To say it’s been an eventful week is putting it lightly.
With a fun trip to Emergency with a suspected broken ankle, an actually fun trip down to Melbourne and a truly stunning wedding in a part of Victoria I’ve never been to before, there’s plenty to tell you about this week.
We hope you enjoy this Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx
And there you have it. In all my glory – I managed to roll my ankle so badly that I was actually standing on my shinbone before I crumpled.
After a quick four hours in A&E at the RPA, we learn I haven’t broken my leg only badly stretched ligaments in my ankle. I should be fine in a few weeks fingers crossed.
My take-away from this: playing tennis is the stupidest thing you can do.
The only problem with this is we’re driving down to the Mornington Peninsula this weekend.
Christina sets me up in the back and turns our car into a makeshift ambulance. I have an esky with ice blocks in it and plenty of cushions.
Our aim isn’t to just dash all the way down to the southeast corner of Victoria in a day though. We’re planning on stopping off at some of the fire-affected parts of the country and doing our bit.
We’re joining in on the #EmptyEsky movement that’s aimed at supporting local communities.
As we drive further into the countryside, it’s clear to see the toll the drought and fires have taken on the landscape.
If you’re looking for an excellent car snack by the way, these Aussie macadamias are our new faves. We’re amazed how much fuller we feel after a few of these beauties.
And beauties they are. Brookfarm produce some of the most pristine macadamias we’ve seen and the special pink salt seasoning on these ones is so tasty.
Our first stop is to the town of Tumut near Wagga Wagga and to my favourite little brewery TRBC. The beer coming out of here is worth the trip.
We were here just a few weeks ago and it’s great to be back.
We stop for the night in the Riverina on the border of NSW and Victoria. Christina’s cousin lives in the excellently named town of Howlong and we spent a lovely evening with him and his wife.
The next morning we’re on the road again… but not before stopping off in Howlong’s main street for a bite to eat. The bacon and egg roll they do at the Half Acre Coffee Lounge has a reputation that it deserves. It’s just a good job I don’t live closer to this place!
The coffee is also superb.
Directly across from the Half Acre is the Howlong Country Bakery. Once – many years ago – I had the most remarkable breakfast pie here.
These days though, you’re probably better off sticking with Half Acre’s pastry options. Way better.
Across the river into Victoria, the fire damage is just as clear to see. Scorched earth and blackened trees surround us. It’s quite eerie.
The important thing to remember though is this will all be green again in a few months. The people living here though will need support long after the leaves have grown back.
They’re still living here and though their surroundings have taken damage, their sense of hospitality and quality of produce hasn’t diminished.
Don’t let the ashes of the fires stop you coming here.
Our first stop today (other than breakfast) is to the Milawa Gourmet Region. There are wineries and cheese factories in this area that should never be overlooked.
That empty esky is getting quite full!
We stop off at a winery we haven’t been to for perhaps 15 years! Sam Miranda Winery has a stunning cellar door and produces some exquisite wine.
With our cheese and our half dozen, we head down past Melbourne to the Victorian coastal town of Torquay and another cousin’s place.
This is my first time in Torquay. It’s a lovely part of Melbourne and really not too far from the city – though most Melbournians would strongly disagree! To them, you might as well drive to Sydney. And who would do that?
But Torquay is the closest surf beach to Melbourne – and not just any surf beach. This coastal town is home to none other than Bells Beach, which holds many international surfing comps annually.
While we’re in Torquay, we come across this street art. It’s a mural by artist Salty Vibes… and another of Christina’s cousins – Aaron Godina!
You can check out more of the Salty Vibes artwork and merch here.
From Torquay, we head over to Queenscliff to catch the car ferry over to the Mornington Peninsula. It’s quicker, less driving and a lovely way to travel generally.
While we wait for the next SeaRoad Ferry, which runs hourly by the way, we check out some of the shops and cafes in Queenscliff. It’s yet another example of what things are like outside the cities here in Aus, and why getting out and having a look round is so worth it.
It’s a relaxing 55-minute cruise across the bay from Queenscliff to Sorento on the peninsula. The bar on board is fully stocked and even has some interesting local beers.
This session ale from St Andrews Brewery on the Mornington Peninsula is perfect for someone on crutches negotiating the swell of a moving ship! Full-flavoured but only 3.5% – though I’m looking forward to trying more in the range when we’re back on dry land.
An added bonus of taking the ferry: close to port, a pod of dolphins follows us in. We’re almost at the dock before they finally vanish beneath the waves – the perfect greeting.
At our excellent AirBnB in Red Hill, we have another lovely greeting from these two beautiful idiots! The good boy in front is Walter, who’s almost six months old. He’s so excitable and floppy.
Behind him is Maggie who’s just a year old. She’s much more focused on sticks – which could be why she’s chasing Walter. That’s her stick!
But best of all is who we’re bunking with. Our pals Sonia and Chris from Adelaide are here too!
Our first night together again, we head out for dinner. Going on a recommendation from a local winery, we’re at Many Little – a bistro and bar owned by another local winery – Polperro.
The food here is excellent. My steak is perfectly cooked and I’m very aware that the others are staring at my chips like hungry gulls!
After dinner, it’s back to our place for a few more wines and a catch-up. Though we don’t go too crazy. Big day tomorrow.
We get things started this morning as it should be done. With a tasty breakfast roll. This is from Nordie in Red Hill – a Scandinavian cafe. Pretty happy with my choices here, I have to say.
With the wedding still hours away, we all decide the best thing to do when you need to kill time in the Mornington Peninsula is to check out the wineries.
In terms of cellar doors, they take things a lot further here than anywhere else we’ve been. And bearing in mind Chris and Sonia live in Adelaide, that’s quite a statement.
Perhaps most impressive is this place – Pt. Leo Estate. The wines here are great, but the architecture and artwork is next level. They’ve spent a lot of money (rumour has it around $50m!) on developing the site. I must say, it’s impressive.
Out the back is a huge ocean-view lawn that’s full of huge sculptures like this one.
Going on another tip from locals, we head to lunch at the Merrick’s General Wine Store.
It’s a lot lower key than most of the cellar doors in the area (though if you’re here, you should definitely go across the road to Stonier Wines for a beautifully personal wine experience) and the food is exceptional.
It’s great to be able to explore this beautiful part of the country with these guys. Not only is Chris and Sonia’s wine knowledge next level, they’re so much fun to be with.
If you haven’t checked out Sonia’s company, do it now. Scribe + Social is a coach and mentorship business aimed at helping firms light up their social media and comms, create and nurture an engaged audience and client base, and stay current in the digital world.
We’re in the middle of our wine tasting at Merrick’s General Store when our lunch is served. We hit the pause button right between the whites and reds for a delicious spread of ceviche, mussels, steak tartare and caprese salad.
We also crack a bottle of the last white wine we just tried – an excellent aged Chardonnay from Portsea Estate at the end of the peninsula.
But now to the main event. We’re at the stunning grounds of Tanglewood Wines for our friends Emma-Kate and Charles’ wedding.
Emma is an artist, stationer and owner of Emma Kate Co – you can see her beautiful whimsical handwriting on this sign. Charles is an industrial designer and runs Orbitkey – a truly smart organiser for keys that stops unsightly marks in pockets and scratches in bags.
We all expecting a wedding full of incredible beauty, attention to detail and flourishes of creative brilliance. We’re not disappointed.
While everything sets up for the ceremony out on the lawn, we eye up the cocktail caravan nearby. Looks like margaritas and negronis are the order of the day!
This morning – the day after the wedding – we’re all at the stunning property Emma, Charles and their families are staying for a ‘recovery party’.
From snacks, salads and soft drinks to full bacon and egg rolls, beers and wine, this is a party to cater to every extent of hangover!
All too soon though, we have to hit the road again. We’re heading back north for the long drive home.
As we pass through Victoria back into New South Wales, we see the good news we were hoping for: life after fire.
In spite of all the horrific fires, trees are budding again, ferns are sprouting from the ashes and greenery is returning to the tragic blackened sites of so many devastated areas.
We’ve decided to take the longer coastal route home via Batemans Bay and through some of the worst hit coastal areas of the state.
We arrive at Batemans Bay just after the more serious storms have passed through. It’s bright and sunny here – a place that’s seen clouds of both ashen smoke and rain-filled storms recently.
Although there is evidence of damage from these natural disasters, there’s still so much beauty to see. Shops are open, restaurants are cooking and hotels have space for visitors.
If you love travelling outside the big cities in Australia, please don’t be put off visiting fire-affected regions. They’re still very special, full of beauty and ready to host you with the same friendly smile as always.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx