From the lush, leafy hinterland to the rugged and raw coast, this swathe of Victorian countryside is awash with beautiful produce and highly decorated restaurants. Whatever your tastes (and budget), the Great Ocean Road delivers for epicures.
This cool climate winery and cellar door is just a five-minute drive from Bells Beach. Family owned and run, it’s no novelty venture built solely to lure in tourists; after all, the hallowed Halliday Wine Companion has named Bellbrae Estate an “excellent” winery capable of producing elegant wines. Duck in for a tasting or linger for longer at the weekend with a woodfired pizza and tasting flight.
Hidden in plain sight in the quaint hamlet of Aireys Inlet, this nook of a gin garden is a delightful spot to pass some time. Nurse a small-batch navy-strength gin negroni laced with housemade bitter orange syrup while sitting on the sun-dappled deck amid furniture doused in a Palm Springs colour palette. When hunger strikes you don’t have to venture far; simply slink next door to the adjoining Gin Kitchen, which offers a five-course banquet menu inspired by Southeast Asian cuisine.
Want more? Visit the Apollo Bay Distillery, which runs gin blending masterclasses.
Open from your morning cold drip coffee, brewed over 12 hours, through to your evening gin – distilled with botanicals plucked from the crater of a dormant local volcano, no less – Noodledoof is no one-trick pony. Beyond beverages, this brewery and distillery also serves up an indulgent menu of burgers, loaded fries and chicken wings come lunch and dinner, while breakfast is a slightly more salubrious affair, running the gamut from almond and chia pudding to fruit toast and granola with coconut yoghurt.
Established in the mid-1880s, and said to be the oldest inn in Victoria, the Merrijig Inn is steeped in maritime history and legend. This wildly cosy and bijou hotel is known for its warm and friendly country hospitality as much as it is the food. There’s a distinctively European lean to the menu, which changes daily depending on what’s at its ripest in the kitchen garden or which produce is in peak at local farms: think dishes such as twice-cooked cheese soufflé with Jerusalem artichoke, and house made duck egg agnolotti with hapuka and brown butter.
Seaside sibling to executive chef Adam D’Sylva’s wildly successful Melbourne restaurant of the same name, Coda Lorne promises modern pan-Asian flavours of equal pedigree but with the added bonus of glittering sea views from its floor-to-ceiling windows. And the interiors are just as dreamy as the food: a study in coastal chic, this Lorne restaurant is all whitewashed walls, billowy tented ceilings and blonde wood. Coda’s menu gives equal billing to surf and turf, each dish laced with plenty of bite and zest. Don’t leave without trying the crispy tapioca and prawn betel leaf with lime and chilli, which has become something of a house signature.
A fine diner that needs little introduction, Brae numbers among Australia’s best and brightest eateries – indeed, it’s previously kept company among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Seasonality and sustainability guide the ever-changing degustation menu, while technical prowess, painstaking attention to detail and fanciful aesthetics find favour on the plate. The Birregurra restaurant’s iced oyster (a textural oyster ice cream dusted with powdered sea lettuce) has become something of a hallmark, and offers a glimpse into the kind of culinary ingenuity you should expect from a meal here.
A coastal restaurant with plenty of rustic charm, Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-op is a mecca for seafood lovers. Situated just a couple of metres from the salty surf, it dishes up a bounty of impossibly fresh fish and crustaceans. So fabled is the southern rock lobster that’s hauled from the depths of this bay that the seaside town and its catch took centre stage on a season 13 episode of MasterChef. Pull up a pew at one of the co-op’s picnic tables, devour a fisherman’s basket and watch on as sailboats bob around in the water before you.
Among the region’s most show-stopping offerings, Wickens at the Royal Mail Hotel is a non-negotiable for fervent foodies. This hatted restaurant has an extensive kitchen garden, said to be among the biggest in Australia, which furnishes the kitchen’s fridge and pantry with all manner of fruits, veggies and herbs. Moreover, the hotel even raises its own beef and lamb. But food is not the sole focal point here: the restaurant’s award-winning cellar is home to an encyclopaedic collection of wine (some 25,000 bottles, to be precise).
For those who fancy a more casual a la carte meal, try hotel offshoot Parker Street Project.
Image: Visit Victoria
In the thick of the Otways hinterland, among the verdant pastoral landscapes, lies a little pocket awash with artisanal food and drink producers. From a natural ice creamery founded by a third-generation dairy farmer, to a single malt whisky distillery run by a cattle farmer in a railway shed that dates back to the 1800s, and a ‘grass to glass’ single-site organic dairy and cheesery, the tiny town of Timboon (pop. 1,202) punches well above its weight.
Stop in at Schulz Organic Creamery & Cafe for a spot of morning tea: we’re talking chocolate babka, a smattering of bagels, and scones with local jam and homemade cream. Then pop into Timboon Fine Ice Cream for a scoop of apple pie ice cream or maybe even one of their Sundae School classes. Finally, drop by Timboon Railway Shed Distillery for a dram of whisky alongside farmer and head distiller Josh’s slow-cooked grass-fed black Angus beef.
Known for its deconstructed hot chocolates – there are five different kinds to choose from – this indulgent Forrest cafe and shop makes a beautiful spot to lounge for a while. Marvel at the great gums that tower above, just metres from the cafe’s verandah, as you gorge on Platypi Chocolate’s extensive catalogue of handmade Belgian confections.
For more sweet indulgences, stop in at Bellbrae’s Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery.
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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, 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.