Melbourne to Sydney: Where to eat along the Hume Highway

Jill Dupleix and Terry Durack hit the Hume.
Jill Dupleix and Terry Durack hit the Hume. 

The need-to-know stops and diversions that will turn boring bitumen into a foodie holiday adventure.

Spain has the Camino de Santiago, Peru has the ancient Inca trail to Macchu Picchu, and Japan has the 88-temple pilgrimage around Shikoku. But that's OK, because we have the Hume Highway.

You can drive straight through from Melbourne to Sydney in 10 straight hours if you like. But don't. Just don't.

Not if you can set aside a couple of days to slow down and take the time to leave the highway on a whim, and check out the small country towns with their big wide streets.

Not if you can travel from pie shop to gelato bar to craft brewery to egg and bacon roll to comfy pillow in a boutique hotel, and sleep like a baby.

Not if you love how the landscape changes as the hours go by, telling its own stories, marking its own history.

Say hi to the Dog on the Tuckerbox, call in to the Ettamogah Pub, and take a selfie with The Big Merino at Goulburn. They may be kitsch but they're our kitsch, part of our history and culture.

We used to plan overseas trips with passion and precision, mapping out natural beauty spots and possibilities for romance, adventure and excitement. We'd go out of our way to track down local specialties in food and wine, and fill our days and nights with treasures and treats. Now we're doing that in our own backyard, and discovering a whole new world. Australia.

BREAKFAST AMONG THE VINES

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Just 100 kilometres from Melbourne, Fowles Wine at Avenel is busy from 9am, seven days a week, dishing up country breakfasts and gourmet grazing platters. Masterminded by vigneron, hunter and farmer Matt Fowles, it's designed as a contemporary "Aussie shed", flowing from cellar door to cafe, courtyard and garden bar and 50-metre-long "feasting arbour" entwined with wisteria.

Breakfast on local mushrooms, or chilli, kale and parmesan scrambled eggs (pictured above), or lunch on slow-roasted lamb with an award-winning Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch shiraz. Then stock up on local cheese and picnic food from the farm store – and a bottle, of course.

PULL IN FOR PIZZA

Surrounded by a shady garden, Northern Republic's 151-year-old flour mill by the river in Euroa smells deliciously of pizza from head chef Mohammad Ovi's wood-fired oven. Try the Hot Mamma with 'nduja, hot salami and mozzarella, or share a plate of San Daniele prosciutto and gnocchi fritti with a local craft beer. Owners Adam and Danielle Palmer also fill the tall-ceilinged, wood-lined dining space with music, and are big supporters of Euroa's Music Festival in November.

You now have a choice of heading off the highway for an extra diversion – what's it to be – Beechworth or Rutherglen? Or both?

Bridge Road's Beechworth site is housed in a 150-year-old carriage house.
Bridge Road Brewers expanding to Melbourne. For Good Food, 29 July, 2021

Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth. Photo: Supplied

GO FOR GOLD

One of Australia's most famous gold rush towns, Beechworth is also one of the prettiest – especially in autumn, when the gold is of another kind.

The streets are practically paved with treats, from a humble pie at the famous Beechworth Bakery to a reviving herbal tea at Naomi Ingleton's dispensing apothecary FarmacyCo. Take coffee at the sweet little Collective Beechworth before segueing to a cleansing ale and giant pretzel at Bridge Road Brewers next door.

Stretch those pins on a walk around town to revel in the lacy verandahs, original shopfronts, little wine bars with come-hither courtyards (hello, Eldorado Road Cellar Door Cantina) and magnificent trees.

Kangaroo main course at Provenance in Beechworth.

A kangaroo dish on Provenance's Japanese-influenced tasting menu. Photo: Supplied

If you're driven (sorry) by fine food and wine, book ahead for a table at Provenance, set within an imposing 166-year-old building once home to the Bank of Australasia. Owner-chef Michael Ryan is obsessed with the tastes and textures of Japan, so dinner is kaiseki-style with small dishes arranged on a series of trays. House-made pickles and ferments add to the fun, as does a bittersweet Amaro from Ryan's passion project, Beechworth Bitters Co. Stay overnight in one of five comfortable rooms, if only for the breakfast basket.

Pop into the new Bonnie, at All Saints Estate for pizza al fresco.

Pop into the new Bonnie at All Saints Estate for pizza. Photo: Kate Shanasy

VINE DINING

Immerse yourself in the rolling vineyards of Rutherglen, just 15 minutes' detour from that dotted white line down the middle of the road. There are more than 20 family-owned wineries to explore, but the drive and ambition of Eliza, Nick and Angela Brown of All Saints Estate are redefining the term vine dining.

Their new casual diner Bonnie has been delightfully inserted into the old bottling shed by Techne Architecture. Drop in for artisanal pizza (each one named for the owners' children), or picnic on the beautifully kept grounds in sight of the famous All Saints' turreted tower.

Stay overnight in a winemaker's cottage at Mount Ophir Estate, and dine on charcoal-grilled flatiron steak with red wine butter at the city-chic Thousand Pound Wine Bar in the town of Rutherglen. Morning coffee is at Caffeine N Machine bakery and bike centre, before you hit the road again.

  • All Saints Estate, 205 All Saints Road, Wahgunyah (Bonnie, Mount Ophir, Thousand Pound Wine Bar), allsaintswine.com.au
  • Caffeine N Machine, 62 Main Street, Rutherglen
Yardbird, a new restaurant in Albury from hospitality couple chef Simon Arkless and manager Cait Mitchelhill. Main dishes pictured include vitello tonnato, roast blue eye cod with caramelised witlof and grilled asparagus with manchego.
Credit: Bec Haycraft
For Good Food, 9 December, 2021

Wood-fired share plates at Yardbird in Albury. Photo: Bec Haycraft

THE MIGHTY MURRAY

Albury, how you've changed! You now have fresh pasta and natural wines at hip little Norma Wine + Pasta, and pork bao and Shandong-style sticky chicken at Hapi, an almost do-it-yourself dumpling bar with a focus on training local youngsters.

You have the "reassuringly expensive" Circa 1928 boutique hotel with a spa bath to rest weary driving bones, and the wood-fired glam of Yardbird from local star Simon Arkless.

Then there's the sunny Canvas Eatery that spills out onto the park at the Albury Art Gallery, and great coffee and egg and bacon rolls at Jacob Wolki's Cafe Musette by the railway station, where both eggs and bacon come from Wolki Farm.

Make time for a stroll through the Library Museum to explore the history of Wiradjuri country, or stretch your legs over the five-kilometre Yindyamarra sculpture walk along the Murray. (Wodonga, you're great, too! Maybe next time.)

STOP THE CAR, MATE. IT'S THE ETTAMOGAH PUB

Screech to a halt in the ginormous car park at Table Top, just outside Albury, take a snap of this laugh-out-loud pub for Insta, and drive off again. That's what most people do. Or wander in to the hotel faithfully recreated from the 1958 Ken Maynard cartoon original, and sit up at the bar on the "skinny stool" or the "fat stool" (no judgment here). Have a yarn, and maybe knock back a chicken schnitty or bangers and mash. Mate, you'll be a part of history.

  • Ettamogah Hotel, 561 Burma Road, Table Top
Whole Nimbo butterflied trout, capers, garlic, lemon, dill . Three Blue Ducks at Nimbo Fork Lodge. Good Food Terry Durack restaurant review. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 28 March 2021.

Don't miss the fish: Whole butterflied trout with capers, lemon and garlic, lemon, dill at Nimbo Fork Lodge. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

EAT, FISH, SLEEP

Chef Mark LaBrooy liked fly-fishing at Nimbo Fork Lodge so much, he opened a Three Blue Ducks restaurant there. Half an hour's drive (and three cattle-pits) from Gundagai, it's a delightful collection of luxury cottages overlooking the Tumut River, and the dining room is just the sort of place you'd like to be at the end of a long drive. French-born chef Edmee Driez makes the most of local produce with a menu that runs to kangaroo tartare and Gundagai lamb, but you have to have the Nimbo trout with capers, lemon and garlic. Sleep tight.

DOG SITS ON TUCKERBOX. WORLD TAKES PHOTO

It has been a driver's rest-stop eight kilometres north of Gundagai since 1932, and never fails to disappoint. ("Small, isn't it?"). Plans were announced last year for an architectural makeover by Melbourne's Cox Architecture, not just for the little bronze doggy who patiently awaits the return of his master, but for new facilities including a paddock-to-plate cafe, play areas and accommodation. Until then, consider pausing at Gundagai, for its wide streets, autumnal trees, and all-day Mexican baked eggs and Pablo & Rusty coffee at The Coffee Pedaler's lovely new digs in the main street.

AFR Life & Leisure. Writer: Fiona Carruthers Story: New life for country classics in pub boom Caption: The Sir George

The Black Barns at the Sir George Hotel in Jugiong. Photo: Supplied via PR

TO PUB OR TO PICNIC? THAT'S A TOUGHIE

Jugiong very nearly disappeared off the map when bypassed by the relentless freeway in 1995. But this tiny hamlet on the banks of the mighty Murrumbidgee, 340 kilometres south-west of Sydney, has a new lease on life. Pull into The Sir George hotel, and admire the glorious restoration by Kate Hufton and Liz Prater over maple roast pumpkin or a beef burger. This multi-tasker – local pub, luxury overnighter (check out the Black Barns), wedding venue, sourdough bakery and beer garden in beautifully landscaped grounds – has recently been sold to pub baron Fraser Short's Sydney Collective.

Long Track Pantry, Jugiong.
For Amy Cooper travel story for Good Food, Nov 17, 2020

The vine-covered Long Track Pantry is a must-stop. Photo: Supplied

Next door is always-busy country cafe Long Track Pantry, with its picnic fare, vine-covered verandah and homewares store, plus the Lickety Splits gelato bar and Jugiong Wine Cellar, specialising in the wines of Hilltops, Tumbarumba, Canberra and Gundagai. It's so much of a must-stop, you may not even continue.

THAT'S A BLOODY BIG MERINO

You've seen the Big Banana and the Big Prawn, but you haven't lived until you've seen the Big Merino. Built in 1975 as monument to Goulburn's wool industry, the 97-tonne statue stands 15.2 metres high. In its shadow, you'll find the cheery Grit Cafe. Grab a booth for an excellent egg and bacon roll and well-made Delano coffee, and stock up on gluten-free goodies (a specialty of the house) for the last few hours of the drive.

  • Grit Cafe, shop 5, 1-3 Sowerby Street, Goulburn
Plantation Cafe in Bowral.

Plantation Cafe in Bowral. Photo: Supplied

NEARLY THERE

What, already? You might want to grab some extra time in the Southern Highlands before hitting the big smoke, so add in a scenic detour to Bowral and caffeinate yourself with Double Roasters at Plantation Cafe, part of the lustworthy Green Lane precinct, or head to Collector for a Single O coffee fix at Some Cafe.

And really, can you drive past one last pie, that unbeatable culinary cliche of the road trip? Dine in at Heatherbrae's Pies Sutton Forest bakery and down a Ned Kelly (beef, egg, bacon and cheese, breakfasts only) or a classic steak mince, and all hail the great big foodie road trip.

Road trip rules

  1. Take every second diversion and give some love to a local township. Ask a local "where's the best coffee/bushwalk/park?"
  2. Sing (very loudly) The Road to Gundagai as you approach Gundagai "There's a track winding back…"
  3. Play the Drinking Game – take a big slug of water every time you overtake the same truck.
  4. Pull in to every third roadside refreshment stop and do star jumps and stretches.
  5. Never avoid a tourist cliche – say hi to the Dog on the Tuckerbox, call in to the Ettamogah Pub, and take a selfie with The Big Merino at Goulburn. They may be kitsch but they're our kitsch, part of our history and culture.

The authors would like to acknowledge the traditional lands of the Gadigal, Tharawal, Gundungurra, Wiradjuri, Pangerang, Yorta Yorta, Taungurung and Wurundjeri clans over which the Hume Highway traverses.