Outside of the major capital cities in Australia, lie towns known as regional Australia and just like that elderly neighbour you have living in your street, they can be so easily overlooked. Our regional towns and small cities are home to over eight million people and provide employment to one third of working Australians. They are at the forefront of productivity in over a third of our industries, making a formidable contribution to the nation’s economy.
Originally these regional towns were purposely positioned on the main roads and highways, they provided services not only to their communities, but also to those traveling from place to place. In the past couple of decades freeways and bypasses have been built, essentially so we can get to places faster, without the stopping or even slowing down. In the quest for streamlining our roads, many of our historic regional towns have been bypassed and in some cases left to rot. I know 'we have got to move with the times', or so we are told, but I’m a little saddened to see these regional treasures forgotten.
There is one little historic town that has won my affection, it’s sits on the Princes Highway as you travel along the NSW South Coast and it’s called Milton. For now Milton has not been bypassed, the main highway runs through the centre of town and although many probably drive right through it, with out giving it a second glance, we always stop there. Just a three hour drive from Sydney or two and half hour drive from Canberra, makes Milton an ideal stop over and destination.
Recently we spent three days and two nights staying at The Old Schoolhouse Milton and it was delightful. The Old Schoolhouse is an historic home well known in the district, set on two and a half acres of tranquil lawns and orchard with rural views in all directions. The old schoolhouse itself is long gone, but the historic Schoolmaster’s residence remains. Beyond the main house there are two separate accommodation choices: The Loft and The Stables. The lovely owner Jenny has worked tirelessly to restore this property and garden to its former glory. Guests are free to wander around the gardens and orchard, picking fruit straight from the tree and collecting fresh laid eggs for their breakfast. Indeed wandering seems to be the preferred mode of getting around here. The two dozen or so chooks have free range and live a life that some caged commercial layers can only dream of. The resident dogs laze about most days, ready companions for Jenny and eagerly welcoming of the guests who care to take an interest.
We stayed in The Loft, a spacious one bedroom with en-suite bathroom, lounge area and open plan full kitchen. The fridge was filled with seasonal fruit, sparkling water, organic yoghurt, local milk and hand-churned butter. The kitchen bench stocked with freshly baked bread, homemade muesli and jams, more fresh fruit, chocolates and a basket of eggs. There is none of this "did you have anything from the mini bar?’" at this abode; as it is all included in your stay.
It would be difficult for me to choose what I loved the most about our couple of days here. The view from the bathroom window into the trees and from the lounge room window across green fields as far as the eye can see were captivating. Simple touches like the cosy rug waiting for me on the lounge or the old tree stumps used for rustic bedside tables, made me feel welcome and like I belonged. A kitchen space well stocked with useful equipment is always a win, as is harvesting a handful of tomatoes from the vegetable patch, just a moments walk from our front door, to use in an evening salad. But, one of my favourite moments of all would be Jenny’s voice carrying up the stairs to the loft “oy are you two in” making her way up the stairs with a basket laden with figs from the orchard, to enquire “would you like some?”
Millions of dollars are spent on advertising all over the world, businesses hoping to bring exposure to what they are selling, meanwhile national treasures lay hidden to be unearthed by only a few. We heard about The Old Schoolhouse from friends who knew I loved Milton and rural getaways, it pleases me no end that the oldest and most effective form of advertising still remains to be word of mouth!
The culinary scene in Milton has improved in leaps and bounds since we last stopped here. Iconic Pilgrims Wholefood Café remains as delicious as ever, and the treasure that is Merry Maiden’s Veggies is still trading, providing wholefoods, biodynamic, organic and local produce to the community. However, it was wonderful to see a whole lot of 'new kids on the block' as well. Stefano Vinetti originally from Milan in Italy, has done the tree/sea-change and created a beautiful space to dine out. Coffee Guild & Italian Woodfire Pizza Restaurant provides good local coffee, real pizza and authentic Italian food and as we found out passionate conversation with Stefano.
Flour Water Salt have opened their doors in the main street, the heart of their business is sourdough, their organic breads baked to produce authentic European handcrafted sourdough loaves. Opening at 8am they also do a scrumptious brekky burger and house made pies. Harvest Bar Milton was another fun find, (although a little hidden located down a side street, opposite the Commercial Hotel) they had a generous tapas menu and local and international wines. It was a cool indoor – outdoor space, friendly staff and happily for us the best of the very few dining options in Milton that are open on a Monday night.
Another newbie to the area is Milkhaus Wholefood Canteen, located a few minutes drive from main street Milton, in the old Cheese Factory at Woodstock. This café aims to deliver fresh, honest, simple fare food – free of toxins, preservatives and anything artificial. Meeting owner Dan and chatting with her about how all she wanted to do was cook food like our grandmothers made, immediately drew me in. Eating from the breakfast menu was so enjoyable. I wish I lived closer so I could make eating her food a regular thing. I’ll be sharing more about Milkhaus in the next month.
There is a lot more to relish in this brave little town, than all I’ve mentioned here.
'The village boasts art galleries and antique vendors, alfresco cafes and fine-dining restaurants, sophisticated fashion boutiques and contemporary home-ware stores. The iconic Milton Theatre features regular local productions and international artists.
Surrounded by the rural pastures of working dairy farms and overlooked by the iconic Pigeon House Mountain in the Budawang ranges, the village is just a few kilometres from some of the world’s most beautiful white sand beaches, coastal lakes, inlets and rivers.'
It’s a place that somehow refuses to conform to big city expectations, quite comfortable to be itself and move at its own pace. Don’t expect a big fuss as you approach the main street, in fact if you blink you may even miss it. However, if you do slow down, stop and explore a while, just like sharing a cuppa with your elderly neighbour, you’ll be all the richer from taking the time to visit and in the case of Milton, you’ll be helping this regional town to thrive. Do expect a big fuss when you visit The Old Schoolhouse Milton, Jenny is the most helpful and gracious of hosts and I know you'll love it there. You'll then have to decide whether to tell your friends or just keep such treasure all to yourself!
*The first five images and last image of this post are compliments of Andy Green Images - the remaining images are mine x j