We're hitting the road on 16 March for The Village Feast, a pop-up country town full of history, nostalgia and delicious food. Our destination? Jindivick. If you’ve never heard of it you’re probably not alone. Jindivick’s population clocked in at 491 people at the last Census. The tiny West Gippsland town sits off the M1 so chances are you haven't driven through on the way to larger towns like Bairnsdale or Lakes Entrance.
But unlike these destinations, Jindivick is just over an hour from the city, making it the perfect gateway to Gippsland’s charms. Discover mountain ranges, dairy farms, heritage towns, bushwalks and more – then drive back to the city the same day. For food-lovers, there’s no shortage of things to taste, sip and do in West Gippsland, whether breweries, cellar doors or fine-dining are your thing. And unlike the Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula, it’s a region that feels like a well-kept secret.
The main street of Jindivick (photo: James Morgan)
There are dozens of quaint tiny towns like Jindivick dotted around this part of Victoria. And while populations may be dwindling, there are plenty of passionate locals like Sue Goodwin who want to keep their town thriving. Goodwin runs the Jindi Caf with her family who have history in the town going back three generations. While they initially moved back to Jindivick in 2013 to purchase the general store, the Goodwins soon found themselves signing on the dotted line for the local café, the only restaurant in town, which shuttered just a few months after the couple relocated.
“We didn’t want to lose any more things,” Sue Goodwin says. “Quite often when those stores close, people can’t keep in touch with each other.”
“If you don’t have a community you don’t have a place.”
Winemaker Patrick Sullivan (photo: James Morgan)
It’s that sense of community that’s at the heart of Jindivick’s appeal. This is a place where the whole town is likely to show up at the church on your wedding day. Where the town will rally to fight the closure of the primary school and win. After the Black Saturday bushfires affected the area, the town banded together and held fundraisers for those who lost livestock, homes and sheds on their properties.
Since the bushfires, Gippsland has staged a recovery in fits and starts. Tourism, thanks to rich natural beauty and exceptional agriculture, is a huge part of this. The region has long been known for its beef and dairy, but there are new distilleries, wineries, vegetable growers, beekeepers and restaurants joining the cattle farms in increasing numbers.
Hogget Kitchen pâté
Some of these will be on display at The Village Feast, so you can try the huge array of Gippsland produce, wines, beef and more in a single place. There’ll be Sailors Grave beers at the pub, Gippsland wines in the bottleshop by Blackhearts & Sparrows, charcuterie from Hogget Kitchen, cocktails by Loch Distillery and more. Plus you get to meet the makers and producers who are putting Gippsland on the map: Patrick Sullivan and Bill Downie, both leading natural winemakers who have relocated to West Gippsland, Paul Crock of Gippsland Natural Beef, Alejandro Saravia, who started an entire events company devoted to Gippsland produce, and more. Locals and Melburnites will rub shoulders to celebrate everything that’s great about this pocket of Victoria.
If you haven’t yet discovered the riches of Gippsland, now's your chance. Hop in the car and head for West Gippsland – your tastebuds will thank you.
The Village Feast, noon-9pm, 16 March, Main Street, Jindivick, $25. Tickets are on sale now.
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