Top 5 things to do in the Pyrenees
The Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula are at the top of many travellers' lists to sample the finest Victorian wines and gourmet fare.
But if you after a more low-key experience with fewer tourists, Victoria's Pyrenees region is well worth a visit.
The western Victoria region produces some of the country's best cool climate wines and is home to award-winning restaurants and cafes, set against the backdrop of the Pyrenees ranges.
Here are our top five picks for eating, drinking, playing and relaxing in the Pyrenees:
The region is home to sophisticated cool climate wines.
In Avoca, stop by the Mount Avoca Winery for a tasting - their 2012 Old Vine Shiraz is a stand out for full bodied flavour. There are also bicycles for hire if you feel like a leisurely cycle through the grounds or around town - it's A$30 (NZ$32.96) for up to two hours bike hire or A$50 for a full day.
Nearby, the larger Blue Pyrenees Estate is the place to go for a glass of bubbly and also makes very good cabernet and shiraz.
Cafe Blue serves light lunches, coffees and cakes and also holds pasta nights, featuring sauces created with the estate's wines from sparklings through to reds and muscats. The next pasta night is scheduled for May 23.
About a 20 minute drive away in Moonambel, family run Summerfield Wines is rated among Australia's top 100 wineries by wine expert James Halliday.
This is the place to go if you are a shiraz fan and you might be lucky enough to meet owner Mark Summerfield, who is a fourth generation winemaker committed to traditional production methods.
TUCK IN TO GOURMET FARE
It's a big call but the beef and beer pie at the Three Troupers Pantry in Beaufort would have to be one of Victoria's best. The plum cake is a winner and bonus points for award-winning coffee.
Owners Marianne and David Troup suggest keen gardeners should visit the nearby Heritage Fruit Tree Nursery at Glenview Park Farm, which is open Fridays and Saturdays or by appointment.
For dinner, don't miss The Avoca Hotel, which was crowned the best hotel at the 2013 Golden Plate Awards. It gets busy so it's best to plan to spend a few hours enjoying the local wines and produce.
I enjoyed the New York porterhouse steak, served with chats, fried mushrooms, green beans and Pyrenees shiraz jus (A$32). The banana pudding with coconut and dark chocolate sorbet is delicious and a bargain (A$13).
WANDER ALONG HIGH STREET AVOCA
Westbury Antiques in High Street, Avoca, is worth a sticky beak even if you don't have the cash or room in your car boot to invest in one of the impressive pieces. Recently returned from the Chelsea Antiques Fair in London, owners Harvey and Carol Wilkins stock mainly British 18th century country furniture and decorative pieces.
A personal favourite was a French oak farm dining table with pull out bread board and side drawer (circa 1850, A$5750). There is also recently opened bed and breakfast accommodation on site.
The Olive & Lavender Store is the spot to stop for homemade cakes, slices and biscuits, as well as gourmet produce like oils, jams and chutneys. There is also a wide selection of lotions and potions that make great gifts or treats to take home.
If all the wine and delicious local food has left you feeling like a decent bit of exercise, head to Mount Cole State Forest for a hike. There are several clearly signed picnic and camping areas as well as extensive walking tracks. Walks range from short family walks through to overnight hikes.
If you are staying in one of newly renovated Eco-luxe Mount Avoca lodges it will be difficult to convince yourself to actually leave your accommodation. A complimentary breakfast on your private balcony is a tranquil start to the day.
If you feel like spending the day with your book and a glass of red don't fret, the staff can organise a gourmet hamper full of local produce.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: Avoca is a two-hour drive northwest of Melbourne via the Western Freeway and Sunraysia Highway.
STAYING THERE: Eco-Luxe Mount Avoca lodges range from A$220 to A$390 per night (including breakfast, complimentary wine, plus aA $30 wine voucher to be used at the cellar door during your stay). It's at Moates Lane, Avoca (eco-luxe.com.au).
Summerfield Wines Studio Apartments range from A$99 per couple Mon-Thurs and A$135 per couple Fri-Sun. It's located at 5967 Stawell-Avoca Road, Moonambel (summerfieldwines.com.au).
Blue Pyrenees Lakehouse contains three bedrooms and two bathrooms and is suitable for groups. It is priced at $400 per night and is located at Vinoca Road, Avoca (bluepyrenees.com.au).
The Avoca Hotel, 115 High Street, Avoca
Cafe Blue at the Blue Pyrenees Estate, Vinoca Road, Avoca
The Olive & Lavender Store, 106 High Street, Avoca
Three Troupers Pantry, 44 Neill Street, Beaufort
Mount Avoca Winery, Moates Lane, Avoca
Summerfield Wines, 5967 Stawell Avoca Road, Moonambel
Blue Pyrenees Estate, Vinoca Road, Avoca
Westbury Antiques, 119 High Street, Avoca
The Olive and Lavender Store, 106 High Street, Avoca
Heritage Fruit Trees, 297 Back Raglan Road, Beaufort
The Grampians Grape Escape festival is held on May 3 & 4 at Halls Gap Village Oval, Grampians Road, Halls Gap.
For more see: grampiansgrapeescape.com.au.
The writer travelled as a guest of Grampians Tourism.