Melissa and Donovan Jacka run Tolpuddle Goat Cheese and Farm Foods, a sustainable farm and micro-dairy in the Ovens Valley. They let us in on their favourite spots in the region, including some local secrets.
Nearby Eldorado is crammed full of local history. A stroll around town will take you past an old gold-mining dredge, a museum and Victoria's smallest pub, among other sites. 'The town is surrounded by incredible bushland, and although it is mere kilometres from Wangaratta, you feel like you're really off the beaten track,' Melissa says.
2. Paradise Falls
One of the Jackas top places to visit in the King Valley is Paradise Falls, in Cheshunt. With an accessible road and easy walking trail, the falls are worth a visit year-round. Melissa and Donovan love this place in spring, when wildflowers are in bloom and the water is free-flowing.
3. Sam Miranda
Nestled in the heart of the King Valley, Sam Miranda produces a diverse range of wines. Melissa and Donovan take visiting friends here for lunch. 'The outdoor terrace overlooking the King River is serene,' Melissa says.
4. Hurdle Creek Still
A short drive away from Sam Miranda is Melissa and Donovan's favourite local distillery. Drop in for a gin tasting in a timber-clad shed, where you can see the distilling operation up close.
5. Weathercraft Wines
Weathercraft Wines is located between Tolpuddle Farm and the town of Beechworth. Tree-changers Racquel and Hugh Jones are passionate about what they do and share Melissa and Donovan's love of the High Country. 'They have a small cellar door for private wine tasting, which always feels really special,' Melissa says.
6. Provenance Restaurant
This award-winning Beechworth restaurant serves up Japanese-influenced contemporary cuisine. On the menu, you'll find an emphasis on local and seasonal produce of the highest quality, due to owner-chef Michael Ryan's passion for the High Country region. It's where the Jackas have celebrated every significant milestone since moving to the High Country. They make 'the best' martini according to Melissa.
7. Ovens River
Along this winding river is the Jackas favourite swimming hole, a location known locally as 'Pioneer Bridges', on the Everton–Markwood road. It's not uncommon to see tents pitched here, making the most of the cool water on a hot summer's day. Melissa recommends nearby Everton General Store for delicious hamburgers and top-quality milkshakes. Lunch, sorted.
8. The Ox and Hound Bistro
Located within the historic main street, this Beechworth bistro is the perfect setting for a long, relaxed lunch. 'The food, wine and service are incredible, and you always come away feeling like you've been spoilt'. Be sure to book in advance, as the venue has only a small number of seats.
9. Plough Inn, Tarrawingee
While all the local pubs in the area offer top quality food, Melissa and Donovan reckon the Plough Inn in Tarrawingee has the best beer garden. The menu changes weekly and local musicians pop in to perform on Sundays, giving the pub a strong community feel. The outdoor terrace is covered in wisteria. Drop in during spring to see the stunning cascade of purple flowers in full bloom.
Note: Tolpuddle's farm gate closes over the winter months from June to August.