Home to some of Australia’s most prized dairy farms, small towns with big-hearted communities, mountain ranges perfect for biking, hiking, skiing and snowboarding, and an up-and-coming food and wine scene championed by local culinary heroes, West Gippsland is the real deal.
1. Feast at Hogget
Hogget’s menu changes daily and uses local ingredients sourced at the peak of the season. Creating memorable dishes that are designed to be shared with others, Hogget’s menu is a roll call of the region’s best produce. From mushrooms foraged from nearby paddocks and forest floors to heirloom apples provided by local orchards and alpine trout from Noojee, a visit to Hogget is like going on a culinary tour of the region without leaving your table.
2. Explore Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort
The closest downhill ski resort to Melbourne, Mt Baw Baw is a destination for all seasons. During winter, Mt Baw Baw is undoubtedly all about skiing and snowboarding and with 35 hectares of groomed runs as well as snow play areas and cross-country trails, this ski village is suitable for everyone from families with kids to seasoned ski bunnies and skilled snowboarders keen to carve up the slopes. In the warmer months, the mountain biking community gravitates towards the area, drawn in by the thrilling downhill mountain runs. Hiking, bushwalking and mountain boarding also make the most of the snow-free alpine terrain.
3. See the Noojee Trestle Bridge
The tallest surviving wooden trestle bridge in Victoria is a feat of engineering worthy of a visit. Built in 1919 (but repaired and rebuilt in 1934 after significant fire damage) this bridge nestled within bushland used to be a part of the railway line that linked Warragul and Noojee. A short walk reveals the bridge from many angles, with nearby reserves perfect for a picnic lunch or pit stop before heading off on the road to the next point of interest.
4. Relax at Vivere Retreat
Considered one of West Gippsland’s most outstanding accommodation options, Vivere Retreat makes the most of its prime position in the hamlet of Neerim South. Set on 18 acres of land, guests have the choice of staying in the two-bedroom, two-bathroom retreat, the intimate studio perfect for couples or the cosy cottage ideal for small families. A complimentary breakfast features the gourmet spoils of the region including homemade granola, local bacon and farm fresh eggs. An excellent base for visitors keen to explore the region’s country pubs, produce markets, cellar doors and farm gates, Vivere Retreat is a cosy bolthole that foodies, wine enthusiasts and nature lovers will adore.
5. Motor along the Hinterland Drive
Nothing beats a leisurely scenic drive through landscapes that produce ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ of approval. A day trip through the hinterland of West Gippsland reveals tiny towns full of heritage buildings, ancient trees that have stood for centuries and mountain ranges of supreme majesty. With gourmet produce available from general stores, farm gates and fine food stores, this region is perfect for picnicking. Visitors can put together a simple lunch of smoked meats, freshly baked bread, marinated olives, cheese and more before choosing a secluded picnic spot to share with flocks of friendly native parrots.
6. Experience Walhalla’s Vinter Ljusfest
In August, the historic township of Walhalla celebrates winter just like the people of Scandinavia traditionally have with light and sound displays transforming the small town into a vibrant winter wonderland. Lighting up the sleepy town’s heritage buildings in the dark of winter changes the mood of the community, bringing in festive cheer and artistic inspiration suitable for all ages.
7. Walk or cycle the Grand Ridge Rail Trail
This 13 kilometre stretch following the old railway track allows visitors to be immersed in the bush without being too far from civilisation. Popular with cyclists and bushwalkers, the well-maintained, accessible trail links the towns of Mirboo North and Boolarra, so is a good option for visitors who want to see both towns on foot (or bike). Cutting through pine forest and temperate rainforest, this trail offers visitors the chance to see native wildlife, especially birdlife perched in the tall trees dotted along the trail. With many historic buildings to spot along the way including remnants of the old railway built in 1885, this trail successfully combines nature time with a history lesson.
8. Dine at Neilsons Kitchen
As a fertile region held together by a patchwork quilt of farms, paddocks, vineyards and orchards, it’s unsurprising that Neilsons Kitchen puts the produce of Gippsland front-and-centre on the menu. Local olives, wines from Central and East Gippsland winemakers and cheese from some of Gippsland’s best cheesemakers (including Jindi) all feature on the impressive menu that takes diners on a journey from the region’s coastline through to dairy country, mountain forests and rivers that all provide the culinary riches available on the menu.
9. Retreat to Toms Cap
Located on 100 acres of vineyard and farmland, Toms Cap is home to luxe cottages complete with spas, wood fires and vineyard views. Merging luxury finishes and a high quality of service with a down-to-earth approach, this accommodation provider offers so much more than a place to stay. An onsite vineyard provides a pretty backdrop (as well as some top drops) while the restaurant serves up hearty dishes like slow cooked lamb shanks, house made gnocchi with goats cheese, and cheese plates featuring world-class cheeses from near and far. Whether visitors choose to stop by the cellar door to sample a fine drop, book a table for a decadent dinner or bed down for the night or weekend, Toms Cap is a rural retreat worthy of a visit (or two).
10. 4WD Gippsland High Country
Home to remote campsites and out-of-the-way spots only accessible by four-wheel drive, Gippsland’s high country is prime territory for 4WD fans to go on a four-wheeled camping adventure in the Australian bush. With waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife and stargazing on the agenda, a journey through this rugged region is rewarding. Experienced drivers accustomed to driving through steep, rough terrain can head out on their own, while local companies offer ‘tag-along tours’ for inexperienced drivers keen to try four-wheel driving and camping under the instruction of experts who possess intimate knowledge of the area. Either way, a camping adventure through Gippsland’s mountainous high country is a genuine treat for bush-ready travellers keen to get away from it all for a few days.
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