Off we go, not to conquer Everest but at the wheel of one.
With no sand, rock, mud or snow to tackle, only 293 kilometres of sealed highway stands between us and our destination, Port Fairy.
So much more than its famous folk festival, this picturesque village is history, nature, fishing, boats and a foodie’s paradise all rolled into one.
With such inducements, a 3½-hour trip through Inverleigh and Mortlake is an easy drive.
Especially as we’re at the wheel of a new Everest Titanium, the higher-spec version of the Everest Trend, which won Drive magazine’s best four-wheel-drive and car of the year awards last year.
Lane-keeping system that beeps to nudge you back? Check. Adaptive, self-sensing cruise control? Check.
We’re very well-equipped for the long haul. Our destination is Drift House, luxurious boutique accommodation close to the Moyne River.
Just three years old, it has already won the best luxury accommodation in the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards in 2014 and 2015.
Designed by award-winning architects Multiplicity, each of Drift House’s four private self-contained suites has its own individual character.
All have luxurious bathrooms, king-sized beds and relaxing lounge areas. Suite one takes up the ground floor of the original bluestone house.
Suite two, upstairs, has a balcony and views over the river. Suite three combines recycled timber and local bluestone and has a private courtyard.
Suite four is every bit as indulgent, only larger. Dappled light gently filters through the perforated metal skin on the modern extension.
As morning routines go, the Drift House experience is hard to beat. You wake up in a cloud of white linen, press the remote control to open the shutters and look out past the Norfolk Island pines to the river.
After breakfast – taken from the hamper of fresh produce – it’s time to explore the boardwalk beside the Moyne River.
Along the way, some of the town’s heritage-listed whalers’ cottages are a reminder of Port Fairy’s past as a whaling centre.
Lunch is at the three-week-old Bank St + Co. It’s packed with locals and tourists, downing pulled-pork and apple sliders or salads of feta-stuffed figs with beetroot.
For dinner it’s hard to go past Fen, formerly The Stag, a small modern restaurant with a big reputation.
Fen, an Old Norse word meaning low-lying coastal land, is in Seacombe House, one of Port Fairy’s oldest buildings.
Chef Ryan Sessions earned one hat in the 2016 The Age Good Food Guide with dishes that use local produce.
His five-course degustation menu ($100) starts with crayfish in a seaweed broth served with native limes and samphire and ends with burnt marshmallow with Tower Hill apples.
In between there is Western District lamb and other local delicacies.
Last stop on this culinary tour is Coffin Sally, a bar and pizza restaurant in another bluestone building. It’s the perfect place to indulge in a glass of red in front of the open fire in the bar.
The Port Fairy adventure ends when we head back to Melbourne. Thanks to the Everest, we conquered.
- Head south-west from Melbourne, along the M1 and A1; 293 kilometres to Port Fairy
WINTER WEEKENDS PORT FAIRY: JUNE 10 – JULY 24
- A six-week festival with food and wine, music and performance, arts and community events based around the theme of fire and water.
- 98 Gipps Street, Port Fairy
- 5568 3309
BANK ST + CO
- 28 Bank Street, Port Fairy
- 5568 1610
- 22 Sackville Street, Port Fairy
- 5568 3229
- 33 Sackville Street, Port Fairy
- 5568 2618
FORD EVEREST 4×4 TITANIUM
PRICE: from $76,990 + on-road costs
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 8.5L per 100km
THE ENGINE: 3.2 litre 5-cyclinder Turbo diesel engine. Produces 143kW of power and 470Nm of torque
- Heated front seats
- Automatic open and close tailgate
- Lane-keeping system
- Rear parking sensors with rear-view camera
- Blind spot information system
- Adaptive cruise control
- Up to 800mm waterwading
- 2nd row 60/40 split seat
- 3rd row 50/50 split seat
Maria Harris’s road trip courtesy of Drift House, Port Fairy. Vehicle courtesy of Essendon Ford.