5 ways to escape the football frenzy

Maticevski: Dark Wonderland

Maticevski: Dark Wonderland

Victorians are treated to a public holiday on the day before the Australian Football League Grand Final. For football fans, it is the perfect opportunity to prepare for a Grand Final Day celebration, and for others, it offers the chance to switch off from the footy, and spend some quality time with friends, family and the great outdoors.

Maticevski: Dark Wonderland in Bendigo
Those who prefer fashion to football can head to Bendigo to see some of Australia’s best fashion design on display at two exhibitions. In a world first, Dark Wonderland (until 20 November, 2016) at Bendigo Art Gallery showcases the 20-year career of the renowned Australian fashion designer, Toni Maticevski, featuring objects from his early practice through to his most recent creations. Nearby, at the Bendigo Visitor Centre, Flamingo Park & Beyond showcases Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson’s exuberant fashion and textile designs from the 1970s and 1980s, alongside some of their more recent work. Inspired by the Australian landscape, local flora and fauna and Indigenous culture their bold creations marked the emergence of a unique Australian look during the 1970s.

Good food can be enjoyed at Bendigo Wholefoods, a quirky community food store combining a greengrocer, a kitchen garden, a delicatessen and a providore with homewares and gifts. A wholesome lunch can be enjoyed at Masons of Bendigo, one of Bendigo’s leading (and hatted) restaurants. Here, the focus is on the exceptional local produce of Central Victoria and many ingredients are sourced from local farmers and primary producers of the area. And for dinner, Rocks on Rosalind, housed in what was once the National Bank offers modern dining and a casual bar for an intimate foodie escape; visitors can dine in an old bank vault or underground, and enjoy a cocktail masterclass. At the end of the day, what better place to rest a weary head than at the The Schaller Studio – just a short walk from the hubbub of Bendigo’s town centre.

Beauty and the Bike in Bright
Launching in September, Beauty and the Bike offers a girls’ getaway complete with deluxe accommodation, Bright pink bike hire, and hampers for dinner and breakfast. Armed with a map and a bike, visitors can start their journey along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, heading towards the pretty-as-a-picture town of Porepunkah. This village is worth an explore, as is the crystal clear Ovens River. The first stop though is scheduled for Great Alpine Produce and Trading, famous for its fresh local produce and coffee. After refuelling here, it is a two kilometre ride to the next destination: Feathertop Winery. Crisp Chardonnays and succulent Sangioveses are part of the tasting journey at this cellar door, and then it is time to sit back and relax, take in the stunning views with a gourmet lunch and glass of wine.

Riding back towards Bright, the next stop is the picturesque Ringer Reef Winery where a range of wines are available. A backdrop of Mount Buffalo and the Buckland Valley provides the perfect photo opportunity. After a day of tasting, riding and indulging, it is time to make the trip back into Bright to explore the township. The map has pinpointed all the hotspots including Bright Chocolate, Bright Ice Creamery, Bright Brewery and many of the cafes and restaurants Bright has to offer.

Grampians peaks trail
Three and a half hours from Melbourne, the Grampians Peaks Trail is a new way to experience one of the state’s most rugged landscapes. The first part of this world-class, long-distance walk is now open and showcases the best of the Grampians National Park over two nights and three days. The milder temperatures and drier conditions that spring brings with it make this the best season to go overnight bushwalking in the Grampians, and water is typically available in creeks. The walk can be undertaken with or without the assistance of a guide.

Grampians Peaks Walking Co provides walkers with outdoor equipment a pick up and drop off service and a range of tours that cater for those who want a little or a lot of support. They will even prepare and deliver food and water supplies to the evening campsite to lighten the load of walkers’ packs. Those after a relaxing end to a day of bushwalking can opt for the Royal Mail Hotel Luxury Grampians Peaks Trail tour which includes two nights accommodation at Royal Mail Hotel, a fully catered day walk with an interpretative guide taking in sections of the Grampians Peaks Trail, dinner each evening in the Royal Mail Hotel’s two two-Chef’s Hats Dining Room, a la carte Breakfast daily and return transfers from Royal Mail Hotel to Grampians Peaks Trail.

Phillip Island
The Grand Final Weekend is the perfect time to visit the popular adventure playground of Phillip Island. The exciting new Antarctic Journey has been delighting families since it opened at the Nobbies Centre last year. The exhibition is a collaboration with WWF-Australia and a proportion from each Antarctic Journey ticket sale will go towards WWF-Australia’s conservation work including Antarctic whale research. Floor to ceiling screens and the latest in multi-media technology bring the wildlife of Antarctica to life.

At the Koala Conservation Centre, visitors can get up close to the Koalas on raised treetop platforms. Kids can catch their own lunch at Rhyll Trout Farm and families can take a Wildlife Coast Cruise out to see the colonies of fur seals. At the world-famous Penguin Parade at Phillip Island Nature Park springtime is breeding season and the first of the eggs should soon be appearing, leading to some fluffy new chicks joining their parents on the nightly waddle up the beach at sunset, past spectators and home to their burrows.

Melbourne
The AFL grand final long weekend provides the perfect opportunity for the not-so-football-obsessed to explore the World’s Most Livable City. As fans fill the pubs around the eclectic streets of Fitzroy and Collingwood the streets will be quieter than a usual Saturday, providing a crowd-free day to browse the boutiques along Brunswick and Gertrude Street, drop in at Rose Street Market and sample some of the city’s tastiest fare on Smith Street.

Melbourne’s labyrinth of laneways can be discovered with local tour guides at Hidden Secrets, Walk Melbourne or Localing who will uncover the city’s hidden boutiques, galleries, cafés, bars and more. Foodies get a taste of the city’s food scene with Melbourne Food Experiences or learn the difference between a cold press and slow drip coffee with Melbourne Coffee Tours. Street explorers can get cultural and drop into Melbourne’s hidden art galleries and spaces with Walk To Art or Art Aficionado tours, or see the city’s street art scene through the eyes of a local artist with Melbourne Street Art Tours.

Those looking for a weekend of indulgence can book in for a classic High Tea at The Windsor, Langham Hotel or Hopetoun Tea Rooms or indulge in a pamper session at Miss Fox, Aurora Spa Retreat or Isika Day Spa.

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