If you don't visit a bookshop, have you even been to Clunes?

Even older than its more famous neighbours Ballarat and Bendigo, Clunes was the first gold rush town in Victoria. 

Gold was discovered there in 1850 by William Campbell, but the discovery was not made public until the following year. This triggered the gold rush in Victoria, and Clunes became a thriving township. 

The heritage of the town is still visible in the lovely old buildings, homes and churches in the town. 

Clunes has more recently become known as “the Book Town of the Pyrenees” because of the annual book festival held there each year. Shop windows are decorated with a decal of books, giving the town a visual theme that promotes its new identity and adds a subtle but vivid touch to the traditional buildings and heritage colour schemes. 

In addition to a number of second-hand, vintage and collectable book shops, Clunes also offers some lovely gift stores, a traditional green grocer’s store, an old fashioned lolly shop, cafes and bakeries, and antique and collectible stores. 

Our visit was just a short one, as we tacked it onto a trip we were already making, so I only managed to visit one book store while looking around town.

Of course, it is a very rare occasion that I venture into a bookstore without buying anything. This visit was not one of those occasions.

The next visit to Clunes most likely won’t be one of those occasions, either. It’s clear that I’m definitely going to have to plan a ‘Going On A Book Hunt’ visit to Clunes, because I spied at least four other bookshops that I want to browse in.

This video highlights some of the lovely spots in and around this gorgeous, bookish little town. Enjoy!

The 12 Apostles Gourmet Food Trail

The area where I live is rich in food production. My home town of Cobden is a service centre for the dairy industry, and is home to the factory that gives you Western Star butter, Mainland cheese and Perfect Italiano cheeses among other excellent dairy brands. 

Completely separate from the big companies like Fonterra, Warrnambool Cheese and Butter and Sungold Milk, there are a number of artisan food producers that offer excellent products in local settings. 

On Saturday, we headed out to visit a number of places on the 12 Apostles Gourmet Food Trail. To be honest, I don’t think you could do them all in a day and still do each one justice, but it would make an absolutely fantastic weekend trip from Geelong, Melbourne or Adelaide. 

We comfortably managed five of the stops in addition to lunch in beautiful Port Campbell. 

Our first visit was to Apostle Whey Cheese at Cooriemungle, where they make a delicious range of cheeses. My favourite is the marinated feta, while my dad loves their smoked cheddar.  The views are spectacular, and the garden is beautiful. 

The next stop was Gorge Chocolates at Princetown, Victoria, just a few kilometres from where we spent fifteen years dairy farming.  There are dozens of varieties of chocolates on offer, with a limited number available to taste. 

Also available here are a number of llama and alpaca wool products and themed gift ideas.

Next was the 12 Rocks Beach Bar in Port Cambpell for lunch. This place is a bit of a favourite – their steak sandwiches and burgers are excellent, and they do a delicious chicken parmigiana. 

After lunch we had a walk on the foreshore and checked out a few of the local shops before heading off to the nearby town of Timboon. 

The Timboon Cheesery is excellent, but because we had visited recently, we skipped that stop and went on to visit the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery. We hadn’t been there before, but it’s really nicely set up. You can have coffee and cake or a meal there, enjoy a whiskey or liqueur tasting, and shop for a range of locally produced products – jams, sauces, oils, meat and smallgoods, and the list goes on. 

Almost next door is the Timboon Ice Creamery, where the ice cream is just divine. I usually have either honeycomb or their passionfruit meringue, but this time I was excited to find a new flavour – maple and cinnamon – which was so good it nearly blew my mind. It made my inner Canadian very happy indeed. 

To complete the homeward loop, we headed to Dairylicious Farm Fudge. With at least a dozen different varieties of fudge on offer for tasting, there’s something to please every palate. They also offer cake and coffee or tea, and a range of cold drinks. 

By the time we got home, we were all ready for an afternoon nap after a most enjoyable day. 

Further information: 
The 12 Apostles Food Trail Map
12 Apostles Food Artisans 

Bellcourt Books, Hamilton

Having visited the Byaduk Caves and found ourselves only 20 minutes drive from Hamilton, we decided to head into town for a late lunch and a bit of shopping. 

All of a sudden, a day of exploring the countryside turned into another episode of “I’m Going On A Book Hunt”. I had heard of a great bookstore in Hamilton, and this was my opportunity to visit. 

Bellcourt Books is an independently owned and operated store that offers a very good range of new, secondhand, and vintage books. 

The store is airy and clean, and really nicely laid out. The sections are clearly labelled, so it’s easy to find your favourite genre and see what’s available. 

And, at the end of a visit, how lovely it is to be able to take your books home in environmentally friendly packaging with a great message!

Bellcourt Books is at 63 Gray St, Hamilton. 
Website: bellcourtbooks.com.au

Tumuli Lava Blisters and Byaduk Caves

Today, we went for a drive and discovered two natural wonders of the volcanic plains of western Victoria. 

The Tumuli Lava Blisters near Byaduk, Victoria, are enormous mounds of basalt lava that have pushed up out of the ground during periods of volcanic activity. Each one is bigger than a house, and while it may look like a pile of rocks, it’s actually all one thing. 

The landscape here is dotted with them, but they are quite a rare phenomenon elsewhere in the world. 

Less than 10 kilometres away are the Byaduk Caves, which are also formations of basalt lava. They may look like enormous holes in the ground, but they are more interesting than that: these caves were formed when lava from the nearby Mt Napier hardened on the surface while hotter lava continued to flow underneath, creating caves and lava tubes beneath the surface of the ground. The visible openings of the caves occurred when the roofs of the lava tubes collapsed, exposing the rest of the cave to the elements. 

People better at walking than I am can venture down into the caves, which contain stalagmites and stalactites, rocks that look like ropes of lava, and bats! Because I have mobility issues thanks to my dodgy spine and fibromyalgia, we stayed on the surface and looked in from above. This was still quite amazing, and I was satisfied with being able to manage the walk and see some impressive geological sights. 

In stark contrast to the dark basalt and the yawning cave mouths are the colours and textures above the surface. The blueness of the sky, the summer yellow of the grasses, the leaves of the natural bush and the grey elegance of dead trees reaching to the sky were all vivid.

Further evidence of volcanic activity is the multitude of basalt rocks of all sizes that litter the landscape. 

While walking on uneven ground is generally difficult and often painful for me, I found the walking track to be fairly manageable most of the time, but there were a few spots where I struggled and needed a helping hand to walk safely. I certainly wouldn’t like to try it with a wheelchair, either!

A Hidden Gem in the Narrawong State Forest: Sawpit Camping Area

One of the things I always try to do when I am out and about on a road trip or holiday is to see something new or visit a place I haven’t visited before. 

Even though we are camping at the same place we’ve camped at every January since 2014, there are still new things to explore. Last year we visited the wonderful Bay of Whales Gallery nestled in the hills above Narrawong.

Today we ventured up to Mt Clay in the Narrawong State Forest to check out The Sawpit picnic and free camping area. It’s only a short distance from where we are camping by the Surrey River at  Narrawong.

It’s really gorgeous up there. The natural bush forest is beautiful, a glorious natural canopy above the blackened tree trunks, reminders of bushfires In years past. 

The camping area is well designed, providing numerous sites for campers to spread out from one another.

Walking tracks enable visitors to immerse themselves in the environment on walks of different lengths, and the historic lumber cart and log display are reminders of the history that gave the area its name. 

Everything is clearly signposted, including a reminder for campers to take their rubbish home: given that everything was clean and tidy, it’s really encouraging to see that most of the visitors have been conscientious in that regard. 

Still, it seems that things are not always easily understood, as demonstrated by my own friend’s response to the following sign: 

Friend: “20 minutes one way. Why would you only go one way?”
Me: ”It’s a loop…”
Friend, after a few moments of thought: ”Oh. Yeah.”

What surprises me most is that many people don’t even know it’s there. It really is a hidden gem. 

Oh, I Do Love To Be Beside The Seaside: Queenscliff, Victoria

Queenscliff is a town on the southern end of the Bellarine Peninsula, near where Port Phillip Bay enters Bass Strait. 

Queenscliff has a lovely small-town feel to it, even though it’s only a half hour’s drive from Geelong. There is a very real sense of leaving the rat-race behind and stepping into a friendlier, more relaxing existence.

It is a town with lovely old buildings and churches, and a wide main street lined with boutique shops, cafes and restaurants, including two ice-cream parlours, two old-fashioned candy stores and — best of all — two book shops!

On the cliff above the beach is a lighthouse built from local basalt in 1881, and a historic fort that is still in use as the base of the Air Force Cadets.

There are some great spots to sit and watch the boats, including the ferry to Sorrento at the southern end of the Mornington Peninsula, just across the bay.

It really is a delightful spot, and I am already keen to visit again. 

Otway Fly

I love places that challenge the popular stereotypes that many people hold about Australia – the beach, the desert, the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and Uluru.

Weeaproinah is one of the wettest places in the state of Victoria. Although it’s very close to the coast, this locality at the end of the Otway Ranges boasts magnificent mountain ash rainforest that contrasts lush green foliage with tall, straight tree trunks. Birds and wildlife abound.

The Otway Fly is a treetop walk and/or zipline adventure through the forest, taking advantage of different levels and heights, and allowing visitors to experience different aspects of the Australian bush.

 

 

Port Fairy.

The weather today was perfect  for a visit to Port Fairy, a beautiful little town on the south-western coast of Victoria, Australia. The sun was shining, there was a very slight breeze, and it was a glorious 19 degrees Celsius.

I walked slowly along the boardwalk which extends along the bank of the Moyne River, where the fishing boats moor. The water sparkled, lapping against the banks and the boats as we walked and enjoyed the scenery. Boats bobbed.  Seagulls hovered and swooped. Fishermen tended to their boats and chatted with people as they passed by. Two teenagers enjoyed the sunshine, sitting on the side of the boardwalk and dangling their feet over the water, holding hands and chatting happily.

I made my way to the main street of town, where small shops offer their wares, cafes invite visitors to enjoy coffee, cake or ice-cream, and everything has a rustic feel to it. There are no department stores or fast food chains here.  The cafes sell food that is made on the premises. There are two bookshops – I believe that this is always a very good recommendation for any town. Other shops sell handcrafted gifts, boutique clothing or old-fashioned sweets. The supermarket still has staff that will carry your bags to your car for you.

Whenever I visit Port Fairy, I visit Rebecca’s Cafe. The freshly baked cakes and slices are mouth-wateringly good, and their thickshakes are incredible. The coffee here is also excellent. However, those aren’t the only reasons I visit here. I visited here shortly after the passing of my beautiful friend, Rebecca. She wasn’t connected with the cafe or the town in any way, except by sharing the name, but it occurred to me then that she would have loved the place, too, and the connection has stayed with me ever since.

Many of the buildings and houses in Port Fairy date back to the early years of the settlement that was originally named Belfast by its strongly Irish population. They add to the strongly reminiscent sense of days-gone-by that characterises the township. It may seem odd that a place can be rather old-fashioned and quite up-to-date at the same time, but this beautiful town manages to achieve that balance very nicely.

Moyne River, Port Fairy, Victoria.

Moyne River, Port Fairy, Victoria.
Photograph is copyrighted by the author of this blog.