The impressive food scene in regional Victoria extends across markets, growers, and restaurants, as well as vineyards. It’s matched by some excellent country accommodation and extraordinarily beautiful scenery.
Award-winning tour operator AAT Kings is offering a new, weeklong journey around the best of the state. Fittingly named Victoria’s Hidden Gems, it makes the most of these opportunities with exceptional boutique accommodation and gourmet meals at renowned restaurants.
This unique guided tour extends from cosmopolitan Melbourne’s laneways and arcades, to the eclectic town of Daylesford, a “Welcome to Country” ceremony in the Grampians, and the iconic Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road.
Melbourne’s laneways and arcades offer cosy cafes and unique boutique stores in decorative surrounds
Culinary highlights include meals at The Argus (a hatted restaurant in Daylesford), Wickens at the Royal Mail in Dunkeld, Jack Rabbit on the Bellarine Peninsula, and Mornington Peninsula’s Linden Tree restaurant.
It’s a journey focused on the best of Victoria: from exploring its cosmopolitan heart to its natural beauty and cultural experiences. The brand new itinerary will be part of an Inspiring Journeys brochure, representing a total relaunch of AAT Kings.
The journey begins, as you’d expect, in Melbourne where you stay at the fabulous Sofitel Melbourne on Collins and experience the famous Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. It’s a unique and distinctly Melbourne experience to dine in a historic tram as it traverses the city.
Wine and dine on a travelling tram restaurant on the streets of Melbourne
The historic town of Daylesford in the Macedon Ranges region is the first regional stop. Naturally, it includes a spa in the curative waters of the historic Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, first opened in 1895 and recently renovated. There’s time to explore the antique stores of the town, and meet local artists and artisan producers.
You’ll be staying just minutes away at the grand 1930s Mineral Springs Hotel in Hepburn Springs and dining at award-winning restaurant, The Argus. While the decor has a stylish art deco feel, the food is cutting-edge contemporary with impressive wines to match.
The following day is a hop-step through the best of regional Victoria before ending up in Dunkeld. Morning tea is at historic Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm with its olive groves and lavender fields. Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, Creswick Woollen Mills is the sole-surviving coloured woollen spinning mill of its kind in Australia.
The historic town of Clunes is likely to be immediately recognisable as its perfectly preserved main street has been used in movies from the 1950s classic On the Beach to Mel Gibson’s Mad Max and Heath Ledger’s Ned Kelly.
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You’ll stay at the Royal Mail Hotel, at the base of the spectacular Grampian Mountains in the village of Dunkeld. You’ll dine at its acclaimed new restaurant, Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel, named after its award-winning Executive Chef, Robin Wickens. Besides the food, the cellars, and the setting, the hotel also offers walking trails where you can observe emus, kangaroos, and wallabies, or take a guided tour through Australia’s largest organic kitchen garden.
Executive Chef Robin Wickens delivers fresh and tantalising menus from their very own kitchen garden in Dunkeld
The next day, at Halls Gap at the top of the Grampians, you’ll visit the Brambuk Cultural Centre for a “Welcome to Country” ceremony by representatives of the Gariwerd, Djab Wurrung, and Jardwadjali local indigenous people. You’ll learn the technique for throwing a boomerang and try some bush tucker.
From the rocky ramparts and waterfalls of the Grampians, you descend to the coastal town of Warrnambool for an overnight stay. The Shipwrecked Sound and Light Show at Flagstaff Hill is an immersive experience in the region’s maritime history. Following a major redevelopment and full upgrade, the story of the Loch Ard shipwreck disaster is told in a completely new way with new imagery, lighting, and sound effects. It was one of hundreds of ships lost here, with many crew and passengers lives claimed by the Shipwreck Coast in the nineteenth Century.
On the following day, you begin Australia’s most iconic road trip along the Great Ocean Road. Stops include the scenic highlights of Loch Ard Gorge, the Twelve Apostles, the Bay of Islands, London Arch, and the coastal towns of Port Campbell and Apollo Bay. You end the day in Lorne to spend the night at the Cumberland Resort.
The journey along the Great Ocean Road concludes the next morning before arriving in Torquay, Australia’s surfing heartland where you visit the Australian National Surfing Museum. The nearby Bellarine Peninsula is renowned for its wines so there’s lunch and wine tasting at Jack Rabbit Winery with views across the bay to Geelong, the You Yangs, and Melbourne.
It’s a short voyage by car ferry from Queenscliff to the spectacular Mornington Peninsula. Discover its abundance at Green Olive Farmer’s Market which will show you their produce and tell you about farm life here.
Staying at Lindenderry at Red Hill, dinner is in the resort’s Linden Tree Restaurant. One of the prettiest restaurants on the Peninsula, it offers courtyard dining with views over the vineyards and innovative modern Australian cuisine paired with boutique local wines.
The scenic vineyards at Lindenderry at Red Hill
The final day of the tour delivers one of Victoria’s — and indeed Australia’s — most iconic experiences: a tour of the MCG. Highlights include a visit to the famous MCC Long Room, the players’ change rooms, MCG Library, MCG Tapestry, and the media centre, as well as the chance to walk out onto the hallowed turf itself. You can imagine 100,000 rapturous fans watching as you make your entrance.
The culinary tour fittingly finishes with lunch and a chance to say goodbye to everyone over a glass of wine or two.
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Image credits: Lindenderry at Red Hill, John Englart (Takver) / Flickr, Royal Mail Hotel.