You may have experienced wine tasting on the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley, but now it's time for your palates to discover the food and wine delights of East Gippsland!
Our food and wine trail begins just past Traralgon (about two hours east of Melbourne) and meanders through stunning countryside and tiny towns that are low on population but bursting with local character, before finishing up at Jetty Road Retreat where you can enjoy your food and wine purchases from the comfort and seclusion of your lakeside cabin. We've included recommendations to suit all tastes and budgets, from fine dining to country bakeries and some extra points of interest along the way to keep everyone in your car happy. Perfect for a weekend escape or a longer more leisurely degustation.
If you've made an early start and are craving a caffeine hit when you reach Traralgon, Three Little Birds is a great place to head for a fairtrade coffee or a tasty brunch served by friendly staff. If it's closer to lunchtime then check out Little Prince Eating House & Bar for amazing asian inspired tapas and dumplings that will keep you going without filling you up too much. Your first cellar door opportunity is close by now, turn left off the Princes Hwy on the Traralgon-Maffra Road towards the rolling green vistas of this beautiful dairy country, and the Strezleki ranges. Not far along look for the turn off for acclaimed Narkoojee winery where you can taste the full range of their current release wines by the father and son winemaking team (we love the Lily Grace Chardonnay) or stop for lunch at by Jorg restaurant which adjoins their cellar door (bookings recommended, call 03 5192 4550).
After Narkoojee, make your way back towards Glengarry where you may like to stock up on some award-winning pies from the cute country style bakery called Bushies at 19 Main Street. Drive through Toongabbie towards the quaint little township of Cowwarr. Any little people on board will enjoy pointing out the many metal cow sculptures dotted along the streetscape - 18 at our last count, including one perched high on an impressive rooftop! From here, keep on the Traralgon-Maffra Road towards Heyfield (great playground if anyone needs a break), then on to Tinamba and the famous Tinamba Hotel, an excellent gastro pub showcasing local produce through their paddock to plate menu (think twice baked Maffra cheese soufflé). Another fabulous lunch-stop option, but remember to book ahead on 03 5145 1484.
Onwards to Maffra, a picturesque historic town with tree-lined grand entrance and a main street that feels so welcoming. If your palates and tummies need a little rest the Gippsland Vehicle Collection is well worth a visit while you're here. Continue on to Stratford, where you can get a great cuppa at Badger & Hare or Wa-de-Lock café (which also acts as cellar door for Gippsland wines). From here it's onto Lindenow where you'll find a true Gippsland locals favourite, The Long Paddock. Loved as much for it's amazing food and friendly service as for it's wonderful wines, the tantalising cake cabinet alone justifies a stop here. If you happen to be visiting on a Sunday then make sure you stop in for their weekly roast, slow cooked in the 100-year-old wood-fired Scotch oven. From The Long Paddock it's only a 10 minute drive to the recently opened cellar door at Lightfoot & Sons Wines where you can sample their award winning 100% estate grown wines enjoying stunning views over the vineyard and surrounding area from the escarpment (open Friday-Sunday and most public holidays).
There are two more wineries to visit on the East Gippsland Food and Wine Trail, but if you're feeling tired or have sampled all you can for one day head straight for your accommodation at Jetty Road Retreat via Nicholson and save them for tomorrow as they are close by. The Nicholson River Winery specialises in European-style wines and has a lovely picnic area overlooking the Nicholson River where you can enjoy an anti-pasto platter and last but not least the lovely Tambo Wines, a family owned and operated boutique winery where you will find a friendly welcome and gain lots of local winemaking knowledge. On arrival at your lakeside cabin at Jetty Road Retreat unpack all the goodies from your car boot to enjoy on your private deck overlooking the Gippsland lakes or pre-order a meal from the Dinner On Arrival Menu from Whisk & Spoon Catering. You can sample more of the wonderful local produce at the weekend markets throughout the region and the cute cafes of Metung are just a 10 minute drive away. Or just simply relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings in this stunning hidden pocket of East Gippsland. Rates are from $150 per night so why not make it a long weekend and stay an extra night or two.