Yarra Valley - Enjoy the wines
The Yarra Valley is close to the urban sprawl of Melbourne and this is possibly why so many people enjoy going out into the rolling countryside to visit the vineyards and dine on country fare. The lovely town of Marysville is starting to rise again from devastating fires that leveled much of the town in February 2009. The land is scarred but time is healing and like spring, new growth is seen in trees as well as new buildings.
The town, built in early gold mining times, is at the foot of the Great Dividing Range. Some come to do cross-country skiing at Lake Mountain while others enjoy bushwalks or come to view one of Victoria’s highest waterfalls, Steavenson Falls.
Start early and make a full day trip, to make sure that you can incorporate as many of the scheduled events that are run daily at the Healesville Sanctuary. Drive through Healesville township to visit the sanctuary that is home to wildlife of Australia and a visitor is guaranteed to be charmed by kangaroos, koalas, wombats, echidnas and the strangely designed platypus amongst the hundreds of species on show.
Don’t miss the Spirits of the Sky show, where birds of prey demonstrate their skill, or scheduled meeting the keepers in other animal enclosures. With fascination, fear and admiration watch the reptile keeper handle poisonous snakes and fearsome looking lizards. Listen as keepers teach about wombats and koalas and watch the pelicans at feeding time. The animal hospital is well worth seeing and if you are fortunate, you may even get to watch an operation.
Healesville Sanctuary: Open daily from 9am to 5pm
Before leaving Healesville, visit the township and the award winning Healesville Hotel.
With historic charm, this could be a wonderful place to stay as it is in the centre of the Yarra Valley. Many Melburnians revisit Healesville simply to enjoy a meal at this establishment. While in the area there are country experiences to enjoy, along with Aboriginal art galleries that showcase indigenous local artists from the Wurundjeri tribe, who are the traditional owners of this region.
History of the Yarra Valley reveals that the Ryrie brothers, who are the noted for planting the first grapes at Yering Station, were the first settlers to open up this valley region. Now the Yarra Glen is a thriving country town that is famous for their race meetings. The farms and vineyards welcome people to taste and stock up on quality products.
One of the best ways to return to Melbourne from the Yarra Valley is to head up the windy road through the Christmas Hills. It is a shame that there is not a decent place to stop to see the view back over the valley. All but the driver can gaze down on the patchwork land below and perhaps catch sight of colourful hot air balloons sailing quietly over the fertile valley.
You could be forgiven for thinking you were in a wine region of Europe, hills patterned with lines of grapes and fine homesteads and cellar doors dotting the landscape until you see a kangaroo pop its head up from a field. Vineyards are marked and three main highways will take you to visit many well-known establishments. Many more are found when you take small side roads.
The climate gifts to the grapes a generally hot and dry summer and a cool winter. The terrain changes from valley to mountain side and wines produced vary from vineyard to vineyard. Of the reds, pinot noir, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon grow well in this valley and some of Australia’s best white wines are produced in this area such as good sauvignon blancs and chardonnays.
The earliest vineyard in this region was planted in 1838 when brothers from Scotland planted grapes where the Yering station now stands. The vineyard was later developed by a Swiss owner, Paul de Castella, who imported vines from France. Later in harder economic times, the land was returned to dairy farming. It was in the 1970s that grape vines were replanted. Today this estate is one of the best known and most popular, with the architecturally, stylish, modern restaurant overlooking plains and hills, and the historic homestead providing a cellar door, restaurant and elegant accommodation.
Rather than take the car, you can visit cellar doors on a bus tour and leave worrying about driving to someone else.
Many of the vineyards have restaurants and accommodation, so better still, a night in the quiet of the country, dinner served with local produce and fine wine, followed by an evening spa, can make a perfect break from busy life.