Fruits of love
Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm was a family business originally established as a mixed orchard in Main Ridge in the early 1960’s that quickly became famous for its strawberries and they continue their love affair with these ‘fruits of love’ to this day. Walking into the farm shop you are immediately aware of the sweet scent of the strawberries… and they taste even better than they smell. Of course if you are feeling romantic you can stroll the rows together and pick your own, but you could buy them already picked and instead spend the time in the dessert café sharing a Belgian Chocolate Fondue with strawberries to dip and dunk, or their famous Strawberry Temptation – perfect for two. The house made ice-cream is creamy and luxurious, and of course is made with REAL strawberries! But there are also strawberry wines, liquors, ciders, jams and syrups - perfect to take home and share later.
Less than 10 minutes drive away around the scenic roads of Red Hill is Paringa Estate with their own "fruits of love" version. This secluded and picturesque vineyard has grown to become one of the most awarded wineries in Australia – particularly for their Pinot Noir and Shiraz –and they won the inaugural James Halliday Winery of the Year award. While the wine is the main story, it is certainly not the only one. On top of the winery is an award winning restaurant. The elevated setting offers expansive vineyard and valley views with east facing enormous windows to capture the best of them - perfect for a romantic lunch. The restaurant has held a Chefs Hat award for the past 4 years running, and the menu is colourful and imaginative as well as delicious. The setting is causal but smart and every dish is matched to a Paringa wine, making the choice easy. For serious lovers (of food and wine) a five or eight course tasting menu with matching wines is the way to go.
Vineyards and views
Impressive views are also to be had at Port Phillip Estate in Red Hill. From the moment you make your way to the enormous front door you are left wondrous at the impact of the monumental rammed earth architecture – it curls around the landscape and seemingly expands and unfolds as you move further in. And the views over the vines and down the winding valley to Western Port are impressive. The cellar door offers entirely estate grown wines and you can grab a ‘shared table’ lunch for something casual in front of that amazing view. Mind you, they have also won a Chefs Hat award for their bistro dining experience which features a menu that is seasonal and reflects the terroir as much as the wine does, so if you really want to impress your someone special…
Oh, and you can even stay over in a very private and luxurious suite downstairs if you wish!
Less than a kilometre away is another delightful and dreamy winery accommodation option. The four beautifully styled spacious studio apartments at Polperro Winery Villas are nestled amongst the vines in the heart of Red Hill overlooking the vineyard and valley. Each luxury villa features a king size bed, designer styling, open fire place, vineyard views and in-room spa treatments by appointment. There is an enormous round chair, perfect for two, in front of the fire to curl up in and your own relaxing Adirondack chairs on the private deck outside - with the vineyard just metres away. The central spa bath embedded in the floor certainly has wow factor and the rural landscape is lit up at night with up-lights in the trees, making it a very pretty view from your room. One of the villas even offers a private sauna! Add a charcuterie or cheese platter on arrival, or a couple of passes to the hot springs and your romantic rendezvous is complete. Just on the other side of the vineyard the delightful Polperro bistro offers a seasonally focused menu in a casual (but refined) atmosphere inside or out on the deck for a romantic meal, or grab a picnic hamper and find a secluded spot to enjoy each others company.
Over lake and sea
For another winery accommodation option that is an oasis of luxury and tranquillity Lakeside Villas at Crittenden Estate in Dromana offers three boutique 4.5 star villas with a waterside view. They are constructed entirely over the vineyard lake providing a sense of almost floating among the vines. Each secluded villa is a fully self-contained experience with a well equipped kitchen (in case you want to eat in) adjoining a dining area and expansive living room. The separate king size bedroom has a large walk in robe, while other features include an authentic wood fire, deep spa bath and your own BBQ on your private deck. The attention to detail is lovely, and it’s no wonder they won a Victorian Tourism Award. If you fancy a wander around the property there is the award winning Crittenden Wine Centre and Stillwater at Crittenden restaurant on site. You can play a hit of tennis on the full size tennis court, or do a bit of bird watching, stroll the boardwalk around the lake, or order a private in-room spa treatment to complete your pampering.
Just a little higher (about 300metres) overlooking the little township of Dromana is the regions highest point; Arthurs Seat. The view expands over the valley to Mount Martha, and over the sea to the Bellarine Peninsula and, on a fine day, around to Melbourne. Arthurs Views is so called because it is on Arthurs Seat and has seriously good views. But there is more to this purpose built luxury couples retreat than the amazing panoramic views. Choose a suite with a luxurious deep double spa bath positioned so that you get the view through an enormous picture window, or you can lie in the luxurious king sized bed and take in the equally stunning twinkling lights at night. The property adjoins the Arthurs Seat State Park and so kangaroos, echidnas and birds are often passing by, and is just a hop, step and jump to the Seawinds Gardens and the Arthurs Seat Eagle skylift. They even have their own ‘romance fairy’ who can sprinkle their magic around your room for that special occasion – petals, towel art, gifts are all on the menu. Pick your own way to be incredibly romantic!
Who says romance its dead?