Restaurants and things to do in Timboon

Simon Schulz with a cow

Sofia Levin

Posted April 16, 2019

How gourmet ice-cream and whisky changed a Victorian town. 

There’s a recurring theme in Timboon, a dairy hub in the Otways about 150 clicks south-west of Geelong. It involves next-generation dairy farmers disagreeing over the future of the family business. It happened to Simon Schulz from Schulz Organic Dairy, and also to Tim Marwood, who lasted five years on the family farm before founding Timboon Fine Ice Cream. 

“A lot of people come here and tick off the Apostles and don’t explore the hinterland,” says Tim. “Timboon was a ghost town and now it’s a tourism destination. There was just something innate in me that wanted to display what a great place Timboon is.”

Rolled hay in countryside

Photo: Eamon Gallagher

In 1998 Tim lingered at the Twelve Apostles bus stop, about 30 kilometres from Timboon, to quiz visitors on their favourite ice-cream flavours. The following year he hired a dairy professor from Melbourne’s William Angliss Institute to provide a three-day ice-cream course and, by 2000, Tim had launched a food truck. 

“We sold $3000 worth of ice-cream. We slept with [the money] under our pillow we were so bloody excited,” he recalls.  

He didn’t think an ice-cream shop would hold up over Timboon winters, so he took the family to Scotland and learnt to distil whisky, founding a distillery in the town’s heritage rail shed on his return. 

A few years back he sold Timboon Railway Shed Distillery to focus on ice-cream, building a Willy Wonka-style cafe and classroom, soon to be connected to the distillery by a pedestrian bridge. Twenty years since it began, tastings remain compulsory at Timboon Fine Ice Cream.

Third-generation dairy farmer Simon Schulz realised that Timboon was becoming a tourism hub when road signs were installed reminding international travellers to keep left. Simon’s grandfather bought land here in 1972 and implemented organic practices for cost efficiency. The house Simon was raised in is now Timboon Cheesery, a cafe with cheese tastings and a manicured garden.

“By adding more to the area, people are staying longer,” says Simon. “We have more Europeans, Americans and Singaporeans – and a lot of people moving from Melbourne. Out of the whole shire, Timboon is the only place that is growing, because brands like ours show people that it’s a great place to be.”

Cake from the Fat Cow

New York cheesecake at Fat Cow Food Co. Photo: Eamon Gallagher

Although Simon is first to admit that the town lacks dinner options and is “desperate” for a baker, he has his favourite spots. “I go to a place called The Fat Cow. There’s a great local chef there and that’s where a lot of locals go. They support us and we support them,” he says. 

But as much as he’s an unofficial ambassador for the area, Simon knows how to keep a secret. “There are some great hidden spots, but unless you have a guide, you’ll never find them,” he quips.  

Thankfully most of Timboon’s gourmet spots are within walking distance of each other. If arriving in the afternoon, be aware that the town is fairly quiet after sunset. Unless you’re hanging for a pub dinner, visit Emma Pope at The Corner Store, which used to be a butcher shop. With a background in Asian cooking, Emma stocks beef from her father-in-law’s farm 800 metres up the road, as well as take-home meals, Jane Dough bread from Warrnambool and American bourbon and Japanese whisky. 

Last April, Timboon Railway Shed Distillery’s owner-distiller, Josh Walker, redecorated to create a relaxed, Chesterfield-lounge vibe, but the tin and rafters of the original rail shed remain intact. The $35 Aussie Block tasting paddle offers a good overview of the small-batch whiskies distilled in a 600-litre copper pot still, including the single malt Port Expression and Christie’s Cut, named for Detective Inspector John Christie, who was in charge of stamping out illegal distilling in the region in the 1890s.

The start of the Timboon-Camperdown Rail Trail is just outside, as is Crater to Coast Bicycle Hire. Both Simon and Tim recommend a ride to Curdies River Trestle Bridge, just four kilometres from the distillery along the rail trail. The former railway reached Timboon in 1892, opening up the area to dairy farming and timber milling. These days, the heritage-listed bridge is more of an Instagram hot spot. 

“I like to refer to Timboon as ‘Tim-boom’ because it’s going through this explosion at the moment,” says Tim. “I’m quite proud of that.”

Tim Marwood at Timboon Fine Ice Cream. Photo: Eamon Gallagher

Tim Marwood at Timboon Fine Ice Cream. Photo: Eamon Gallagher

The facts

Where is it?

Timboon is 55 kilometres east of Warrnambool and 115 kilometres north-west of Apollo Bay. Take your own wheels so you can stop along the Great Ocean Road.

Best time to visit

While summer is the time for berry-picking and outdoor activities, opt for the cooler months if you prefer to cosy up with a local whisky.

Trivia: strong stuff

19th-century Timboon distiller “Whisky Tom” Delaney’s Mountain Dew Whisky was said to be strong enough to kill a mosquito at the other end of a footy field.

While you're there

The Bay of Islands Coastal Park near Peterborough – as beautiful as the Twelve Apostles minus the crowds – is a 25-minute drive from Timboon. Nearby Port Fairy is a festival town, with its jazz and folk festivals on in February and March respectively. Stop at Dan Hunter’s three-hatted Brae restaurant in Birregurra on the way to Timboon.

Three things

Very berry

If you’re in Timboon before the Easter long weekend, Berry World will be in full swing. Although 240-gram to two-kilogram strawberry punnets are available, you can bring your own container to fill – the general rule is that if the lid closes, you’re good to go. There’s a tiny cafe, and Easter visitors can join the Easter egg hunt. 

One for the road

You can pick up provisions from Timboon Provedore, where coffee comes in giant mugs, best enjoyed in nooks near the windows. If you have a drive ahead, order a pie or sausage roll for the road.

Artisal Festival

In November the annual Timboon Artisan Festival is held on the lawn at the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery. Featuring  members of the 12 Apostles Artisan Food Trail, it’s a great opportunity to meet producers with a backdrop of live music and games for the kids.

Don't miss

Fresh scones with cream and house strawberry jam from Berry World.