You don’t need to speak French or fly halfway around the world to spend some time in the Pyrenees. Victoria has its own Pyrenees region about two and a half hours drive from Melbourne. Bordered by mountain ranges and national parks, the scenery is stunning and you can expect to see lots native flora and fauna while you are driving around.
Like the region in France from which it takes its name, the Pyrenees is well known for wine and food. That said, it’s a little underappreciated as a region, with the likes of the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula stealing much of the attention, but the Pyrenees has a long history of winemaking, dating back to 1848. With 44 different wineries in the Pyrenees, it’s impossible to visit them all in one weekend, but that’s not to say you can’t try.
The Avoca Hotel
Not your typical country pub, The Avoca has been reinvented into a destination for food lovers. The pub boasts a proudly Pyrenees-only wine list and a menu that includes dishes like slow cooked beef cheeks and a spicy curry. Of course, there are still all the pub grub favourites that you would expect, including what The Avoca’s owners describe as “the best parma in Australia”. Pull up a seat by the open fire and enjoy the country hospitality.
115 High Street, Avoca
(03) 5465 3018
The Vines Cafe
Right in Ararat’s main street, The Vines is a bustling cafe that feeds a steady stream of locals. There are bowls of steaming zucchini soup, sandwiches and homemade pies on offer. If you can resist the front counter, groaning under the weight of homemade cakes and scones, then you must have iron willpower.
74 Barkly Street, Ararat
(03) 5352 1744
Grampians Regional Wine Tours
There are certainly advantages to being chauffeured around the Pyrenees wine region by Colin Driscoll from Grampians Regional Wine Tours. The first is being able to swallow all the brilliant wine you are tasting rather than spitting it out. More significantly though, heading on the tour allows you to tap into Driscoll’s local knowledge of the region and explore some smaller lesser known wineries like the tiny Peerick Vineyard, where tastings are conducted out of the owner’s garage.
139 Golf Links Road, Ararat
0488 761 500
Ararat Seasonal Farmers Market
Time your visit to coincide with the Ararat Seasonal Farmers Market, which runs four times a year. All the best local producers from around the region are there with stalls selling fruit and vegies, cheese, honey and of course wine. There’s also live music, which you can listen to while sitting in the park under the oak trees.
Alexandra Gardens, Vincent and Girdlestone Street, Ararat
(03) 5355 0270
Family owned and operated winery Summerfield Wines runs a small deli alongside its tasting room. You can pick up local and international produce like Pyengana cheddar from Tasmania, parma ham from Italy or olives from down the road. Summerfield offers a ‘Winemakers Cheese Platter’ for $25 if you want to eat in while you try some of the wines from the cellar door.
5967 Stawell-Avoca Road, Moonambel
(03) 5467 2264
Pop into Jo’s House – an old weatherboard house on Avoca’s main street – to find a treasure trove of beautiful coloured cut glass, quirky ceramics and retro furniture. Jo’s House also serves coffee and homemade cakes, so there’s a good excuse to spend a lot of time browsing.
108 High Street, Avoca
Mount Avoca Eco-Luxe
The one thing better than tasting wine at a vineyard has to be staying at one. Mount Avoca Eco-Luxe is set in the vineyard and olive grove at Mount Avoca winery and comprises three self-contained luxury lodges built from eco-friendly materials. There's a barbecue, so you could cook up dinner yourself, and basic breakfast provisions for the morning. Nice touches include the quirky book and DVD collection in the lodges and a complimentary bottle of Mount Avoca sparkling shiraz in the fridge. Eco-Luxe also has bikes for guests so that you can get around the area in eco-style.
Moates Lane, Avoca
(03) 5465 3282
If you want space there’s lots of it at the Warrenmang Resort. Set amongst the vineyards, accommodation takes the form of chalet-style cottages and suites, which all have outdoor balconies and views of the surrounding countryside. The resort has its own restaurant along with a pool, spas and tennis courts.
188 Mountain Creek Road, Moonambel
(03) 5467 2233