AROUND TOWN

The best hubs from coun­try to coast.

Australian Traveller - - Contents -

ESPER­ANCE, WA

How to spend a per­fect day in Western Aus­tralia’s south-coast gem of Esper­ance, ac­cord­ing to the team be­hind its coolest car­a­van cof­fee van, Cof­fee Cat. You’ll find it sta­tioned on the Tanker Jetty Head­land. with a Dukes sin­gle-ori­gin long START THE DAY black or Bon­soy flat white from Cof­fee Cat, made more en­joy­able by the great view of the Esper­ance Bay. Wan­der along the fore­shore to town cen­tral and pick up a warm crois­sant with Nutella from Down­town Espresso Bar. and drive TIME TO GET IN THE LANDCRUISER along Wylie Bay beach. Maybe the con­di­tions will be good for a body surf ? Con­tinue driv­ing the beach and ar­rive at Cape Le Grand Na­tional Park. Climb French­man Peak for a spec­tac­u­lar view of the Bay of Isles’ many is­lands. there is no bet­ter place for a FOR LUNCH bar­be­cue than Hell­fire Bay, only 10 min­utes’ drive from the base of French­man Peak. we IF IT’S A WARM DAY IN THE AF­TER­NOON need another swim. Wharton Beach is the place: the wind is off­shore when the clas­sic Esper­ance sea breeze is in and that’s most sum­mer af­ter­noons. It’s a great spot to watch the sun­set. and IT’S BACK TO ESPER­ANCE FOR DIN­NER the Tay­lor St Quar­ters are pour­ing the cock­tails. Scan the menu for sea­sonal treats: scal­lops, char­grilled oc­to­pus for us, or maybe the pork belly.

GOOLWA, SA

The his­toric town of Goolwa sits at the mouth of the Mur­ray River and was once one of Aus­tralia’s ma­jor river ports. Its 1852-built wharf con­nects vis­i­tors to this past; as does a ride on the Cockle Train, a steam train that runs along Aus­tralia’s old­est steel-railed rail­way, dat­ing from 1887. Dip into the Steam Ex­change mi­cro­brew­ery – lo­cated in an old rail­way goods shed – for an ale, or en­joy a meal with river views at pop­u­lar spot Hec­tor’s on the Wharf (pic­tured).

HUONVILLE, TAS

Your launch pad for ven­tur­ing into the Huon Val­ley and Tas­ma­nia’s south-west wilder­ness, Huonville is a moun­tain-framed pocket of creativ­ity and en­ter­prise. That the area is one of Aus­tralia’s big­gest ap­ple-grow­ing re­gions is re­flected here, and the rus­tic Wil­lie Smith’s Ap­ple Shed – a cider house, cafe and mu­seum – en­cap­su­lates it all. Min­utes from the town’s main drag on the Huon High­way, it hosts events through­out the year in­clud­ing live mu­sic, Sun­day ses­sions and an ar­ti­san and pro­duce mar­ket each Satur­day. In July, you’ll find the Huon Val­ley Mid-Win­ter Fes­ti­val here: a three-day pa­gan-in­spired cel­e­bra­tion of the re­gion’s ap­ple his­tory. Its cen­tral fo­cus is Satur­day night’s was­sail, an an­cient tra­di­tion still cel­e­brated in the West Coun­try of Eng­land.

DAYLES­FORD, VIC

We can’t stop wax­ing lyri­cal about the pic­ture-per­fect Vic­to­rian town of Dayles­ford, a tree-change cap­i­tal for Mel­bur­ni­ans and the place to visit to de-stress and de­tach from city life, if only for a week­end. A five-day well­ness fes­ti­val di­rected by singer Kate Ce­ber­ano and artist David Brom­ley, Live. Love. Life., will fur­ther ce­ment this rep­u­ta­tion when it de­buts in Novem­ber, join­ing a ros­ter of year-round events in­clud­ing Chill-Out Fes­ti­val, Aus­tralia’s long­est-run­ning and big­gest ru­ral LGBTQI pride fes­ti­val. Of a week­end, you might find us brows­ing the bou­tiques of Dayles­ford’s main street, hav­ing a tip­ple at its bars or loung­ing at the lovely Lake House ho­tel, restau­rant and spa (pic­tured).

CASTLEMAINE, VIC

An old gold-rush town in Cen­tral-Vic­to­ria, in re­cent years Castlemaine has seen a new wave of ac­tiv­ity breathed into its her­itage build­ings. Here are three to check out. Castlemaine’s for­mer THE PUBLIC INN fire sta­tion is now a one-hat­ted bistro and bar (pic­tured), where wine is dis­pensed from wall-mounted bar­rels and dishes are Euro­pean-in­spired (i.e. whiskey dough­nuts or minute steak with mushy peas). What be­gan life in 1875 as the THE MILL Castlemaine Woollen Mill is now a hub for cre­ative busi­nesses: you’ll find ev­ery­thing here from small-batch ice-cream mak­ers and a Vi­en­nese-style cof­fee shop to a vin­tage bike seller, Pi­lates classes and more. One of Aus­tralia’s old­est THE­ATRE ROYAL con­tin­u­ally op­er­at­ing theatres, this seasoned cul­tural hub to­day serves as a cin­ema screen­ing in­de­pen­dent films, plus a live mu­sic venue, bistro, and a bar that deals in espresso by day and wine by night.

PORT FAIRY, VIC

This jewel of the Great Ocean Road was voted the most live­able town in the world in 2012. Its hand­some sea­side set­ting and her­itage streetscape is com­ple­mented by a din­ing scene that’s grow­ing in rep­u­ta­tion (seek out Con­lan’s Wine Store for hearty and so­phis­ti­cated fare matched with re­gional wines, or Cof­fin Sally for pizza and cock­tails), and its year-round cal­en­dar of fes­ti­vals of ev­ery per­sua­sion. The fa­mous Port Fairy Folk Fes­ti­val is held each March, while cooler months call for Win­ter Week­ends, a cel­e­bra­tion of the town’s food, art, na­ture, his­tory, cul­ture and com­mu­nity, which takes place ev­ery sec­ond week­end in June and July. Its can’t-miss event? The fa­mous Dachshund Dash, of course.

Its hand­some sea­side set­ting and her­itage streetscape is com­ple­mented by a din­ing scene that’s grow­ing in rep­u­ta­tion.

BELLINGEN, NSW

In June last year, the team be­hind renowned EAT Syd­ney restau­rant Blood­wood opened Po­pla in this cre­ative lit­tle town on New South Wales’ Mid North Coast. Based in a her­itage-listed weath­er­board cot­tage, it spe­cialises in open-hearth cook­ing. Housed in an old fac­tory, the funky DRINK Bellingen Brew­ery Co. is a craft brew­ery and bou­tique bar that also ex­hibits art (it shares its space with Big Fig Arts) and hosts live mu­sic. Held in July, Bello Win­ter Mu­sic fes­ti­val PLAY brings lo­cal, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional per­form­ers, in­clud­ing alt-coun­try trou­ba­dour Justin Townes Earle, to the town’s pubs, halls and streets. Stay in a bell tent in its camp­ing vil­lage, or opt for a cosy B&B. Head 30 min­utes out of town to Dor­rigo EX­PLORE Na­tional Park and its treetop walk, which cul­mi­nates in views of an­cient rain­for­est. Twenty min­utes in the other di­rec­tion will take you to great surf beaches.

SCONE, NSW

You’ll find the ap­peal­ingly named Scone in the Up­per Hunter re­gion of New South Wales, a ru­ral hub known as the Horse Cap­i­tal of Aus­tralia (thanks to its rep­u­ta­tion as the sec­ond-largest horse breed­ing area in the world af­ter Ken­tucky, USA). The Scone Horse Fes­ti­val, which takes place each May, cel­e­brates all things equine with rodeos, street pa­rades and stock sales. To im­merse your­self fully in coun­try life, stay at the work­ing prop­erty Bell­trees Es­tate, a 30-minute drive from town to­wards Bar­ring­ton Tops Na­tional Park and home to the White fam­ily since 1831. Ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions in­clude cot­tages and a 4WD-ac­cess-only moun­tain re­treat, all cen­tred around the fa­mous grand home­stead that dates from 1908.

RICH­MOND, TAS

Thirty min­utes’ drive north-east of Ho­bart, Rich­mond was one of the first towns on the Tas­ma­nian tourist trail, and still one of its most charm­ing. With many of its Ge­or­gian build­ings in­tact, and the oft-pho­tographed his­toric bridge – Aus­tralia’s old­est still in use – a star at­trac­tion, it’s the place to come to ab­sorb the feel of an early Aus­tralian colo­nial vil­lage. You’ll find plenty of mod­ern-day in­ter­ven­tions too, though, from cafes and restau­rants to nearby winer­ies and their cel­lar doors. Stop in at Pooley Wines’ award-win­ning Butcher’s Hill Vine­yard and Cel­lar Door to try some lo­cal cold-cli­mate va­ri­etals (chardon­nay, pinot noir, pinot gri­gio and ries­ling) and – on Sun­days dur­ing win­ter (May to Au­gust) or ei­ther day of the week­end through­out the rest of the year – wood-fired pizza. Don’t pass up the freshly baked ap­ple crum­ble dessert pizza. The cel­lar door is based in the con­verted sta­bles of stately Bel­mont House, which over­looks town and was built by con­vict labour in 1832 with the same sand­stone that was used to build Rich­mond Bridge.

WARWICK, QLD

Warwick, set in a pic­turesque val­ley on Queens­land’s South­ern Downs, is re­plete with his­toric home­steads (in­clud­ing the first colo­nial set­tle­ment built over the Great Di­vid­ing Range) and sand­stone build­ings. These days, “a lively so­cial ambience has evolved with an abun­dance of cof­fee shops, restau­rants, qual­ity wine out­lets and di­verse shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ences,” says Bette Bon­ney of the Jumpers and Jazz in July fes­ti­val, who ad­vo­cates Warwick in win­ter for “those who en­joy crisp, sunny win­ter days, quirky colour­ful fes­ti­vals and qual­ity jazz.” The fes­ti­val, first staged in 2004, “has be­come a mag­net for pa­trons seek­ing that unique travel ex­pe­ri­ence,” she says; “a feast of jazz, art, quirky yarn bomb­ing (ev­ery tree in the CBD is ‘dressed’ for the oc­ca­sion!), in­trigu­ing work­shops, amaz­ing food and wine and the ex­pan­sive RACQ Grand Au­to­mo­bile Dis­play. The huge Mar­kets in the Park fi­nale with free jazz on the last Sun­day is a must-do clos­ing event.”

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