Eat, Drink, Move at Ciao Yarra Valley Ciao

Words by Penny Cordner 
Images supplied

Forget a plane ride to Italy, Ciao Yarra Valley Ciao is bringing the best of this beloved European destination right here to country Victoria (15 November – 1 December). 

The two-week festival will showcase the region’s Italian heritage through great food, wine and hospitality – as well as encouraging people to get moving. With a range of events for visitors of all ages, you could plan a day-trip, a weekend away, or a week-long stay. 

The festival kicks off in Healesville on the 16th November with the vibrant Festa di via Verde (Green Street Festival), coinciding with the iconic Targa Florio motor car race arriving in town. This beloved race is an event for classic cars produced in the years between 1907 and 1976.

Maria McCarthy, a volunteer committee member says Festa di via Verde is designed to support the race and bring some colour to town. 

It is an Australian version of an Italian village. The food, the entertainment – it will all fit in with the flavour of the day.

Think lawn games, tomato throwing contests, cheese-wheel races, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and more. Whether you plan to join in the activities or take it easy, there’s something for everyone. 

“Come with an empty tummy and enjoy a bit of everything – there will be spiducci (skewers), pizza, pasta, wines and desserts. And then, at the end of the day you can sit under the trees with the music playing and take it all in,” Maria says. 

Tickets to Green Street Festival are just $10 and include a reusable wine glass (for tastings), a Ciao YV Festival canvas bag and a program. Online purchases will also receive a drink token to use on the day. Oh, and did we mention that you can use the code ‘OHO’ to get two tickets for the price of one? Click this link for tickets and don’t forget to enter the ‘OHO’ promo code.

Yarra Valley is the perfect place to hold such a festival – you can see evidence of the region’s Italian heritage in the award-winning wine and produce.

Following the launch weekend there are a range of events to choose from. On Sunday 17th November you can sign up for Pinot + Pasta at Rob Dolan Wines – a decadent, hands-on pasta and sauce cooking class with pinot noir; or Frizzante! at Innocent Bystander, an Italian style sparkling masterclass. 

The following week you’ll find more food and wine-focussed events, including an Italian Cooking School at Fondata 1872 (November 22nd), where you’ll master the art of home-made, pillowy gnocchi. 

Cyclists should mark this one down – the internationally recognised cycling festival Giro della Donna, is coming to Warburton on the second weekend (23rd-24th November). There will be cycling events for all ages, a feast on Saturday night and the main ride on the Sunday – with plenty of food, drinks and entertainment along the way. 

Looking for something a little slower paced? Head along to one of the long lunches at De Bortoli or Sedona Estate on Sunday 24th November, which will showcase the best produce of the region. You can also book in for a long lunch in the Cherry Hill Orchards on Thursday November 28th or Saturday the 30th November. 

Just one hour from Melbourne, this festival will celebrate all things Italian, and all things local. For a full list of events, visit the website here:


WHAT: Ciao Yarra Valley Ciao
WHERE: Yarra Valley
WHEN: 15 November – 1 December

It’s time to raise a Toast to the Coast

Words by Penny Cordner 
Images supplied

There’s no better way to celebrate Geelong’s award-winning wine regions than raising a glass (or two) at the highly anticipated Toast to the Coast!

If you haven’t heard the news, this year’s two-day festival is set to be bigger than ever.

On Saturday 2nd November, cellar doors in the Bellarine and Moorabool wine regions will welcome you with live music, wine tastings and good vibes. And then, in a festival first, on Sunday (3rd November) 19 winemakers will showcase their finest drops at The Pier for the ultimate one-stop wine-tasting party.

Now in its 18th year, the beloved Toast to the Coast has well and truly earned its reputation as one of the region’s biggest events of the season. Only one hour from Melbourne, this outstanding yet under-the-radar wine destination should be on every wine lover’s list.

For those who want to enjoy the best elements of the festival without having to travel, the new Sunday format at the iconic Pier is for you. Spend your day sampling wines from all three regions under the one roof, with plenty of delicious food and smooth tune from live jazz bands.

If you are planning to visit the cellar doors themselves, a Saturday ticket will cover tastings of new wine releases and rare vintages at all of the participating wineries.

In the Moorabool Valley, you can visit seven different wineries, including Lethbridge Wines, Clyde Park and Austins & Co. While on the Bellarine Peninsula you can stop in at Oakdene Vineyard, Bellarine Estate, Basils Farm, Scotchman’s Hill and Leura Park Estate, to name a few.

Each cellar door will provide their own unique experience of music and entertainment, so the only real downside is deciding which wineries to visit.

To make things more enjoyable (and ultimately a lot easier) you can purchase tickets for the shuttle bus which offer hop-on-hop-off style all day long so you can easily travel from one venue to the next.

If you’re heading to the Bellarine Peninsula there is no better place to start than Basils Farm. This winery has one of the most breathtaking views across Swan Bay, and with plenty of space to enjoy tunes from local musician Anthony “ Della” Dellamarta and his band, you won’t want to leave.

In addition to a selection of wine and refreshing cocktails, you’ll be able to enjoy craft beers and tapas-style food using fresh ingredients from their own garden and other local suppliers. These tasty dishes will be served from their very own Basils Garden Bar – a converted 1970’s Viscount caravan, made lovingly by the in-house team.

If you can’t choose which drink to start with, Kim Dema, General Manager at Basils farm recommends their rose.

”It’s perfect for the springtime weather, made predominately from local Pinot Noir and it goes well with our fresh, seasonal spring/summer menu. It also makes a smashing Basils version of sangria, which you can taste at Toast to the Coast,” she says.

As this is the sixth time Basils Farm has been part of the event, Kim says that over the years they have noticed an increase in the number of visitors as well as their openness to trying new wine varieties. She also thinks the change to this year’s format means there truly is something for everyone.

“Saturday offers a fun, festival-type experience – great for relaxing and enjoying this beautiful region and then the Sunday is perfect for those that prefer to stay in one location and maximise their tasting experience.”

The launch of the ferry service from Docklands to Portarlington also means the region is more accessible than ever, with many first-time visitors to the area surprised by the beauty of the Bellarine.

“There is a lot of natural beauty with birdlife and protected wetlands around Swan Bay. There is also a good mix of old and new, with small boutique cellar doors where you can talk to the winemaker as well as modern wineries offering state of the art facilities,” says Kim.

WHAT: Toast to the Coast
WHERE: Geelong wine regions
WHEN: 10am-5pm on Saturday 2nd November at the wineries
11am-2pm OR 3-6pm on Sunday 3rd November at the Pier in Geelong

Enjoy the sweet life at La Dolce Vita Festival

Words by Penny Cordner 
Images supplied

Welcome the warm weather with a lively weekend celebrating the King Valley’s award-winning food and wine at La Dolce Vita Festival (November 16 & 17).  

The festival’s name literally translates to ‘the sweet life’, which perfectly captures the vibe of the weekend – a celebration of the generations of winemaking in the King Valley through food, music and festival fun.

The picturesque King Valley in Victoria’s High Country is perched at the foothills of the Alpine National Park and just over three hours from Melbourne. The renowned culinary and agricultural region is surrounded by rolling hills, flowing rivers and plenty of vineyards, echoing the natural beauty of Northern Italy. 

If you’re drawn to wine regions that ooze heart and soul, this is the place for you – the locals are warm, hospitable and unpretentious. First, second and third-generation Italian migrant families from 9 wineries will happily share the stories behind their award-winning wines while you enjoy a range of Mediterranean-inspired drops that are often hard to come by.

If you’re drawn to wine regions that ooze heart and soul, this is the place for you. The locals are warm, hospitable and unpretentious.

Sip and sample everything from the beloved pinot grigio, tempranillo and sangiovese to the more elusive arneis, verduzzo and grecanico. As part of the festival, the winemakers will have new and museum releases available for tasting, alongside cocktails and spritzes to keep the good times going.  

If you make your way to Politini Wines, you will be welcomed into a Sicilian family festa with food, wine, music, and a dedicated prosecco bar – think prosecco raspberry granitas and spritzes! Stay fuelled throughout the day with a range of Nonna’s homemade Sicilian food, with arancini and sweet ricotta cannoli on the menu. 

Lidia Politini, Sales & Event Manager at Politini Wines says first-time visitors will be surprised by the variety of fresh food and produce in the region with everything from local wine and cheese to artisan bakers, honey makers, gin distillers and boutique brewers in the area. 

If the kids need a break from all the food and wine, you can play bocce at King River Estate, join in some arts and crafts at Pizzini or have a game of croquet at Symphonia. As the sun starts to set, relax in one of the many stunning courtyards or terraces with a bottle of your favourite drop and enjoy live music courtesy of talented local artists.

If you’re planning a weekend in the Valley, look for accommodation in Milawa, Oxley, Moyhu, Myrrhee, King Valley, Whitfield or Cheshunt.


WHAT: La Dolce Vita Festival
WHERE: King Valley
WHEN: November 16 & 17
More information:

St Kilda Film Festival Hits the Road

Words by Penny Cordner 
Images supplied

This winter, community centres, memorial halls, town halls and theatres will turn their house lights down and put a spotlight on Australia’s incredible filmmaking talent. 

Each year, the St Kilda Film Festival screens ‘Australia’s Top Short Films’ produced by some of the country’s best emerging directors and renowned industry professionals. City of Port Phillip Mayor, Cr Dick Gross is excited to be screening 12 of these short films in regional venues all over the state.

“We’re incredibly pleased to be taking some of this year’s best Australian short films on the road for the wider Victorian community to experience. These films are excellent, and viewing them shouldn’t be a metro-only privilege,” Cr Gross said.

We’re incredibly pleased to be taking some of this year’s best Australian short films on the road for the wider Victorian community to experience. These films are excellent, and viewing them shouldn’t be a metro-only privilege.

Festival director Paul Harris says this tour around Victoria is a chance for regional audiences to connect with the arts community.

“St Kilda Film Festival acts as a unique talent incubator, showcasing emerging talents from around Australia and giving them the opportunity to have their work screened before appreciative audiences.

“The regional tour is a great opportunity for emerging filmmakers to be able to showcase their work to an even wider audience,” Paul says.

It’s no easy feat narrowing more than 100 films from the festival down to just 12 for the tour but the final program is incredibly diverse – with everything from documentaries to comedies and thrillers.

This tour marks Paul’s final year as festival director (after 21 years!), so he has given significant input into the program, selecting some of his personal favourites alongside a number of award-winning films and staff picks. 

“It’s tough to pick out a favourite in a stellar lineup like this but if pushed, I would nominate Ghostbear – a haunting animation, Jackrabbit – an eccentric, deadpan comedy filmed at a remote high-country petrol station or Shepherd – the story of a male teenager coming to grips with male peer group pressure.”

Another program highlight is Judas Collar, which took out Best Film and Best Director at this year’s festival. The short film, directed by Alison James and produced by Brooke Silcox was filmed in outback Australia and shares the story of a camel being captured and fitted with a tracking device known as a Judas Collar.

The tour itself encourages people to explore small towns throughout regional Victoria. In fact, venues were quick to put their hands up to host after the success of previous years. 

The festival kicks off at the Mount Beauty Community Centre on the 12th July. A four-hour drive from Melbourne, this small town in north-eastern Victoria is just 30km from the popular Alpine Resort, Falls’ Creek. With the ski season in full swing, it’s a great opportunity to plan a weekend around both culture and adventure. 

All of the short films are Australian-made and many have a strong connection to regional areas. Shepherd, for example, which took out Best Screenplay, was filmed in the charming coastal town of Queenscliff.

This stunning seaside town, just half an hour from Geelong, boasts a rich defense and maritime history. If you’re heading there for the weekend you can visit the iconic High Light and Low Light lighthouses, explore the Queenscliff Pier and boatshed, or book a tour of Fort Queenscliff. The Bellarine Peninsula’s stunning wineries and restaurants, like Oakdene and Merne at Lighthouse are only a short drive away.

The Queenscliff Uniting Hall will be proudly screening the program on the 11th August and tickets can be purchased directly from the venue’s website.

For something a little closer to home, you can head along to the screening at Cameo Cinema in Belgrave (25 July) Cinema Nova in Carlton (13 Aug) or the Sun Theatre in Yarraville (8 Sep). Tickets across the festival range from $10 to $25 and with 19 venues across the state, there’s sure to be something near you.

The St Kilda Film Festival is proudly produced by the City of Port Phillip. It is now an Academy Awards® qualifying event, meaning that award-winning films are eligible for consideration in the Short Film Awards and Documentary Short sections of the Oscars®.


What: St Kilda Film Festival 
Where: Various venues, Regional Victoria 
When: 12 July – 8 September 
More information here:

Your blooming weekend at the Begonia Festival: a recommended itinerary

Words Cara Sputore
Images supplied

Older than Moomba and steeped in history, it’s not hard to see why the Ballarat Begonia Festival is one of Victoria’s most loved events. What started as an ode to the flowers that grow so well in the region is now a three-day celebration of flowers, food, live events and community, in a knock-out setting among the botanical gardens.

To help you make the most of the three action-packed, floral-scented days, we’ve planned the perfect long-weekend in Ballarat.

Day 1

10am Start your day at the centrepiece of the festival: the spectacular Begonia Display, a colourful symbol of summer planned 12 months in advance. More than 600 begonias from the City of Ballarat’s famous collection are on show this year, so take your sweet time strolling around. If you want to know how to grow and care for these beauties, talks by local Begonia experts happen twice daily. A little bit of calm is 100 percent guaranteed.

1.30pm All this festival-ing is busy work, so you’re going to need some sustenance. Grab a wood-fired pizza from the local legends at The Forge Pizzeria in the Begonia Courtyard, then relax under the trees with beers from Red Duck Brewery and Cubby Haus Brewing, wines from Wightwick or gin from Kilderkin Distillery. Look around and remind yourself that life can be quite nice indeed.

3pm Time for some tunes. Move between the festival’s four music stages and be entertained by artists and performers from across the state. Highlights include Motown soul band Motor City Sounds, local singer songwriter Anna Oliphant Wright and 2018 Music in the Vines Emerging Talent winner Flynn Gurry.

8pm A great day out deserves a great evening meal, so head to Moon and Mountain for modern Hawkers-style cuisine in a super cool setting. They’re open late so throw the anchor down, order some plates to share and work your way through the list of cocktails and craft beers.

Need a bed for the weekend? Ballarat Premier Apartments, Craig’s Royal Hotel, Lake Wendouree Luxury Apartments, or The Provincial Ballarat are all excellent bets for a good night’s sleep.

Day 2

11.15am Former host of TV series A River Cottage Australia and sustainable farming advocate Paul West is a special guest this year and a very likeable guy. He teams up with Dirtgirl for a chat about compost and how to keep the good stuff in our soil; they return later this afternoon to discuss the secret life of bees.

12.30pm Need a gift for someone, or some plants for your garden? The festival’s got you. Head to the Creative Designers and Gardeners markets and chat to the stallholders, who’ll give you good advice and sell you good stuff. For a small donation you can leave your newly-acquired plant babies at a creche while you explore the festival. Handy!

3.30pm Catch a ride on Ballarat Tramway Museum’s floral tram, which returns to the festival after an 80-year hiatus. The heritage tram is decorated with thousands of flowers made from recycled plastic in an instagram-worthy homage to the trams of 1938 and 1939, which were decorated with crepe flowers.

7pm You’re really embedded now, so it makes sense to eat somewhere with a long history in the region. Mitchell Harris Wine Bar is that place. All the wines are made at the company’s winery, and the food is bloody good too.

Day 3

11am Did you know there’s a board game called Everyone Loves A Parade? This speaks volumes about how much people love parades. Ballarat’s version is major, with around 10,000 people taking to Wendouree Parade to watch local businesses, schools and community groups celebrate the town and the rainbow of people who call it home. The Begonia Parade is loud, colourful and joyful. It’s community spirit in action. Get there early to score a good spot.

12.35pm Gloriously hirsute garden guru Costa Georgiadis returns to the festival for one day only to share his passion for plants and people, teaming up with Dirtgirl and the Grubby TV gang for a workshop on sustainable living.

3pm If your kids have a bit of daredevil in them, head to the Circus Drop Zone and Comedy Cafe to try your hand at juggling, unicycling and hula-hooping. The not-so-daring can play it safe and watch amazing performers show a six-metre high trapeze rig who’s boss.

4pm Finish up with the perfect floral keepsake – a photo on the ‘green carpet’ at the gorgeous Stems Greenery Wall. Then head home and congratulate yourself on a long weekend very well done.

What: Ballarat Begonia Festival
Where: Ballarat Botanical Gardens
When: 9 – 11 March 2019, 10am – 5pm
More information here:

Toast to the Coast

Words Jessica Gadd
Images Ferne Millen

Just an hour from Melbourne is the Geelong Wine Region: home to three very different subregions, each of which produces its own distinct style.

From the glorious views and beaches of the Surf Coast, or the sheltered bays and abundant wildlife of the Bellarine Peninsula, to the golden plains of the Moorabool Valley: wherever you go, you’ll find a wide variety of plantings – riesling, gewurztraminer, merlot, primitivo, gamay, langrein and carmenere, to name a few.

But it’s shiraz and pinot noir that the region is really renowned for, knock-your-socks-off wines that score more than their fair share of accolades.

‘Our flagship wine is pinot noir, and we have always aimed to make “pinot noir for the people”,’ explains Scott Austin, managing director of Austins & Co. Winery, and president of Wine Geelong. ‘The cool-climate region of Geelong is perfect for growing the varieties of pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling and shiraz, and that is what we focus on at our winery.’

Austins & Co. is one of 22 wineries participating in this year’s Toast to the Coast Festival, across 17 venues. Now in its 17th year, this festival has long given locals and visitors alike the chance to slow down and spend some time discovering – or rediscovering – the wine region that’s right on Melbourne’s doorstep.

It’s a packed program across the two days with winery and vineyard tours, wine education, museum and new release wine tastings, masterclasses, a plethora of food offerings from local caterers, food trucks, and vineyard restaurants, and loads of live entertainment on offer – all in a family-friendly, festival atmosphere. Also look out for produce market stalls and helicopter rides (Clyde Park) and classic car displays (McGlashan’s Estate).

As part of Toast to the Coast, several of the venues are hosting other local wineries on site, such as Leura Park Estate, which is hosting Finesse Winery, Yes said the Seal, Jack Rabbit Vineyard, and the Flying Brick Cider Co.

Six of the participating wineries have been rated 5-stars by the Halliday Wine Companion 2019: Austins & Co., Clyde Park, Oakdene, Scotchman’s Hill, Spence Wines and Yes Said The Seal.

Venues with family-friendly spaces and activities ranging from giant chess to art spaces, farm animals and sandpits, include Barwon Ridge, Clyde Park, Moorabool Ridge, Basils Farm, Bellarine Estate, Oakdene, Wayawu Estate, and Mt Duneed Estate.

There are hop-on hop-off shuttle buses available, circulating between the venues, and morning and afternoon buses available to take guests to and from each region at the beginning and end of each day. (Just be sure to select the bus option you need when you purchase your Toast to the Coast ticket – and remember: there are no ticket sales on the day.)

‘Every year we have been fortunate with the weather and it’s such a good opportunity to bring together family and friends for the weekend,’ Scott Austin says. ‘All of the wineries want to provide a great experience to really showcase all that our region has to offer.’


What: Toast to the Coast 2018
Where: Geelong Wine Region
When: 3–4 November
More information:


Harvest Fest 2018

Words Jessica Gadd
Images supplied

If you’ve been contemplating keeping chickens, cultivating your own veggie patch, or trying to find ways to reduce your ecological footprint, you are not alone. There are thousands of others who feel the same way, and Susie Filleti has met more than a few of them in the process of organising Harvest Fest 2018 – the new boutique farming and lifestyle event that will take place on November 9-11 at Lardner Park, near Warragul.

She says the growing number of small-to-medium and backyard farms goes hand-in-hand with an increasing desire from many of us to know how far our food has travelled, and whether it has been sustainably and ethically produced. And the best way to know that is to learn how to grow or produce it yourself, or connect with growers and producers who are located close by.

‘You can do both of those things at Harvest Fest,’ Susie says.

‘At Harvest Fest there will be farmer’s markets, craft and handmade goods workshops, farming machinery and agricultural displays, cooking classes and demonstrations, and a learning series with speakers on topics like backyard beekeeping, getting started in sheep farming, and reducing waste and living more sustainably.’

The cooking classes and demonstrations highlight Gippsland’s new and emerging food entrepreneurs and talents, such as Trevor Perkins, head chef and owner of Hogget Kitchen. This restaurant, tucked between the vines of a local winery, has a focus on fresh, local foods and all of the butchering, pickling, bottling, smoking, and charcuterie is done on site (read about OHO’s visit to Hogget Kitchen here). At Harvest Fest Trevor Perkins talks about all that, and more, including the glory of Gippsland’s fresh produce.

‘Another one to look out for is Joel Young, a prize-winning local butcher who will be at the Harvest Fest Kitchen demonstrating butchering techniques and traditional sausage-making methods,’ Susie says. ‘There’s also Dave Cann from String and Salt, with meat curing demonstrations, and environmental scientist and ecologist Julie Weatherhead with tips and tricks on which native plants will grow best in your garden, and how to use them in everyday cooking.’

Julie Weatherhead has researched and developed the use of ecosystems to enhance organic vegetable gardening at Peppermint Ridge Farm, an occasional café and native plant nursery in Tynong. She’s just the person to ask for advice about establishing your own eco-garden – and one of the few sources in Australia for rare native food plants like the antioxidant-rich Illawarra Plum.

Harvest Fest is not just for adults, either – there are kids’ cooking classes, an animal farmyard, camel rides, working dog and sled dog demonstrations, and even jousting (OK, so maybe the adults will enjoy these, too). And everyone from kids to hobby- and small-scale farmers will likely appreciate the agricultural drone demonstrations. These robotic helpers are the new heavyweights in farming, now capable of doing everything from moving hay bales to aerial surveillance.

‘No doubt we may have some traditional farmers coming along to Harvest Fest, but we are expecting more smaller operators, new industry farmers, farm-gate producers, people interested in Ag Tech education, and people who appreciate a dynamic food experience,’ Susie says.

‘You will even be able to get behind the scenes and meet the cast from Channel 10’s Good Chef Bad Chef as they film live from Harvest Fest! And with the live music, entertainment and educational opportunities – not to mention access to the Gippsland’s abundant produce, this really is an event that everyone can enjoy.’


What: Harvest Fest 2018
Where: Lardner Park, Gippsland
When: 9-11 November – book tickets online to save 16%
More information:

Vinehop Festival 2018

Half-way through a winery walkabout tour one year, events organiser Lisa MacGregor felt like switching it up and having a beer. Her realisation that this was not an option was also the moment Vinehop was born, because an idea uncurled in her mind and planted a little seed: there’s a market for a multi-venue beer, wine, and cider festival!

‘I love my wine, but I really, really love my beer,’ Lisa says. ‘And I’m the kind of person that gets bored quickly: I like to have dinner here, post-dinner drinks there, and dessert somewhere else.’

The more Lisa thought about it, the more she realised how much a multi-venue festival had to offer. It solved the problem of designated drivers, it got people to a variety of venues without getting lost, travel times between venues help people to pace themselves between drinks, and it brought beer, wine and cider lovers all together in one place.

‘Combining beer, wine and cider results in a better cross-section of attendees,’ Lisa explains. ‘For example, you’ll notice that while women do attend beer festivals – and I’m one of them – there are usually more men than women. And while men do attend wine festivals, they are often more popular with women.’

Besides, the self-confessed beer-lover and home-brewer was well aware of an emerging craft beer scene on the Mornington Peninsula; one that she thought deserved more recognition.

‘Everyone knows the Mornington Peninsula as an area that produces award-winning wines, and that’s as it should be. But the Peninsula should also be known for its award-winning craft beers,’ Lisa says.

Vinehop showcases a beautiful part of the world that produces world-class craft beers, ciders and wines.

The first Vinehop Festival, held in 2017, was a great success, attended by more than 3000 people. This year Lisa says they are expecting the same again or more, and have increased bus and venue capacity to meet the demand.

‘Also, this year we have managed to include every brewery on the Mornington Peninsula,’ Lisa says.

Here’s how it rolls: for Vinehop Saturday you choose from a selection of ticket options that give you access to varying venues, complete with tastings and transport between venues. It’s like having a personal chauffeur, expect it’s a bus, and your mates and heaps of other happy chaps are on board. There’s even an app in the works, that will keep Vine-hoppers appraised of bus departure times.

Posthop Sunday is a five-course degustation picnic matched with a selection of beer, wine and cider at just one venue: Hickinbotham of Dromana, featuring entertainment from soul sensation Kylie Auldist from The Bamboos.

Organising a winery and brewery tour on a festival scale is quite an exercise in logistics, Lisa says.

‘We have 100 buses lined up, on different schedules and timeframes. While this makes it a bit more complex for us to organise, it makes for a better experience for Vine-hoppers.’

The buses will tour Vine-hoppers between the 11 different sites including Bayview Estate, Dromana Estate, Blue Range Estate, The Old Apple Estate and Stumpy Gully Vineyard, each of them hosting pop-up stalls from external brands and venues such as Red Hill Brewery, Ten Sixty One Cider and Hop Nation, as well as food trucks and DJs to build on the festival vibe.

‘Vinehop showcases a beautiful part of the world that produces world-class craft beers, ciders and wines,’ Lisa says.


What: Vinehop Festival
Where: Mornington Peninsula
When: 17–18 November
More information:

Queenscliff Low Light Festival

You might know Queenscliff as arts central for its long-running annual Music Festival, its Literary Festival, and its Lighthouse Film Festival (if you didn’t – now you do). Well, arts, film and music fans: your winter just got a little brighter!

The inaugural Low Light Festival in Queenscliff is the newest addition to this artistic community’s calendar, and it has a seriously substantial line-up.

Headline acts include the exclusive Australian premieres of three new Icelandic films, including Matthew Barney’s latest work: Union of the North, created with Erna Ómarsdóttir and Valdimar Jóhannsson, and Dies Irae, by visual artist by Gabríella Friðriksdóttir in collaboration with Erna Ómasdóttir and Valdimar Jóhannsson. Dies Irae will be experienced at Low Light as 14-minute individual, immersive experiences presented by the local Queenscliff Lighthouse Arts Collective.

And then there’s ÖRÆVI – Life in the Undergrowth, by Valdimar Jóhannsson, Pierre Alain Giraud and Erna Ómarsdóttir with the Icelandic Dance Company. It’s a spectacular light installation, featuring an original soundtrack by Sigur Rós, that will be projected onto the exterior walls of Fort Queenscliff every Friday and Saturday night during the festival.

Why all the Iceland references, you may well ask? Because it’s cold! And this is a winter festival, a celebration of cold and comfort, in equal measures. Well, maybe a little more towards the comfort side of things – local venues are on board with whiskey and gin tastings and talks, Blues Train events (no train this time but free Sunday Sessions from favourite musicians), art exhibitions and workshops, literary events, and musical talents including All Our Exes Live in Texas, Z-Star Trinity, Teeny Tiny Stevies, Fraser A Gorman and Justin Towns Earle.

Local gourmet food producers and restaurants are also in on the act, with events including a progressive, four-location dinner; a Bastille Dinner accompanied by a French musical act; a degustation dinner featuring a battle between the wines of Bellarine and Bordeaux; and High Tea on the Sea –­ a two-hour high tea aboard the ferry (keep your eyes peeled for dolphins).

On the gourmet front there’s also a Private Dining Room secret dinner with local star chefs Tobin Kent (La Bimba, Brae, Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel, Gladioli) and Dane Robinson (The Hot Chicken Project, Gladioli). The location of this event might remain a mystery until the very last moment, but it’s no secret that the menu will focus on local produce – particularly seafood.

‘We really wanted opportunities for people to go inside and eat hearty food, and drink red wine and do all that – but we also wanted people to go outside, to get cold and feel winter,’ says Low Light Festival director Bonnie Dalton.

‘People can rug up to watch the light installation, ÖRÆVI, with its incredible music, and then they can go inside for a gorgeous meal and a glass of red, knowing they have really earned their place by the fire!’

It’s a packed program – one that’s still growing. Bonnie makes no excuses for that, because she says it’s a reflection of the Queenscliff community itself: vibrant, creative and spontaneous.

‘We did reach a point where we had to press ‘print’ on a program – but there are still ideas evolving and there will be more events added to the site in the lead-up to the festival,’ Bonnie says. ‘But that’s just part of it – there will be an element of surprise, for people to just come along and find out what’s happening when they get here.’

Bonnie says she can see why Queenscliff is so well loved. The seaside town is beautiful, with two lighthouses (the Low Light, and the High Light), boutique shopping, colonial architecture, and the impressive Fort Queenscliff, which was built in 1860 to defend Port Phillip Bay from attack. Then there’s the gentle bathing beach, the catch-of-the-day sold straight from the pier, the educational Maritime Museum, and the abundant wildlife.

‘The first time I came here I walked down the pier and found myself face-to-face with a young seal,’ she says. ‘That just blew me away. An hour-and-a-half earlier I had been sitting at my desk in the city, and now here I was hanging out with a seal.’

Locals say the winter is the best time to see the seals, and dolphin sightings from the ferries are not uncommon. There have been recent whale sightings at Queenscliff, too. You’ll need to be quick if you want to make a weekend of it, though – Bonnie reports that accommodation is booking out quickly.

‘I went on Airbnb to book a house for a friend and it said that bookings were up 90% on this time last year!’ she says. ‘Or there are beautiful old venues like the Vue Grand and Athelstane House that are absolutely gorgeous places to stay.’


What: Low Light Festival
Where: Various venues, Queenscliff
When: 22-–4 June | 29 June–1 July | 6–8 July | 13–15 July
More information here: