How to spend a weekend in Meeniyan
From wineries to woodfired pizza, 48 hours will fly by in this South Gippsland stunner.
The Tarwin River winds its way around the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges that seem to fold into each other like a series of overlapping domes. By the banks of the river is a little town of weatherboard homes and mid-century shops straddling the main road. A median strip, planted out in petunias, kale and silverbeet, speaks volumes about the transformation of this traditional rural service town in the heart of Victoria’s dairy country into a tourist destination and arts hub.
At its centre is the Meeniyan Town Hall. This unassuming 1930s cement-sheet shed, complete with sprung hardwood floor and naturally excellent acoustics, has hosted some of the biggest names in music over the past 20 years.
Martha Wainwright, Billy Bragg, Paul Kelly, Vince Jones, The Waifs, have all played here, says Ian Bevington, president of the Lyrebird Arts Council, a team of music-loving locals who have been bringing world-class talent to South Gippsland since 1999.
Take in the natural beauty of the Strzelecki Ranges after an afternoon enjoying the local food and wine.
“If you want to know the secret to our success,” reveals Ian, “we make people feel really welcome. We hire the best equipment and put on a show that is really world class, comparable to what’s being put on in Europe or New York.” Upcoming acts include The Go Betweens’ Robert Forster in July.
It’s not just musicians who are making the pilgrimage to Meeniyan. Renowned wildflower artist Celia Rosser lives nearby, joining the growing ranks of South Gippsland artists. Many of them banded together in 2000 to buy a historic corner building to house the Meeniyan Art Gallery, a volunteer-run space that showcases works by local painters, print makers, ceramicists and other artists.
“The region attracts a lot of creative types,” says local fibre artist Meg Viney, who explores the stringybark forests around her home, collecting leaves and grasses to make into paper she moulds around frameworks of fine branches.
The local garlic festival held each February attracts more than 10,000 people.
“You can’t blame us,” she says. “The district is serenely beautiful. The hills, their curves and undulations, the gentleness of the country. The greenery.”
That greenery has supported a thriving farming community since the towering bluegum forests were cleared for pasture at the end of the 19th century.
“There used to be a cattle and pig market here on a Monday,” says cattle farmer David Meikle, who owns Tarwin Poll Hereford Stud and whose family has been in the area for generations; there’s even a Meikle Street in town.
“In the 1950s, dairy farmers would sell their cream to the butter factory and then fatten the pigs with the leftover skim milk,” he says, as we wander the steep slopes of his 200-hectare farm.
South Gippsland’s green paddocks have supported a thriving farming community since the end of the 19th century.
Grab your bike and head to the Great Southern Rail Trail.
Felicity Jones sells local products at the Meeniyan Store.
Meeniyan is Victoria’s garlic capital.
Treat yourself to a woodfired pizza from Trulli Pizzeria.