For some, invigoration comes in the form of a gruelling mountain hike, while others find relaxation in a bottle of fine wine and a long lunch. Either way, here are some of the best winter girly getaways in regional Victoria:
Australia’s spa capital, Daylesford is the perfect spot for the ultimate in pampering and relaxation, and the winter months its all open fires, big reds and hot baths. Girls can destress completely and rejuvenate with a natural mineral spa and massage at Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, Mineral Spa, Daylesford Day Spa or The Lake House – the latter has recently launched the resort’s new infinity pool overlooking the misty lake. The boutique town has a choice of quality restaurants including Mercato, Sault, Bistro Terroir, The Argus Dining Room in Hepburn Springs, and great places to enjoy a drink including Daylesford Cider Company and Passing Clouds Winery. After browsing the boutiques in the main street ladies can immerse themselves in art at David Bromley & Co and the beautiful Convent Gallery.
The Yarra Valley, one of Victoria’s premier wine and gourmet regions, is another stunning spot for the girls to indulge in life’s great pleasures of food, wine, nature and inspiring arts. There is an abundance of farmers markets, cooking schools, golf courses, specialty shops, flower farms and restaurants only 45 minutes from the Melbourne city centre.
Groups can pay homage to the grape at boutique cellar doors such as Soumah Winery, Kellybrook Winery or Sticks Winery. More upscale tasting options are available at Levantine Hill, sipping champagne at stunning Domaine Chandon or getting behind the scenes with a barrel room tasting at Dominique Portet.
For food, groups can linger over a meal with fresh local produce by chef Matt Stone at Oakridge Winery; or check out chef Mark Ebbels' new menu at Tarrawarra Estate. Grazing options include local cheese at the Yarra Valley Dairy; peach melba at Dame Nellie Melba’s former residence Coombe Estate; or a Sunday High Tea experience at Chateau Yering set among beautiful historic gardens. Art is a great way to break up the wine and a fascinating program of international and local artists are on show at TarraWarra Museum of Art or there is Healesville Contemporary Art Space and other small artist studios dotted around the region.
Accommodation includes the cosy Yering Gorge Cottages, and elegant Chateau Yering as well as Balgownie Estate or groups can base themselves in the heart of Healesville at the Healesville Hotel and be within walking distance of Four Pillars Distillery, Innocent Bystander, MacForbes Graceburn Wine Room, and the newly opened communal urban winery, No. 7 Healesville – groups should always book in advance, and will definitely get a more leisurely and bespoke experience during the winter months.
The stunning coastal region of the Mornington Peninsula really has it all for girls getaways – but once again, getting away from the heady crowds of summer, groups will get a far better appreciation for the highlights and hidden gems of the region. Girls can choose from beaches, boutique wineries, and some of the best regional restaurants in the country, plus the famous Peninsula Hot Springs, as well as a plethora of cafés and galleries – all within an hour from Melbourne.
For wine buffs, a no stress way of exploring the Mornington Peninsula is with MPPlunge Tours. Owner and regional authority Arthur O’Bryan invites groups to plunge deep into the heart and soul of the region with a tailored food and wine adventure that seeks out the finest and most interesting makers and producers. There is all manner of new breweries and distilleries in the region too, with Dromana industrial estate becoming a hub for craft drinks, home to Jetty Road Brewery, Two Bays Brewing , Bass and Flinders Distillery and most recently, Jimmy Rum Distillery.
But it’s not all eating and drinking, even in winter, water lovers can don a wetsuit and make the most of the calm aqua waters of the front beach and try the art of stand-up paddle boarding or get in the water with the seals and dolphins with Bay Play which run all year round. No girls trip is complete without a group hashtag, and the colourful beach boxes of Mount Martha beach make for a great winter walk come photo shoot.
Upscale accommodation includes the stunning Jackalope Hotel, or the newly renovated Lindenderry Hotel in the heart of Red Hill. Big Blue Backyard is also a lovely option for groups, the property has individual cottages and a common spa and eating facilities – only a short walk to a quiet beach.
On the other side of the bay, the Bellarine Peninsula offers another option for relaxation and indulgence; at Point Lonsdale, visitors can indulge at either Mud Day Spa or Queenscliff Day Spa. The newly opened The Lon Retreat is a stunning option for groups looking to treat themselves on accommodation.
Active groups can walk along the beach, hire a bike at BIG4 Beacon Resort and enjoy a drink on the rooftop bar at the Vue Grand. Over at Portarlington, luxurious Starhaven Retreat in Indented Head offers magnificent views over the bay. There is no need to leave, as the house is complete with a jet stream swim spa and sauna, and even a “Gold Class” style 15-seat cinema. The converted heritage Q Train is also a unique way for groups to experience the local food and wine while enjoying the scenery from Drysdale to Queenscliff.
A popular getaway for any kind of group, but particularly outdoor/adventure types, the Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives. Around two to three hours from Melbourne, active women can trek the Great Ocean Walk from Apollo Bay to the magnificent 12 Apostles and weave through beautiful parks, deserted beaches and rugged coastline. Girls can book a group surfing lesson at the seaside town of Lorne, go canoeing to see platypus on Elizabeth Lake at sunrise, kayak to seals, zip line through the Otways at Otways Zipline Tours and ride horse-back along the region’s spectacular coast line. Winter is a stunning time to be in the region, away from the seasonal crowds with a completely different light to enjoy the many vantage points as well as plenty of options to get cosy in front of a warm open fire after a brisk walk.
Chris’s Beacon Point is one of those places, with one of the most impressive views in the area, similarly, Captain Moonlite in Anglesea provides quality, simply cooked local produce and seafood while overlooking the surf beach.
The North East’s High Country region is yet another perfect winter escape option. Girls can gather for a weekend away in the glorious town of Bright. ‘Pedals, Pilates & Lattes’ is a boutique two-night getaway at Leader Reef accommodation, nestled on the side of a hill in this stunning Alpine town. This ready made package takes all the stress away from the organiser of the group. After enjoying breakfast from the hamper filled with local produce, girls can get invigorated with a Pilates or yoga session followed by a gentle 20km return bike ride along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail to Feathertop Wines where a platter of cheese, meats and other goodies awaits along with stunning views from the cellar door terrace.
Just one hour away from Melbourne is Ballarat – a thriving hub of contemporary arts, events and food and wine, with a fascinating heritage backdrop. Ladies can enjoy quality dining experiences such as the much talked about Underbar, a tiny fine diner which needs to be booked well in advance, as well as Mr Jones Dining offering modern Australian cuisine and Lola, The Provincial Hotel’s new highly-rated restaurant. A Pub with Two Names, an iconic Ballarat building that has been taken over by artist David Bromley is definitely worth a stop, if even just to admire the artwork, and brunch is best had at the queen of homemade goodness Kittlety’s. For after dinner drinks, girls should head to Mitchell Harris, a converted garage, which stocks delicious local wines and beers.
Ladies can also enjoy the collection of Australian art at Australia’s oldest and largest regional gallery the Art Gallery of Ballarat - Tai Snaith A World of One's Own multi-media exhibition starts June 15, 2019. Or catch a show at Her Majesty’s Theatre. David Bromley’s studio Bromley&Co is worth a visit for those looking to pick up a stylish souvenir.
For overnight stays, The Provincial Hotel will appeal to groups with a sense of style and elegance, and equally perfect is the spacious Ballarat Premier Apartments - another heritage building that's been converted into luxury serviced apartments.
And over at Phillip Island, girls happy to get their feet wet can learn to surf at Girls On Board private and public surf lessons where the mantra is "To hit the water, learn to surf, have a ball and maybe enjoy what is arguably the greatest lifestyle in the world." A stay at the stunning Sheltered Glamping offers a choice of eco-accommodation with a range of tents or cabins as simple or luxurious as the girls require.
At the foot of Mount Sturgeon, the southern tip of the Grampians and the Great Dividing Range, is the village of Dunkeld. Dunkeld’s charming main street features shops, cafes and of course, Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel which is regularly voted one of the best dining destinations in Australia. A long leisurely lunch or dinner at this regional hotspot must be on everyone's bucket list. This beautiful town also has a picturesque Arboretum with a walking track that meanders past hundreds of trees including many giant red gums. Girls willing to don their comfortable shoes can enjoy a hike up Mount Sturgeon, Mount Abrupt or the Piccaninny, while those more invigorated by indulgence can spend time at Griffins Hill Health Retreat, focusing on yoga and healthy food. Not far away, the Silo Art Trail has to be seen to be believed, these stunning massive murals providing passers-by with art on a scale never before seen.
And further afield, the Murray River provides a complete escape from the urban jungle with a wealth of water-based activities to keep even the most active girls entertained. This is serious selfie territory, and from fast-paced waterskiing to paddling through Kings Billabong in a canoe to hiring a houseboat for the weekend and simply cruising along, there are plenty of ways to explore the majesty of the river. For a complete escape from the little ones, mums should consider Talo Retreat Moama on Murray. Only for grown-ups ,these Moroccan style yurts are glamping at its finest, complete with hot tubs where groups can enjoy a glass of bubbles while overlooking the wetlands as kangaroos hop by.
And for some of the most stunning instagram pics the girls are likely to post, nearby Mungo or Barmah National Parks offer an abundance of extraordinary landscapes and wildlife-viewing opportunities. Intrepid explorers will also find out-of-this-world photo opportunities at the Murray Sunset National Park and the famous Pink Lakes, which are made of solid salt and change colours throughout the day, from a deep pink to a bright white.
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