The Food Lover's Pilgrimage: 11 Destinations All About Dining

Posted by Casey Warrener on Thursday, July 20, 2017

Given they’re more connected to the ‘where’ of what we eat and the process of getting it from the ground to your plate, regional restaurants have a lot to offer food lovers. And destination dining is becoming increasingly popular for those dedicated to sampling the best, freshest produce around. If you count yourself amongst those committed to good food, you’re going to want to read on…

Set in quiet seclusion across the country, people travel far and wide to secure covers at these lauded restaurants. So there has to be accommodation nearby, right? Not to worry, because we’ve done the hard work for you – we’ve found where to stay, tested the beds for post-meal collapsing, and gauged ease of reach following a few wines. Ahead are the places to curl up between courses.

1. Brae

Brae is THE mecca of destination dining. In an unassuming area of regional Victoria, the structure is an elegantly transformed farmhouse, and the surrounds are established veggie gardens flourishing with the ingredients that appear on your plate. This is one of just two Australian restaurants to earn a place in the 'World’s Best 50', as well as receiving top local gong in the 2015 'Good Food Guide'. And after an evening here featuring dish after beautiful dish, you won’t be confused as to why.

Where to stay?

Elliminook — Birregurra, VIC

Follow the hedge-lined driveway under a canopy of towering trees, and you’ll reach the grand country estate that is Elliminook. This 19th century, National Trust-classified homestead comes complete with tennis courts, croquet and boules, and acres upon acres of gorgeous gardens. Spend your days amongst nature – exploring, playing a game or two and working up a solid appetite – before making your way to a taste of the country’s finest nature-based cuisine.

2. Harrisons

There couldn't be a more ideal Port Douglas setting than the historic, verandah-wrapped Queenslander that holds Harrisons. And stepping through lush gardens and mango trees only adds to that tropical, far-north Queensland feel. But the cuisine is quite a different story to the one portrayed in the architecture and surrounds. Chef Spencer Patrick is a French-trained, Brit-food enthusiast, and you can expect to find fresher, lighter takes on this classically heavy fare using locally caught and grown ingredients. We love that you can experience this kind of culinary skill and creativity in such a relaxed part of the world.

Where to stay?

Port Douglas Villa — Port Douglas, QLD

There’s a reason Port Douglas Villa has won five prestigious awards, and once you’ve arrived, you won’t be left wondering why. Hanging gardens, lily ponds, boardwalks linking up the rooms, and a sparkling pool and spa complement the smart modern interiors. And that’s only scraping the surface of the awesome amenities. Sit around the Teppanyaki bar with ice-cold drinks. Laze in the cabana in between swims. And when you’re ready to explore, take the bicycles that come with the house for a spin along the coast, or cycle to your dining destination.

3. The Royal Mail

When it comes to the gourmet getaway, this place is an institution. Located in the southern part of the Grampians National Park, the multi-award winning Dining Room (donning double chef’s hats in 2015) boasts a tasting menu centred about locally sourced produce, an extensive and eclectic wine list, and beyond beautiful views. And after working your way through five- to eight-courses, you’ll be glad your luxury room is walking distance away.

Where to stay?

The Royal Mail Hotel— Dunkeld, VIC

Positioned at the foothills of Mount Sturgeon, the Royal Mail Hotel serves up incredible views, a swimming pool to prepare your appetite, and private balconies for sunset aperitifs set against the spectacular mountain ranges. If you have the whole crew in tow, or if you want to bring your furry friend along for the ride, sister property Mount Sturgeon Homestead will suit. But what about its proximity to the dining, we hear you ask? Never fear – the offsite option offers transfers to and from the restaurant, free of charge.

4. Harvest Café

You’re in Byron. In Byron’s hinterland, no less. So as you’d expect, Harvest Café is all clean, green and earthy good, with not a single bad vibe in sight. The name alludes to what this place is famed for – colourful veg, freshly baked bread, and finely roasted coffee all feature at this deli-café-bakery wunderkind. The wood-fired sourdough and mouth-watering pastries are produced in-house, and a good chunk of the ingredients come from the garden next door and an organic farm down the road. Tip: consume these scrumptious morsels on the verandah, alongside the glowing tans and saltwater-waved hair of the locals.

Where to stay?

Byron Plantation — Newrybar, NSW

With Danish designs inside and striking scenery all around, Byron Plantation has everything an on-trend traveller could want. Nestled high up in the hinterland, this stunning Queenslander set on 100-acres of lush greenery is a dream come true. Laze around the pool with G&Ts, taking in sweeping views of macadamia plantations stretching out to the sea. To top it all off, you can collect herbs and eggs from the garden to enjoy with a loaf from the Harvest Bakery.

5. Provenance

The autumnal scenery of High Country is already alluring. Add a cosily romantic dining room ferrying out food artistry that brings together the cuisines of Asia and Europe, and a road trip to Beechworth’s Provenance is a must. Behind this labour of love are two skilled makers – owner-chef Michael Ryan, and his winemaker wife Jeanette Henderson. Be prepared for ingenious ingredient pairings, impeccable service, and an excellent drinks list that includes an exclusive selection of sake.

Where to stay?

Finches of Beechworth — Beechworth, VIC

Beechworth is full of beautiful old buildings. Provenance Restaurant, for one, stood as the Bank of Australasia in 1856. And forty-years on, the home now known as Finches of Beechworth appeared on the scene. These days, Finches is a stunning heritage-listed B&B that has captured the hearts of many (including the likes of Channel Nine’s Postcards). The individually themed rooms are a unique blend of exotic collectables and Victorian period features – an amalgam perfectly matched to your dining experience.

6. Hentley Farm Restaurant

Born and bred in the Barossa, chef Lachlan Colwill’s knowledge of, and passion for, regional produce shows in the plates that he dreams up. And dreamy they are – with an element of earthiness, a respect for the vineyard’s wines, and a creative interpretation of ingredients found on each and every menu. The degustations are designed to complement the estate’s range (should you choose a wine-matching, and we’d advise you do). Cutely titled, the four-course option is ‘du Jour’ and the eight-course a ‘Discovery’.

Where to stay?

Seppeltsfield Vineyard Cottage — Seppeltsfield, VIC

In the midst of the Barossa’s world-class wineries, Seppeltsfield Cottage offers more than just a heady escape – it’s an unmatchable experience of the region. The hosts here will happily share their insider tips to make sure you have the best time possible. Take a tour of the surrounding Seize the Day vineyard, organise bikes for a scenic, wine-filled ride, and have dinner at Hentley Farm Restaurant booked for you. For an indulgent retreat, it doesn’t get much better than this.

7. The Lake House

The Lake House Restaurant is a regional classic – and everyone knows the classics can’t be left of your ‘must-try’ list, because these are the rare creatures that have stood the test of time. These guys championed locally grown, speciality produce long before it was in vogue, and are largely responsible for putting Daylesford on the culinary map. The setting is light-filled and elegant, the food displays a wonderful sense of place, and the wine-list is lengthy enough to appeal to even the fussiest connossieur.

Lakefront — Daylesford, VIC

Lakefront is, as the name suggests, right on Lake Daylesford’s banks. This rural retreat has a huge wraparound balcony, which you’ll likely want to sit-back on with your welcome bottle of wine to get the weekend’s indulging started early. While the water views are hard to beat, setting up in front of the crackling log fire would be your next – and cosiest – option. And with big picture windows surrounding the house, you can enjoy the gorgeous scenery no matter where you are (including the spa).

8. Nu Nu Restaurant

Nu Nu is the only absolute beachfront eatery in Palm Cove – and that’s certainly not its only coup. This acclaimed dining room will have you digging into freshly caught seafood and tasty local produce in inspired Asian-styles; all while soaking up the paradisiacal scenery stretched out before you. Chef Nick Holloway previously headed up Pearl Melbourne, and his menu is served alongside those aquamarine views with urbane flair. The dishes here, without a doubt, will leave you wanting for more.

Where to stay?

Alamanda by Lancemore — Palm Cove, QLD

It’s not surprising that Nu Nu set-up camp onsite of the multi award-winning Alamanda at Palmcove resort. What could be a better partnership – and location – than this beachfront beauty? Both are known for excellence, and both promise an unforgettable far-north Queensland experience. Relax on the balcony with your morning coffee, and devour a good book by the pool. Swim in the ocean, find shade under swaying palms, and take naps cooled by the sea breeze. Freshen up with some day-spa pampering, and sit down to a candlelit dinner with waves crashing in the background. Gourmet getaways don’t get more blissful than this.

9. Annie Smithers' Bistrot (now 'Source Dining')

Piper Street basically sprouted around Annie Smithers’ Bistrot. The acclaim of this regional gem sparked a revival for the area, and the locals speak fondly of it. Nowadays, a wander down this bluestone-lined strip is accompanied by the scents of great coffee, eclectic cuisines, and candles burning away in crafty boutiques. Housed in a former flourmill, Annie Smithers is no longer associated with the bistro, but current chef Tim Foster has ensured its paddock-to-plate philosophy and heart and soul hospitality remain. Here, there’s no pretention – just damn fine dishes brimming with the best and freshest ingredients.

Where to stay?

Circa 1860— Kyneton, VIC

Circa 1860 is right in the heart of Piper Street (and right next door to Annie Smithers'). On entering this multi-level space you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a Parisian apartment. Pass the library room and follow the sweeping staircase, and you’ll find a sumptuous bed, plush chaise lounge, cosy open fireplace and kitchen with Vintec wine fridge. Once you’ve spent a bit of time moving between lie-down spots, you’ll want to pretty up and head out to your dinner date.

10. Peppermint Bay

Tassie has the cleanest air on earth, huge stretches of unspoiled land, and boutique producers aplenty, so it’s no surprise their produce is some of the best around. David Moyle – head chef at Peppermint Bay and the freshly minted Franklin, in Hobart – certainly saw the opportunity in jumping from Byron to this more southerly bay. Set on four-acres of waterfront headland, the kitchen is able to source much of what it needs from the onsite gardens. For the rest, they partner with local farmers, anglers and artisans to create dishes that speak of the area and the changing seasons.

Where to stay?

Arjuna Ridge Retreat — Oyster Bay, TAS

At Arjuna Ridge Retreat, not only are you ideally positioned to take on the tasting plates at Peppermint Bay, you’re also right at the gateway to gourmet country (aka the Huon Valley). Set high up on a hill offering incredible views over Storm Bay and Bruny Island, you can enjoy the breathtaking landscape while wading in the heated pool, sitting back on your private terrace, or soaking in the spa. Each room has an exotic theme, and each is designed to draw in the surrounding coves, bays and hills.

11. Ten Minutes by Tractor

Seamless service, sprawling vineyard views, top-notch dishes and of course, wine: Ten Minutes by Tractor has all of the ingredients for excellence. These guys take their dining seriously, so while you’re here, you should too. Trust us – this is food worth taking seriously. The wine list is expectedly outstanding, featuring estate, neighbouring and international beauties. And each and every dish has found just the right drop to match. Settle in for all eight courses. You won’t regret it.

Where to stay?

Somerset View — Red Hill, VIC

Somerset View comes with a couple of content warnings: 1. Don’t get so lost in the vistas that you miss your dining experience, and 2. The breakfast provisions here are generous – pace yourself. True to the name, all three-accommodation options take in breathtaking views of vineyards rolling away to the bay. Want to enjoy those while lolling about an infinity pool? Go for ‘The Grand’. Prefer to hangout in a hot tub on the deck? It’s ‘The House’ for you. ‘The Barn’ has two separate balconies and a clever layout allowing groups to spend time together, or spread-out on their own.