14 days of fine dining, wilderness and luxury
See the best nature on offer in southern Australia, then dine in world-class restaurants and enjoy the hospitality of some of the finest hotels and resorts.
By Andrew Bain
On this two-week exploration of southern Australia's wild side, you'll encounter some of the country's top restaurants, as well as resorts that defy comparison. There'll be nights poised atop cliffs overlooking the sea, mornings that dawn in sight of spectacular mountains, and always a grand meal awaiting to keep you fuelled for the journey.
What to expect
- Sample incredible local food at two of Australia's top lodges
- Choose from among 2,300 esteemed labels on the Royal Mail Hotel wine list
- Walk the natural palette that is the stunning Bay of Fires coastline
- Time: 14 days
- Distance: 1,800 kilometres (1,120 miles)
- Transport: car and plane
- Nearest major city: Melbourne
- Price: $$$
Day 1: Melbourne
Start your day by checking out Melbourne's hidden gems with a stroll through its street-art covered lanes such as Hosier Lane, Centre Place and Union Lane. Get an aerial perspective, and one of the city's most coveted dining experiences, with lunch at Vue de Monde. Located 55 floors up on a former observation deck, it offers a tasting menu equal to the view. Afterwards, sample high tea at the Hotel Windsor (it's been a Melbourne ritual for more than a century) or take a walk along the banks of Melbourne's Yarra River, to help build a healthy appetite for dinner at spectacular Attica, one of Australia's best restaurants. Stay the night at one of Art Series four super-stylish, art-inspired hotels across the city.
Day 2: Melbourne to Birregurra
Set out on Australia's most famous scenic drive, the Great Ocean Road, running west along a dramatic fringe of cliffs and beaches. Make morning stops in Anglesea and Lorne to settle into seaside life then, if it's the weekend, drive on to Skenes Creek for a Greek-inspired lunch at long-standing Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant. Drive 40 minutes inland from here to walk the one-hour track into spectacular Beauchamp Falls, which pours through tall mountain ash forest, before you continue inland to famed Brae. One of country Australia's finest restaurants, Brae is set around a 12-hectare (30-acre) organic food garden, the produce from which dictates each day's menu. Make home tonight one of Brae's six luxury suites, falling asleep beneath a skylight of stars.
Day 3: Birregurra to Dunkeld
Return to Lorne, continuing west on the Great Ocean Road. Admire the 12 Apostles, one of Australia's natural wonders and, if it's winter, stop in at Logan's Beach at the town of Warrnambool for the likely chance to see southern right whales. Lunch in lovely Port Fairy, once named the world's most liveable community, at the excellent Merrijig Kitchen before turning inland towards Grampians National Park, so named for the scenic Grampians mountain range. At the Grampians' southern foot in the town of Dunkeld you'll find the Royal Mail Hotel, a superb conversion of a country pub into a gourmet treasure. Much of the produce and meat comes from the hotel's own farm and the wine list is among the most comprehensive in Australia: around 2,300 different wines. The hotel's deluxe mountain view rooms, or its cottages and homestead at nearby Mt Sturgeon Station, make for a fine night's sleep.
Day 4: Dunkeld to Adelaide
Enjoy a morning exploring the Grampians. Drive through the town of Halls Gap and into the range to Wonderland car park, the starting point for an easy, 90-minute return walk. This walk rewards hikers with superb views over the area, and passes through a narrow sandstone slot known as Silent Street before coming to the Pinnacle, a protrusion of rock poking out from the edge of the range. For lunch, head to Harvest Halls Gap Cafe where pretty much everything on the menu is from the Grampians region. In the afternoon, drive west to the South Australian capital of Adelaide. Check in at Adelaide's newest luxury hotel, the gargoyle-fronted Mayfair Hotel, before setting off to Penfolds Magill Estate, eight kilometres (five miles) from the city, for dinner at one of Australia's most celebrated vineyards. Its restaurant produce is sourced from some of South Australia's finest farms, while the wine menu goes as far back as the earliest Grange, a shiraz made by Penfolds and one of Australia's most collectable wines.
Day 5: Adelaide to Kangaroo Island
Get an early flight from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, known as ‘KI’ to locals, to give yourself plenty of time to absorb the island. There are several world-class places to stay, like the five-bedroom One Kangaroo Island, which is perched above one of the island’s most beautiful beaches. There’s no shortage of food, wildlife and nature on this island, so choose a tour that suits your interests. Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours offers multi-day tours that explore the island’s unique animals and ecosystems. Take a walk through Seal Bay to see the sea lions that rest, hunt and play on Kangaroo Island’s coast. On a food and wine day tour with Kangaroo Island Trails, you’ll indulge in the island’s best produce, like Clifford’s Honey, Bay of Shoals Wines and Kangaroo Island Spirits.
Day 6: Kangaroo Island to Hobart
In the morning, fly to Adelaide and then to Hobart, Tasmania's capital city, where you'll arrive in the afternoon. Head straight to Hobart's subversive and stunning art gallery, MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). You'll need a few hours to take in the collection, not to mention the architecture of the subterranean gallery, which is carved into cliffs. Dinner and bed are close by if you've booked yourself into the stylish MONA Pavilions, a line of artistically themed and contemporary styled rooms notched along the bank of the Derwent River. A few steps away is MONA's superb Source restaurant. Pick a three, five, seven or nine-course dégustation and leave yourself in the hands of the chef, and whatever the season has produced in Tasmania.
Day 7: Hobart to Coles Bay
Spend the morning wandering Hobart's waterfront and artsy Salamanca Place, especially if it's Saturday and the famed Salamanca Market is on. Lunch in casual style at Frank, before making the 190-kilometre (120-mile) drive to the spectacular Tasmanian east coast and Saffire Freycinet. Recently named the world's best boutique hotel, Saffire draws its design inspiration from the surrounding natural environment. Dine in view of the pink-granite Hazards mountains at Saffire's Palate restaurant.
Day 8: Coles Bay
You've earned a bit of relative leisure, so stay put tonight at Saffire, enjoying a day of fine walking and fine food. Among Saffire's guest experiences is Le Pique Nique which takes you on a five-kilometre (three-mile) guided walk through the Hazards mountain range and down to the white sands of Wineglass Bay, one of Tasmania's signature natural sights. You'll cross the isthmus to Hazards Beach where a lunch of local seafood and produce awaits: oysters, cheeses, charcuterie. You'll be transferred back to Saffire by boat, where you can again settle into the views, savour a spa treatment and enjoy dinner once more at Palate.
Day 9: Coles Bay to Hagley
Your end point on this trip is the town of Launceston but first you'll spend a few more days on the stunning Tasmanian east coast, so continue north along the coast to St Helens and Binalong Bay. There's little to find at Binalong Bay (except a lot of perfect beach) but you will enjoy the excellent freshly shucked oysters on offer at Lease 65 Oyster Farm. Follow this up with a light lunch overlooking the bay at Lichen restaurant and cafe, where you'll get a taste of fine Tassie produce. Make a short side trip inland to the Pyengana Dairy Company for a selection of cheeses and ice-creams made on-site; you can try them in sight of the milking sheds at the dairy's eatery, Holy Cow Cafe. Drive past Launceston to the manor-like Quamby Estate for a night of country hospitality.
Day 10: Bay of Fires Lodge Walk
Begin a four-day guided journey on foot and in luxury along Tasmania's most colourful stretch of coast. The Bay of Fires Lodge Walk departs from Quamby Estate, giving you an easy morning of preparation before you're transported to near Tasmania's north-eastern tip. The first day you'll walk south along stunning beaches, passing granite headlands and outcrops pasted in orange lichen. The nine-kilometre (5.6-mile) walking day ends at the idyllic Forester Beach Camp, tucked among dunes behind a dazzling white sand beach. Snorkel in the protected waters, and then tuck into local produce on the camp's outdoor decks.
Day 11: Bay of Fires Lodge Walk
The coastal walking continues today for 14 kilometres (8.5 miles) along ever more brilliant beaches. After lunching in the shadow of a granite lighthouse, you'll walk to the exclusive Bay of Fires Lodge. Peering down to the ocean 40 metres (131 feet) below, the award-winning lodge is a beautiful complement to the walk. The only building along a 20-kilometre (12-mile) stretch of coast, it looks over the coast from two glass pavilions. Feel the effort of the day slip away with a treatment in the lodge spa before a dinner matched with Tasmanian wines and beer.
Day 12: Bay of Fires Lodge Walk
Today, it's a walk on water as the pace changes to leisurely kayaking on the meandering Ansons River and Ansons Bay. Paddling here offers a completely different perspective on the landscape, before you stroll through the dunes back to the lodge. Continue the day's water theme with an ocean swim, or perhaps another spa treatment is in order, after all, you worked a different part of your body today.
Day 13: Bay of Fires Lodge Walk to Launceston
On this final day of the Bay of Fires Lodge Walk, it's just a four-kilometre (2.5-mile) walk out from the lodge before you're transported back to Launceston, stopping along the way at boutique Apogee Vineyard, which produces single-vineyard-origin wines from its vines. There'll be time for a shower in your room at the Grand Chancellor Hotel before you head to Seaport, where a small cluster of restaurants and bars overhang the North Esk River. Dine at Mudbar, where fresh Tasmanian ingredients are infused with Asian flavours.
Day 14: Launceston
In the morning, stroll through Cataract Gorge, the cliff-lined ravine that runs like a seam through Launceston - the return walk to Duck Reach should take about 90 minutes. Plan an afternoon of wine tasting in the Tamar Valley, which runs north from Launceston. Start on the west bank with lunch in the Barrel Room restaurant at Vélo Wines, run by a one-time Olympic cyclist, and then enjoy a chardonnay or riesling under the trees at Goaty Hill Wines. Cross the river and sample the sparkling wines at the Jansz Wine Room before returning to Launceston for dinner at Stillwater, set inside a once-derelict 1830s flour mill. Created as a showcase for locally sourced food and wine, it's regarded as one of Tasmania's finest restaurants. From here, fly direct to Melbourne, Sydney or Hobart or spend a few more days exploring the Tamar Valley Wine Route in greater depth.