In the 1850s, Heathcote was inundated with people seeking their fortune in gold. Today, this quaint country town in Victoria attracts people for another kind of treasure: quality food and wine.
Just over an hour and a half drive from Melbourne, Heathcote is an easy day trip or overnighter from the city.
Boasting Australia’s longest regional main street, the town centre offers a selection of small cafes and provedores, tasting rooms, and bed and breakfasts. Drive out of town to explore cellar doors and farm gates to stock your cellar and pantry.
Historic buildings and walking trails invite visitors to slow down and enjoy the fresh country air.
Things to do in Heathcote
There are so many wineries to choose from and Heathcote’s temperate climate lends itself to both red and white grape varieties. Just 15 minutes from the town centre is Merindoc Winery, a family-owned vineyard, easily accessible via the Northern Highway. Welcoming, local staff offer tastings of the extensive wine range free of charge. For $10 per person, a 45-minute guided tasting is available, which includes a flight of eight wines and a tasting plate.
Merindoc Winery: 2905 Lancefield-Tooborac Rd, Tooborac (turn off 200m from the Northern Highway).
Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve and Viewing Rock
The Pink Cliffs are a remnant of the Victorian gold rush and offers a unique attraction just a short drive or walk from the town centre. Take the easy path to two viewing areas – one is elevated, overlooking the pale pink mounds, while the other is at ground level, giving the view of the rolling geology. As the light changes throughout the day the colours range from a pale dusty pink to a rich reddish-blush.
Another geological site is Viewing Rock which looks over the town and across to the Macedon Ranges, part of the Great Dividing Range. The drive up to the lookout is along 1.5km of rocky dirt road, so visitors are encouraged to take it slow and steady.
Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve: Pink Cliffs Rd, Heathcote.
Viewing Rock: Range Drive, Heathcote.
Palling Bros Brewery
A new addition to the beverage offering in Heathcote is Palling Bros Brewery. This open space offers a selection of craft beers accompanied by pub-style meals and snacks. The venue hosts a range of events, from live bands to literary talks to food and wine festivals.
Palling Bros Brewery: 168 High St, Heathcote.
Places to eat in Heathcote
Tucked away on a dirt road off the Northern Highway is Heathcote Harvest – a small, paddock-to-plate cafe, in the truest sense. Set on a 20-acre working farm, owners Steve and Lyndal offer country hospitality at its finest. Lyndal greets everyone at the door and guides diners through the menu which features dishes created from fresh, local ingredients. The drinks list is made up of the best in the region and is available by the glass and bottle. The cafe’s relaxing atmosphere encourages long, lazy lunches.
Heathcote Harvest: 32 Tuscan Court, Heathcote.
A newcomer to the cafe scene in Heathcote, Fodder is perfect for reading the weekend paper and enjoying a cuppa. With a French Provincial blue and white colour scheme, the cafe has a light and airy vibe. The simple menu offers breakfast and lunch, and there are plenty of sweet treats on display for your perusal. Meals are beautifully presented and extremely tasty.
Fodder: 74 High St, Heathcote.
The crowds are a dead giveaway that this is a sensational country bakery and the selection of pies and sweet treats are mouth-watering. Serving all the country classics – hot pies (more than 13 flavours), sausage rolls and pasties complimented by homemade tomato sauce – Gaffney’s is the perfect spot for lunch and gathering weekend eats. The desserts include all the traditional bakery favourites such as apple cake, vanilla slice, jelly slice, apple pie, custard tart, coffee scroll and jam tart – it’s hard to choose just one!
Gaffney’s Bakery: 109 High St, Heathcote.
Heathcote accommodation: Places to stay in Heathcote
There are some excellent farm houses on offer in Heathcote so you can immerse yourself in the real country experience — choose from a selection available on Airbnb.
Getting to Heathcote
Heathcote is approximately 119km from Melbourne’s CBD.
There are three main roads that will get you out of town, depending which side of the city you are departing from:
- Take the Calder Highway and turn off at Kyneton on the Heathcote-Kyneton Rd or;
- Take the Tullamarine Freeway and onto the Melbourne-Lancefield Rd, then left at Tooborac onto the Northern Highway or;
- Take the Western Ring Rd and then Hume Freeway onto the Northern Highway.
If travelling from northern Victoria, head towards Bendigo and pick up the McIvor Highway heading south-west.
Heathcote is also accessible by V/Line coach service, and takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station. There are multiple departures daily. The coach stops in the centre of Heathcote.