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: