Lee Atkinson samples some of the egg-cellent delights around this historic region.
Avoca is your classic goldfields town, with a main street so wide you could turn a bullock team in it. The middle of the main street's now a pretty park, complete with imposing art deco war memorial rotunda and a tree grown from a Lone Pine seed brought back from Gallipoli. Many of the shopfronts also retain their historic facades. Some remain completely unchanged: Lalor's Chemist, established in 1854, is believed to be the oldest continuously operating chemist shop in Victoria.
What it's known for
Avoca is in the heart of the Pyrenees wine region and the area is famous for big, bold reds. There are about 50 vineyards nearby.
What you didn't know ...
Reputed to be the largest collection of eggs in the southern hemisphere, there are more than 4000 on display at the Imperial Egg Gallery in nearby Beaufort. It's all the work of one woman, Margaret Saunders, who has been collection eggy things for more than 60 years. There are carved, painted, enamelled and bejewelled emu eggs, ostrich, duck, goose and dove eggs, eggshell lamps, eggs within eggs, clocks within eggs, fairies within eggs, and sculptures made from hundreds of eggs. The most treasured pieces are eight replica Faberge eggs - the original eggs were made for Russian nobility between 1885 and 1917, and most are now in art museums - encrusted with semi-precious stones and gilded with gold leaf. It is, if you'll excuse the pun, a cracker of a collection. 56 Neill Street, Beaufort. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-4pm.
The Three Troupers Pantry is a new provedore and cafe specialising in local produce on the main street of Beaufort, and has quickly become famous in local circles for delicious handmade pies. It's open Monday, Thursday and Friday, 10am-5pm, and weekends, 9am-5pm. 44 Neill Street, Beaufort. Also new is the deli at Summerfield Winery, specialising in imported cheeses and hams. 5967 Stawell-Avoca Road, Moonambel. Open daily, 11am-5pm. summerfieldwines.com.
There's not much to the whistlestop of Amphitheatre, 10 minutes south of Avoca on the Pyrenees Highway, except a pub that sells nothing but ice-cream. Made by hand with pure cream, it's sinfully rich stuff, with flavours such as vanilla bean and vodka, choc fudge and Baileys, and orange zest with Grand Marnier. It's like a cocktail party on a plate - but with a heap more calories. Don't miss the quirky back-room museum dedicated to tapa cloth - Fijian bark cloth - and the various ceremonial rituals that go along with the making and wearing of it. 3 Bailey Street, Amphitheatre. Open Thursday to Sunday, 9am-6pm. sensesdesserts.com.
Where to eat
The front bar at the Avoca Hotel is your typical old-style country pub, but head out the back and you'll find the recently refurbished dining room. The menu has a strong regional focus and features local produce such as wild hare and rabbit from the Blue Pyrenees Estate; local gourmet sausages; beef; lamb; trout; and even eels from nearby Skipton. If they can't source the vegetable and herbs locally, they grow their own. The wine list, too, is local: even if the wine is made in the region, unless the grapes were grown here, too, they won't stock it. 115 High Street, Avoca. Lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Sunday. (03) 5465 3018, theavocahotel.com.au.
Where to stay
Watch kangaroos and sheep graze as the sun rises over Mount Avoca's grapevines from the comfort of your bed in one of three luxury eco-sensitive cabins at Eco luxe @ Mount Avoca, just a few kilometres from Avoca. Rates start at $290 a couple, including breakfast provisions and a bottle of wine. (03) 5465 3282, eco-luxe.com.au. Warrenmang Vineyard & Resort offers chalet-style cottages and motel-style rooms, many with a view. Decor in the rooms is a little dated, but the fantastic food in the restaurant makes this a great place to stay. Dinner, bed and breakfast packages start at $195 a person. Accommodation closed Sunday and Monday. (03) 5467 2233, warrenmang.com.au.
How to get there
The Pyrenees district is about a two-hour drive north-west of Melbourne. Beaufort is on the Western Highway (160 kilometres from Melbourne); Avoca is at the junction of the Sunraysia and Pyrenees highways (183 kilometres from Melbourne).