Great driving holidays – Strathbogie Ranges (Victoria)

By Victoria /

On the run with bounties on their heads, Ned Kelly and his gang frustrated troopers for 16 months after robbing the Jerilderie bank by holing up in the ruggedly beautiful Strathbogie Ranges, a wonderful place to enjoy as a great driving holiday in Victoria. Today the ranges are just as breathtaking but modern-day adventurers can see the lot in just a few hours after a leisurely two-and-a-half hour tootle up the Hume Highway from Melbourne.

Ned and his boys spent their time knocking up their famed armour for the final showdown at nearby Glenrowan, but I’d suggest some way more leisurely pursuits.  A good start is the wonderful little town of Euroa for hearty sustinence (good little nosheries abound) before heading for the spectacular granite-topped hills. Now a mix of general farming among wineries and horse studs, the Strathbogies definitely don’t challenge the Gold Coast in attractions. Theirs is a more natural beauty, pristine bush with maybe a koala and a kangaroo or two by the roadside – but it’s still exhilarating stuff.

From Euroa, take the Strathbogie Road on the north side of the Seven Creeks bridge in Euroa. This gets you up into the range and from here you can

wander, maybe eventually heading for Merton, and then the Maroondah Highway back to Melbourne.

To linger, consider the Sunnymeade B&B at Strathbogie It’s an excellent little set-up and on the site of what for mine is one of the best English-style gardens in Australia. As guests, you get to wander the garden for free, otherwise you’ll need to check the website for the open dates, generally in December.

For Ned, it was all downhill, to the hangman’s noose, after his Strathbogie soujourn. Luckier ones like us can go back time after time.


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Driving holidays – Daylesford (Victoria)

By Victoria /

Nerves jangled? Life getting you down? Don’t reach for yet another “miracle” vitamin pill. Head for Daylesford in country Victoria. This bucolic retreat should do the trick. It’s done it for us, numerous times.

Let it pamper spirit and body with its plethora of massage therapists and spas, a couple of great bookshops, and some of the best grub in country Australia.

Rebirthed as the gay centre of rural Victoria, Daylesford with its treed streets and fine gold era buildings, provides attractions for all persuasions.

The journey

Getting there is a cinch. It’s an hour and a half up the Calder Freeway from Melbourne, turning off to Woodend, and then left at the end of the main street to Daylesford. Or follow the Western Freeway (M8) from Melbourne, exiting toward Daylesford at Ballan.

What to do first is the dilemma.

My first stop is book heaven, the Avant Garden, a labyrinth of tomes of all types (there are 14 rooms of them) in an elegant Georgian bank building on the main street. If you can’t find what you’re after here, head to the Lake Daylesford Book Barn, down by the water a couple of kilometres out of town.

An institution for two decades, it now has a casual dining deck from which to absorb the tranquillity.

If collectables are your go, visit The Mill Market (105 Central Springs Rd), a massive antiques complex. For more stylish fare (plus food), try the Convent Gallery, in a former convent (9 Daly St) with attractive garden and statuary. And check out the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens, east of the town centre on an extinct volcano (a stunner in autumn).

Fabulous food

Oh, and the food! Daylesford is seemingly wall-to-wall eateries. Choose according to mood. There’s Frangos & Frangos, European style cafe dining in the main street with creamy expresso coffee, tasty pastas and to-die-for lemon tarts. Or for grander, try Alla Wolf-Tasker’s celebrated Lakehouse of seasonal delights.

For mine, the best grub is at the Farmers Arms hotel on the Trentham side of town. No sausages and veg country pub this. It’s a treat.

For R and R, Daylesford rates 8 out of 10.