‘Rick Stein put Mol­ly­mook on the map’ is a phrase I hear more than once.

Australian Traveller - - Weekends -

The ex­change of goods is ap­pre­ci­ated by Milk Haus owner Danielle McKeon, who left Can­berra a few years ago also seek­ing a seachange. Since open­ing in 2015, Danielle has cre­ated a go-to cafe for lo­cals. “When I moved down here, I only knew one per­son and it was in­ter­est­ing to see there’s a gen­uine in­ter­est and friend­ship be­tween the restau­rant own­ers here, which is re­ally re­fresh­ing,” she says. The stylishly min­i­mal Milk Haus is slightly out of the way – a draw­card in it­self. Af­ter a break­fast of gluten-free muesli with a pot of sticky chai, I stroll through the veg­etable gar­den, teem­ing with zuc­chini, toma­toes and nu­mer­ous herbs. Later that day, I farewell Milly to visit vi­va­cious Molly, who’s call­ing me over for a pre-sum­mer surf les­son. Mol­ly­mook Beach is an ideal lo­ca­tion to kick-start my ‘learn-to-surf-bet­ter’ cam­paign with Ge­off Hansen, a Molly lo­cal of 20 years. Ge­off pin­points where I’m go­ing wrong and, in be­tween gen­tle, two-foot sets, tells me about life with Molly. “As a surfer, you couldn’t wish for more. The va­ri­ety and qual­ity of the waves in the area is amaz­ing,” he says. “Friends will wave as you drive down the street and peo­ple have time to stop and chat when you see them out and about.” But the town is grow­ing, with more peo­ple mov­ing in and build­ings go­ing up. “There’s a ma­jor new ho­tel (Ban­nis­ters Pav­il­ion), new restau­rants and cafes (Tall­wood) and some very big, pri­vate houses be­ing built,” Ge­off says. “Tourism is the big­gest in­dus­try in the area and there are more peo­ple com­ing dur­ing the main hol­i­day pe­ri­ods, as well as through­out the year.” Flour Wa­ter Salt, a cafe along Mil­ton’s main street, is one op­er­a­tor rel­ish­ing the boom. As I en­joy a healthy roast chicken and car­rot slaw sand­wich, fol­lowed by a de­li­cious dark choco­late and caramel tart, a mix of lo­cals and tourists flood through the door. They don’t have to wait long for their take­away cof­fees and or­ganic, dairy- or gluten-free meals, with the young wait­resses quick on their feet. I’m not sur­prised by the cafe’s pop­u­lar­ity. Co-owner Joost Hilke­mei­jer is the man be­hind the suc­cess­ful Berry Or­ganic Sour­dough Bak­ery, an hour north. Joost is yet an­other ex­am­ple of the kind of pas­sion­ate folk adding to the charisma of lit­tle old Milly and Molly. And it’s this thought that I pon­der into the night, as I re­lax be­side the camp­fire at The Old School­house, stars shin­ing in a clear coun­try sky and two bor­der col­lies loung­ing at my feet.

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT: The School­house swing; The for­giv­ing waves at Mol­ly­mook ; Set­tle in at the sta­bles; Jenny’s chick­ens are (ex­tremely) free range; The day’s labours at Flour Wa­ter Salt.

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT: A bou­tique of suit­able charm in Mil­ton; Sun­shine and daisies; Milk Haus is a go-to cafe for lo­cals; Top-shelf eats and ( in back­ground) pineap­ples on dis­play at Ban­nis­ters by the Sea; A cu­ri­ous Wood­stock lo­cal.

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