Camping, cycling and drinking great wine, each favourite pastimes, but roll them into one and you have a rollicking weekend only three hours drive from Melbourne.
Like migrating birds chasing the last rays of sun before winter, we have been making this pilgrimage north in autumn for 15 years. Where we once felt unique on our journey, choosing camping as our accommodation, and cycling as our transport - we are now part of a wider flock who land in Rutherglen at a similar time each year to sample the same delights.
Even our special secret campground, Rutherglen Caravan and Tourist Park, has been discovered by greater numbers. (Perhaps reading about it in Camping in Style's tourist park recommendations).
The park is well priced and ideally located in the heart of town. This is helpful for a weekend getaway as food supplies, pub meals, lattes and bakery treats are just a short stroll away when you need them. It's also a great central location for launching off to the wineries in the morning.
There must be something about a wine region attracting a nice camping clientele because from our experience you'll be surrounded by respectful fellow campers - where you'll be the ones mindful of keeping your jolly laughing to a minimum in the evenings.
Perhaps this respect is due, in part, to the more mature audience travelling at this time. But never underestimate your older neighbours, especially when it comes to fitness. These mild-mannered-grey-nomad-types can completely transform, especially once they don their lycras. As we experienced this year when a group of cyclists, perhaps 30 years our senior, left us in their dust while we were still adjusting to the morning light.
It doesn't matter what your age or fitness level, cycling around Rutherglen can be enjoyed by everyone - not just lycra-riders - because of its gentle, flat terrain. This year the children joined the tour, turning it in to a fun-family-affair.
You can design an itinerary to suit the age and fitness levels of the people in your group - distance options for serious riders and short rides for the less-fitness-inspired. Aware that the children, with their little-legs on less-than-state-of-the-art bikes prefer a shorter ride, we kept our Saturday itinerary close to town, at a distance under ten kilometres.
Before we even put foot to pedal, a serious instructional talk was delivered to the children about safe road riding. To make sure it was cemented, the message was re-enforced as we left the side streets for the main road. We're sure the importance was understood as they were never 'out of line' all day, riding responsibly in single file. Thankfully there are big gaps before you even see a car, and helpful yells from the back when one is approaching.
We have followed a similar route for many years which begins from the campground at 10am. The first winery is a short ten minute ride, Campbells, followed by Buller Wines then Lake Moodemere Vineyards. Here you can try your luck at winning $1000 worth of wine driving a hole-in-one onto the floating green - not achieved to date.
Next we take a shortcut through a bush track to Pfeiffer Wines where we enjoy our pre-ordered gourmet-picnic-hamper lunch that comes complete with our self-selected bottle of wine - after a good tasting. The joy of picnicing at Pfeiffers is the reserved tables on the bridge over Sunday Creek, pleasantly shaded by umbrellas. The hamper cost is $80 per couple and there's a children's picnic box at $12.50.
After lazing on the bridge and watching the turtles below, it's off to Cofield for the serious wine enthusiasts, then Chambers, the favourite finishing point. Its relaxed vibe, help-yourself tastings, proximity to town and reasonable prices make it a perfect end to Saturday.
Taking it leisurely on Sunday, mindful of the drive back to Melbourne, we included Jones', St Leonards and All Saints - one of the most picturesque of Rutherglen's estates with its tree-lined boulevard entrance and historical turreted castle. Here were also samples of some of regional Victorias best cheeses.
With more than 20 wineries in close proximity, the choice of where to go is endless. What might the itinerary look like for your group?
Don't let the grips of winter take hold just yet, there's still time to organise your rollicking-Rutherglen-riding tour. Great camping, easy riding, sunshine, fresh country air and the treats of Rutherglen at every stop, should surely make it a regular on your camping calendar.
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