SEYMOUR is the first major stop on the Hume Highway out of Melbourne. An important train interchange, it's an uninspiring place, though the nearby Tahbilk Winery (Mon– Fri 9am–5pm, Sat & Sun 10am–5pm; Web: www.tahbilk.com.au ), 6km southwest, is worth exploring. The oldest continually operating winery and vineyard in Victoria, it opened in 1860, and its Shiraz and Marsanne vines have seen more than 140 harvests. The whitewashed buildings have been well preserved and there are extensive grounds to wander around.
Ninety-two kilometres northeast of Seymour, BENALLA is a civilized town on the lake of the same name, formed by the Broken River which runs through town and occasionally floods it. There's a rose festival here every November, which transforms the town's picnic spots and gardens. The helpful Benalla Visitor Centre, 14 Mair St (daily 9am–5pm; Tel:03/5762 1749), has lots of pamphlets and information on the region, and can also book accommodation. In the same building, the Costume and Pioneer Museum (daily 9am–5pm; Web: www.benallamuseum.org ; $4) displays a collection of women's dresses from the 1920s, ball gowns and male fashion from the late eighteenth century until the early twentieth century, along with a range of Ned Kelly relics, including the green silk cummerbund he was awarded as a child for saving a friend from drowning, and which he proudly wore when captured. The Benalla Art Gallery (daily 10am–5pm; free), in a lovely setting across the lake, has a fine collection of early twentieth-century and contemporary Australian art.
If you want to stay you'll find a number of motels along Bridge Street, though more interesting by far is the Belmont Bed and Breakfast (Tel:03/5762 6575, Web: www.belmontbnb.com.au ; Price: $131-160), 80 Arundel St, a charming 1900s house with elegantly furnished rooms. For something to eat during the day, there's the Gallery Café in a serene location at the Art Gallery by the lake (licensed; daily 10am–4pm), or in town, Hides Bakery at 111 Bridge St has been preparing excellent pies, salads and sandwiches since 1929. The Benalla Health Food Shop (Mon– Fri 9am–5pm) at 67 Nunn St has excellent sandwiches and reasonable breakfasts, and for dinner Café Raffety's, 55 Nunn St (Tues– Sat; Tel:03/5762 4066), has a blackboard menu featuring daily specials. Further up on the price scale, Georgina's, 100 Bridge St (lunch Wed– Fri, dinner Tues– Sat; Tel:03/5762 1334), is the best option for excellent contemporary Australian cuisine.