There’s gold in them hills: Exploring the Moorabool Valley

We at Redgum Roadtrips have fallen in love with the Moorabool Valley. Much to our delight as tour guides, it is perfect for running private tours. It is unique, welcoming and filled with surprises that will keep even a keen local learning new things. It has definitely taught us a few things and continues to spark our imagination and put smiles on faces every time we visit.

Here is what we have learnt so far:

Just out of Geelong, hidden in valleys to the North West, there are secret places. Places that hold tight to tales of our past and the ghosts of a gold rush long gone, Places where platypus swim undisturbed under giant river red gums and wedge tailed eagles soar high above the ridge lines keeping watch, Places that feel like home as soon as you arrive.

These lands were rich in wool and wine in the early days of the Australian colony, this made them instrumental in the survival of a young nation, pumping the economic life blood to the great city of Melbourne. However government regulations, vine disease and the mad flurry of the gold rush, forced these industries, particularly wine, to take a damaging back seat. Most vineyards closed down or were abandoned, with only a few viogniers trying to weather the storm.  Pop up towns and rapidly built infrastructure sprung up to cater for the torrent of fresh faced hopefuls, who had hurriedly arrived on the gold fields from the surrounding farms and boats from afar. In the background the remaining vines grew wild and unkempt until they and the gold slowly disappeared.

150 years later and a lot of the haphazard townships and activity hubs have vanished, been removed or aged beyond recognition with time, but some parts still stand. The people who live in these valleys now are doing amazing things with the remnants of times past. They are leading the area into the future by breathing new life into the old regions of our formative years. Young hospitality techniques are being blended with the historical undercurrents and country charm of the area seamlessly, creating a new destination for food and wine lovers from all over.

The vines have returned with vengeance, and seemingly stronger than ever, as if in rebellion to the industrys bad fortunes of the past. The wines are going from strength to strength with a string of awards being carried out by dedicated and daring winemakers, utilizing the unique terroirs and climate of the area to make intense yet moreish wines. In our opinion, the atmospheres that the wines are presented in, at the valleys’ cellar doors, are easily the best way to experience them.

There is a surprisingly diverse range of experiences to be had by visiting just the wineries in the region. Take Moorabool ridge wines for example. Deep in the bottom of the valley, near to the water course, sit and peacefully enjoy a flight of wine tastings with a light lunch, accompanied by a selection of house made preserves and home grown olive oils. Kick back and take your time overlooking the vines and the red gums that line the riverbanks from the porch and garden of a 1850s rustic cottage, while cockatoos squawk overhead. It’s as if you step back in time as the relaxed feeling of returning to see an old friend is brought home by down to earth staff, always up for a chat and more than willing to impart volumes of local knowledge.  And that is just one of the places on offer in the valley.

For another example of why we love this area, though for quite different reasons, visit the Clyde Park cellar door. Perched high on the ridge of the valley, commanding panoramic views give you an eagles’ perspective of the surrounding land.  You feel spoiled as you walk with your glass onto the sweeping balconies from the sleek, cleverly designed tasting galleries. Well thought out plates are matched with free flowing wines in a large intimately lit dining hall, this gives way to laughter and lively conversation filling the air of the high ceilinged space where you are served locally sourced modern cuisine between the stacks of wine barrels. Live music and astute staff bring the feel of an inner city dining experience to a place that is anything but hustle and bustle. Much like the previously mentioned Moorabool Ridge cellar door, it is very easy to lose track of time and spend the whole afternoon soaking it in.

These are just two of the wineries out this way, there are many other restaurants, cafes, pubs, bushwalks, historical precincts and of course, more wineries. Gold rush ghost towns, fine dining in decommissioned bluestone train stations, art gallery coffee hotspots, fresh organic produce of every different kind and good old fashioned country pubs are waiting not far from home. Be sure to take some of the backroads between venues as they wind through the valleys and show off the finest rural scenery and secret swimming holes we have seen for a long time.

Because of these amazing attributes we are always very excited to bring people out to see these unforgettable places, but don’t take our word for it. If you have a spare day coming up, get some freinds together, jump on a roadtrip and treat yourself to soul stirring history, hidden pockets of stunning nature and of course a healthy serving of great grub and award winning vino on your own private tour.