As with our boy’s trips during off long weekends and weekdays, which we call High Country Cruises, we like to do family camping trips in much the same way. We used to do Christmas camping trips over the Christmas holiday periods, but that’s become difficult as many of our favourite camping places have been closed and campers are now pushed into large open areas where there’s no peace or privacy for anyone. So over the last few years we’ve been doing a sort of pre-Christmas week of camping during a time when it’s more likely to be relatively quiet and with campsites free. So we did this again this year, this time travelling to the Dargo region which is slightly closer and easier to get to than our previous forays to the Nunniong Plains area and offers much better river options.
The Boolarra Community Hotel has been on our check-list to visit for some time, but we were told that it wasn’t open and certainly whenever we’ve gone past, there hasn’t been any noticeable activity within or without. So I was more than surprised when I heard that the hotel had been acquired by the Boolarra community, with residents chipping in to take shares in ownership. Sometimes this seems to be the only way to resurrect a hotel that has fallen by the wayside and with a community located where it is, not having a pub handy is always an issue. And so it was with some interest that we decided to visit this Sunday for lunch, especially as we’d heard that the meals were very good.
The Old Pub (The Old Boolarra Pub as it’s alternatively known) in Boolarra has had a chequered history since it was first established in 1884. Apparently it was called The Selectors Arms originally, thought to have become a boarding house in 1916 and then named the Old Boolarra Pub some time later. When we first came to Mirboo North, we visited Boolarra not that long after and went to visit the Old Pub, but unfortunately it was closed. It was (is) a private residence and was re-opened as a cafe and B&B and, I understand, in 2014 it re-acquired it’s liquor license and is now a licensed coffee house and eatery. The Old Pub is a fine example of an old bluestone and timber building of the era, which carries that bluestone character to the interior of the pub. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to discover very much more about the history of the pub itself.
The Dog House bar & bistro is one of those venues that you come across unexpectedly and which gives you a pleasant surprise both in how it presents itself and the first impressions provided by the likeable staff. Nestled within the Wild Dog Winery, a few kilometres south of Warragul, it resides right next door to the Wild Dog Winery restaurant and function centre, yet is a complimentary establishment rather than a competing one. Apparently the Dog House building was the residence for the winery some time back, but was sold a few years ago and converted into a bar & bistro.
The Meeniyan Hotel has been around in one guise or another since around 1892; the original being destroyed by fire in 1933 and subsequently rebuilt and added to over the years. The Meeniyan Hotel is located in a small township that sits on the South Gippsland Highway, on what is a gateway for tourists on their way to Wilsons Promontory and other tourist destinations such as Port Welshpool or Port Albert. The hotel’s latest owner Andrew, outstandingly friendly and informative, only acquired the hotel recently and has commenced major renovations and improvements to take advantage of its perfect location on this busy tourist route.
The Noojee Hotel at Noojee Victoria commenced operations in 1925 with the main intent of supporting the local timber industry. The Noojee Hotel has quite a history, along with the township itself, and has provided an important role to the community (other than serving beers) during a number of severe bushfires, an ever present danger for the area. Noojee itself is kind of typical of these old mountain townships that have discovered a sort of revival due to the tourist industry. Every weekend, at least in the summer months, thousands of people travel from north and south to visit Noojee and other similar towns as part of a weekend drive or ride.
The Commercial Hotel at Woods Point Victoria (better known as the Woods Point Hotel), is one of Victoria’s most iconic pubs (especially for those who venture to these parts), though by no means the oldest, and is located in a remote valley through which the Goulburn River runs and which became a mecca for gold prospectors in the mid-1800s. Woods Point reportedly had over 30 hotels in its heyday; but today, only one remains. Hopefully the current facilities can keep running, as it would be a shame if a part of history such as this were to fade away.
Manna-Gum at Broadbeach Is a restaurant almost hidden down a suburban street in Inverloch Victoria. It’s a very popular restaurant, for those in the know, and features excellent Asian style meals rarely found in this neck of the woods and hosts Greg and Sue have a long association with the region, having run restaurants and hotels in the area for many years. We’ve been going to the Manna-Gum for lunch for quite a few years to boot (even when we lived in Melbourne) and always look forward to an opportunity to visit. Each time I’ve tried to sample something different (Thai Prawn Omelette this time) and I’ve never been disappointed with any of the meals. The White Rabbit Dark Ale really hit the spot.
The Inline 4 Café may appear, at first glance, to be out of place in this series; however, as it’s licensed, I reckon that qualifies it for the series as much as any other establishment. The Inline 4 Café revolves around a motorcycle sports theme and has, in its short time of operation, managed to generate an enormous amount of interest, locally and further afield. Despite the fact that the café only opened fairly recently, it has become an almost mandatory stop for those on day trips to the area and it’s especially popular with motorcycle riders, for obvious reasons. On weekends when the weather is kind, it’s very busy, but even on weekdays it has a constant procession of customers stopping for great food and coffee.
The Grand Ridge Brewery bar itself isn’t overly large compared to some, but there’s certainly no difficulty in getting a great beer even at the busiest of times and, believe me, it can get very busy. The Grand Ridge Brewery at Mirboo North is a well recognised and highly awarded brewery, receiving rave reviews for its craft beers, about which you can read more on their website. The staff are clearly used to the frenetic pace of peak hour and luckily this day we ventured in early, just before the tourist lunch crowds started to filter in. Being one of the first really fine days towards the end of winter, with more good days predicted, the crowds will undoubtedly increase.