Take me home, country roads

Fruit StandDespite living many of my formative years in suburban Melbourne, there are still so many corners of Victoria that I am yet to discover. A few weeks ago, Mark and I decided to explore this state a little bit further in our campervan, with the aim to uncover some of it’s more regional heart and experience the local delights of nature and delights for consumption.

Victoria is such a wonderful place to visit if you are a locavore. Being Australia’s most densely populated state (and the smallest in size in mainland Australia) it isn’t too hard to visit some of the producers that make up the country’s largest food and fibre exporting state. So, that is what we did…

Here is a map of our journey around Victoria:


First of all, to give you an idea of how we often travel, I should introduce you to ‘Campie,’our campervan. When I talk about Campie, people often have these wild visions of us cruising down the highway in a Britz camper or Winnebago instead of the reality of a converted Toyota Hiace. While not being as luxurious as other campervans, Campie serves us well, particularly in the kitchen. With a small bar fridge, dual-burner gas stove, microwave, kettle and some cupboards of basic cookware, we have all the essentials to cook a great meal and to discourage over-purchasing and food wastage.

IMG_0617     clearcut

Photos (Left to Right): Campie; not Campie (taken from http://www.britz.com.au)

The idea of the trip was to be a bit budget-conscious, not because it was just after Christmas but also because I had received an unexpected and rather hefty payment notice from the tax office just a few days earlier- ouch!

Luckily, eating from local producers tends to be quite cost-effective and when you add some basic cooking supplies such as flour, rice, milk or eggs; stir in some nature-based (and free) tourist attractions and sprinkle a few free camping sites along the way- you have a great recipe for a cost-effective trip.

Of course, it wasn’t all penny-pinching. As you’ll get to know, I do have a penchant for wine, so dabbled along our adventures were some stops at some great local wineries. Check out:

Blue Pyrenees Estate

Domaine Chandon

Jones Winery and Vineyard

Pfeiffer Wines

I am discovering more and more that you really can do so much on a budget. Regional towns often have many  reasonably-priced tourist attractions but some of the best things are for free including walking in national parks, visiting local producers, fruit stops and wineries, throwing a Frisbee in the camping grounds, reading a good book and playing hide and seek in the bush (when no one is watching). So here are some tips for travelling on the cheap throughout Victoria. Of course, you don’t have a campervan to enjoy all the there is to offer in country Victoria. A car, some basic cooking utensils, a gas burner and a tent will serve you just as well.

HorseLake

FOR A FARMGATE EXPERIENCE:

Head to Cobram – in Sun Country on the Murray River. There is really just so much there and for such an affordable price. When we were there in January it was stone fruit season, so we were able to pick up cherries for less than $9.00/kg; peaches, nectarines and plums for $3.50/kg and strawberries for $2.50/punnet (Check out The Big Strawberry). At the end of a big day, there is nothing like a fresh fruit platter. If you’ve missed out on the summer fruits, then peaches, pears and apples are plentiful from mid January to May  and citrus fruits start emerging from July to September.

Aside from the fruits, there are some other fabulous producers in and around Cobram. Boosey Creek Cheese have a delicious selection of artisan cheeses and Rich Glen Estate have an incredible variety of olive oil and olive oil products. Both of these locations make all their products onsite.

Local ProduceBoosey Creek CheeseRich Glen 2

FOR NATURE:

Grampians National Park and in particular, The Pinnacle walk. This was the first time we had both been The Grampians and I definitely want to head back to explore and check out some more hikes. We were able to camp for free just out of Halls Gap at an amazing camping area with hardly anyone around- the only sacrifice was that there were no facilities. A hot tip however-The Halls Gap caravan park will let you use their facilities for $4.00, so you can experience the great outdoors with the luxury of a hot shower.

Emu 1Campervan 3

FOR GOURMET FOOD AND WINE (at a reasonable price): Check out Rutherglen for the fabulous wine: in particular Pfeiffer Wines. The picture perfect winery has award-winning and affordable wine,  as well as knowledgeable and friendly staff. Also head to the beautiful town of Beechworth for the Beechworth Honey Experience.

FOR AUSTRALIAN HISTORY: Head to Ballarat to check out the Museum of  Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E) and the location of Ned Kelly’s last stand at Glenrowan.

FOR NO-FUSS, AFFORDABLE MEAL IDEAS: Check out some of the recipes I made on the journey with basic cookware and ingredients.

Corn Fritters 2One Pan Frittata 2Strawberry Pancakes 1

Chilli Corn Fritters

One Pan Vegie Frittata

Strawberry Pancakes

What a trip, it feels so long ago. Victoria has opened my eyes to how some of the most amazing things are closer than you think- we’re so lucky in Australia to have such amazing people, places and produce.

Those country roads sure take me home…

 

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