Top winter festivals to warm the senses this season

Words by Della Vreeland
Images Supplied

It’s no secret that we’re quite the winter champions here in Victoria. We don’t just mean in terms of leading the way when it comes to the season’s execution (does any other ((mainland)) state do it better?). But also in terms of advocating for the cooler months. God knows the winter gets a bad rap sometimes, but we’re here to tell the rest of Australia it is actually quite magical if you just give it a chance.

Since we’re so experienced at navigating the winter landscape, it comes as no surprise that our winter festivals and events are especially alluring. So when your visiting friends and relatives feel like harping on about how cold it is in Victoria, perhaps just take them along to one of these festivals and simply observe as the warmth penetrates their entire being. (Maybe also ask them to chuck on a few layers and a Kathmandu. For good measure.)

Borealis on the Lake: July 15 – September 4

BOREALIS On the LakeIt’s toured the world, and now it’s coming to Daylesford to light up the night sky as well as our own eyes. Created by internationally-renowned Switzerlandbased artist Dan Archer, Borealis on the Lake is set to be a captivating display which transports us to the Arctic Circle. Taking place at the iconic Lake Daylesford, the installation combines technology and art to create unique auroras with colour, movement, music, density of light beams and changing weather conditions to give infinite variations.  So rug up, pull up your picnic chair and hot choccie, and get set for a surreal northern experience down under.

Find out more here.

Nillumbik Open Cellars: June 18 – 19

Nillumbik Open CellarsCelebrating 21 years, Nillumbik Open Cellars is a winter showcase of the finest wineries of the region and a celebration of thriving culture of the Nillumbik community. The festival will feature 10 family-owned wineries each with their own individual style and will also serve up an array of local fare, art and live music. Vino-lovers will have a chance to sample traditionally-produced wines at wineries not always open to the public as they relish in the surrounding charm and history that the region’s backdrop provides.

More here.

White Night Shepparton: June 25

White Night SheppartonPlay all night. ‘Tis the White Night Shepparton motto. And while you might earn yourself a few extra degrees in Shepparton, we still recommend you rug up as you explore the town into the early hours of the morn. Heading to Shepp for the first time ever, hosting White Night is quite a coup for our friends up north. Enriched with a celebration of art and culture to showcase Shepparton’s history, the program will feature a plethora of enlightening experiences that pay respect to the past and present, and it’s set to be quite the delight.

Find out more.

Ballarat Winter Festival: June 25 – July 17

Ballarat Winter FestivalThis month-long festival has become a must-do on the annual winter calendar. A family-friendly festival with a whole multitude of events scattered across the city, punters can experience everything from ice-skating in the heart of the CBD to fire jousts at Kryal Castle, a design market to the spectacular Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights. This year’s festival will also welcome the highly-anticipated Skywhales balloon sculptures. Created by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, the monuments will fly over Ballarat on July 9 accompanied by music written by Canberra musician Jess Green.

Take a look at the program here.

GLOW: June 25 – July 17

Bendigo After DarkTaking place as part of Bendigo’s Ignite winter festival, GLOW is a sensory after-dark experience taking place in the city’s Rosalind Park. Produced by local audio-visual specialist Power AV, the showcase celebrates Bendigo through a vibrant display of light, colour and sound with 11 immersive installations and light projections to entertain the entire family.  GLOW is only one facet of the Ignite program, which is packed to the brim with food, fun and frivolities for all ages.

Details here.

Island Whale Festival: July 1 – July 3

Island Whale FestivalAn annual festival that celebrates the whale migration, this three-day extravaganza features a range of activities and educational endeavours spread across the famous Phillip Island. Locals and visitors alike will be able to engage with a range of entertaining activities including a whale discovery trail, dolphin and whale cruises, presentations, and a whole lot of arts and crafts sessions – deepening their appreciation of the wildlife and natural habitats of Phillip Island and the Bass Coast region.

Take a look here.

Yarra Valley Fireside: July 9 – July 24

Yarra Valley FireseideThis 16-day festival is perfectly-suited for those yearning to warm up their bellies this winter season. A delight for all the senses, Yarra Valley Fireside has a firm focus on showcasing the region’s outstanding culinary experiences – celebrating the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the finest locally-produced food and drink. With the festival set against the mesmerising landscape and moody skies of the Yarra Valley, you’ll find yourself cosying up by warming fires as you savour the crisp nights and ever-so-palatable dining experiences.

View the program here.

East Gippsland Winter Festival: June 17 – July 10

East Gippsland Winter FestivalThis winter festival is the perfect way to celebrate the beginning of the season as you embrace all that makes the cooler months so magical. Featuring a wealth of art, fine food and drink, and live music, you’ll find yourself welcomed by friendly locals and creative communities as you discover a whole series of pop-up events, lavish winter feasts, art installations, lantern parades, tours, workshops and much more.  Details here.

Take a look at our Regional Events & Festivals calendar to plan your weekends.


We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Aboriginal Street Art Project welcomes a new inspiring mural

Words: Teyha Nicholas   
Images: Supplied

The Aboriginal Street Art Project has unveiled a new sweeping mural in the regional city of Shepparton.

Nothing gives a city its character quite like street art. A vital part of cultural communication, street art (be that a mural or graffiti) can pop up on a telegraph pole, alongside train tracks and adorn once-government issue grey buildings.  While some of it is fleeting, the vast, visually arresting murals from the Aboriginal Art Street Project are anything but.

Just this month, the project’s newest mural has been unveiled along the length of the Goulburn Valley Water (GVW) building on Welsford Street in Shepparton. The mammoth new piece pays homage to two highly regarded Yorta Yorta elders, the late Aunty Violet Harrison and late Aunty Mary James. Both women played significant roles in their local Aboriginal communities across their lifetimes; such as co-founding both the Rumbalara Cooperative and Bangerang Cultural Centre, among other important community-based work.

The mural comes from the hand of one of street art’s most influential big wall painters, Matt Adnate, which marks his fourth mural for the project. Adnate is well regarded in the local Aboriginal community for his culturally-sensitive arts practice and his incredible craftsmanship. His other murals can be found at GVW walls on Fryers Street and Stewart Street and the Department of Health and Human Services wall on Welsford Street.

An important part of a city’s expression, street art not only transforms the aesthetic of a city, it also leaves an imprint of the zeitgeist. Commissioned and delivered by Greater Shepparton City Council, in collaboration with Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation, the Aboriginal Street Art Project is making visible the vibrant cultural heritage local to Shepparton – an important gesture of social activism.

The project,  named by locals ‘Dana Djirrungana Dunguludja Yenbena-l’, means ‘Proud, Strong Aboriginal People’ in Yorta Yorta language, is a provoking, inspiring celebration and recognition of local Aboriginal history. Take a wander through the region; there are five murals to be found.

WHAT: New mural for the Aboriginal Street Art Project
WHERE: Welsford Street, Shepparton
WHEN: Open at all times
MORE INFO: Visit Shepparton

We wish to acknowledge the Yorta Yorta people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Under the Surface ready to be traversed in East Gippsland

Words: Amanda Kennedy
Images: Supplied

This May, Under the Surface, a multi-dimensional public art experience is launching across East Gippsland, encouraging visitors to ponder and deepen their connections to the natural landscape.

The site-specific art trail, which follows the East Gippsland Rail Trail from Bairnsdale to Orbost, begins with and builds on stories from the Gunaikurnai people, the Traditional Owners of much of Gippsland. Through a cultural awareness program, the Gunaikurnai artists collective and visiting artists shared traditional stories and land management practices, as well as artistic practices and skills. The result? Five unique, large scale works that draw attention to and honour the environment and its ecology.

Local Indigenous artist Alice Pepper, in collaboration with non-Indigenous artist David “Meggs” Hooke, who is well-known for his large scale murals interweaving nature and industry, have artwork showing at Nowa Nowa underpass/tunnel in Nowa Nowa. Further west, Yuin artist and Gippsland local Patricia Pittman is presenting work Nicholson River Bridge in Nicholson.

Visiting artists also include graffiti/street artist Ling and Minna Leunig, an accomplished painter and muralist whose work focuses on native Australian plants and animals (and yes, she is also daughter of acclaimed cartoonist Michael Leunig). Ling’s artwork can be found at Orbost Butter Factory in Orbost; Leunig’s at Partelli’s Crossing, Tostaree.

A fruitful cross-cultural exchange between the Gunaikurnai community and the visiting artists, Under the Surface posits a timely reflection of our connection to land within an era of climate change.  The event designers and producers, The Social Crew, say they hope “the works will draw attention to the natural environment, assist in visual storytelling and connect and grow human relationships with the land through art.”

Tracing across farmland and forest, Under the Surface weaves along the former Orbost railway line and joins existing public artworks at the beginning of the rail trail by Alfie Hudson, another in Nicholson by local artist Tracey Solomon, and the water tank in Bruthen by Alan Solomon.

The project has been created with support from Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, the Victorian State Government, East Gippsland Shire Council, and the East Gippsland Rail Trail Committee, and is now live and ready for to be experienced.

WHAT: Under the Surface art trail
WHERE: Bairnsdale to Orbost, East Gippsland
WHEN: Opens May
MORE INFO: Under the Surface


We wish to acknowledge the Gunaikurnai people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Gippsland’s Creative Harvest festival January 2022 – growing from strength to strength

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

Did you buy some indoor plants over the last couple of years? Maybe you planted out a window box with a few herbs for your pandemic cooking sessions?  Perhaps you got the kids out into the backyard and started a no-dig garden. Not for nothing, did garden centres sell out of seedling and potting mix in early 2020.

The Covid pandemic has highlighted the tenuous nature of our food systems, prompting many people to invest in growing some of their own food. Whether your harvest was small or grand, there’s no denying the simple joy of eating something you’ve grown.

If that has left you hungry for more, Creative Harvest Festival (January 22nd  & 23rd ) could be the weekend event you’re looking for. Now in its fifth year, the group behind the event – Baw Baw Sustainability Network – are hoping to top last year’s record-breaking number of attendees, and they’ve pulled out all the stops to get you there.

There are 15 gardens open to visitors, from small suburban backyards to larger family-run farms. But it’s not all about growing your own food. The weekend also brings together more than 30 local artists and producers across a number of locations, showcasing their work and practice. Because as we also all learnt over the last couple of years to tap into our own creativity, when we’re not buried under the day-to-day busyness of commuting, working and socialising.

Creative HarvestGIVEAWAY

To celebrate the launch of Creative Harvest 2022 – the first weekend pass ticket purchases, will receive a tote bag designed by Helen Timbury Design valued at $30.


Creative Harvest Committee Chair, Wendy Savage sums things up perfectly.

Making our event more accessible to broader communities is a celebration of connectedness and creativity in all forms. It is fundamental to our wellbeing, especially in these uncertain times, and it is wonderful to see how a day out in the garden can inspire and create positive change.

So, here’s a taste of just some of the growers, makers and producers featured across the weekend.

  • AgriSolutions will be on hand to help gardeners get the most out of their soil and composting with their targeted approach to soil health management.
  • Join Come Fly With Me Beekeeping with their hives at Green Hills Farm in Yarragon South and learn what bee colonies have to teach us if only we pay attention.
  • Green Hills Farm produces grass-fed beef and garlic, as well as an orchard and vegetable plot that supplies local cafes & restaurants.
  • Based at the Butler Garden in Warragul, print-maker Helen Timbury will be displaying her work which celebrates the Australian landscape in all its wild, natural beauty.
  • Paul Stafford, self-taught tree craver and chainsaw sculptor will be on hand at Paul & Maureen’s Patch in Warragul, along with Kouark Wines and their wild-ferment pinot noir.
  • In Neerim South, you’ll find Kay Lancashire and her permaculture garden creating all manner of jewellery and wearable art, inspired by the natural shapes and textures she finds in her garden.

Children 17 and under are free and what better way to encourage the next generation of gardeners to get their hands dirty. There are plenty of treats and refreshments to keep you going throughout the day.


WHAT: Creative Harvest
WHERE: Various locations across West Gippsland
WHEN: Saturday & Sunday 22-23 January 10am-4pm

We wish to acknowledge the Bunurong and Gunaikurnai people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

A rise from the ashes for the Grampians Music Festival

Words by Della Vreeland
Images supplied

Four years ago, a newly-envisioned idea blasted out of the Grampians region.

And no, it wasn’t a volcano.

And while the effects of this venture were indeed volcanic, emotionally speaking, the surrounding effects were much more sublime.

The Grampians Music Festival (GMF) was established in 2017 with the initial aim of encouraging tourists to explore the region, particularly during its quietest tourism months.

But festival director Carly Flecknoe says the plan was quick to take on more complexity, implementing sustainability practices while also taking on a more diverse approach.

Initially joining as a committee member before taking on the reins as director, Carly says the festival also embraced the opportunity to educate and support local youth through its newly-formed GMF Mentor Program.

“That first festival, the committee and I saw the role a festival could actually play both in the local community and in the broader music scene,” Carly says. “So the aim of GMF changed dramatically over that second year.”

“We took our waste profile and environmental impact seriously and created strong environmental policies around what could and couldn’t be brought to the festival and how it was to be disposed. And we realised that we could not only give incredible up-and-coming artists a platform, but that we could choose to represent diversity on our stage – creating a policy of inclusion around gender, cultural background and sexuality.”

Quite an ambitious objective for a small-town festival. But one that was seamlessly achieved.

GMF was held in Halls Gap’s aptly-dubbed Valley Floor – a stunning sprawling paddock in the heart of the town, surrounded by the panoramic views and majestic mountains the Grampians is known for.

Over the years, acts such as Alex Lahey, Saskwatch, Polish Club, Ruby Fields, Sampa The Great, Wafia and Horsham’s own Alice Sky took to the stage.

At the last festival, the likes of Julia Jacklin, Ecca Vandal, DreamingNow, and Clypso and The Buoys filled the bill.

“There were so many amazing moments with larger than life artists being up close and personal with our audience in an intimate festival setting,” Carly says. “It was just incredible.”

The GMF team recently announced they would have to cancel the festival – indefinitely.

With the last event taking place in February 2020, the advent of the COVID pandemic had led to much financial duress, meaning it was no longer viable for it to continue.

“To be totally transparent, the 2020 festival, unfortunately, left us in debt after the impact of both the perception of bush fires in regional areas and the fear of COVID,” Carly says.

“If GMF were to resume at any point, it would be with the ability to still maintain the magic of what it was. If we can’t do that, then it just doesn’t feel right to start up again.”

As has been the case for many in the entertainment industry, the festival was faced with challenges related to insurance during the pandemic’s ruthless reign.

“We attempted to actually claim insurance last year from the impacts of COVID-19 and it was declined, Carly says. “Costs have also gone up since then and there is a mountain of paperwork, additional infrastructure and a COVID Marshall that is needed to be able to get insurance. As a small festival, this would be incredibly difficult to afford.”

All that being said, the GMF team seems undeterred from achieving its initial aims of community connection and the strengthening of the music scene.

As such as in keeping with the volcanic theme, it was announced that the festival would rise out of the ashes – so to speak – with a series of ongoing intimate events. Set to be held in smaller venues around the region, Carly says these soirees will encourage local communities to come together and experience the talent Victoria has to offer.

She says the events will be focused around the Grampians area in spaces that can host up to 200 people.

“We’ll be bringing back that intimate family feel in a way that is manageable in this new COVID environment,” she says.

Carly says the GMF team is currently working with state government bodies in order to secure funding and re-establish the festival – albeit in a different context.

“Currently, we have two events booked thanks to Creative Victoria and Music Victoria that will be happening in March and April. They haven’t been officially announced yet so you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled.”

And even if the festival doesn’t return in its previous form, Carly says the incorporation of music into community life is unlikely to be hampered.

“Music is part of community, of healing, of inspiring and of soothing. Song and sound have been the celebratory glue for people for as long as memory,” she says.

“The chance for people to come together, to experience music together, is part of our life blood. And if we can be part of that, by bringing amazing musicians and storytellers out to people, then that is a privilege.

“We would love (GMF) to come back. I feel like there was something special that was created there, and I don’t want that to fade away. But in the meantime, we’ll keep the magic and the connection alive in smaller ways, while we find our new ways of living in this COVID-19 world.”


WHAT: Grampians Music
MORE INFO: Grampians Music

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Deep in the Weeds network expands with The Producers food podcast

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

The Covid crisis has forced some to pull back while others have been inspired to take a risk. Co-founders at Deep in the Weeds network, Anthony Huckstep and Rob Locke fall into the latter camp, adding a fifth podcast to their growing stable. Along with hosts Dani Valent and John Susman, they bring experience and a unique perspective to food and drink journalism.

Podcasting, with its ability to connect to niche audiences in a very direct and intimate manner, makes a natural pairing to the fertile ground that is the Australian food industry. The team started with the eponymous Deep in the Weeds podcast in March 2020, giving voice to hospo workers during the Covid pandemic.

In July 2020 came: Dirty Linen with host Dani Valent bringing her journalist’s eye to hard-to-talk issues such as mental health, racism and misogyny and more; and The Crackling, a food podcast featuring conversations with chefs, producers and butchers primarily focusing on pork. July 2021 saw Fishtales, a seafood podcast showcase ‘below the surface’ stories from all parts of the seafood industry around the world.

The fifth and newest is food podcast The Producers which shares stories from the heart of our food system: the producers, farmers, growers and makers.  While only two episodes have currently been released, the guest list is surely endless.

It’s a fundamental given that we all eat but it is only recently that we’ve begun to realise the essential role food, and food industry workers, play in our lives. Whether they be a person who grows our food or a person who stacks supermarket shelves, we’ve all become a lot more cognisant of their vital part in the system.

As food systems were put under a lot more stress in the last two years, a number of newsletters, social media accounts and podcasts have stepped up to highlight the inequalities in the existing system. The more conversation there is around how food gets from the ground (or water) to our plate, the greater the chance that we will start to appreciate the actual cost and effort involved.

If nothing else, the lockdown sourdough craze taught us that a $7 sourdough loaf was actually a pretty good deal.


WHAT: The Producers podcast
WHERE: Wherever you listen to good podcasts
MORE INFO: Deep in the Weeds Network

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Kristen Proud shares how her bookstore sheds warmth amidst the crisis

Words by Della Vreeland
Images supplied

Kristen Proud had just completed Grade 4 when she learned how to read.

‘I come from quite a tumultuous background, so I moved schools eight times in primary school,’ the bibliophile says. ‘That meant the schools and teachers couldn’t support my learning.’

While Kristen didn’t learn to read adequately until later in primary school, it didn’t wane her desire to open a bookstore when she grew older. But it wasn’t until four and a half years ago that her dream was finally fulfilled.

Driving along Kyneton’s High Street (while on maternity leave), she and her partner saw an empty shopfront and jokingly remarked that maybe it was time to open up shop. ‘We joke now that if I hadn’t been so sleep deprived it probably would never have happened,’ Kristen laughs.

And so it was, after the birth of her daughter Vega, that Squishy Minnie was also born. Located in the heart of Kyneton in the Macedon Ranges, the indie bookstore conjures up feelings of warmth, community, nostalgia and connection.

Kristen says one of her venture’s primary aims is to connect with individual hearts through the power of stories.

‘Stories connect us and reflect ourselves, but also they help us understand other people’s experiences,’ she says.

‘Regional people, in particular young people, don’t have as much access to literature to have that connection with books. So they might be coming to Squishy Minnie and going through the books like a library, or we might have authors come to the store because they want to share their love (of books).

I want for young people and kids to have access to literary events and leave here feeling nourished.

Kristen says she hopes young people will also be inspired by her own story, and realise you don’t need to be an advanced reader to lead an enriched life. Immersing herself in The Baby-Sitters Club and books from the likes of John Marsden at a young age, she says there were specific authors that particularly resonated with her and helped form her passion for books.

‘Life wasn’t easy as a teenager, so I found solace in John Marsden and other young adult novels. I felt like I was being heard and seen.’

Growing up under difficult circumstances, Kristen affirms her testing life imbued in her the capacity to overcome difficulties.

For this reason, she believes she was able to efficiently navigate through the trials of running a business during a global health pandemic. With a Masters in Public Health, Kristen made the decision to close Squishy Minnie early last year – before the effects of COVID were fully realised in Australia.

‘I was hearing things from our friends overseas and waiting for our government to do something and they didn’t,’ she recalls. ‘It was March during one of our Storytime sessions, which are always very busy, and I was watching the kids touch the books and thought, if anyone in this room had COVID, we would all contract it.

‘We made a decision to close early and I was sick to the stomach about it. I had this sense that people would think I was crazy and fear mongering.’

While the shop closed its doors to the public, Kristen swiftly implemented a number of tactics in order to maintain connection with community. Online shopping was further promoted, book clubs moved to an online platform, and Storytime was also hosted online by her much-loved partner Lucky – attracting up to 200 people every week.

‘I think if you are in the face of adversity, you just think, how do you move through that or around it,’ she says.

That being said, the COVID lockdowns still had a severe impact on business, especially since the shop’s main visitation was from regional Victoria.

‘This year has been particularly hard because people from regional Victoria haven’t been able to come and pick up their books, which has been particularly disastrous,’ she says. ‘We sold more online that I thought we would, but still made a huge loss.

‘The nature of our business is that it’s very tactile. We want people touching books and opening them up and looking at them, and we’ve spent years telling our customers that they can do that. So then to retract that is hard.’

Having lived in Kyneton for about eight years, Kristen firmly believes the town’s strong sense of community is one of its most alluring attributes.

Makes sense then, that her bookstore too strives to bring people together under the banner of community. COVID or not, this will always be the case.

‘People here care about their neighbours and it’s hard to quantify, but it makes life warm and rich,’ she says.

‘We are taking it one day at a time and thinking a lot about what young people are going to need moving forward and how stories or books might play a role in that.

‘For us it’s not really about selling books, but really about being a community space which celebrates literature.’


WHAT: Squishy Minnie Bookstore
WHERE: 6 High Street, Kyneton

We wish to acknowledge the Taungurung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Vibrant lifestyle precinct to open in the historic Goods Shed, Ballarat

Images Supplied

Just weeks after being crowned Victoria’s Top Tourism Town 2021, the news is out that Ballarat will be home to a major new retail, hospitality and entertainment precinct, The Goods Shed.

Opening in October this year, the project is a substantial redevelopment of heritage-listed goods shed adjacent to Ballarat Train Station and will see a variety of spaces for eateries and local retailers open up, as well as a Convention centre, outdoor plaza and even a Quest hotel, making it the perfect spot for a weekend hangout.

The restoration and revival is being championed by revered building group Pellicano in partnership with Atlantic Group, who have set the intention of creating a warm, thriving hospitality and lifestyle hub. An all-day cafe featuring fresh, local produce is set to star, as well as an Asian grab-and-go kiosk for dumplings and more, while a local brewery and gin offering – Melbourne’s Little Lon bar – will be serving drinks into the night.

Punters who fancy more than just filling their bellies can pop down to the state-of-the-art theatrette for a local play, TED Talk, independent movie screening or conference, or soak up the thriving scene in the landscaped community and events plaza. While the collection of private events spaces curated by Atlantic Group are aimed at weddings, corporate events, social gatherings and parties, if their previous spaces are anything to go by, these venues are going to look amazing.

The Goods Shed Ballarat has been made possible with a $28 million Victorian Government investment in the Ballarat Station Precinct Redevelopment, and from what we can see, it’s going to pay off.

WHAT: The Goods Shed
WHERE: Corner Lydiard Street North and Nolan Street, Ballarat
WHEN: October 2021
MORE INFO: The Goods Shed

Winners of the inaugural Top Tourism Town Awards announced

Images Supplied

Over 23,000 public votes have been counted and the tribe has spoken.

After what has been a highly anticipated and toughly fought battle for the title of Victoria’s Top Tourism Town, the Victorian Tourism Industry Council has crowned their winners and its Ballarat and Port Fairy who have taken the top honours for 2021.

Loved by locals and visitors alike for its thriving arts scene, diverse culinary landscape and award-winning attractions, Ballarat has been named Victoria’s Top Tourism Town for a town with a population over 5,000. The regional town was awarded Gold by both a judging panel and public vote at a ceremony in Bendigo and is certainly a sign of Ballarat’s sensational development as a tourist destination.

In the Top Small Tourism Town category (population under 5000), Port Fairy took the gong – a strong achievement for a fishing village at the end of the Great Ocean Road. Its buzzing local art scene, wide tree-lined streets and stunning natural environment make it a favourite amongst city-slickers looking for an escape, and now they’ve got a trophy to prove it.

Both Victorian Gold Winners will go on to contend for the title of Australia’s Top Tourism Town, which will be announced at Parliament House in Canberra on September 2nd 2021.

As for the other honours, Lakes Entrance was awarded Silver and Bendigo was awarded Bronze in the Top Tourism Town category, while Timboon was awarded Silver and Apollo Bay awarded Bronze for the Top Small Tourism Town awards.

30 destinations were nominated for the prestigious award, which recognises and celebrates towns that excel in providing an outstanding visitor experience. After a difficult year for the tourism sector, the achievements showcase each town’s unwavering commitment to tourism and success at creating a wonderful experience for all travellers.

WHAT: Victoria’s Top Tourism Town Awards
WHERE: Ballarat and Port Fairy
WHEN: July 14th 2021
MORE INFO: Victoria’s Top Tourism Town Awards

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

A new 3 week festival is coming to East Gippsland this winter

Images Supplied

One takeaway from 2020 we’re glad to embrace is the backyard getaway. Amidst the uncertainty of international (and at times interstate) travel, there’s never been a better time to explore your own state. From charming small towns, a vibrant arts scene, local produce the envy of many, spectacular coastlines, excellent eateries and much more, there’s one place that has this all wrapped up – East Gippsland.

East Gippsland Winter Festival (June 18 to July 11) is a celebration of all things art, music, wine, craft beer and local produce. Spread over three weeks there will be a raft of activities including interactive art installations, pop-up events, live music, workshops, exclusive dinners and lavish feasts showcasing the best the region has to offer.

With bushfires, drought and Covid challenging many a local business, festival founder Adam Bloem was looking for a way to attract more people to the region. ’I wanted something that encouraged people to stay a bit longer and travel around and explore all of the little towns and villages.’

We now have over 70 events on our festival program and the majority of these have been devised and organised by local businesses, community groups and passionate locals. The response has been overwhelming and we can’t wait to welcome thousands of visitors to East Gippsland over winter where there will be lots of things to see, do, eat and drink right across the region.

From Mallacoota to Paynesville, north to Omeo and everywhere in between, friendly locals can’t wait to share their special corner of the world with you. Kick it off on Friday, June 18 with the official festival opening in Bairnsdale with live music and roving performers, as well as a bevy of food/wine options and art projections throughout the town.

Pencil in the Pinot Picnic and Masterclass on Sunday, June 20 thanks to the acclaimed Sardine Eatery + Bar and Lightfoot & Sons Winery. This not-to-be-missed event salutes Gippsland Lakes District’s exceptional pinot noir at Lightfoot and Son’s cellar door. The winemaker-guided Masterclass will take place in their barrel room with guests enjoying a Sardine Eatery picnic box filled with cheese, charcuterie and conserves.

This year’s winter solstice on Monday, June 21 just happens to coincide with World Bathing Day. Join bathers from across the globe at sunrise for a live-streamed Global Sound Bath. From the new pop-up bathing area on the future Metung Hot Springs site, drink in the beauty of the natural surrounds for a calm and balanced start to your day.


The Lakes Light Festival on Saturday, June 26 promises to be a festival highlight. Watch a mural painting as it unfolds in both a virtual sense and in reality at the former iceworks factory, and now arts hub, in Lakes Entrance.

Is it time to unleash your inner artist? Then don’t miss the lantern making workshop on Tuesday, June 29 in Swifts Creek. This idyllic town in the Tambo Valley is quickly developing a strong reputation for its arts scene and part in the Great Alpine Arts Trail. Experienced local artists will guide you through the process and shine a light on your creative side. Great fun for all ages!

One of the festival standouts has to be the Sailors Grave Deep Winter Festival on Saturday, July 3. Sailors Grave is a darling of the craft beer scene for good reason. Their complex beers (and idiosyncratic branding) tell the story of their unique region, their terroir. None more so than their recent release Dark Emu Dark Lager, a collaboration with Uncle Bruce Pascoe honouring indigenous culture and knowledge.

The Deep Winter event kicks off at 6 pm at the home of Sailors Grave brewery, a 100-year-old butter factory on the banks of the Snowy River. Music will be provided by post-punk Oz rock band Shepparton Airplane and other special guests, with food by Melbourne butchers Meatsmith. Co-founders Gab and Chris Moore can’t wait to welcome you.

By now you’re thinking it might be a great idea to plan a little exercise and thankfully the area has some of the most scenic trails in the state. Little River Gorge Walk will certainly get the blood pumping but also rewards that effort with a stunning view over one of Victoria’s deepest gorges and the mis-named Little River. Of course, a leisurely stroll around one of the area’s many lakes might be more your pace. Check out some of the options here.

So many activities – both day and night – means you’re going to need somewhere to stay. With accommodation options from traditional B&Bs, luxe glamping or maybe a waterside retreat complete with mooring for your boat, there’s no excuse not to head east this winter.


WHAT: East Gippsland Winter Festival
WHERE: Various locations around East Gippsland
WHEN: Saturday 19th June – Sunday 11th July 2021
MORE INFO:  Register for program updates at the East Gippsland Winter Festival website.