North-west of Melbourne (540kms to the north-west to be more accurate), tucked in between several National Parks and the Murray River (which also acts as the NSW-Victorian border) lies the regional centre of Mildura.
Originally founded as an irrigation settlement in the late 19th century, it remains a big producer both locally and nationally of Oranges, Grapes (both dried and for wines), Figs and many varieties of nuts.
This weekend gave Sarah and I the occasion for our 2nd visit, both journeys only for a brief one night stay, but it always seems to provide us some new, great memories each time.
With its riverside location, local wines and produce, it offers something for the fan of history, natural beauty or just good food and drink.
Our first visit, in the winter of 2012, provided us some beautiful weather and a brief respite from the Melbourne chill. The chance to walk in some sunshine, take in the river and its sense of history was something we both really enjoyed.
Whilst not aficionados, we both certainly enjoy a good beer, and in the Mildura Brewery (situated in the heart of town), they certainly have some good beers covered. The Honey Wheat was a particular favourite, but Sarah has never been fond of dark, heavier Stouts, but their chocolate scented number was even a winner with her!
The undisputed highlight of each trip however, has been a visit to Stefano’s, a very well regarded local Italian restaurant. On each occasion we’ve indulged in their 8 course degustation menu, and on each occasion we’ve left both bloated and very content!
This time dinner was completely booked out, so rather than put ourselves on a list and hope for any cancellations, we opted for a lunch sitting instead (given that it was a gorgeous day outside, I’d recommend booking a dinner there if possible, just in case).
There were no real disappointments, however a favourite (and the only thing that appeared on our menu during both visits) is their Granny Smith Apple Sorbet!
For the sweet tooth, this town (well, a certain bakery known as Hudak’s) proclaims to have Australia’s 2nd best Vanilla Slice. I’ve not done the research to confirm nor refute this, however they’re certainly pretty tasty, and Sarah, more knowledgeable on this than I, has made sure that she’s had one for ‘breakfast’ ever since her first tasting.
For those unfamiliar with the Vanilla Slice, it is a sweet treat of vanilla custard between 2 layers of pastry with a sweet icing on top.
Mildura does suffer from its remote location (a 6 hour drive from Melbourne), however flights taking just over an hour are fairly regular through REX (Regional Express), Qantaslink and Virgin… although fares can be a bit steep at times (it cost $550 for the 2 of us return).
We did also discover a dearth of Taxis in the town as we planned to fly home on the Sunday morning of our most recent visit. On the advice of the driver who’d collected us from the airport, she asked if we’d like a cab for the following morning and proceeded to arrange one for a 9:15am pick-up.
At 9:20am with no cab in sight and Sarah becoming anxious about our chances of checking in on time, we got our hotel reception to give them a call, only to discover that no booking existed!
Slightly horrified, the next available taxi came to our rescue, and ultimately, we got there with time to spare. The lesson: Book the cab ourselves or at least grab a receipt number!
Nevertheless, perhaps it’s the river, the weather, the food at Stefano’s or the brewery beer, but it has become one of our favourite weekend getaways.