The Otway Ranges in Victoria is one of four up-and-coming foodie hotspots to tantalise your tastebuds…
The beautiful Otways Region is home to some of Victoria’s best coastline along the Great Ocean Road. But that’s not all. Nestled in the hinterland are several small historic and rural towns; tiny places that fall into the ‘best kept secret’ category – they may be small, but they pack a big punch when it comes to showcasing the region’s gourmet treats. Bite off this section of Victoria over a couple of days, and you’ll sample everything from local seafood and organic farm produce, to bakery items and top-notch cheese and meats.
If you’re driving from Melbourne, you’ll be ready for brunch or lunch by the time you hit Aireys Inlet. At A La Greque, the delightful Greek hosts Kostas and Pam Talimanidis serve up modern Greek-Australian delights (plus there’s views of the stunning Split Point Lighthouse). After lunch, make your way down the cliff-hugging, winding coastal road to the resort town of Lorne.
Before you let yourself loose in Lorne, take a detour up the Deans Marsh Road. Follow the signs to Gentle Annie Berry Gardens at Pennyroyal to pick punnets of fresh berries – around nine varieties are on offer.
For your evening’s kip, travel back to Lorne and snuggle in under the eucalypt trees at Qdos Arts, a stunning gallery with Japanese-inspired, luxury cabins. Its cafe serves fresh scones and breads, baked in a wood-fired oven. For dinner, you can’t beat the modern bistro at a ‘classic’ – the Lorne Hotel. It boasts fabulous views of the beach and serves some great international meals. On hot nights, you can dine in the attached beer garden.
The next day, head back inland on the Deans Marsh Road and do a circuit via Bambra, Birregurra, Colac, Gellibrand, Ferguson, Beech Forest and Forrest. This route is promoted as the Otway Harvest Trail. In Bambra, stop off for a tipple and chat with Dinny Goonan at the delightful Dinny Goonan winery. He produces his own sparkling Riesling – Proserpina – a crisp, refreshing drop named after the Goddess of Spring. Here, too, is a ‘don’t miss’ gastronomic experience – the long-standing retreat, Sunnybrae Restaurant, run by food icon George Biron. George even holds weekly cooking classes at the restaurant.
From here, the road winds to the fishing village of Apollo Bay, where crayfish hauls are the catch of the day. Having said that, you can’t beat a good old fish and chips on the foreshore. Chris’s Beacon Point, set up in the hills behind town offers a more elegant and leisurely dining experience in the bush. If you can’t tear yourself away, there’s luxury chalet accommodation.
On the way, expend some energy at The Otway Fly, an extraordinary 600m-long, 25m-high elevated tree top walk through a rainforest of Myrtle Beech, Blackwood and Mountain Ash. Then settle in at The Ridge Organic Food Store & Cafe in the beautiful rural community of Beech Forest. This showcases the region’s tastiest delights – most of the produce is seasonal and sourced locally. Owner Sue Ladewig is renowned for her burger – the tastiest in Australia, according to many – and signature goulash pie (her mother’s recipe,). Views from the veranda extend to the Grampians.