Recognised as one of the world’s most scenic coastal road journeys, the Great Ocean Road is rightfully a popular day trip for visitors to Melbourne. However, there is more to this destination than meets the eye. While the glorious surf beaches, lush rain-forest, and towering cliffs are unforgettable highlights, the region’s gourmet credentials warrant attention. From acclaimed restaurants serving the freshest locally sourced ingredients to farm gates creating award-winning artisanal fare, here are some gourmet highlights that will reward a visit.

La Bimba

Well located in the charming seaside town of Apollo Bay, a halfway point on the Great Ocean Road, La Bimba is the ultimate epicurean lunch destination. The restaurant overlooks the foreshore with views to the beach and on a sunny day with windows retracted, the space is awash with natural light and fresh sea air.

Sourcing local fish, red meat and poultry is at the heart of La Bimba’s restaurant story. Ensuring ingredients are gathered from fishermen and farmers in the Apollo Bay region is an essential value to farmer, chef and restaurant owner, Steve Earl.

Highlights of the menu include a seafood paella, the superb Portarlington mussels, and baked whole fish which might be locally caught snapper or garfish.  The restaurant recently installed a wood fire grill, perfect for the mouth-watering grass-fed beef.  The wine list is replete with interesting Victorian wines including the highly recommended Otway wine producer, Heroes.

Apostle Whey Cheese

Venture just a few kilometres inland from the iconic 12 Apostles and you find yourself in the heart of the Heytesbury Settlement, some of the richest dairy country in the world supplying around 25 per cent of Australia’s dairy needs. With lush green rolling hills dotted with Friesian and Jersey cows, it is a landscape reminiscent of the Irish countryside.

Julian and Dianne Benson are original settlers of the region having farmed in the area for over 35 years, and for the past 12 years they have produced award-winning cheeses on site.  The family’s dairy herd has been bred to produce milk with high butterfat and protein levels, which is critical to the flavours they achieve with their cheeses.

Apostle Whey Cheese offers personal tastings of their delectable range, including white moulds, creamy blues and, our favourite, marinated feta. And if the timing is right, you can watch the cheese makers in action from a viewing window in the tasting room.

Timboon Fine Ice Cream

The quaint hamlet of Timboon is perfectly located in dairy heartland and is renowned for its quality dairy farm gates and providores.  Any visitor to the town should make a bee line to Timboon Fine Ice Cream to sample premium boutique ice cream unmistakable for its creamy smoothness.

For the last 18 years Tim Marwood and Caroline Simmons have been making their famous ice cream on their property 7km from Timboon. Fresh milk comes from a neighbouring family farm and fresh cream from nearby Camperdown Dairy.

Their striking architecturally designed store is located in the heart of the township and offers guests the opportunity to sample ice creams before they settle on their choice.  And that decision can be a difficult one with innovative flavours such as Orange and Cardamom, Passionfruit Meringue, and Maple and Cinnamon.  Our favourite is Whisky Cream flavoured with the locally produced spirit from Timboon Railway Shed Distillery, a stone’s throw from the store.

Timboon Railway Shed Distillery

In a region with a history of illicit whiskey production dating back to the 1890’s, Timboon Railway Shed Distillery is now the home to some of Victoria’s finest locally, and legally produced, spirits.

The working distillery boasts not only single malt whisky, but a range of spirits as well – premium vodka, limoncello, strawberry schnapps and the very popular coffee cream. Visitors have the opportunity to talk to distiller Josh Walker (no relation to Johnny) about our distilling process and try some of their malts, which, according to noted whiskey reviewer Angelo Capuano of Malt Mileage, are “as smooth as new milk but with some ferocity and fire’.

The Timboon Railway Shed Distillery also houses a restaurant perfect for a lunch stopover. The menu is casual but classy and showcases the finest locally produced artisanal fare such as Western Plains pork belly, Beeac prime Suffolk lamb, and the delicious, aforementioned Apostle Whey cheeses.

GORGE Chocolates

Nestled between the Great Otway National Park and the rolling hills of the Heytesbury Settlement, GORGE Chocolates offers something of a country experience.  The shop itself is actually a farm shed in which one section has been fitted out for the shop and chocolate making room.  The rest of the shed still serves as a farm shed for the 100-acre property.  Cows, horses, a sheep or two, a goat, chooks & (friendly) dogs are also kept on the property and may be seen from the shops’ window.

GORGE’s chocolate treats are handmade on-site by expert chocolatiers and well-known locals Jason Spaull and Melanie Pollock, using a special type of Belgian chocolate often blended with carefully selected Australian ingredients such as Buderim ginger, our personal favourite.  We also recommend their hot chocolate, made with real Belgian chocolate of course – rich and delicious.