locally made jams, so you can organise your weekly groceries. Handmade clothing and locally made artworks provide an excellent look into the creative community working and residing on the Bellarine.
While in Point Lonsdale …
Take a stroll up to the 1902-built lighthouse to soak up panoramic views of Point Lonsdale, Queenscliff, Barwon Heads and Point Nepean, followed by a tapas lunch paired with a glass of local wine at Noble Rot wine store.
GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Aireys Inlet Market – November 4 & 12, December 10 & 31
Set along the stunning Great Ocean Road, this delightful market has just kicked off its new season with a refreshed ethos of “homegrown, handmade, recycled and vintage”.
Held at the Aireys Inlet Community Hall, the market ramps up for summer when the region hums with seaside visitors. The indoor-outdoor market sees a new hand-picked collection of stallholders with each appearance, making each visit different from the last.
Fresh produce from Yeodene farmers Foothills Organics; jams and preserves by Bellbrae Harvest; and freshly harvested honey from Mount Duneed apiarists Edmonds Honey are regulars among the edibles. Sourdough, olive oil, wine, herbs, garlic, spices and plants are usually available as well.
Start the morning with an organic coffee and finish the afternoon with a Birregurra Ice Cream, post-browse. It’ll take you roughly 90 minutes to get to the market from Melbourne.
While on the Great Ocean Road …
Make a day of it with a spot of waterfall chasing in the majestic Great Otway National Park. Then make the drive back up to Anglesea to take lunch at Captain Moonlite, where you can enjoy coastal Mediterranean-inspired eats by prominent chef-owner Matt Germanchis (ex-Pei Modern, Movida).
Piccadilly Market – December 3
This bustling artisan design market is making its last appearance for the year just in time for Christmas. The Piccadilly Market will round out the year with one of its biggest showings yet, with more than 100 stallholders expected to take over the Deakin Waterfront Campus building on December 3.
Everything at this market is either handmade or designed by the seller, so you can trust you’re shopping local for Christmas. Leather duffle bags, vibrant summer clothing, handcrafted intricate jewellery, homewares and textiles join terrariums, natural skincare, wood-wick soy candles, stoneware ceramics and wall art. Live music will keep punters entertained alongside an array of foodstuffs to tuck into while browsing.
While in Geelong …
Don’t miss Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art prize, The Archibald Prize, showing at Geelong Gallery until December 10 as part of its regional roadshow.