Once a stopover for miners making their way to the goldfields, Melton, with a population of 36,000, is very much a destination in its own right on Melbourne’s western doorstep. In fact the shire boasts the only dedicated tourism and leisure complex in the state, Warrensbrook Faire. Set on 240ha of land on the outskirts of Melton, the precinct offers visitors a range of premium food and wine options in a singular setting that includes a vineyard, an equestrian centre and Australia’s first indoor wave pool. Melton is also highly regarded as a thoroughbred nursery. The mighty Phar Lap always recharged his batteries in Melton which has also produced a continuous stream of fine gallopers from The Welkin to Tauto and Cold Diesel. You can also sample the fruits of regional wines at Witchmount Estate where the cellar door is open from Wednesday to Sunday, while history is paraded in the bluestone Christ Church which was built in Gothic Revival style in 1864. A short drive west from Melton takes you to the Long Forest Flora Reserve, the only natural stand of mallee south of the Great Dividing Range. The reserve's bull mallee, grey and yellow box, turkey brush, salt brush and native orchids harbour more than 200 species of birds, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echidnas, possums and gliders.