Our picks for an unforgettable Macedon Ranges Autumn Festival experience

When we think about the Macedon Ranges and autumn time, our hearts can’t help but fill with glee.

It’s not just the thought of the landscapes morphing into tones of auburn, yellow and tan that get us giddy, it’s also knowing that this time of year in the Ranges is synonymous with good food, good music and a festival that celebrates the best of the region.

The Macedon Ranges Autumn Festival takes place every year across nine of the region’s quaint villages including Kyneton, Woodend, Malmsbury, and Lancefield – showcasing the charm of this central Victorian district while celebrating the artisans and makers that contribute to its rich cultural fabric.

Held between the 5th and 28th of April, the festival features more than 50 events including local farmers markets, artisan workshops, guided walks and presentations, and an abundance of food and drink festivities to tantalise all the senses.

Here are our recommendations for an autumn festival well spent.

Treasure Trail

A new addition to the program, the Autumn Festival Treasure Trail is held across eight locations and encourages one and all to explore some of the region’s iconic landmarks. From the Malsmbury Botanic Gardens to the Kyneton Mineral Springs, Woodend Children’s Park to Lancefield Recreation Reserve, festival-goers can pack their baskets, enjoy the lush and leafy surrounds, and gather some clues along the way for their chance to win the annual festival prize package.

Food Trails

One of the best ways to get a taste of the region’s flavours and ingredients is through the Macedon Ranges Autumn Pie and Tart Trail. More than 40 venues will be participating in this year’s trail, making it the largest known pie trail in Australia. There’s even some fancy gluten-free options available. Whether you need to sate your sweet tooth or your savoury-seeking palate, you’ll be able to curate your own trek and seek out some of the best bakeries, cafes, restaurants and cellar doors around town. While we’re keen to try the Banoffee Pie at Hanging Rock Cafe and the Mushroom Pie at Riddells Creek, we challenge you to devour all 43 treats! Because – When in Rome! (Right?).

DV Cider House will be putting on display the incredible community of  farmers and artisan producers that are part of the Deep Creek Valley. The 5-course lunch is not one to miss, featuring the finest produce from  Summerleigh Farm, Madaleine’s Eggs, Dreaming Goat Dairy, Wildwood Organics, Chin Chin Farm, Sourced Fungi with each course paired with a craft cider from DV Cider. Get your tickets here.

This year’s festival will also feature an Edgy Veg Trail, with select cafes, pubs and restaurants creating innovative plant-based dishes that will tickle your taste-buds and stop you in your tracks. The eateries will all be vying for the title of best plant-based dish, so make sure to cast your vote!

Tipple Trails

The festival Tipple Trails are a real highlight, showcasing some of the finest brewers, ciders, distillers and pubs of the region. Kyneton is a mecca for fine drinks, and some of the towns most legendary venues like Botanik, Piper St Wine Co and Animus Distillery will be thrilling guests with their creative concoctions!

Other Tipple Trail options include traversing the grape growing regions from Malmsbury to the Cobaw Ranges with the Autumn Red Wine Lovers Trail. Or go of piste to explore the regions quaint pubs and watering-holes with the Backcountry Tipple Trail, guaranteed to bring a few surprises.

Then after a long-day of touring the beautiful Macedon Ranges a perfect wind-down setting awaits at Big Tree Distillery for their enticing Sunset Gin Cocktails & Canapes event.

Live and Local

A festival is only as good as its live tunes, and the Macedon Ranges Autumn Festival has this year taken things up a notch with its new Live and Local gigs. Performing every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the Festival, a whole range of local artists will take to the historic community halls, including the likes of blues artist Jarrod Shaw and pop rock band The Whiskey Rogues, folk duo Valley Road and four-piece psychedelia band The Mods.

Arts workshops and exhibitions

What we love about this particular festival is its dedication to the arts. There is a whole series of workshops to suit a range of interests so you can unleash your inner creator and let it run wild. The program includes everything from a glass lampwork bead workshop where you can use a torch to create your own glass beads, through to eco printing and various painting workshops, and even a workshop to create your own fused glass platter and set of coasters.

The festival’s commitment to the arts continues with a number of exhibitions featuring the work of local artists. Explore some of the region’s quaint galleries and spaces as you peruse art across a range of mediums – from the bold colour palettes of Jacklyn Foster to the Poetry in Print group exhibition, there’s a display of works for all tastes.

Events galore

We’ve only given you a glimpse of the jam-packed program of events, so make sure you check out the festival website, make a list and check it twice before you plan your Macedon Ranges autumn getaway.


WHAT: Macedon Ranges Autumn Festival
WHEN: April 5 to 28, 2024
WHERE: Various villages across the Macedon Ranges
MORE INFO: visitmacedonranges.com/autumn-festival

Your ultimate guide to June / July school holiday activities across Victoria

You are just recovering from the endless long weekends and the sudden increase in cold-induced sick days. Now with the mid-year school holidays about to start, you’ve got two weeks of trying to keep the little ones entertained. Allow us to lend a little hand with our ultimate list of family-friendly activities outside of the city.

Winter Wonderlights – Sovereign Hill

June 24 – July 16

Winter WonderlightsIt’s one of Victoria’s great winter experiences and of course, it goes straight to the top of the list. Throughout the day, the wonderful Sovereign Hill experience is taken up a few notches with ‘snow’ falling from the sky, Christmas-themed theatre and arts and crafts. Come nightfall, the light show lights up the buildings with a dazzling display.

Get your tickets here.

East Gippsland Winter Festival – Various

June 9 – July 9

East Gippsland Winter FestivalThe East Gippsland Winter Festival has been running for a couple of weeks now and we are hearing fantastic things. For the adults there’s an unbeatable lineup up of art, food, drink and nature based events to choose from. The more family-focused activities include  Lakes Lights at Lakes Entrance (July 1) a stargazing boat cruise and a beach naturalist excursion.

Full program here.

Lost Dogs’ Disco – Narre Warren

June 24 – July 16

Bunjil PlaceBunjil Place in Narre Warren seems to have an endless program of really interesting events and this school holidays is no different. In Lost Dogs’ Disco, visitors journey through an immersive installation of 16 dogs, some up to 5.5m tall: all in various states of repose – curled up, standing, even touching noses. The installation is the hub for a whole series of workshops, movie nights and craft activities running right through the holidays.

Find out more here.

Electric Wonderland – Bendigo

June 23  – July 9

Bendigo School HolidaysGet the family all rugged up and head to Rosalind Park in Bendigo for an immersive light show experience. Using all the latest in audio and lighting technology, the park will come alive with a light concert, a giant inflatable Astronaut an interactive flower park and interactive kids zones.

Find out all the details here. 

Winter Glow – Bellarine Peninsula

June 16  – July 16

Winter GlowWe always seem to miss the open season for this fabulous looking water park on the Bellarine Peninsula, however this year they are opening for a special winter experience just for the school holidays. Come along and build a snowman with snow falling from the sky in their purpose built Snow Play Zone. Watch the amazing light installation, ice-sculpting, fire-twirling and toast marshmallows by an open fire.

Find out how that’s all even possible here.

Ballarat Winter Festival

June 24 – July 16

Ballarat Winter FestivalThe city of Ballarat turns up the heat once again this winter with their always impressive winter festival. Bring the whole family for everything from ice skating to disco anthems and fire jousting; to getting cosy with kangaroos and a Christmas in July event like no other.

Discover more here.

Victoria’s Ski Fields

June to October

Ski Events VictoriaAs if sliding down hills in toboggans, building snow persons and enhancing ski and snowboard skills isn’t enough activity. Some of the ski resorts are really turning on this winter. At Mt Baw Baw you can take a walk with resident dingos Rowdy, Warragul (Gully) and Bunji. Every Tuesday afternoon at Falls Creek, there’s a family-friendly street party with music, games and a fire pit to toast marshmallows over. At Mt Hotham there will be a fireworks display lighting up the sky every Wednesday once night falls.

Eynesbury Winter Festival – Eynesbury Estate

June 23 – July 9

Eynesbury Winter FestivalEynesbury Estate is just 40 minutes from Melbourne CBD and easy access from Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. Their winter festival is really something to behold with magic shows, circus performances, pony rides and roving Disney characters. However, it’s the ice skating rink that will really get the kids excited.

Plan your visit here.

Magic Show & Workshop – Bellarine Railway

June 27 and July 4

Bellarine RailwayKids love trains and kids love magic. No one understands why, so instead of fighting it why not take them to a magic show on a  real-life steam train! Leaving from Queenscliff station, Dazzling Dan the Magic Man will entertain and delight the little ones on a 45 minute return trip to Lakers Siding. Kids are encouraged to don their own magician outfits too.

Get all the details here.

Island Whale Festival – Phillip Island

June 30 – July 2

Phillip Island Whale FestivalPhillip Island is one of the best spots to watch Humpback whales as they start their migration north to warmer waters. The Island Whale Festival is a celebration of all things whales with a full program of kids activities, art installations, whale cruises and virtual reality experiences.

Download the full program here.

Open Range Art – Bendigo Art Gallery

July 5 & 6

Bendigo School Holiday ActivitiesThe Bendigo Art Gallery is well-known for its educational and fun kids program. These school holidays sees the launch of Open Range Art, a space for kids of all ages to get experimental with a variety of fun art making materials such as coloured paper, washi tape, sequins and much more.

Book a free time slot.


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

Hume City – the ideal weekend destination

Words by Jay Dillon
Images supplied

An abundance of food options, some of Victoria’s oldest wineries, rolling greens hills and an abundance of quality accommodation, Hume City is the perfect weekend getaway without the gruelling long drive.  As part of the upcoming Hume Winter Lights Festival, we head out  to explore this vibrant and diverse outer region.

The Hume City region sits on the outer north of Greater Melbourne, starting from the Metropolitan Ring road on its southern end and stretching north right up past Sunbury and east to the developing suburbs of Campbellfield and Craigieburn. The Gunung-Willam-Balluk clan have an unbroken connection to the land that dates back 40,000 years. 

Today, Hume City is one of Australia’s fastest growing regions, however, the agricultural history is still evident throughout.  Woodlands Historic Park is a state park where you’ll find a rare example of a large pre-constructed timber kit house imported from Britain and constructed in 1863. The property is also home to the The Living Legends tours, where visitors can get up close to champion race horses who are now in retirement. The homestead is surrounded by magnificent heritage gardens and to make your visit complete, visitors can find respite in the homestead cafe between 10am-3.30pm each day for their famous ​​Devonshire Tea.

Living Legends Woodlands Historic Park

For those seeking something a little more adventurous, Hume City is also home to Australia’s first surf park. URBNSURF was opened to much fanfare in January 2021 and features a wave machine that can generate up to 1000 waves per hour. The shape and speed of the wave can be controlled, resulting in scheduled sessions throughout the day that are designed for surfers at varying levels. Urbnsurf is a truly full day experience with other activities such as yoga, skating and a hot tub with views across the surfing lagoon. The onsite restaurant from Three Blue Ducks serves up quality grilled meats, burgers and salads for breakfast lunch and dinner.

Surfing Hume

Hume City is blessed with a huge variety of options for even the most fussy of foodies. O’Shanassy Street in Sunbury has quickly become a popular destination for eating out with its tree-lined streetscape and alfresco dining. The east side of Hume City is a treasure trove of international cuisines. Falafel Moudy is a demonstration of falafel expertise. In Craigieburn, Shisha Basha is a homage to the very best of Middle Eastern cuisine and Baladi Lebanese Bakery in Roxburgh park will have you lined up for their outrageously good cheese and spinach fatayers.

Travellers to Hume City are often surprised to find that a region so close to the city is host to quality cool-climate wineries and cellar doors. Arundel Farm Estate is set on 300 acres of prime farmland on the Keilor valley. 20 acres are under vine, predominately with shiraz and viognier. Guests to the cellar door can enjoy a free wine tasting every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In 2018 a 200 seat restaurant was added to the property with a  focus on traditional and modern Italian food. Guests can select from the a la carte menu with entree options including grilled Western Australian octopus and mains of fresh market fish cooked Neapolitan style or a rolled porchetta served with a fennel and saffron puree and roasted apple. The pasta and wood-fired pizzas are also very popular and a favourite for families.

North-west of here, on the edge of Sunbury sits Craiglee Vineyard. This historic bluestone winery was originally built in 1863 by prominent businessman and parliamentarian James Stewart Johnston, making it one of Australia’s oldest working vineyards. These days visitors come for the award-winning cool-climate shiraz and chardonnay crafted by winemaker Patrick Carmody, who opens the cellar door to guests on the first Sunday of the month.

Marnong Estate sits on the border of the Sunbury Wine Region – one of Victoria’s oldest wine regions. Planted out in 2016, the low average temperatures are perfect for shiraz, pinot grigio, chardonnay and pinot grigio. The property includes luxurious accommodation and three dining options. La Vètta is an invitation to experience the best of high-end Italian dining. Cucina 3064 is a relaxed and casual Italian trattoria for the whole family. Lastly, guests can pick up a fresh panini and a bottle of Marnong Chardonnay from Caffè Vista for the perfect lawn picnic.

Marnong Estate

Being so close to Melbourne Airport means the region has an abundance of other accommodation options such as ParkRoyal Melbourne Airport, Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport, and the cute bucolic cabins at Airport Tourist Village.

Positioned right on the edge of where the city meets the country means that Hume City has an abundance of places for visitors to get close to nature. The Nook is a quiet little parkland close to the centre of Sunbury, with a delightful duck pond at its centre. Jack Roper Reserve in Broadmeadows features an adventure playground and walking trails around a picturesque lake that is sometimes stocked with trout ready for the keen angler. To really get a lay of the land, head to Mount Ridley Lookout. This well maintained green space has spectacular views across Craigieburn and right through to the city of Melbourne. On a sunny day, families gather here to enjoy a picnic and to let the kids burn off some energy on the playground and rolling down the hill.

Hume Winter Festival

The annual Hume Winter Lights Festival (Saturday 17 June), is an award-winning winter event withe live music, light projections, roving performances, workshops and more.  However, as you can see the Hume City has far more than can be possibly expressed in a one day festival, rather it is a fascinating place of contrasts that reveals itself fully only to the regular explorer. 


What: Stay and Play in Hume City for the Hume Winter Lights Festival (June 17)
Where: 30-minute drive North of Melbourne CBD, a 45-minute train ride from Flinders Street Station, or a 5-20 minute drive from Melbourne Airport.
More inspiration: @discoverhume

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

Tickets are now on sale for Sovereign Hill’s famous Winter Wonderlights

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images supplied

Everyone loves a white Christmas, but we Aussies rarely get to experience it the way our European friends do. Unless you head to Ballarat from June 24.

Victoria’s most popular living museum, Sovereign Hill, is once again hosting its Winter Wonderlights Festival: a three-week bright, white Christmas-themed extravaganza.

Just 90 minutes from Melbourne, it’s the perfect spot to take the family for the school holidays – and don that daggy Christmas sweater you’ve been saving.

Christmas in July

Imagine cosying up by the fire, drinking a mug of hot chocolate while fairy lights twinkle nearby. Sound good?
Now add a brilliant light show illuminating a century’s-old Gold Rush museum into the picture.
You’re starting to get an image of Sovereign Hill’s Winter Wonderlight Festival.

Sovereign Hill

From 24 June to 16 July, the Sovereign Hill streetscape will transform into a snow and light-filled space, sure to dazzle visitors from young to old. There’s a bustling schedule of family-friendly daytime and night-time activities, opportunities to meet Saint Nicholas himself, and enough Christmas-themed treats to last the year.

With so much on offer, we thought we’d give you our pick of the activities. So you can worry less about scheduling – and focus more on merrymaking.

Bright lights, little city

We must begin with the hero of the festival: the light show!

Each night after sundown (around 5.30 pm), Sovereign Hill’s Main Street transforms into a rainbow of light and imagery. Designed in tandem with Electric Canvas – the team behind much of Melbourne’s White Night – these displays are nothing short of magical.

Candy canes twinkle above an antique sign. Neon bows loop and unloop on a tin veranda. Paired with the Christmas carols echoing through the street and faux snow pluming into the air, it’s a feast for all the senses.

The projections finish at 7 pm and can be very busy. So we recommend starting at the top of the hill and meandering through Main Street towards the exit rather than away. You’ll dodge the big crowds and enjoy a better view.

Winter Wonderlights

Warm up your winter with these old-school activities

A regular day pass will buy you all day and night access to the museum. That means you can enjoy plenty of daytime activities and the light show for one affordable price.

Famous for its Gold Rush character, Sovereign Hill has ample activities for the whole family. From candle-making and horse and cart rides to gold panning and lolly eating – you could easily spend three days at the museum and still have more to see.

If you’re travelling with children, you can’t miss the gold panning. We recommend bringing gumboots because things can get wet as you sift through the mud for the treasures.

Once you’ve exhausted the pan, stop by the lolly shop, Brown’s Confectionary, to taste its famous boiled raspberry drops. Handmade to a traditional recipe, these treats are especially sweet in winter.

Continue the shopping spirit with a stroll through the European-inspired Christmas Market. Grown-ups looking to imbibe can warm up with a mulled wine. And there’s gingerbread for the little ones.

Costumed characters walk around throughout all areas, performing pantomimes and interacting with guests. You can find Saint Nicholas and ask for a photograph if you’re lucky. These actors are the final flourish of a very immersive experience.

You can also head to the Victoria Theatre on-site to watch a scripted theatre performance, which we hear is Christmas themed too. A carefully created replica of the eponymous 1850s Ballarat theatre, the space and the stories told there transport viewers to a bygone era.

Winter Wonderlights

Our tips for a smooth stay

The Winter Wonderlight Festival is extremely popular, with tickets selling out quickly. So your best move is to plan your trip and book early.

Here are our top tips to ensure your visit is fun and friction-free.

  1. Book early: We can’t say it enough. Tickets are available now via the Sovereign Hill website. A wide range of access is available, from single to family passes.
  2. Rug up: It’s no secret that Victoria’s Central Highlands get cold. The days in Ballarat average 10 degrees, so be prepared for even chillier nights.
  3. Make a weekend of it: Because the light show is only visible at night, it’s a good idea to book an overnight – or weekend – stay. There are plenty of accommodation options in nearby Ballarat. And if you want to continue the historical theme, BIG4 just opened a holiday park next to Kryal Castle.
  4. Reserve a table: The restaurants inside Sovereign Hill tend to fill up early. So if you’re looking to eat on-site, call or pop in ahead of time to book your seats.
  5. BYO marshmallows: There are places to roast them, but sadly no places to buy them. You will be the envy of everyone there.

Winter Wonderlight Festival
Sovereign Hill Museum, Bradshaw St, Golden Point
24 June – 14 July 2023
Book your tickets here

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

Head to Deans Marsh for its first mushroom foraging festival in May

Words by Anthea Riskas
Images by Jay Dillon & supplied

The Otway’s best-kept secret and local gem – The Store – is hosting the very first Deans Marsh Foraging Festival, celebrating all things fungi over a packed weekend of activities in May.

Nestled in the hinterland, 20 minutes inland from Lorne, The Store is a one-stop-general-shop in the true sense, bringing a café, bar, bottle shop, homewares, and a communal space to gather, shop, eat and connect.

Foraging Festival Dean's Marsh

Old-fashioned service, paddock-to-plate dining and a proper, city-level decent coffee, are reasons to visit all on their own, but if you need an “excuse” and you’re curious about all things mushrooms, the inaugural Foraging Festival is your chance to head into the forest May 20th-21st.

James McLennan will be hosting 3-hour, introductory, foraging tours Saturday and Sunday morning, where you’ll head out into the local surrounds and literally get your hands dirty picking some of the popular, local pine species.

Learn how to safely identify mushrooms, harvest with the environment in mind and cook and store them for maximum enjoyment. You’ll then head back to The Store for a snack prepared by James and a glass of something delicious to toast to your newfound skills to.

Foraging Festival Dean's Marsh

Saturday afternoon you can join naturopath Carly Merlo out at Gentle Annie Berry Farm, to explore the benefits of mushrooms when it comes to the merging of diet and a holistic approach to health. Afternoon tea is included.

Saturday evening, The Store’s head chef Sion Harwood will be taking you on a culinary, 5-course, degustation journey, showcasing the best of the region’s produce and celebrating the hero ingredient, at its best during the height of the foraging season.

A local drop will be expertly paired with each course and the discourse is sure to get your thinking as special guest, Dr Tim O’Hare, will be joining diners to discuss his research and deep interest in using psylocibins to treat mental illness. A truly unique dinner experience awaits!

If DIY is more your style, Sunday afternoon is for you, as Tamara Griffiths teaches you how to propagate, produce and use the King Stropharia in a range of garden settings. You’ll learn, lunch and take home your own growing kit to get your mushroom crop started.

Bookings are essential, prior experience unnecessary and don’t forget to check what to pack for your adventure!

Foraging Festival
Deans Marsh
When: 20-21 May
More Info: The Store
Bookings: HERE

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

Savour the flavours of the past at Sovereign Hill’s Heritage Harvest Weekend

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images supplied

As autumn sets in, bringing with it auburn leaves and crisp morning air, many of us are looking for ways to warm up — our hearts and our bellies.

The Heritage Harvest Weekend at Sovereign Hill returns on May 27th – 28th, bringing together the community for a celebration of abundant seasonal harvest and heritage craftsmanship. It’s a golden opportunity to journey back to the Gold Rush era and discover how our nineteenth-century ancestors preserved and prepared their produce.

Heritage Harvest Festival

Over 30 vendors, mostly local, will take over the historic Sovereign Hill site for the weekend, showcasing their skills in fermenting, drying, salting, and curing food, as well as distilling. These age-old skills have been passed down through generations, and this event provides an opportunity to experience them firsthand.

But it’s not just about observing these skills in action. This weekend is designed to get your hands dirty, your plates full, and your mind inspired.

Three chefs, including the renowned Tony Tan and Tim Bone will be on-site to provide demonstrations, showcasing their expertise and sharing their culinary tips and tricks.

Tim Bone — Ballarat’s own Masterchef semi-finalist turned professional chef — will put his flair for bold, hearty flavours into gear with a special and intimate Miners Fare Masterclass. We’ve been told he gives the iconic baked bean a modern-day twist — which obviously must be seen to be believed.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a celebration of Gold Rush food without a taste of Asia. Australia’s top Asian cuisine chef and teacher Tony Tan unveils the ancient art of dumpling making in his interactive workshop.

For those looking for something extra special, a separately ticketed lunch will be available, with a menu designed by chef Julia Busuttil Nishimura — also known as Julia “Ostro” after her bestselling cookbook — in collaboration with the Peter Rowland Group. The menu promises to be a delicious showcase of local produce and culinary talent.

Visitors to the Harvest Weekend can also explore the world of beekeeping, sourdough, cheese, and more at the Harvest Village. A botanical bar featuring gin, as well as a whisky and wine area, will be on offer for those looking to imbibe. And if it’s a taste of life on the goldfields you’re after? Head to the diggings, where you can indulge in damper and stew.

Sovereign Hill Festival

Even the littlest visitors will be entertained at the Harvest Weekend, with a Little Explorers Zone providing a fun play area for kids.

With so much to taste, craft and stock up on, we recommend taking a gander through the Harvest Weekend Program to plan your trip.  Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking for a fun day out, there’s something for everyone at this family-friendly event.

WHAT: Heritage Harvest Weekend
WHERE: Sovereign Hill, Golden Point
WHEN: 27 – 28 May 2023
MORE INFO: Heritage Harvest Weekend

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

East Gippsland Winter Festival lights up the region

Words by Della Vreeland
Images supplied

Ice sculpting, music, markets, sword fights, feasting and fire shows – these are just some of the highlights set to grace the program of this year’s enthralling East Gippsland Winter Festival (EGWF).

Held between June 9 and July 9, the month-long festival will feature an array of more than 100 events scattered across the East Gippsland region.

One of the most diverse winter festival programs in the country, the third annual festival has been extended this year with a program of events that will kick off on the King’s Birthday long weekend. Expect a kaleidoscope of art, food, culture, nature, entertainment, and the very best that this neck of the woods has to offer.

Originally created as a response to the devastating 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires, festival founder Adam Bloem says the Winter Festival has now taken on ‘a life of its own’.

‘It was initially established to celebrate the wonderful spirit and resilience of the people of East Gippsland, and to provide an economic boost by attracting visitors back to the region after a couple of really tough years,’ he says.

The 2023 program will include a special performance by C.W. Stoneking and his Primitive Horn Orchestra as they take to the stage by the banks of the Snowy River. Guests will have the chance to warm up to the blues sounds of this quintet as well as the fine fare that accompanies the event.

The band is headlining the Deep in the Weeds festival – their gig held at Sailors Grave Brewing – providing the perfect chance for punters to also check out other Deep in the Weeds festival events around Orbost and Marlo during their visit.

Other EGWF highlights include the Fire & Ice live ice sculpting and fire show on the Metung Village Green, the Bruthen Medieval Winter Fire Festival featuring sword fights, bonfires, music, roving performers and feasting, the Lakes Lights community lantern parade across the Lakes Entrance Footbridge, as well as the Winter in Laneway party with projection art, live music, and street food bringing the heart of Bairnsdale to life.

A whole range of other free activities and family-friendly events are yet to be announced, such as long lunches, wellness experiences, elusive music performances, and hands-on workshops, rounding off a festival that is set to truly ignite the magic of wintertime and the beauty of the East Gippsland region.


WHAT: East Gippsland Winter Festival
WHEN: June 9 to July 9, 2023
FIND OUT MORE: East Gippsland Winter Festival

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

Annie Smithers announces month-long festival to celebrate 10 year anniversary

Words by Richard Cornish
Images supplied

Annie Smithers is a force of nature. The author, broadcaster, farmer and chef has been championing real seasonal and local cuisine in Central Victoria for decades. She opened the doors to her Trentham restaurant Du Fermier 10 years ago and to celebrate she is closing the restaurant for the month of May.

Instead, she is holding a month-long mini-festival to celebrate the farmers who supply her kitchen, the winemakers who fill her cellar and the women who have mentored her or supported her in the kitchen during her career.

Food Festival TrenthamThe recipe writer for The Saturday Paper and resident chef for Blueprint for Living on ABC Radio National grows much of her fruit and veg at her Lyonville farm, Babbington Park, 10km from Daylesford. The lamb she cooks comes from a farm she can see from her kitchen garden and is grown by farmer Bruce Rolfe. He and Annie are doing an all-day lamb masterclass on May 18 which includes morning tea and a three-course lunch with wine and loads of dishes cooked with tender, sweet, and beautifully full-flavored Suffolk lamb. Annie is also doing a pork, beef, duck and chicken masterclass.

One of the big ticket events is the Mother’s Day Lunch with Stephanie Alexander on Sunday 14th May. Annie spent her early years cooking under Stephanie Alexander at her Hawthorn restaurant and the two have remained close since. They celebrate Mother’s Day with a four-course meal. Annie’s du Fermier is normally open for lunch, but for May only she is opening her doors for Friday night dinner on 5th, 12th, and 19th May.

Expect candles, shared plates and beautiful evening meals cooked with autumnal produce from the kitchen garden. On May 6th and 13th Annie is baking and making charcuterie for her French-style Petite Marche or little market where customers buy produce direct from Annie’s kitchen. Annie is also throwing an afterparty for the Trentham SpudFest starting at 5.30pm where she’ll be serving up her own rendition of potato cakes and pouring vodka made with Trentham potatoes. Gascony is one of Annie’s favourite regions of France and she is revisiting the trips on which she toured the auberges and taverns tasting the traditional dishes, and the honest food of the farmhouses. On Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st she is holding a five-course Gascon feast complete with wine and a limited-edition book about the food of Gascony.

“Du Fermier is all about cooking exceptional fresh produce from the farm and surrounding farms,” says Annie. “This month of celebrations is about putting the people who support our beautiful little French farmhouse style restaurant in a historic weatherboard shop front and foremost.”


Who: Celebrity chef Annie Smithers
Where: Du Fermier, Trentham
What: Thirty days of events celebrating local and seasonal produce with a very accomplished chef
When: Month of May 2023
Why: Exclusive and one-off events
More info: Annie Smithers

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

The first Sorrento Writers Festival is bringing over 100 wordsmiths to the Mornington Peninsula this April

Words by Anthea Riskas
Images supplied

Pack your bags bookworms, the inaugural Sorrento Writer’s Festival is bringing 4 days of stellar literary programming to Sorrento and surrounds.

Having made a permanent sea change after closing her Melbourne bookshop during COVID-19 lockdowns, Festival Director, and award-winning journalist Corrie Perkin, is passionate about bringing her mantra “words matter” to the Peninsula’s creative community.

Over the last weekend in April, literary lovers can expect a 4-day-long, packed program of meet-the-author events, in conversations, panels, readings, music, seminars and much more, to encourage deep thinking and compelling conversations amongst attendees.

The festival hub is situated across the luxurious Continental Sorrento, which along with other local hotspots – Sorrento Golf Course, The Portsea Camp amongst them – will play host to an epic line-up over 100 of Australia’s finest authors, playwrights, journalists, academics and singer-songwriters.

Some of the highly anticipated guests include crime writer Jane Harper (The Dry), Booker Prize winner Tom Keneally, (Schindler’s Ark), children’s favourites Sally Rippin and Graeme Base, as well as other big names like Jock Serong, Craig Silvey, Sofie Laguna, Barry Cassidy, Kerry O’Brien, Jane Caro and Chloe Hooper to name a few.

Sorrento Writers Festival

Highlights of the program show the huge scope of topics and genres being represented, like Heat, Dust, Beaches and Blow Flies: the Impact of Landscape on Australian Writing, a panel event with Robbie Arnott, Tony Birch, Sofie Laguna and Chris Hammer; Migration, Family, Old Life/New Life a discussion with Armando Lucas Correa, Andre Dao, Pirooz Jafari and Saman Shad with Jaclyn Crupi; Australian Fiction Through First Nations Stories with authors Larissa Behrendt, Tony Birch, Paul Daley and Jock Serong, led by Inala Cooper; and Politics 2023: The Big Issues with hard hitters Barrie Cassidy,  Kerry O’Brien, Niki Savva and Chris Wallace moderated by Sally Warhaft and in collaboration with The Wheeler Centre.

One of the main drivers of the festival, which operates as a not-for-profit organisation, is to raise funds for a variety of literacy programs, that will have intergenerational benefits within the local community and eventually build a local library for the Sorrento community.

Early bird tickets are available until 31st March, and a 4-day pass with access to over 80 events is epic value at $299, otherwise single event tickets are $25.

Keep an eye on the event website as more programming is revealed and block out your diary for what will no doubt be an entertaining, informative, educational and excellent celebration of writing.


Who: Sorrento Writers Festival
Huge, inaugural literary event on the Mornington Peninsula
When: 27-30 April
Various venues across Sorrento and Portsea
Cost: From $25
More Info: Sorrento Writers Festival

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

A set of major light installations are coming to two Murray River towns

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images supplied

Two Australian towns will be brought to light with a new set of sweeping outdoor light art installations created by renowned visual artist Bruce Munro.

The project, named Light/State, will be one of the country’s newest outdoor tourism attractions, with two awe-inspiring installations approved for Mildura and Wentworth region. The two sites near the New South Wales and Victorian border and both are an easy 35-50-minute drive from Mildura town centre, away from light-filled urban areas, under expansive skies.

The first installation already under construction is Victoria’s Trail of Light, a meandering stream of light comprising 12,550 illuminated ‘fireflies’, 502 ‘pods’ and projectors, and 126 solar units. It will be experienced each evening with a reflective walking journey starting at the main Lake Cullulleraine walking track, with over 301,200 flickering lights guiding the way. Munro says he intends this installation to be a “quieter experience, where people can feel meditative as they walk around and enjoy the nature surrounding them.”

The second installation, Fibre Optic Symphonic Orchestra (FOSO), will be an abstract installation with a light-responsive symphonic orchestra. Eighty-two-meter high, five-meter diameter light installations, in the form of the iconic Hill’s Hoist, will represent the musicians. Visitors can either walk through the light-scape or view from the escarpment as sound is translated into colour and beamed across the landscape.

British/Australian artist Bruce Munro, known globally for producing large-scale immersive, site-specific light installations is designing both works. He has produced more than 45 exhibitions around the world, including the famed Field of Light at Uluru. Each one is inspired by his interest in the human experience and pairs his emotive themes with natural landscapes.

The project is set to open in two phases with Victoria’s Trail of Light premiering in late 2023 and FOSO opening in the second half of 2024. Wentworth Shire Council, in partnership with Mildura Regional Development, secured $4.99 million of final funding as part of the NSW Regional Tourism Activation Fund. In addition, there is $1.26 million from other local contributors, bringing the total project value to $6.25 million. In Victoria, Mildura Regional Development secured $3 million in Victorian Government funding in May 2022 for the Victorian installation at Lake Cullulleraine.

Mildura Regional Development CEO, Brett Millington said “We’re excited to be able to deliver the whole project of Light/State, which we know will add value to our regional economy and build on further cross-border opportunities.”

The project will also provide infrastructure such as roads, site transfers, parking spaces, glamping and increased accommodation options. Hospitality venues will also be a part of the boom, ensuring punters are well-catered for during their stays.

The after-dark installations are predicted to attract 300,000 overnight visitors over the installation’s first two years, significantly lifting Mildura’s profile as a region to live, work and invest. The project is expected to inject up to $150 million into the local economy per annum and will undoubtedly attract visitors from afar, curious to see this iconic land lit up after dark.

WHAT: Light/State Installations
WHERE: Mildura, VIC and Wentworth, NSW
WHEN: Opening late 2023 and into 2024
MORE INFO: Light/State

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