Words by Teyha Nicholas
We suspect the rocky hills of St Andrews have heard plenty of ‘Eurekas!’
The prosperous gold-mining town of the 1800s (then known as Queenstown) has transformed into a thriving, tight-knit community of artisans, winemakers and lovers of the quiet life. Located in Woi Wurrung country just 45 minutes drive north-west of the CBD, St Andrews is positioned where the city slips away and becomes country – with ample fresh air and attractions for all.
You may have visited the famed Saturday market, but the whole region is an explorers dream with an array of quality wineries, divine cafes, restaurants and local galleries.
Take a gander through our itinerary for all the weekend plans.
Gallery 7 Six 5
Fine art nestled in the redgums.
This regional gallery merges global thinking with local aesthetic within a charming old barn on the edge of Watson’s Creek. Owned and curated by artist Benny Archer, Gallery 7 Six 5 is home to some of Nillumbik’s finest pieces – from ceramics to large scale abstract paintings and metal works. A gallery par excellence for voyeurs, buyers, and collectors in search of ambience and inspiration.
Panton Hill Winery
Step back in time amongst the sandstone buildings.
In what could be described as outer Melbourne’s miniature Tuscany, Panton Hill manages to deliver on all the niceties one hopes for in a winery. Fruit-driven, handpicked wines prove silky on the palate and woodfired pizza on the weekends compliment the warm Southern European aesthetic. A day spent amongst these vineyards feels like a world away from the inner-city bustle.
Word of mouth has built Greasy Zoe’s into an establishment.
Once described as hospitality’s response to the tiny-home movement, this intimate venue seats just 32 guests per week and features a new six or eight-course degustation menu daily. Curated, prepared and served by Zoe and her partner Lachlan, the food is locally grown with an emphasis on sustainable and ethical farming practices. Certainly the most honest farm to table dining experience north of the river.
Black Vice Cafe & Roastery
Featuring a three-page menu of speciality coffee.
The polished concrete interior of Black Vice houses another highly precious material: coffee beans. Thousands of them, roasted, cupped, extracted and drunk en masse by locals and Melbournian’s alike travelling for one of their famous brews. Paired with clean, delicate dishes for breakfast and lunch, the cafe feels at once entirely cosmopolitan yet charmingly at home snuggled within tree-lined suburbia.
Where visitors come for the wines and stay for the hospitality.
At just 45-minutes drive from the city, it’s hard to think of reasons not to visit Nillumbik Estate. Tucked away in the Kinglake Ranges, the winery boasts a bountiful selection of reds, whites and sparklings made with traditional Italian techniques. Head winemaker John Tregambe has been known to host a decadent barrel tasting or two.
Punch Wine Room
The little winery that could.
The Lance Family winemakers know the value of community spirit. A truly collaborative process from vine to glass, their acclaimed wines–though greatly damaged by the 2009 bushfires–can now be found at top-tier restaurants around the city; Attica, Quay and Press Club to drop names. Skip the eye watering tab and take one home yourself at this cellar door.
Feeling inspired for your own road trip around the St Andrews region? Well, the crew from visityarravalley.com.au have put together a handy trail map to explore all these experiences and more.
St Andrews Collective
Local produce, carefully curated.
The new kid on the block that has swiftly become a staple member of the Nillumbik family. Tucked into the rolling hills on a small corner of the Yarra Valley, the providore feels both whimsical, indulgent and singularly sensible. A place for the necessities; cheese, milk, bread, with room for newfound delights; orange and native rosemary marmalade. Nobody will stop you from eating cheese on the front lawn.
A Boy Named Sue
A name that lingers in the mind; flavours that linger on the palate.
Rarely does a local pizzeria become such an institution. Huddled next to Punch Wine Room and St Andrews Collective on top of a grassy knoll, A Boy Named Sue serves wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas alongside a plethora of drinks, sides and alternate mains within a warmly renovated mud-brick building. Vegans, vegetarians and children are well catered for, and on Saturday the local market next door keeps this restaurant abuzz with hungry customers.
Buttermans Track Wines
Where minimal intervention produces a premium drop.
Beside the winding, tree-lined Yow Yow Creek lies a micro, family-owned and operated winery boasting complex, fruit-driven wines. Head Winemaker Gary frequently impresses visitors with his in-depth knowledge of wine and the winemaking process during his Cellar Door tastings. Made in small batches with minimal chemical and technological intervention, these wines sing the praises of tender hands and perfectly ripened grapes.
Shaws Road Winery
Good wine, tasty food and country living.
As the famed song goes, you can check out any time you like, but at Shaws Road Winery you may never want to leave. Part winery, part restaurant and full-time Bed & Breakfast, Shaws Road offers the full package for a relaxing weekend getaway. Family owned and operated, this estate bottles quality wines across three small vineyards and serves them up alongside tasty, locally grown meals at their in-house restaurant. Drink up and stay the night.
Omaru Alpaca Farm
Beyond wineries, St Andrews is also home to a bevy of alpacas.
What better way to round off your trip to St Andrews than some quality time with ever fluffy, often troublesome alpacas? The herd residing at Omaru have spent many hours with their human companions, making them ideal for children looking for an up-close Attenborough experience. Feed them hay, ogle at the babies in the mid-year months and spread out a picnic rug amongst the hills – just don’t forget to dress for the occasion (alpacas are known to spit!).
We wish to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.