The Great Ocean Road region is one of Victoria's best kept foodie secrets. While Melbourne constantly collects praise for its coffee and the Yarra Valley for its viticulture, there is a treasure trove of gourmet delights waiting along the windswept southern coast.
Sample the ocean-fresh catch of the day from the local fishing co-ops along the Bellarine Peninsula, Apollo Bay or Port Campbell, or stray away from the coast to celebrate the artisanal cheese producers and luscious berry farms found further inland.
What better way to unwind than with a fine wine in hand in the Geelong region – producing subtle European-style Chardonnay and Shiraz – or the Henty region in the far south-west, where Riesling and Pinot Noir vineyards creep towards South Australian border.
Take your tastebuds along for the road trip on the Otway Harvest Trail, calling in on a selection of cool-climate wineries and craft breweries, enjoying gourmet chocolates or antipasto from the local provedores, picking your own fruit at friendly farmgates and refuelling at one of cosy hinterland homesteads.
Elk Horn Roadhouse
420a Wallington Road, Wallington, Victoria 3221
A cafe, restaurant and gift store rolled into one, the Elk Horn Roadhouse was nothing but a tin shed plonked in the middle of a horse paddock until two friends decided to inject a little Americana inspiration into the rural farming town of Wallington. Just 15 kilometres from seaside Queenscliff, the Elk Horn Roadhouse is the perfect road trip pitstop with daily baked treats and an extensive breakfast and lunch menu served with true country hospitality.
Sourcing everything possible from the Great Ocean Road region, you can enjoy the likes of house-made date and cranberry granola with locally produced honey, chai and yogurt, or a roasted rhubarb salad with seasonal mixed greens, spicy candied walnuts, goats cheese and honey balsamic dressing. If you can't get enough of the taste of Wallington, pick up jams, chutneys, honeys and more at the Roadhouse before you head off.
14 High Street, Inverleigh, Victoria 3321
Earning the coveted title of "best new regional restaurant" in the 2013 edition of The Age Good Food Guide, Gladioli is a dining experience discerning foodies won't want to miss. With chef Matt Dempsey at the Helm – who has proved his prowess several times over and trained at the likes of the legendary Fat Duck in England – Gladioli's changing menu focuses on seasonal local flavours, plated up with flair.
The renovated homestead setting gives Gladioli a homely feel, while the eight-course degustation menu will have you feeling as though you're dining at one of the world's finest bistros. Set aside a few hours to enjoy the great value selection of eight exquisite dishes, or opt for the five-course menu if your eyes are bigger than your belly.
Shop 2, 108-110 Surfcoast Highway, Torquay, Victoria 3228
Given that Bombora means a "turbulent area of sea over such a reef", it makes sense that the restaurant lives up to its namesake by being especially surfie-friendly. Tucked between surf shops in the heart of Torquay, Bomboras is the brainchild of two dudes on a yearlong surfing sabbatical. That was six years ago. Today, Bomboras is a part of the local surfing culture serving up gourmet pizzas, seasonal salads and inclusive vegetarian options.
In a quirky twist, Bomboras signature pizzas are named after famous surfing spots: try the Winki, with double smoked chicken, marinated artichoke, pesto and asparagus, or Bells spiced lamb, roasted capsicum, Swiss mushrooms and crushed pistachios. Worked up a gnarly hunger offshore? Take a seat at the Bomboras Kiosk overlooking the beach with a classic milkshake or ice-cream in hand.
Jack Rabbit Vineyard
85 McAdams Lane, Bellarine, Victoria 3221
Boasting unbeatable bayside vistas out to Geelong, the You Yangs and Melbourne on a clear day, the Jack Rabbit Vineyard is about more than just a good tipple. This cool-climate winery produces rich varietals including sweet Moscato and Rose, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Pinot and Shiraz Blends. With a tasting room, cellar door, restaurant and bistro-cafe on site, the coastal gem that is Jack Rabbit is a gourmet destination in its own right.
The newly renovated Jack Rabbit Restaurant found its way into The Age Good Food Guide in 2012 and again in 2013, showcasing Victorian producers with a diverse menu of haute cuisine. Additionally, the House of Jack Rabbit cellar door and cafe is open seven days for lunch and on weekends for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so there are plenty of chances to enjoy the beauty of the Bellarine.
46A Mountjoy Parade, Lorne, Victoria 3232
Easily located on Lorne's main restaurant strip, The Ovenhouse has become something of an institution on the local culinary scene. Churning out wood-fired gourmet pizzas and a melange of Mediterranean delights, The Ovenhouse has expansive brunch and dinner menus highlighting down-to-earth flavours with a Euro-Aussie sway.
Start your day off with baked eggs with chorizo, spiced shallots and wood-fired flat bread, or a grilled haloumi and pesto baguette. For dinner, be tempted by the char-grilled scotch fillet with polenta chips and seeded mustard butter, or a linguine with a fresh medley of local seafood including prawns, mussels and squid tossed with white wine and olive oil.