Black Caviar’s hometown of Nagambie is the place to horse around – or take a much-needed breather, reports Pamela LaPersonne.
Nagambie, the birthplace of Black Caviar, is much like the undefeated champion racehorse – thoroughbred through and through. Encircled by wine country, waterways, wetlands and wildlife, the tiny township is a winner, with something for everyone, be it restful or active.
Little less than a two-hour drive up from hectic Melbourne, Nagambie – on the foreshore of Lake Nagambie – can fly under the radar, bypassed by travellers heading to more high profile locations up the Hume Freeway.
Fittingly, pride of place in the broad boulevard that dominates the town centre belongs to Black Caviar, immortalised in a life-size bronze statue and striding to victory. Panoramic water views form the background.
Stand beside the mighty mare and gaze out upon the lake and there’s an immediate sense of tranquility. Conversely, the lake – that flows on to the Goulburn River – offers varied watersports for those seeking an active holiday: water-skiing, sailing, rowing and canoeing. For the more laidback, there’s always fishing.
While there are accommodation options – including lakeside – in and around town, to truly experience the beauty of the lake, take time out at Nagambie Leisure Park, a nature lover’s paradise.
We’re told that visitors often don’t venture out from the holiday park for most of their stay. Luxury riverside cabins, some among red gum trees, and powered and ensuite caravan sites dot the vast resort. Park activities include tennis, swimming in the Olympic-size pool and boating. While Chinaman’s Bridge Café – open at selected times – offers culinary treats, there’s also the choice of firing up one of the park’s barbecues.
As we sip drinks on the balcony of a raised, compact and fully equipped three-bedroom waterfront cabin by the lake, ducks drift by – with ducklings in tow. The park is alive with birdlife. A possum scurries up a tree as we walk past, then stops to watch us. Reassured, it continues its climb.
At twilight, it’s even more picturesque standing on the bridge that leads to the caravan section for regular holiday renters. Lights coming on in the township situated across the lake sparkle in the water. The symphony of birds going home to nest resounds in the air. A kookaburra laughs. The world has become a wonderland. Poet Robert Browning words come to mind: “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.”
Poetry aside, there are meals to consider. We wander into town. Brunch, combined with a stroll through its graceful main street, blows away the cobwebs. Two little chapels and a small tower with vines creeping halfway up add a touch of old world charm. We test out different eateries for snacks, main course, coffee and dessert. All get the nod of approval but try the Jetty Café, Main Street – scrumptious chips and salads served with meals; Nagambie Hotel – a spectacular view to supplement coffee and the best warm sticky-date pudding.
Dinner in our lakeside cabin is a culinary delight with antipasto, salad and cheese from the local supermarket, and mouth-watering takeaway fish. Ducklings diving for their tucker provide the evening’s entertainment.
Did I mention the wine? A local reveals that overseas visitors head straight for the region from Tullamarine Airport to buy the local wine that they had first tasted in their homeland.
Mitchleton and Chateau Tahbilk are major vineyards in the area. Come rain or shine, visitors are greeted warmly and generously with wine tastings.
On a rainy day, a visit to Chateau Tabilk is like stepping back in time. Massive wine casks in the cellar have been in the family for four generations. Historical memorabilia is on display. The balcony off the gallery is a forested haven. A colourful tiny bird braves the rain, flitting from tree to tree. Nature casts its spell no matter what the weather conditions.
Mitchelton Winery is impressive, from its sweeping vineyards to its 55-metre tower, perched high over the landscape. An arbour of vines outside the entrance is a photographer’s delight, picture perfect for weddings.
At the tasting centre, a vast array of pickles, chutneys, seasonings, chocolates and delicious Florentines, complement the delicious wines. Prices are another pleasant surprise.
Lunching in the indoor/outdoor restaurant is as inviting as the vine-covered pergola and al fresco area that leads to a lush green lawn. Service and food presentation is as exquisite as the view: from lamb cooked to perfection to Moreton Bay bugs.
New to the vineyard is the purpose-built riverboat cruiser, the Goulburn Explorer. It offers visitors a scenic inland outing along the waterways of the Goulburn River that surround the winery on three sides.
Take in the vista from the legendary Mitchelton tower. That alone is worth the trip. Catch the lift to the top for spectacular 360-degree views.
Driving in the Goulburn Valley region is a pleasure. Make the most of it by visiting the lovely villages, such as Euroa. Experience their history and heritage, antiques and fine food, and naturally, quality wines.