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What to do in your regional neighbourhood this summer

Lifestyle
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Teleisha Thomas

Teleisha Thomas

December 2023

During the summer period our lifestyle areas in Victoria, from Woodend, Castlemaine, Ballarat and Daylesford in the state’s north-west, to the coastal regions on both peninsulas of Port Phillip Bay – Bellarine on one side and Mornington on the other, become vibrant hubs of activity. The regions fill with day-trippers and weekenders alike, all choosing to spend their summer breaks surrounded by beautiful natural surrounds, fantastic galleries, great places to eat and plenty of history.

The team members at Jellis Craig’s lifestyle offices – Barwon Heads, Ballarat, Woodend, Castlemaine, Daylesford, Sorrento, and Rye, shared with us some of their favourite places to go, where to stay, and things to do, just in time for the summer season. 

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Until the end of January in Barwon Heads, Wonderland Spiegeltent by the Sea will be presenting incredible live entertainment for all ages, from the circus and cabaret, to live music, magic, comedy and more. Over in Ballarat, Summer Sundays in the Botanical Gardens returns for the month of January. The event is a series of free concerts, complete with live music, food trucks and a garden bar, set in the beautiful Ballarat Botanical Gardens. Bring your friends and family, relax, and soak up the sounds of summer. Daylesford favourite, Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens is the perfect destination for a family picnic on a warm summer’s day. Whilst in the area, drop in to the much-loved Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm, located ten minutes north of Daylesford and sitting in the picturesque farmlands of Shepherds Flat. Visitors will be able to roam one hundred acres of gardens, visit the onsite eatery and bar, spend some time with farm animals and explore the large range of aromatherapy products made on the farm. Lavandula is a must-visit all year round, but the best month to visit is January when the lavender is in full bloom.

Newstead Live is an Australian folk-roots music festival in the history country town of Newstead, near Castlemaine. The event has been running for over twenty years and takes place each year over the last weekend in January, when a range of diverse and highly regarded international and national artists perform in live music venues, concert spaces, workshops, impromptu sessions, spoken word performances, and more. In nearby Maldon, the highlight of the year is the inaugural Maldon Twilight Dinner, taking place on the 20th of January 2024. Attendees are treated to a range of fabulous food, wine, and entertainment. Hurry, the evening sells out quickly.

Hanging Rock Walks

In Woodend, in central Victoria, visitors to the area can experience the mystery of Hanging Rock at night, with the Hanging Rock Night Walk, taking place over various evenings in late summer. The guided night walk of the Reserve includes a tour with an experienced ranger, where attendees may discover gliders, wallabies, birds, bats, possums, and other native animals.

For a day of history and nature on the Mornington Peninsula, head to the Point Nepean National Park, where visitors can walk or cycle through a rugged coastal landscape and enjoy panoramic ocean and bay views. You can also explore military forts and tunnels, learn about the people who passed through the Quarantine Station – and see fascinating artefacts spanning back over 150 years.

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Staying on the Peninsula, albeit for a more relaxed afternoon, head to newly opened and much-loved Alba Thermal Springs & Spa where guests can enjoy heated geothermal mineral waters or book in any number of indulgent spa or massage experiences. Visitors to the region can also enjoy the Wine Food Farmgate Trail - a delicious gourmet adventure that leads guests to the best Mornington Peninsula wineries as well as food and farmgate experiences. Over in Mount Martha and for the more active among us, the yearly Mount Martha Annual Diamond Swim is once again back on the 26th December. For something equally decadent on the other side of the Port Phillip Bay, visit the Lon Spa at Lon Retreat in Point Londsdale. 

The Hepburn Bathhouse in Daylesford has been a mainstay for visitors to the area for a number of years, and the iconic spa isn’t going anywhere. Visit for mineral rich waters, mineral wellness experiences, and specifically designed wellness packages. Over in Ballarat is Ballarat’s Sanctuary Day Spa, a luxurious day spa that focuses on lasting wellbeing through holistic healing and nurturing treatments.

EAT

A getaway in Ballarat and Central Victoria is all about celebrating the good things – from long, languid lunches, to wine tastings, and relaxed dinners. Larder Café in Daylesford is an essential stop coffee, breakfast, brunch, or lunch. This café has a Melbourne northside vibe and is perfect for people-watching. A must visit, The Lake House is one of Victoria’s most iconic hotels, with an award-winning restaurant serving modern Australian cuisine. Ingredients are sourced on site, and a visit is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Over in Waubra near Ballarat, a visit to Wayward Winery for delightful share plates and delicious wine is the perfect weekend lunch experience. Another winery worth a visit is Eastern PeakeWinery, which offers tickets for guided winery tours, barrel samples, wine flights and regional produce boards. In the Macedon Ranges, Mount Towrong Vineyard – a small family owned and operated vineyard, situated 600m above sea level with direct views of Mount Macedon and Mount Towrong is a much-loved favourite. Panacea Estate, located in Welshman's Reef, Central Victoria, are a family-friendly winery offering wine tastings and delicious cheese boards with breathtaking panoramas over stunning vines, gardens and an incredible lake.

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On the coast, there is an abundance of places to enjoy a long lunch or decadent dinner. On the Bellarine, start with lunch at Basils Farm in Swan Bay and enjoy beautiful views over the water, seasonal fare picked straight from their on-site garden, and light wines. For dinner, newly opened in January this year is local-favourite Tommy Gunns in Barwon Heads. Visit for elevated classics and a delightful wine list. On the other side of the bay in Mornington Peninsula is a plethora of delightful spots, including Audreys the new restaurant and bar sitting on the highest floor of the new Continental Hotel and for your morning caffeine hit and readymade meals, visit St Pauls General Store in Sorrento and stock up on fresh produce, natural wine, and coffee.

In Mount Martha, South Beach Project is a local favourite for coffees and breakfast fare. Set at the far end of the Esplanade in an idyllic beachside setting, complemented with views of Port Phillip Bay and Melbourne City, the café is perfect for special lunches, larger functions, or just a casual spot to eat.  

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