52 Great Weekends

No 25: Otway Harvest Trail & More

Let your palate lead the way as you eat, drink, explore and stay in the Otways

Those who venture inland are rewarded as the luscious Otway forest reveals the best of its rich bounty, a treasure trove of exceptional food and wine. Taste all the reasons why the Otway’s volcanic soil creates unique flavours you just can’t find elsewhere. ‘Choose your own foodie adventure’ as the easy to follow trail leads you too friendly farm gates, berry farms, cellar doors, bakeries, dairies, chocolateries, ice creameries, distilleries, providores, craft breweries and world-famous restaurants and cafes.

Friday

1PM: OTWAY ARTISAN GLUETEN FREE BAKEHOUSE, BIRREGURRA

Baked at the foothills of the Otway’s this small, gluten free bake house is a perfect lunch and coffee stop offering handmade, healthy and wholesome, preservative-free food in the center of the historic township.

2PM: YIELD PROVISIONS, BIRREGURRA

Yield Provisions is your one-stop-shop celebrating all things local – championing hundreds of local and Victorian makers, growers and farmers. Yield brings them all together – from wine, beer and spirits, cheeses, preserves, condiments and cured meats, hot and cold meals, to handcrafted ceramics, cheese boards, knives and spoons. You won’t leave Yield empty handed, so stock up for your weekend knowing you’ll be supporting the region too!

3PM: CHECK-IN COUNTRYWIDE COTTAGES, WINCHELSEA

It’s not just humans who will feel at home at Countrywide Cottages, your dogs are just as welcome as you are! Ideally located in the Otways and surrounded by 256 acres of farm and pristine bushland, the four self-contained cottages are the perfect, private place to base yourself when exploring the Otway Harvest Trail. It’s no wonder Countrywide Cottages have come number 1 on the Gold List of Australian accommodation providers for two years running. With a crackling campfire in front of your cottage and bush walking trails at your doorstop you won’t want to leave. Unless you have a dinner booking at the nearby world-famous fine dining destination of Brae.

DINNER: BRAE, BIRREGURRA

Brae translates to hillside or gentle slope and that’s exactly where chef Dan Hunter’s world-renowned restaurant, guest suites and working organic farm are located – the rolling hills of Birregurra. Consistently recognised as of the World’s 50 Best, Brae feels less like a restaurant and more like a welcoming country house where guests can be surrounded by nature, walk the farm paths and connect with the sustainable, ethical and regenerative food from the local land. Guests graze on the ever-changing degustation menu at their own pace with leisurely served rounds of fresh seafood, meat and veggies, and desserts.

Saturday

MORNING COFFEE: JO’S PANTRY, COLAC

Jo’s Pantry doesn’t just have the best coffee in town, she also bakes the tastiest treats and selects only the best organic and local region produce for her health food pantry too. The local Irrawarra Sourdough, DK Potato Chips and Otway Pasta Company are just some of my local favourites from her well-stocked whole-food shelves.

BRUNCH: LAKE VIEW CAFÉ, COLAC

Brunch is served with a great view at this boutique, historic café set on the edge of the Colac Botanic Gardens. Take a seat indoors, amongst the gardens or on the sunny deck overlooking Lake Colac. Then the friendly staff will tempt you with the ever-changing seasonal menu’s sourcing the best of local produce.

Then take a freshly made coffee with you for a leisurely stroll of the 1.2-kilometre track through Colac’s historic Botanic Gardens or head down to the walking paths and piers of Lake Colac foreshore.

LUNCH: TIMBOON RAILWAY SHED DISTILLERY, TIMBOON

Well caffeinated you’re ready for the 45mins drive to the historic town of Timboon. Your destination, the town railway shed that’s been converted into a vibrant, award-winning whisky distillery and café. Inspired by Timboon’s illegal 19th Century whisky trade the two onsite copper pots produce three award winning single malts as well as vodka, schnapps, limoncello and coffee cream liqueur. Enjoy a pre-lunch tipple that’s sure to put a fire in the belly, soon to be satisfied with the restaurants generous lunch menu starring local produce.

2PM: TIMBOON FINE ICE CREAM, TIMBOON

Make sure to leave room for dessert, 24 farm fresh all-natural ice cream flavours are just a hop, skip and a jump away at Timboon Fine Ice Cream. Made by a third-generation dairy farmer it’s the local fresh milk and cream that goes in that creates the luxurious, creamy smoothness this boutique ice cream is famous for. Choosing is tough work so sample as much as you like, that’s the ice creameries very generous rule.

3PM: G.O.R.G.E. CHOCOLATES, COORIEMUNGLE

It’s hard to know what steals the show at G.O.R.G.E. Chocolates, the fine quality chocolatey delights or the resident alpacas – this chocolatier is also an Alpaca Farm. Once you’ve sampled the ever-growing list of artisan chocolates all made on site, make sure to pick up a bag of treats to feed super friendly ‘Precious’ and her furry friends.

4PM: APOSTLE WHEY CHEESE, COORIEMUNGLE

Watch the magic happen at this sustainable, award-winning dairy farm. At 4pm every day the specially bred herd of Aussie Red Jersey cows make their leisurely stroll up through their home of 367 acres of rolling green pastures to the milking sheds. Then, see for yourself how this paddock to plate farm works. Dairy farmers and owners, Julian and Denise Benson pipe the pure, quality milk direct to the adjacent boutique cheese factory that then churns it into the award-winning Apostle Whey Cheese. You can be the judge when you venture inside for a free cheese tasting of their range of hand-made blue, fresh, milk, semi-hard and soft cheeses. Our favourite was the Southern Briez, apparently also the judges choice at the Australia Grand Dairy Awards.

DINNER & DRINKS: FORREST BREWING CO, FORREST

You know you’ve arrived when you have a pint of ‘Lost gold’ in hand at the Forrest Brewing Company. Brewed with the crisp, pure waters of the Otway Rainforest it’s no wonder this is how locals describe the much sort after, small batch beers that can be a little hard to get hold of elsewhere. Don’t worry, brewing and bottling happens onsite so there’s no chance the friendly owners and beer makers will let this pub and 600L brewhouse run dry of their year-round, seasonal and special release brews.

You won’t just find great beer here. It has equally great food too. The team serve up fresh, locally sourced informal pub classics as well as international dishes in their warm, rustic and relaxing dining hall. Bike friendly, dog friendly, family friendly – Forrest Brewing Company is a Forrest favourite that is friendly all round!

ACCOMMODATION: FORREST GUESTHOUSE, FORREST

Your traditional accommodation at the historic Forrest Guesthouse is only metres away. You’ll feel instantly at home in the country with the long veranda and lush gardens. And the boutique décor is a history lesson in itself – our bedrooms’ walls were lined with the local newspapers dating back to the days when the guesthouse was built, fascinating! The quiet country air, comfortable room and full bellies made for a great night’s sleep, perfect for getting us ready for our next day’s foodie adventure!

Sunday

BREAKFAST: FORREST GENERAL STORE, FORREST

This friendly unique general store will sort you out with a freshly made coffee, food and treats. Owner Sharon will send you packing with a picnic basket full of local delicacies to keep you going through the day and a freshly made breakfast box to enjoy in the tranquil gardens of the Forrest Guesthouse.

10.30AM: PLATYPI CHOCOLATES, FORREST

Breathe in the fresh bush air at Platypi Chocolates while you sit 5m high in the Otway treetops and cradle a hot chocolate on the architecturally designed balcony. Playtpi are not only famous for their artisan chocolates but also for their signature deconstructed hot chocolate and choccie bombs.

AFTERNOON: PICK-YOUR-OWN BERRY FARMS OR VISIT WINERY CELLAR DOORS

Let the seasons set the afternoon’s activities. Summer will see that the local berry farms are ripe for the picking or enjoy the fruits of the many vineyards all year round at the local cellar doors.

12PM: OTWAY BLUEBERRIES, GELLIBRAND (26th Dec – Mar)

Spend the afternoon picking your own pesticide-free blueberries at Otway Blueberries 6-hectare farm surrounded by national park. Harvesting your own fruit is fun for the whole family and you might be grateful for those extra working hands when you see the affordable farm gate prices. Enjoy a break and your BYO picnic lunch in this quiet bush setting before, during or after your berry picking. Make sure to bring your own bucket or container to bring home your bounty!

2.30PM: PENNYROYAL RASPBERRY FARM AND CIDERY, MURROON (Nov – Jan)

After 22 years of running the oldest working berry farm in South West Victoria Mike and Katrine have handed over the pruning tools to the new owners of this farm and café. Don’t worry, this summer is berry picking season as usual so bring your boxes and pick-your-own Raspberries, Brambleberries, Boysenberries, Strawberries, Gooseberries, Currants and Prunes. Organically grown for 35 years these berries have never been sprayed, taste the difference for yourself. Picking your own organically grown berries is thirsty work! Reward yourself with a tipple of Crucible Cider, a berry gin cocktail or a farm grown treat at the Ciderhouse Café.

12PM: DINNY GOONAN WINES, BAMBRA

What this boutique winery might lack in size it makes up for in huge amounts of country hospitality. From the moment you’re welcomed into the cellar door for a free tasting of the award-winning wines or served your informal vineyard platter you feel right at home at this friendly winery.

After a tasting of the 2020 Riesling, 2020 Chardonnay, 2015 Botrytis Semillon, 2020 Pinot Noir and the 2017 Shiraz we chose to sip on a bottle of the 2020 Chardonnay. It’s no wonder this dry but lively white with the refreshing aromas of white flowers, lemons, limes and citrus is also a favourite of James Halliday. It pairs beautifully with the locally sourced cheese platter served alongside the 40 year-old vines.

Surfing lessons, Torquay

3PM: BELLBRAE ESTATE, BELLBRAE

Venture back to Melbourne making sure to stop at the only vineyard on the Great Ocean Road. Located five minutes from Bells Beach this is the perfect place to savor the last drop of the Otway Harvest Trail experience. Sample the pinnacle Bellbrae Estate wines and the local Longboard Range at the Cellar Door
or enjoy a glass overlooking the rolling green hills of the Surf Coast. Looking for a souvenir to take home? The bottle labels showcase the local spectacular coastline, a sipable souvenir so you never forget this great weekend.

Watch the episode

Top 5 things that made the weekend great

  • Enjoying a leisurely degustation at the world-famous dining destination, Brae

  • Taking the pets on holiday at Countrywide Cottages

  • Trying the 24 all natural flavours at Timboon Fine Ice Cream

  • Watching the milking and tasting the award-winning cheeses at Apostle Whey Cheese

  • Picking my own berries at organic farms

You’ll need more than a weekend to meet all the makers on the Otway Harvest Trail.

 

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No 20: Shipwreck Coast

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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawuurung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Ancestors, past present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.