Watson’s, Carlton.

If I had a club, this would be it. A Melbourne institution since the late 50s, Jimmy Watson’s was the first wine bar in Australia and a leader in bringing the idea of ‘table’ wine (not just fortified) to our palettes and habits. Downstairs is a restaurant and bar; upstairs is more seating and club-type rooms for the restaurant; out the back is a super-leafy courtyard; and new to the venue is an annexe bar and roof-top – so something for everyone. The place is always busy with something … and the family define ‘convivial’ for the Melbourne hospitality scene. Situated right at the top of Carlton’s famous Lygon Street, it might be the perfect drop-off point for any tour to the north, east, or south-east.

Photo: Josie Withers




Castlemaine, Victorian Goldfields.

Castlemaine was a central point in the Victorian gold rush and maintains much of the building history from that time. Situated about 120 kilometres from Melbourne it contains a host of interesting stopping points for a one-town destination. And the drives in and out through all directions provide beautiful scenery for leisurely country driving.

Photo: Michelle Jarni


Park St.

Park St. Cafe, North Carlton.

Park St. Cafe (formerly Green Park) is a neat hipster joint lining the popular bike path that runs across the top of Carlton and down to the city. It is the perfect spot for a tour pick-up when a shot of coffee or a decent pot of tea is sought before a drive. (Or convert caffeine for alcohol of it’s the other end of the day!)

Photo: Josie Withers




Assembly, Carlton.
Assembly, Carlton.

It looks like a hole in the wall, but it isn’t – there is a fair bit of seating inside. Assembly is just on the northern perimeter of the CBD off Lygon Street. It has great (serious) coffee, and probably decent tea as well. We flag this as a great collection point for the start of a tour.



Annie’s Provedore

Annie’s Provedore, Barwon Heads.

Google says:

‘Italian brekkie and lunch dishes, plus local wines, in a rustic delicatessen with communal tables.’

If there is a single most favourite place, of any sort, in Barwon Heads, this would have to be it. Legendary.

Photo: Ewan Bell



Healesville Hotel

Folk from Melbourne have been doing this for years: Drive out to the Healesville Hotel (about an hour from Melbourne), eat something, drink something – and then drive back home. A bona fide institution, especially for a lazy Sunday.



Cerberus Beach House

Perched at the bottom end of Half Moon Beach on the Bay’s Beach Road is a quaint little building called Cerberus Beach House – so named by the famous maritime wreck that serves as a breakwater, diving destination and general curiosity just a few metres off shore. Upstairs is a great restaurant, while the downstairs hosts counter service for drinks, snacks, ice creams and fish ‘n chips. It’s a perfect place to look back on Melbourne across the water and to stroll around and get some sand between the toes!



The Kiosk by d’Asporto

d’Asporto Kiosk, Williamstown.

This little place is at the end of Williamstown Beach on the famous Esplanade and is something that’s 100% Italian transplanted to a place that’s 100% English, at least by heritage. The sand and beach there are quite beautiful, complete with walking mats across the sand – is that an Italian or an English thing? (Hard to be sure.) Either way, it makes for a fantastic stopping point after a drive along and around the picturesque and history filled Williamstown foreshore and gives a lovely view back across the Bay.


Yarra Valley Dairy

Yarra Valley Dairy.

How many people would think the YVD to be the best thing east of Melbourne? Plenty. This farm yard building in the epicentre of all local produce and has proven popular for years. It begins with their cheeses, and just keeps on going, including wines and plattered charcuterie foods. And the views …

Photo: Roberto Seba



Oakridge Wines

Oakridge Winery, Yarra Valley.
Oakridge Winery, Yarra Valley.

The drive off the main road to Healesville up to the winery buildings is a wonderful introduction to what lies ahead, especially if the colonnades of trees are coloured for autumn – this is a great place to stop. For day trippers there is a lovely ‘linen service’ restaurant, complete with views north across the property and valley beyond, along with the cellar door tastings – two very good ways to enjoy the viticultural produce from Oakridge.