With the start of spring comes the blooming of Canola fields across Victoria. You may have seen these fields of vibrant yellow flowers dotting the countryside as you drive from Melbourne to Ballarat or up to the ski fields.
This post was inspired by the 'Lavender Route' in Provence which I was recently lucky enough to explore. The seemingly endless fields of canola in rural Victoria during spring are probably the closest thing we have to Provencal lavender fields. However they don't seem to get anywhere near the publicity as lavender in Provence which is a shame because they are a sight to behold.
The canola fields are generally at their best from mid-September through until mid-October.
There are numerous areas in Victoria which grow canola – this post focuses on the areas around Ballarat. All the photos in this post were taken in the triangle formed by Lexton (top left), Ballarat (bottom right and just out of screen) and Beaufort (bottom left) in the map below. There are also canola fields out around Shepparton and out west towards the Grampians.
If you're coming up from Melbourne you will need to pass through Ballarat to get to the canola fields referred to in this article. When passing through, make sure to stop by the picturesque Lake Wendouree. There is a nice walking track along its circumference and in spring, the picnic areas next to the lake are carpeted by wildflowers and there are heaps of baby swans about. The lake itself is about 8 km in circumference and has numerous cafes dotted along its shoreline.
This was shot by the side of the road and I particularly like it because the bluestone house provides some much needed visual interest in what would otherwise be a field of yellow. I will have to try and track down the owner of the field in due course and see if I can get permission to enter and capture the house from some different perspectives.
Near Lexton you will see probably the largest canola field in the area. Amazing doesn't begin to describe it – it is just an endless sea of yellow . In this case, it is the wind turbines on the hill in the background that provide a point of interest.
If you want to turn the drive into a nice weekend way, I recommend making a beeline for Dookie, a little township dotted half between Shepparton and Benalla. It's famous for its canola fields and the Dookie Emporium, a curios shop with attached cafe - well worth a visit if you're in the area - great coffee and fantastic homemade pies, as well as fascinating second-hand goods for sale.
If you're feeling hungry and thirsty, check out Tallis Winery, located on a hilltop just outside of Dookie. It has commanding views over the surrounding countryside and the wines aren't bad either :) Apparently we weren't the only ones that thought so, as the Governor of Victoria so happened to be stopping by for lunch at the same time as us!
The tasting experience there was great, with super friendly staff that didn't make the experience feel too daunting and they were also full of tips on things to do in the local area (will definitely make sure to check out the Violet Town market now – thanks Sue!) Also make sure to try their signature wine, the Viognier when you're there. Their shiraz is also great, with none of that overpowering oakiness and strong tannins of your typical sledgehammer (read: Barossa Valley) shiraz.
The regional tasting platter is a great accompaniment to the wines and at $30 is quite reasonably priced. Most (if not all) the produce is sourced locally, so for example the beetroot chutney and tomato chutney are sourced from a farm (literally) down the road, the marinated olives are from an Italian lady in Shepparton etc.
I can't think of a better way to while away an afternoon than sitting on this hilltop with this platter, a glass of wine and some good company. In fact, we did just that!