Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published April 2nd 2014
Tiny, but perfectly delicious
The quaint country village of Blackwood, once a thriving gold mining community but now more of a picturesque ghost town, is a worthwhile hour's drive west of Melbourne - especially for the foodies amongst us. Head out along the Western Highway, then after passing Bacchus Marsh (maybe drop in to one of the Avenue stalls for some fresh fruit en route?) take the Greendale/Blackwood road and follow the signs. This can be a particularly picturesque way to go if you are heading to Daylesford for the weekend and are not in a rush. Be careful as you drive through though, or you may miss it - Blackwood is TINY, with just a scattering of old gold-mine era houses, Australia's oldest continually-licensed weatherboard pub, a gourmet cafe and sprawling antique shop.
Blackwood Hotel - A Moment in Time (c) JP Mundy 2013
Blackwood itself sits nestled amidst Wombat State Forest and Lerdederg State Park, at the head of the Lerderderg River, and for keen walkers, there is a 3 day self-supporting and rugged hike from Blackwood through to Bacchus Marsh!. For the less ambitious of us, however, there are lots of very pretty short walks leading into the surrounding bushland from the town. A wander around the local cemetery will give you a real insight into the hardships of the gold mine era. But the real attraction today, and a justification for visiting Blackwood in its own right, is its reincarnation as a foodie-destination, with a number of mouth-watering destinations to choose from.
First stop is the quintessential local pub (the Blackwood Hotel) on the corner, known not only for it's melting lamb shanks, but also for its 3 resident ghosts - perhaps due to the pub being a morgue in its former life??? After you've indulged in a cold ale, perhaps after one of those lovely walks, head across the road to fabulous cafe and local providore, The Blackwood Merchant - a perfect place to fuel up after all the fresh bush air.
The blackwood Merchant and Provodore (c) JP Mundy 2013
Think about timing your trip to arrive at The Blackwood Merchant cafe for one of its mouth-watering breakfasts - think house-baked bread, Istra ham, local organic eggs, meaty mushrooms and lashings of its homemade relishes and marmalades - jars of which are available for you to purchase and take home. The cafe styles itself as a local provodore, sourcing local specialities including game meat, olives and a great wine selection. Through in magnificent views across the Ledederg State Park and it would be an easy thing to pick up a paper and while away the day here, lurching from breakfast to lunch (and don't forget the desserts!).
Homemade chutneys and jams are a highlight at the Blackwood Merchant (c) JP Mundy 2013
Next on your foodie trail, should be a short detour to nearby Simmons Reef Road to visit the mystically named Garden of St Erth, home to the famed Diggers Club as well as the pretty fabulous St Erth's Cafe, which uses largely organic produce harvested straight from their kitchen gardens and orchards, as well as other locally sourced produce - think freshly baked pumpkin, spinach and feta tart. The slow food movement is alive and well in Blackwood. And don't forget to leave time to walk off your late lunch in the magnificent gardens.
Local baked bounty at St Erth's cafe
After you've supped, walked and rested, consider driving further along to Trentham, a short distance away, to Trentham Falls, Victoria's largest single drop waterfall. Yet another excuse to walk off the lunching labours of the day, Whichever way you look at it, and particularly if you like discovering lovely leisurely meals of glorious local produce along with your country drive, a day trip to Blackwood is the perfect way to spend a day out of the city.