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 May 13th 2012
As much as I love Melbourne, sometimes I just need to get out of the urban jungle, but might only have a half day to spare. That's when I think about 'destination lunches' - somewhere to go for some fresh air, good food, a pretty drive and ideally a wander around a gorgeous garden afterwards to work off those scrummy desserts. For me too, a place where kids can happily burn some energy and explore before or after lunch makes for an enjoyable day out for the whole family.
These are some of my favourite places in and near to Melbourne which tick all these boxes:
Closer to the centre of town, the Fairfield Boat House & Tea Gardens, on the Yarra River, offers a number of dining options in its historic setting, from picnics to Devonshire teas to fine dining. And afterwards, you can stroll along the river or even do a spot of rowing!
The Heide Museum of Modern Art, just off the Monash Freeway in Bulleen, has wonderful galleries, a delightful kitchen garden and outside sculpture gardens to stroll through. Cafe Vue is located in the courtyard of the gallery and uses produce fresh from kitchen garden.
A bit out of town (and who doesn't like a day trip from the city for something special), I can really recommend Lavendula, the wonderful Lavender farm, cafe and shop at Shepherds Flat, just outside of Daylesford - their lavender ice cream and lavender scones are delicious and a walk through the rows of lavender and orchards is a wonderful way to work off the lunch.
Another top spot out of town is the Oakdene Vineyard and cafe/restaurant on the Bellarine Peninsula - between Wallington and Ocean Grove. A beautiful setting in quirky gardens full of sculptural elements and a unique menu can be topped off by a walk along the beach at Ocean Grove.
On the other side of the Bay, our families love the McLelland Sculpture Gallery and Cafe, in Langwarrin. Simple but delicious lunches and both indoor and fascinating outdoor sculptural galleries to roam in before and afterwards. You are also not far from the fabulous Australian Botanic Gardens at Cranbourne which are a must-visit for afterwards.
As with many destination eateries, you usually need to book ahead so as not to be disappointed. It's worth the effort though - you'll be amazed how refreshed and renergised you will feel after your 'day out'.