1. TEA COSY FESTIVAL
In just under a fortnight the good folk of Fish Creek come together to battle it out to see who can make the most inspiring tea cosy. This 10-day festival reflects the rural hospitality and artistic bent of this small community living in a fold in the hills of South Gippsland's rich green dairy country. The festival sees a children's music workshop, music hall nights in the Fish Creek Memorial Hall, an artisans market and a competition to find the best tea cosies in the country.
Fish Creek Tea Cosy Festival May 16-25, teacosyfestival.com.au
2. RAIL TRAIL
It is one of the most beautiful bike rides in the country and follows the course of the former Great Southern Railway, which first ran from Dandenong to Port Albert in 1892. It's a relatively easy 59-kilometre trail, mostly on a fine gravel track, that starts in the west in Korumburra and passes through farmland, across rivers and along secluded valleys lined with towering tree ferns and blackwood trees, finishing at Toora overlooking Wilsons Promontory. Many riders take their time and make the most of the villages such as Koonwarra, Meeniyan and Fish Creek with their country-chic cafes and stay a night or two along the track.
Great Southern Rail Trail, railtrails.org.au
Gippsland brothers Simon and Terry Peavey have bought the old art deco Fish Creek pub and given the old girl a much-needed overhaul. Built in 1939, the Fish Creek Hotel has a grand scale with high ceilings and some commanding features and now has a bottle shop focusing on fine Gippsland wines. Accommodation is very comfortable, with rooms starting at just $66 a night. Expect country-proportioned counter meals in the bistro and dining room. A highlight is the 23-year-old sculpture of a giant mullet on the roof, so loved by locals that they are raising money to have it restored.
Fish Creek Hotel, 1 Old Waratah Road, lunch and dinner daily, 5683 2404, fishcreekhotel.com.au
4. WILD GOAT
Andy McPherson used to make fine furniture. "Everything was millimetre-perfect, smooth flat and every imperfection hidden,'' he says. Then, a few years back, he turned things on their heads and opened a gallery that celebrates "material decay and the beauty of imperfection''. He has turned a rusted '68 Holden ute bonnet into a decorative wall hanging. An old Rheem water heater is now Interrupted Columns, an engaging sculpture with an oxidised patina. Here you'll find lamps made from diesel fuel lines and a sheet of corrugated iron with impressions of cows' hooves. McPherson manages to turn salvaged objects into ones of desire.
Ride The Wild Goat, 5 Falls Road, Fri-Mon 10.30am-4.30pm, 5683 2661, ridethewildgoat.com.au
5. FINE WINE
Slow down when you drive to Waratah Hills Vineyard as there is a family of eastern grey kangaroos living among the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, the only two varieties they grow in this very pretty vineyard tucked away in the Hoddle Ranges. Here you'll find wines made in the French style by Marcus Satchell, with gamey Burgundian-style award-winning pinot noir. Judy and Neil Travers serve light meals such as Spanish fish soup or beef fillet with creamy polenta.
Waratah Hills Vineyard, 20 Cottmans Rd, Fish Creek, 5683 2441, Sat-Sun 11am-4pm (closed during May), waratahhills.com.au
6. 9 ACRES
It's a cute little cafe in an old wooden shop with just a few tables and a bench overlooking the park across the road. Come here for good coffee, pastries and dry goods. Make a donation and take home seasonal veg grown in the community garden across the road. Scan the shelves of the secondhand bookshop out the back - we found a '70s copy of Anyone Can Do It with a picture of Bert and Patti Newton building a rocking chair. On the walls are co-owner Michael Chang's ultra-realistic and rather beautiful 3D-rendered local landscapes. Co-owner Rachel Sands suggests visitors walk to the summit of nearby Mount Nicoll lookout (Mount Nicoll Road, seven kilometres east of Fish Creek). It offers spectacular views over the Hoddle Ranges, Corner Inlet, Wilsons Promontory and the islands of Bass Strait.
9 Acres, 17 Falls Rd, Thu-Mon 8.30am-4pm, 5683 2246, 9acres.com.au