Timboon is coming alive as a key Victorian tourism destination with local businesses driving the town’s rejuvenation.
Located just off the Great Ocean Road, Timboon is making its presence known thanks to several local businesses offering a swathe of unique food and drink options, bringing a new wave of visitors.
A world of berries
The small town in the southwest hinterland has always been known for its dairy industry and this core industry has helped grow one of its must-visit destinations – Berry World.
More than 50 years after opening, the local berry farm, shop, café and restaurant business remains a key attraction in the heart of Timboon.
From strawberry and blackberry picking to homemade jams and alcoholic drinks, the business is a mainstay for locals and visitors along the Great Ocean Road.
Since buying the business in 2014, Berry World owners Heather and Geoff Nicholls have become familiar faces within the town.
“We only lived in Timboon a couple of years before I realised that I retired a bit too young and decided a challenge like this would be worthwhile,” Heather says.
Heather and Geoff bought the business from founders Alan and Joy Kerr, installing a kitchen and café as well as developing a range of berry-flavoured jams, sauces and drinks.
The new venues allowed Berry World to operate successfully year-round, including during the winter months when berries are out of season.
Just as they were building on years of success, Berry World’s operations came to a grinding halt in 2020 after a kitchen fire burnt down the restaurant, café and cellar door.
The destruction forced Heather to let go of most of her staff, with the pandemic making times even tougher.
But there was a silver lining on the horizon through support from both the local community and Victorian Government.
“The kitchen fire was devastating for us, but the community was so supportive in the aftermath which really encouraged us to become more resilient and to look at ways we could rebuild the business and start again,” she says.
In the months following the fire, Heather was operating the business out of a caravan trailer supplied by the Timboon Lions Club, selling strawberries, berry jams and sauces while continuing berry picking activities for visitors.
Heather and Geoff were still aiming to find a permanent resolution for Berry World. Putting the wheels in motion, they applied for and were given a Victorian Government grant to help fund the rebuild.
“People from across Timboon came and offered to help with building the new facilities in different ways such as cutting the timber and roofing,” Heather explains.
“I’ve lived in country towns in Western Australia as well as overseas, but I’ve never come across a place more supportive than the people of Timboon.”
The upgrade features a suite of modern furniture for the new Thai kitchen and restaurant, boosting its appeal and doubling the size of the building. The new cellar door also provides more visitors with Berry World’s locally made strawberry ciders, liqueurs and wines.
“Before the upgrade, Berry World was more or less a walkthrough building you could grab a toasted sandwich and a coffee, but there wasn’t much to stay around for – so now people can stay after they pick strawberries to sit down and have a bite to eat,” Heather says.
Since finishing the rebuild late last year, Berry World has rehired some of its old staff along with employing more than seven new staff.
We all scream for ice cream
In a town known well beyond its borders for its dairy industry, it’s not surprising there is also a famous ice creamery in the heart of town. Timboon Fine Ice Cream is another mainstay among the town’s foodie locations.
Established by Caroline Simmons and Tim Marwood in 1999, the ice cream is made at their nearby factory using fresh, local ingredients – including strawberries from Berry World to make sorbet.
Tim’s passion for distilling whiskey also led him to establishing Timboon Railway Shed Distillery before selling it to focus on ice cream.
This led to Caroline and Tim opening the Timboon Ice Creamery in 2016 near the town’s main street after several years of operating directly from the farm and an ice cream van at events like the Geelong Show.
“We were frustrated by the farmgate price after working on the dairy farm, so we were trying to work out how we can add value to the milk we were producing,” Caroline says.
“We settled on the idea of producing ice cream – it’s something that is affordable and appeals to the inner child in all of us.”
Located within walking distance to the distillery, the ice creamery was made possible by support from the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund to improve the visitor experience along the Shipwreck Coast.
The Victorian Government is backing the once overlooked town’s presence through investments to refresh town’s streetscape.
The government funding has delivered a brand-new footbridge, 30 more car parks along with pedestrian upgrades that have enhanced the town’s appeal to visitors and locals.
Travel the gourmet trail
Both Timboon Fine Ice Cream and Berry World are part of the 12 Apostles Food Artisans Gourmet Trail, which connects local businesses through a gourmet food trail that crosses through Timboon and other surrounding towns like Port Campbell.
The food trail allows visitors to stop by and enjoy all that Timboon has to offer including other nearby shops, including Gorge Chocolates and Dairylicious Farm Fudge.
According to Caroline, the joint effort of local businesses in Timboon is helping transform the town into a tourist destination.
“The collaboration between ourselves and other local businesses is really helping Timboon become a tourist town,” she says.
Caroline and Tim recently developed a new business – Timboon Tiny Homes – to give people a place to stay in the town.
The cozy accommodation cabins are located behind the ice creamery, offering luxury short-stay accommodation overlooking Power Creek and native bushland. Each tiny home has its own unique colour palette with a size comparable to a large hotel room.
“Timboon Tiny Homes was a bit of a COVID-19 pivot for us,” Caroline says.
“It’s been really well received and very busy while also filling in a gap in the town for short stay accommodation.”
From berry picking to locally made ice cream, Timboon’s unique experiences are helping put the town on the map in regional Victoria as a must-visit along the Great Ocean Road.
For more information, visit Regional Development Victoria.