I know I write a blog about the Mornington Peninsula and all it has to offer but I must share with you a recent day trip we took a little further south. For you to understand why I love where I live now, you should probably see where I grew up.
It’s not too far, just a scenic 1 1/2 hour drive east from the Mornington Peninsula or south-east from Melbourne. Some of you may be familiar with these roads for summer adventures to Inverloch or Phillip Island. You may have even traversed the hills and winding roads to Wilson’s Prom, in which case you most certainly ventured through Fish Creek which was our main destination on the weekend. So I’ll take you on a little journey today, our little road trip in South Gippsland.
A joy to the senses in winter, South Gippsland is dotted with cosy cafes, beautiful boutiques and gorgeous galleries. The rolling green hills through Loch are just a taste of what’s to come. While we usually drive on through Loch, on a mission to get grandkids to their grandparents’ house, it is a beautiful town to stop in. Our favourite places are;
Eat | Olive at Loch | Great coffee and freshly baked goods – their words, not mine but they’re being humble…delicious coffee, scones like Nana used to make and who doesn’t love a big bowl of soup in the middle of winter?
Drink | Loch Brewery + Distillery | Not only is it set in one of Loch’s most historic and significant buildings but they brew their own ales, distill gin in hand-beaten copper pot stills AND now make a single malt whiskey. Stop it! Sampling a few of Loch’s finest? You may choose to stay…
Stay | Loch Paper Scissors | A gorgeous place to stay if you want to explore Loch further that would be perfect for a girls weekend away or a family stay. Personally, I’m coveting the workshop they have out the back, perfect for workshops or other creative occasions.
Beyond Loch and Korumburra is Leongatha, the central town for many smaller farming communities. One of those smaller farming towns, where I lived for most of my childhood, is Dumbalk. Not much more than a general store, a hall, a church and a rural supplies store this is where my 92 year old grandparents still live. I’m glad to have found a wonderful community where we live on the Mornington Peninsula, as this is what I loved about growing up in Dumbalk. That, and the glorious gum trees and green grass that never fail to bring a sense of calm and clarity.
Leaving Dumbalk, we passed plenty of paddocks and lush pastures on our way to Meeniyan. The town name is derived from a local Aboriginal word meaning ‘moon behind the trees over the water’ and at this time of year you will find a lot of the latter turning paddocks into temporary lakes. Meeniyan has always been a hive of activity driven by the community groups based in the village but more recently has been revived by an influx of artisan shops, festivals and restaurants catering for locals and visitors alike. So much to do in Meeniyan, my suggestions would be;
Shop | Mika + Max Boutique | Recently relocated to Meeniyan from Inverloch, Mika + Max present a stunning range of womens clothing and accessories and home wares, carefully selected for the seasons. I was delighted to find that they also stock earrings from one of my favourite Peninsula creatives, Emeldo Designs.
Gift | Hana Studio | Positioned in the same building as Mika + Max, you don’t have to venture far to find gifts for others once you’ve purchased some goodies for yourself. Offering ‘mindful, seasonal and sustainable’ flower options, there a bouquets for any occasion but they have a divinely scented selection of other gifts to take on your travels.
Coffee + Local Produce | The Meeniyan Store | By this stage of our little tour I was in need of a coffee fix (three kids not quite as excited as me to be shopping for earrings and plants) so popped into The Meeniyan Store. I liken this store to your local farmers market but the convenience of being open all week long. Full of locally made, grown or sewn products, they have the best of everything. Forgot your slippers? Want to get your hands on some hand crafted soap? Hanging out for some Gippsland Jersey milk? Need some locally grown veggies for your winter dishes? It’s here…all in one place. Also, they are doing great things for the environment and humanity, I feel like a better human for having visited. *Except I forgot my reusable cup for my much needed coffee so they provided my with a disposable one though they also sell reusable cups too!
Other suggestions in Meeniyan are;
Eat | Trulli Pizzeria | Closed at the moment but re-opening on Friday August 3rd, Trulli Pizza offer wood fired pizzas and authentic Italian cuisine made by real Italians. My picks are the Italian antipasti with an assortment of meats and cheeses or the salmone pizza. Bellisima!
Art | Meeniyan Art Gallery | …or MAG as it’s affectionally known in these parts, is an ‘innovative gallery showcasing Gippsland’s best visual artists and artisans’. Check their website for current exhibitions.
Market | Meeniyan Square | An exciting event space in the heart of the village, it’s a place where people can gather, celebrate local food + produce and find hand crafted wares during the warmer months of the year.
The kids were delighted to be finally on the road to Fish Creek, despite the rain clouds chasing us the whole way, wind whipping the gum trees that line the road from Meeniyan to Fish Creek. The promise of meeting Alison Lester, heightening everyone’s excitement…no more than mine! I have a connection to Fish Creek also, as it’s where we lived for a few years before returning to farm at Dumbalk. Each time we visit, the kids want to see where I went to kinder and started school, and I’ll happily show them until they grow up and decide they’re ‘too cool’ to care! Though small in population, Fish Creek is full of life and creativity, with many local crafts people busily at work in their studios and workshops in the area. This little town hold so many treasures it’s hard not to loose track of the day. My favourite gems are;
Books |Alison Lester’s Book Shop + Gallery | Each school holidays we make the pilgrimage to Alison Lester’s book shop and gallery as I take my parental responsibility of
brainwashing introducing my children to great children’s literature very seriously. Visitors are welcomed by Noni the Pony at the door as you enter the cosy gallery of Alison’s illustrations, originals and prints line the walls, with most of her publications available for purchase. For those who want to stay a while and share the joy of reading, there’s a reading corner too. We were lucky enough to meet Alison in person during this visit and have her sign (some of) our books. My eldest was particularly chuffed to meet the ‘real life’ author and illustrator of our favourite stories. Alison was delightfully generous with her time and genuinely interested in each child she met during the signings. I could write a whole blog post about her but that’s for another day!
Artist | Ride the Wild Goat Gallery + Studio | Walking past his studio, we were fortunate to see artist, Andrew McPherson, sculpting a wombat from timber. The kids were amazed and I was transfixed by the stunning and varied pieces in his gallery next door. I urge you to visit his website before you visit for an insight into this talented man’s journey as an artist.
Gallery | Gecko Studio Gallery | My main objective for visiting Gecko Studio Gallery this time was to view the latest exhibition ‘The Work of the Eggs’, which finishes this Monday 16th July. Some of my favourite South Gippsland and Mornington Peninsula artists along with many other creatives, sculpted, painted, crafted and decorated Fish Creek ostrich eggs to contribute to this varied and thought provoking collection of eggs. My delight at seeing the work of Melanie Caple, Emma Morgan, Sarah Dingwall and Alison Lester, was short-lived as the three small children in tow became restless and ready for some time at the playground.
Play | Fish Creek Playground | The sun to appeared just in time for a quick stroll across the road to the play ground, closely situated to a toilet block – a desired feature when you’ve got small kids – and an undercover area beside the bike track which forms part of the Great Southern Rail Trail. My kids were more than happy to be soaking up the sunshine and fresh air before the tummies and storm clouds started rumbling again.
Eat | Gecko Studio Gallery | Back over the road to the warmth of the cafe that’s situated in Gecko Studio Gallery out of the icy wind. The wide selection of cakes, slices + tarts made decision-making difficult but the girls finally settled on a little chocolate tart to go with their babyccino and I picked the flourless orange mini cake, which was the perfect partner for my coffee.
We have also eaten at the cafe next door, The Paddock, on previous visits to Fish Creek. They serve up delicious food and coffee (and other drinks too) as well as offering local produce + hosting craft workshops.
After a day of driving, exploring, eating, viewing, reading and playing our way around South Gippsland, we returned home with full bellies and full hearts. A fun adventure with the kids despite the weather being cold and wet. I would advise perhaps leaving the visits to galleries for solo days out for a more relaxed art viewing experience. Otherwise, we all had a great day and the kids definitely slept well that night, maybe dreaming of the next school holidays when we can explore more of South Gippsland and learn more about where I grew up.
Still plenty of time to get involved in what’s happening on the Mornington Peninsula for the rest of July. Read more…