52 Great Weekends

No 44: Inland Towns (Volcanic Lakes & Plains)

Located just over 2hrs from Melbourne, the Volcanic Lakes and Plains region is a slightly hidden gem, a little off the Great Ocean Road. Follow the meandering roads north from the coast along the endless carpet of rolling farmland punctuated by deep crater lakes and conical peaks. Press play on your favourite road trip playlist and put the window down as you set out to explore this dramatic landscape and its charming inland towns.

Friday

STAY: HEYTESBURY HOUSE BED & BREAKFAST, COBDEN

As soon as you walk into the hidden, hedged gardens of Heytesbury House you’ll be glad you booked for the weekend. Once a local hospital, it has now been transformed into a luxurious, traditional boutique BnB that celebrates the period characteristics of the building. Suites come with their own private bathroom and every guest has access to the drawing room complete with gas log fireplace, library, puzzles, games, television, tea and coffee making facilities, tranquil gardens and bbq areas.

Heytesbury House Cobden is a central base to explore the Volcanic Lakes & Plains region with Camperdown only a 10-minute drive away. It is also only 14-minutes drive to Dixie, 22-minutes to Noorat and 28-minutes to Darlington.

4PM: LAKE COBDEN

Before dinner, wander around the mirror-like waters of Lake Cobden, just a short walk from the centre of town and your accommodation at Heytesbury House. The paved track that surrounds the lake takes you past multiple viewing platforms, children’s playgrounds, bbq’s and through the lush mature trees of the surrounding parkland. The three storyboards that dot the trail will tell you the unique ‘Cobden Story’ while you stroll. Fishermen will also be happy to know the lake is stocked with trout if they wanted to throw in a line from one of the many fishing jetties.

DINNER: THOMMO’S HOTEL

Enjoy the warm welcome at Thommo’s Hotel. Locals and visitors alike flock to this iconic, family friendly pub. Choose from the bustling bar, family bistro, historic dining room, urban courtyard or the fresh air of the beer garden. Wherever you choose, chef Belinda and her talented team will serve you up pub classics that won’t disappoint. Make sure not to miss Thommo’s Thursday night social club – the raffle is famous!

Saturday

8AM: WATER TOWER ART, LISMORE

Start your Saturday checking out one of the artworks on the famous Silo Art Trail. The Water Tower mural in Lismore was painted by Jimmi Buscombe in February 2020 and portrays a mating dance between a male and female Brolga, native birds to the area. A fun fact is that the artist originally painted two Brolga eggs in the mural then returned thirty two days later to ‘hatch’ the eggs.

The tower is very easy to find as it’s right opposite the Fairway Coffee and Eatery which serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week, then dinner Thursday to Sunday.

10.30AM: POMBO MART, POMBORNEIT

Discover more hidden gems at Pombo Mart, in Pomborneit North. If you’re into collectables here you’ll find two large sheds full of antique furniture, memorabilia, vintage clothing, records and various Bric a Brac. Who knows what you’ll find!

11.30AM: LAKE EDGE CAFÉ, TESBURY

Reward your treasure hunting skills with a visit to a crater lake, with cake!
A historic schoolhouse in a previous life, Lake Edge Café today serves up delicious wholesome food right on the water’s edge of Lake Purrumbete. Lake Purrumbete is also famous for its fishing – Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout and Chinook Salmon.

1PM: MT NOORAT

Take a short 1km return walk along the Alan Marshall Discovery Trail to one of Australia’s best preserved dry volcanic craters – it last erupted about 5,000 years ago. Take the 30minute return walk and be rewarded with the expansive views of the surrounding volcanic plains and conical peaks.

The crushed bluestone trail begins on Morack Street just off Glenormiston Road and visitors enter through a gate to access the track. Stop for a breather and to admire the view at the Mt Noorat lookout. You then have the option to continue for a further 500m on a less formed, steep pathway to the summit of Mount Noorat, roughly 310m high.

2.30PM: ENGLISH OAK AVENUES, TERANG

Terang’s claim to fame is the beauty of its wide streets lined with historic buildings and impressive avenues of mature trees. Take a High Street stroll through the English Oaks, planted in the 1890s, past the Thomson Street Cottonwood Poplars, planted in 1900 and the Princes Highway Plane Trees, planted in the 1910s.

4.30PM: KEAYANG MAAR WINERY, DIXIE

Tucked away at Dixie, between Terang and Timboon in southwest Victoria, is Keayang Maar Vineyard. The name Keayang refers to an eel or freshwater fish found in the surrounding waterways.

Enjoy an afternoon sampling the delicious cool climate wines from vines planted on a sloping volcanic crater. The first vines were planted in 2005 by the Wurlod family and the vineyard has continued to expand since. Previously home to two generations of milk production, the land is rich with free-draining soils and a mixture of sandstone and clay which produces such outstanding, cool-climate red and white varieties.

From Wednesday to Sunday settle back at the modern Cellar Door for a tasting of the refreshing whites and warming, rich reds served with a wood-fired Italian pizza. Cheers to that.

Sunday

7AM: MT LEURA, CAMPERDOWN

Start your Sunday with sunrise at the Mt Leura lookout. Admire the 360 degree views as the sun slowly reveals the local landmarks of Mt Elephant, Camperdown clock tower and Lake Purrumbete. On a clear day you can even see the Grampians, over 100km away. The 1.7km walking trail takes approximately 45mintues to walk or those preferring a scenic Sunday drive will be graced with the impressive views of Lake Corangamite and across Lake Colongulac towards Mt Elephant before they even leave the carpark.

8.30AM: CAMPERDOWN BOTANICAL GARDENS

The Camperdown Botanical Gardens, planted in 1870 were designed by William Gulfoyle, renowned director of the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne. Perched above two volcanic crater lakes – Lake Bullen Merri and Lake Gnotuk the gardens provides a tranquil shady place to take in the views.

9.30AM: EXCUSE ME CAFÉ AND BOUTIQUE, CAMPERDOWN

Excuse me… isn’t it time for coffee? Stop in at Camperdown’s most colourful café and boutique for morning tea and to peruse the quirky range of fashion, homewares and gifts. You can’t visit Excuse Me without taking a selfie in front of the vibrant rose wall.

10.30AM: CAMPERDOWN CLOCK TOWER

The clocktower is Camperdown’s pride and joy, standing proud on the main street since 1896. It is the tallest structure in town at an impressive 31.4m tall and well worth a climb, tours run on Sunday 10.30-3pm or by appointment.

If you’re lucky, clock keeper John might be the passionate volunteer taking your tour. Wind your way up the five levels of steep stairs and past the ornate stained glass windows as you hear about the inner workings and history of the clock tower. You will see that the second level contains the three bells, the two smaller bells toll on the quarter hour with the larger bell counting out the hours. When the bells are about to toll, hideout on the floor about and you’ll see for yourself how the pristine clock mechanisms work. Continue up to the fourth floor which is the observational level. Each side has its own door which opens to reveal views of the Avenue of Elms and Camperdown township. For just a gold coin donation, this tour is unmissable.

LUNCH: ELEPHANT BRIDGE HOTEL, DARLINGTON

Next up, lunch at The Elephant Bridge Hotel, one of Victoria’s oldest and longest serving pubs, circa 1842. Under new management, this charming bluestone inn with public bar, café and restaurant is set amongst beautiful rolling grounds alongside Mount Emu Creek. Make sure to also check out their local farm store with a selection of the finest regional produce. A live music program and children’s playground are also in the works.

1.30PM: DRY STONE WALLS, NOORAT

On your way from the Elephant Bridge Hotel to the Mt Elephant volcano make sure to stop at the historic stone walls at Noorat, the heights of the Mt Elephant volcano looms behind them. You’d be forgiven for not realising the importance of these dramatic dry-stone walls as you drive past 3,000km of them. Constructed in 1851 they are historically and culturally significant and to this day are tended to by the descendants of the families that built them. The stones are made from past volcanic eruptions and whilst seemingly precariously placed on top of each other these walls were deliberately designed this way. The tottering top row of rocks deters sheep from jumping over them.

3PM: MT ELEPHANT, DERRINALLUM

Finish your Great Weekend at the inland towns of the Volcanic Lakes, Plains and Craters region by climbing Victoria’s largest volcano, Mt Elephant (360m). Entirely run by passionate volunteers this hike is open only on Sunday afternoons from 1-4pm. Mt Elephant last erupted (maybe) 180,000 years ago and is aged between 30,000 – several million years old. The moderate rated summit walk is a 3.4km loop (hiking poles are available from the visitor centre) and rewards with the stunning views of the endless plains and lakes of Western Victoria. You can see forever!

Watch the episode

Top 5 things that made the weekend great

  • Climbing the historic clock tower in Camperdown

  • Peering into the dry crater of Mt Noorat

  • Staying in the luxurious BnB of Heytesbury House

  • Hiking Mt Elephant, Victoria’s largest volcano

  • Sipping on cold climate wines from a vineyard on the slopes of a volcanic crater

Just some of the great towns just off the Great Ocean Road.


 

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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.