Eight Food Stops to Make on Your Great Alpine Road Trip This Spring
Let your stomach lead the way through Gippsland's High Country tasting all the local produce, beer and wine along the way.
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It might seem like a lifetime ago, but it was only early 2020 that saw parts of regional Victoria devastated by record-breaking bushfires. As the local communities began to rebuild, we were encouraged to hit the road and support the small businesses that had been hit the hardest. But then, COVID-19 hit and any plans of a rural escape were immediately quashed. Which means it's been far too long since we've had the luxury of enjoying the incredible produce available in the Gippsland region. Travelling along the Great Alpine Road, you'll have the opportunity to indulge in old-fashioned country pies, hearty pub meals, freshly caught seafood and locally made beer and wine. After a long year mostly spent stuck inside, nothing has ever sounded so darn appealing. Here are eight spots you shouldn't miss.
Some places mentioned may be operating differently due to restrictions related to COVID-19, so check websites before making any plans.
NORTHERN GROUND, BAIRNSDALE
It might be a relative newcomer to the Bairnsdale food scene but, since opening in 2018, Northern Ground has garnered plenty of attention. Chef and owner Rob Turner has done a stellar job of highlighting the lush local produce, and recognition has followed. While primarily a daytime cafe, Northern Ground also hosts the occasional dinner event, and also acts as a function space. The menu features local stars such as monPortarlington mussels, Maffra cheddar and Lindenow broccolini. The drinks list is similarly sourced, studded with wine and beer from nearby makers. For dessert, the bakery has your favourite country classics, like lemonade scones and carrot cake.
LIGHTFOOT AND SONS WINES, CALULU
As second-generation winemakers, the Lightfoot family has been active in the Gippsland Lakes District since 1995. This pristine wine region is known for producing excellent pinot noir and chardonnay varietals, and the Lightfoot cellar door is an unmissable opportunity to try the region's best. The winery has held five-star status in the Halliday Wine Companion for several years, so you're guaranteed a decent drop. The 45-minute wine tasting is just $9, and is available from Friday to Sunday, 11am–5pm. Alternatively, you can settle in for the Taste of Gippsland experience ($65 per person) to sample the Single Block wines alongside food from across the region.
BULLANT BREWERY, BRUTHEN
Just a 15-minute drive from Bairnsdale, you'll find the beloved Bullant Brewery tucked away in Bruthen. Resident beer lovers Neil and Lois Triggs established the brewery in 2011, using local hardwood timber to create a warm, welcoming venue. Keeping with the rustic theme, the Bullant is accented with corrugated iron walls and features a fully functional copper brewhouse. More than a dozen beers are brewed on-site, with seasonal beers rotated through regularly. This extensive beer range is paired alongside a regional-focused food menu, offering lunch from Wednesday to Sunday, and an additional dinner service on Friday and Saturday. For any non-beer drinkers in your group, there is a neat wine list of Gippsland's best varietals, plus some local ciders.
ENSAY WINERY, ENSAY
Sustainable agriculture might be a buzz term in 2020, but the team at Ensay Winery has been eco-conscious since 1992. The yearly 20-tonne crops of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chardonnay and merlot are all picked, processed and produced onsite at the East Gippsland winery. Careful mulching and soil management have meant that Ensay Winery is classified as a dry land vineyard, meaning it is self-sustaining — it hasn't been watered since 1998. Grab a bottle of wine at the cellar door, then relax at the provided picnic tables, overlooking the rolling hills of the Tambo River Valley.
ALBION HOTEL, SWIFTS CREEK
Located directly on the Great Alpine Road, in Swifts Creek, this quintessential country pub is utterly charming. The sweet, unassuming brick building, complete with wine barrel flower planters and red tin roof, is filled with local sporting trophies and quirky embellishments. The kitchen turns out excellent pub classics such as steaks, parmas, calamari and fish 'n' chips, with the gourmet pies coming highly recommended by the regulars. This is the perfect pub for a long lunch, with a pool table, separate dining room and a beer garden to keep everyone entertained.
NULLAMUNJIE OLIVE OIL, TONGIO
High-quality olive oil is the cornerstone of any well-stocked kitchen, but it's easy to get in the habit of buying whatever's on special at the supermarket. The extra virgin olive oil from Nullamunjie will have you quickly converted; the flavour is smooth and fruity, with a slightly peppery and herbaceous element. The olive groves are found along the banks of the Tambo River, surrounded by the slopes of Mount Stawell. This year's harvest is sold out, but you can still try the goods at the on-site eatery, The Pressing Shed Cafe & Restaurant, which will be open from January 2, 2021 till April 4, 2021. The seasonal, swiftly rotating menu is overseen by owner Annie Paterson, who makes sure to include the award-winning olive oil in every dish.
GOLDEN AGE HOTEL, OMEO
After being rebuilt five times (and burning down twice) the current Golden Age Hotel has been serving locals since 1940. Omeo resident Hannah Richards proudly bought the pub in 2018, after previously working behind the bar as an employee for several years. Open daily for lunch and dinner, the Golden Age Hotel menu highlights wholesome country favourites like beef schnitzel and pumpkin soup. The upstairs accommodation features vintage styling such as painted iron bed frames and gathered curtains. After a peaceful night's sleep, wander across the road to the Crazy Cow Cafe & Bakery, where you will find handmade pies, cakes, sausage rolls and tarts. If you feel like you need to move after all that eating, mountain biking enthusiasts will have their pick of cycling tracks and bush trails to explore in and around Omeo. There's also a brand new pump and skills track to try out.
THE BLUE DUCK INN, ANGLERS REST
This sweet country pub is perched on the banks of a mountain stream, with six self-contained cabins available for longer visits. Guests can enjoy nearby bush walks, horse riding trails, four-wheel driving tracks and white water rafting adventures. From Wednesday to Sunday, The Blue Duck Inn restaurant opens for lunch and dinner, with the scotch fillet steak and meatballs both being marked as local favourites. After such a hectic year, The Blue Duck Inn is the perfect place to get off the grid and reconnect with nature.
Find more spots to visit in Gippsland and start planning your trip here.
Top image: Lightfoot and Sons Winery, Rob Blackburn
Published on February 01, 2021 by Eliza Crisp