21. The Mornington Peninsula
Beautiful view of the vineyards on a wine tour of the Mornington Peninsula, Australia.
Located just over an hour’s drive from the city centre, the Mornington Peninsula is a wonderland of pretty towns, rolling countryside, wide beaches and, more importantly, a fertile foodie haven. Here is a taste of the best this patch of Mornington has to offer.
The area of Red Hill is populated by so many wineries, restaurants and producers that any exploration will be a stop-start affair as small clusters of shopfronts along Shoreham Road and Mornington-Flinders Road lure you in with wine stores specialising in local drops, interiors stores and cafes.
Sculpture is a big drawcard at Merricks, where the imposing Pt. Leo Estate has been wowing visitors with its large-scale sculptures and flavoursome dining experience at the hands of Culinary Director Phil Wood. The estate’s hulking modern concrete construction houses the Pt. Leo Restaurant, cellar door and fine-dining Laura. The Sculpture Park offers up two circuits, one that takes 30 minutes and a more rambling 60-minute walk.
The design is equally cutting edge at Jackalope in nearby Merricks North, where the sleek hotel’s signature restaurant Doot Doot Doot is another must-do dining experience.
Rosebud and Dromana
Apart from its rolling landscape of grape vines and sun-bleached bush, the Mornington Peninsula is also celebrated from its beaches and pretty seaside towns. Two of the best, just a short drive from Red Hill, are Dromana and Rosebud; the road between the towns (Point Nepean Road) stretches along the coastline, presenting a vista of vintage bathing boxes and sand on one side and interesting cafes and shops on the other.
22. Dine at Australia’s most stylish restaurants
ARC Dining and Wine Bar located within Brisbane’s exciting Howard Smith Wharves development.
It stands to reason that with Australia’s enviable and innovative dining scene comes excellence in restaurant design. After all, hospitality is a holy trinity of food, space, and service. If one of these elements falters, the whole thing comes tumbling down.
A collective of talented hospitality design firms means that almost every new opening is noteworthy and such openings are too numerous to list, but a good start is with the brooding Japanese bunker vibes at Melbourne’s Ishizuka; Bondi’s Mexi-cool, candy-coloured Fonda; and the deftly restrained interiors of Adelaide’s muted Osteria Oggi.
23. Restaurants with the best views
Icebergs Dining Room and Bar.
With both an enviable food culture and some wildly spectacular landscapes, Australia wouldn’t be trying hard enough if we didn’t have some incredible dining rooms with a view. From the sun-bleached coast to glinting city skylines, there’s far too many to shout out to here.
We’d start a furious debate if we were to suggest one above another. But to get you started, these eateries offer a view that threatens to throw shade on the menu: diners are almost engulfed by waves at Burleigh Heads’ Rick Shores; displaying Bondi’s beautiful beach and bodies is Icebergs Dining Room and Bar; pretty Melbourne glitters below Vue de Monde; and Perth’s rooftop Wildflower parades the city and Swan River.
24. Australia’s best food festivals
Noosa Food and Wine festival.
Drop a pin anywhere on Australia’s fertile fringe and you’ll be guaranteed it will land on a region that produces an amazing food source, be that oysters, wine grapes, meat or orchard fruit. We truly are the lucky country when it comes to the abundance and diversity of our food regions, so celebrate them at one of these excellent festivals.
Orange FOOD Week
Showcasing the wines and produce of Orange, this festival takes place in April each year. It’s a great excuse to visit if you haven’t yet been to this beautiful rural food bowl.
Noosa Food & Wine Festival
As if you needed another excuse to go to Noosa, this festival, which runs from 16–20 May, explores produce from the coast to the hinterland.
Melbourne Food Festival
Frequently declared Australia’s food capital, Melbourne puts on an extraordinarily large festival to celebrate all aspects of food culture every March.
WA Gourmet Escape
Attracting internationally and locally renowned chefs and set in the gorgeous Margaret River region, food-lovers must experience this event at least once.
25. Luxury stays on vineyards
Empire Estate’s irresistible boutique hotel.
The regretful thing about wine tours is that eventually you have to leave. There’s no lingering over a riesling as the sun beds down for the night. But at these luxury stays, you can take your time finishing off a bottle, enjoy a superb dinner, then either saunter or swagger to your room.
Set in Barossa wine country, The Louise is not only front and centre to the captivating scenery and best wineries of the region, it’s also home to the celebrated restaurant, Appellation.
You’ll come to sample the cabernet merlot of this Margaret River region winery, but you’ll end up staying in Empire Estate’s irresistible boutique hotel, which layers natural timbers and stone for a contemporary, rustic effect. Book into the spa too, for its big stone baths and rainforest shower suites.
Sequoia at Mount Lofty House
Projected to open this October at one of the Adelaide Hill’s best-loved estates, the luxury 14-suite Sequoia will sit separately to the existing guesthouse.
Mornington Peninsula Glamping
Situated on Blue Range Estate Wines in the pretty coastal town of Rosebud, the 10 bell tents that make up Mornington Peninsula Glamping are stylishly furnished, there’s a sleek amenities block, the Cellar Door and Cafe has a Mediterranean sensibility, and there are panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait that just won’t quit.
26. Whisky distilleries and festivals
Tasmanian Whisky Week.
As a nation, our thirst for the deeply nuanced tipple of whisky is far from quenched. Perhaps it has something to do with our enterprising convict roots but, as a country, we’ve become exceedingly accomplished at both enjoying and crafting this spirit. With its peaty earth, crisp climate, and barley fields, Tasmania has been leading the way in Antipodean whisky for some years now with the likes of Lark, Sullivan’s Cove and Spring Bay.
There’s even a dedicated whisky trail and you can fire up your cockles at Tasmanian Whisky Week in August. If you can’t make it down for August, Sydney is hosting the Sydney Whisky Fair in August.
It’s not just our bog-blessed southernmost state that is distilling distinguished whisky; other noteworthy examples are the single-malt and accessible Starward, Victoria’s Timboon, and WA’s Limeburners, to name just a few. If your tastes run to a more American style of whisky, some distilleries are mashing up rye for moonshine-style drinks: try Archie Rose, and Young Henry’s Nightsweat Moonshine.
27. Unique Sydney eateries
The signature Boathouse.
Melbourne often claims the culinary crown, but there’s something about the Sydney hospitality scene that’s become particular to the harbour city. From fine dining to casual, eateries, Sydney has mastered a refined but playful approach to style and food. Instead of relying on the beauty of what’s outside, restaurateurs began making spaces that would draw people off the beach and keep them seated.
Merivale, of course, was among the first to master the art of deftly attuning to a theme with their diverse but en-pointe locales from the high-end Mr. Wong in the city to the new, laid-back Bondi Italian, Totti’s. But you’ll also see this chilled out, polished style at the coastal-clinging Boathouse collection of restaurants, the newest of which is at the until-now sleepy Central Coast town of Patonga.
28. Bottle your own wine
Do you have a sneaking suspicion that you would’ve been a talented winemaker in another life? You can test your theory and your palate at some of the country’s best cellar doors. Blend it like a vintner and slosh together vintages, vineyards and varietals in a blending class, where you can bottle your own handiwork to take with you as proof your talents are wasted in your day job.
McLaren Vale’s d’Arenberg offers a blending class, followed by lunch. Tahbilk in Victoria teaches the art of winemaking in a 1.5-hour class plus a tour of their beautifully atmospheric 19th-century cellar. While Jacob’s Creek teaches you the fundamentals of blending in a concise 30-minute session, you can even order an entire box of your quickly created masterpiece, should you be wholly convinced of your mastery.
29. Taste Tasmania’s best gourmet experiences
For Australia’s smallest state, Tassie sure is ravenous.
Producing some of the country’s finest fare, from fine-dining restaurants to hand-crafted cheeses, distilled spirits and cool-climate wines, the island’s reputation for good food shows no signs of decelerating. This makes Tassie the gourmet hotspot for mainlanders who come for Bruny Island’s sharp, minerally oysters, golden Leatherwood honey, Flinders Island grazed lamb, and applauded restaurants such as Franklin, The Agrarian Kitchen, and Templo.
Perhaps one of the best ways to nibble your way around the state is to hire a car and hit some food and wine trails, one of which is the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail. Of course, you may need to intersperse all that with some hiking, or you might be returning home with some extra luggage you can’t check in.
30. Restaurants that give back to the community
We all want to give back somehow, but oftentimes the pitch from charities, while well meaning, is abrasive and gratingly insistent. Most of us don’t respond well to being accosted on the street during our lunch break. But more and more eateries are opening up where you can give back while sipping your morning latte.
Portal in Sydney’s Martin Place looks like any other hip city haunt with a chic architecturally considered fit-out and a chef-created seasonal menu, but this social enterprise cafe (and its sister cafe, Symbol, in North Sydney) donates 100 per cent of its profits to charities.
Unlike tossing a coin into a bucket, you can track exactly where your money goes on the Portal website. Happily, there are plenty of places to help your fellow humans by tucking into a wholesome lunch, each with their own charity alignments. Also try Melbourne’s Feast of Merit in Richmond, or Kinfolk in Bourke Street.