From gold mining to wine growing, the history of St Andrews has helped nurture a tight-knit, creative community.
When someone yelled, “There’s gold in them thar hills,” they could have been talking about the land around what would become St Andrews, a quiet, semi-rural community in Melbourne’s northwest. The population swelled during the gold rush when prospectors found a nugget at what was then known as Queenstown in 1855. Times have been good to the area, which is still one of Victoria’s wealthiest towns. Visitors come here for the same reasons its residents would never leave: a great community atmosphere and a number of attractions that appeal to all.
Lovers of wine should take a tour of some of the vineyards dotted around the Artisan Hills. Vines have been growing on the slopes at Punch Winery since 1976, and James and Claire Lance have been making wines here since 2005. The cream of its crop is the close-planted pinot noir, grown on a tiny plot of tightly packed vines. At Buttermans Track, wines are handcrafted from premium, estate-grown shiraz, pinot and sangiovese fruit. Red wines — shiraz, montepulciano and pinot — are the specialty of Giammarino Wines, but the winemakers here also create a chardonnay. If you’re visiting St Andrews, check with the individual vineyards to make an appointment for tastings or check for the dates of Open Cellars of Nillumbik. Twice a year, usually during June and October, all the winemakers in the region open their doors so visitors can chat about their processes and taste their wares.
There’s a very casual atmosphere at Folk Alley Cafe, where the menu of burgers and Buddha bowls is written up on the blackboard. Everyone who visits is a big fan of the home-baked muffins in interesting flavours.
Check out an artist at work at Rob’s Glassworx, a studio and gallery. Rob Haley has been creating pieces from glass since the late 1970s, and now makes both functional and sculptural works in his bush gallery. Drop in for a chat and to check out his art.
More art, as well as vintage items, organic produce, handmade skincare products and many other must-have items, can be found at the St Andrews Market, held each Saturday morning. This community gathering has been operating for four decades, and is as much a family day out as a chance to stock the pantry with local produce. Kids will love the pony rides, face painting and buskers, while the vegetarian food and sweet treats will likely be irresistible to the rest of the tribe.
Still hungry? You can’t go past local pizzeria and cafe, A Boy Named Sue. The mud-brick building has a recycled timber fit-out and a wood oven for firing those perfect pizzas. Weekend brunch includes a brekky pizza, as well as poached eggs and baked beans on St Andrews sourdough toast, homemade muesli and wagyu cheeseburgers (well, not everyone loves eggs or cereal). At other times, it’s all about the pizzas, with their thin, chewy bases and toppings of salami, San Daniele prosciutto, fior de latte and other fresh, authentic ingredients. Or caramelised pineapple and off-the-bone ham, if that’s your thing.
Before you go home, drop into A Local Baker, where you can buy traditional, handmade sourdough bread — from a wholemeal version to one made with pumpkin —and artisanal cakes and savoury pastries. On Saturday, the bakers make extra varieties of bread, including cheese and onion sourdough and apple and sultana sourdough buns.