Discovering long forgotten parts of Victoria is one of my passions and for me, there is nothing like being the passenger in a comfortable car visiting towns that I haven’t seen since my childhood.
I love planning day trips to small country towns where I can take part in some of the local culture, and often, small town local culture involves a pub, or these days, a brewery or winery.
I classify ‘small town’ as being something smaller than Melbourne, and most certainly without the hustle, bustle and traffic. It doesn’t have to be a town that has a population of a mere handful of people, just somewhere away from chaos.
One of our recent trips was to have lunch at Trentham before going to Woodend and wherever else along the way that we cared to stop.
Trentham is roughly 75 minutes from the heart of Melbourne via the Calder Freeway M79. We were headed to Pig & Whistle at 705 James Lane, Trentham East for our first stop – lunch. It was quite a late start for us as we normally like to leave early in the morning to fit more into our day, but we were tired and a sleep in was in order, plus, the weather outside was horrendous, pouring rain, thunder, a bit of lightening, we almost called the trip off.
The road to Trentham takes you by Macedon and Woodend, both places I love visiting, but due to our late start we decided to head straight for our lunch destination.
Trentham is a small town located in within the stunning landscape of the Great Dividing Range and has a lot to offer both locals and travellers. The historic town centre offers lots of choices for the foodies with oil tastings, sourdough breads and pizzas and just up the road you will find the magnificent Trentham Falls, the highest single drop waterfall in Victoria. Lots of travellers pack or buy a picnic basket full of goodies to enjoy by the river and often make use of the beautiful walking tracks in the forest. It’s a great area to explore by foot or on horseback, but unfortunately, the weather on the day we were there was prohibitive to these activities.
The rain was pouring down, the wind was high and we had travelled through lots of misty patches, so the open fire at Pig & Whistle was very welcoming, as were the staff members who greeted us with even more warmth.
When researching the menu prior to our trip my tastebuds had been tantalised with the promise crusty garlic bread, baked camembert with cranberry jelly, pie of the day and much, much more, but what I hadn’t realized was, Sunday was roast day. I must admit to being a bit disappointed, but when the food arrived, roast beef for me and hubby, roast pork for our friend, we were all pleasantly surprised and my disappointment quickly disappeared. Tender meats and roast vegetables served with peas and gravy, beautifully cooked and served in a country homey style.
After our satisfying meal and warming ourselves by the open fire with our drinks we headed off to explore more of the area – even though the weather was still bad.
Our next stop was only 20 minutes away, Woodend, another beautiful country town, though quite a bit bigger than Trentham. High Street, Woodend, is delightful to drive through but I would have dearly loved to stop and wander, exploring all the beautiful stores housed in historic buildings, but as the rain was still pouring down, we decided to find somewhere warm, cosy and have a drink.
Holgate Brewhouse, located at the corner of High and Anslow Streets, has an imposing presence, the red brick building beckons you in, and thank goodness it did, what a treat.
Obviously this is a very popular place as people were nearly hanging out the doors. Offering, food, local wine and beers, and quite often live music, the Holgate Brewhouse is a great place to stop and soak up comfy vibe. Australian owned and 100 per cent independent, this brewhouse offers a great menu, local wines, accommodation and their own beers that are bold and brimming with character.
Since start-up in 1999, owners Paul and Natasha Holgate, have been producing genuine craft beer, brewed, bottled and kegged right there in Woodend. Take a tour of the microbrewery in action, have a drink in the bar and taproom or take up a table for a meal in one of the dining areas, whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed. It was here that I tried the best chocolate brownie I have ever had in my life. Rich, gooey, full of nuts, chocolate and coconut, this brownie is sure to delight any sweet tooth’s craving.
Not being a beer drinker myself I can only take comment from others, but I was very reliably informed that Holgate’s Chocolate Porter is absolutely delicious and highly recommended.
From Holgates we decided to head home – the long way!
Another 40 minutes up the road (away from the direction of home) we found the Tooborac Hotel and Brewery. Built circa 1857, the Tooborac Hotel is the oldest National Trust listed country pub in Victoria. It is renowned for being family friendly with a warm and inviting atmosphere and now I know why. This beautiful pub is frequented by locals, travellers and, as we found, a popular destination for car clubs.
Serving meals from 12-2 and 6-8.30, the Tooborac hotel has an onsite brewery and makes award winning ales. Go for a meal, go for a drink, tour the brewery, you won’t be disappointed. If pies are to your liking, the Pie Shop is right next door. Purchase these buttery pastry delights to eat on the spot, take home or to devour in the alfresco area near the brewery. Choose from a range of pies that includes Beer and Ale, Lamb and Shiraz, Rabbit Ramble – it’s all part of the country experience.
Having great success at GABS (beer, cider and food fest) the Tooborac hotel has people travelling for hours to purchase their lagers and ales.
This hotel has been many things to many thousands of people since 1857. A shearers stop off. A blacksmiths shop. A general store, a Pub for over 150 years, serving the beer of the time, meals, accommodation, a safe respite, a stop on the way to a new adventure. A place to work, live, have a family. Send off a son to war, welcome him home. A rest stop on the exciting journey to find a fortune. A place to escape the blistering sun, and spin a few tales. A place to warm the weary traveller and quench a thirst. A place to celebrate a victory, the birth of a child or just share a beer with a mate. The Tooborac Hotel and Brewery means so much to so many people and has for over 150 years. Whether you fit into one of these categories or not, just get there, it’s well worth a visit.
After a drink at the Tooboorac Hotel it was definitely time to head in the right direction towards home, around 90 minutes away.
What I have failed to mention through this tour is that we were very fortunate to have the use of a Nissan X-Trail. It was a great opportunity to put the X-Trail through its paces, well, not really its paces, as I said earlier, I love being a passenger so testing a car’s ability is not really up my alley. But, as we will soon be in the market for a mid-size SUV, having a full day to drive around in one of the cars that is on our ‘check out’ list was wonderful.
Speaking from a passenger’s point of view, this car hits a lot of the criteria I am looking for. Heated seats – tick, and for me, coming from a very basic and quite old car, technology such as heated seats is a real luxury. Not only were the seats heated, they were very comfortable, front and back. We usually do our frequent day trips with three or more adults so leg room is probably the most important thing I am looking for, especially as we are tall people, and the X-Trail fit the bill perfectly.
I found that the backs of the rear seats weren’t adjustable so rear seated passengers sat very upright. I thought that this would be quite uncomfortable, but it turned out to be better than expected. The rear seat was also quite high, which at first I found a little strange, but as we went on our travels I found that sitting higher gave me a much better view of the scenery and would be great for shorter adults and children as well. A vent at the rear of the centre front console made for nice warm travel without the front passengers being the only ones to benefit from the heating/cooling system. There were no USB points in the rear of the vehicle, but extra were inside the front console and could be used from back seats.
The guidance system in the car is very easy to work with all operations being easy to read and perform which is a very important point as far as I am concerned.
Something to note is the drink holders in the centre front nicely hold large drinks but the small size Maccas coffee cups pretty much disappear completely within the cup holder – is that a Maccas issue or a Nissan issue? I don’t know, maybe very few people order small coffees these days.
I also like that the doors have the facility to hold large drink bottles, something I am not used to and something I have found lots of other cars don’t cater to.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Nissan X-Trail. It made our trip very comfy and it is still quite high on the list of cars we will be looking at purchasing in the near future.
Pig & Whistle – www.pigandwhistlehotel.com
Holgate Brewhouse – www.holgatebrewhouse.com
Tooborac Hotel & Brewery – www.tooborachotel.com.au
Nissan X-Trail – www.nissan.com.au