4D3N ROMANTIC WINTER ESCAPE AMONGST THE FOGGY, MYSTIC HILLS OF THE YARRA VALLEY.
What do you do when your anniversary falls in the middle of June? How do you celebrate? Well you could go out in Sydney for an expensive dinner and buy each other things that you don’t need. Or.. you could go on a holiday! North would be an good option, somewhere warm perhaps… Or you could do what we did and just embrace the cold. In fact, go somewhere even colder, like the Yarra Valley in Victoria. Some may call this madness, but Andrew and I have both lived in Melbourne, so there is still a huge connection there for us with friends and Andrew’s family. We’re practically there all the time and we knew exactly what we were in for in terms of the weather. But mainly we went because we wanted to catch up with people, as well as give you guys some Victorian representation on what to see and do in this gorgeous wine region.
Weather-wise, the (expected) cold, foggy winter did not disappoint, making it the perfect place to indulge in some rich, warm food, in front of a crackling fire with a good glass of red.
The town of Healesville is about an hour and twenty minutes from the Melbourne CBD. You can hire a car form Melbourne airport starting from around $60 per day and we highly recommend taking the scenic Warrandyte State Park route. The town itself is really cute with lots of little homewares shops, cafes, gourmet delis, hotels etc. The first thing you should do is stop and have a little wander before grabbing your supplies for the evening. The cottage is about a 20 minute drive up the steep hill towards Yarra Ranges National Park so at least grab something for dinner and breakfast the next day, because once you get up there, all you’ll want to do is put that fire on and chill the hell out.
- Getting there Sydney to Melbourne flights are usually pretty cheap if you get onto them early. We recommend taking 4 days over a long weekend, but a normal weekend would definitely suffice. Hire a car from Melbourne airport, then it's 1 hour and 20 min drive to Healesville and Yarra Valley.
- Where to stay We stayed at Lyrebird cottages which you can book through our 'Where to stay' page. There are quite a few beautiful options - just search for Healesville, Yarra Valley, Yarra Glen, Dandenong Ranges.
- What to do Sit by the fire, read a book, cook some delicious wintery stew, watch the world go by from your balcony with a view, pour yourself a wine, make yourself a cheeseplate etc. Outside of the cottage you can visit the towns of Healesville, Olinda, Warburton, Coldstream Hills. Go hiking in the Yarra Ranges National Park. Or simply explore over 70 wineries and 23 culinary experiences in the region.
- How much Flights from Sydney can start from $200 for 2 people return (if you manage to nab tickets early). Lyrebird cottage was $220 a night. The rest is up to you. Cook in the cottage to save money or smash your wallet at the restaurants and wineries.
After a lot of research we managed to find a really reasonably priced cottage called Lyrebird. The photos on their website don’t really do these cottages justice (as they’re small and not very specific), but trust us for the price of $220pn this place is a gem. It’s got everything you need for a cold wintery night in: fully equipped kitchen, cast iron fireplace, huge spa bath, large lounge room, balcony with views through to the valley towards the city AND a very comfy bed. You bring the food and wine and Lyrebird will do the rest. Note – time will actually stand still for you while you’re there, it happened to us as soon as we arrived.
The owners have even left you some old CDs, books, artist sketch pads and board games to help you waste the time away.
The next morning we set off exploring the area, not really knowing where we were going and ended up in the National Park in Mt Donna Buang. Even though it was eerily foggy, it was beautiful!
Hehe this one’s a little spooky. but nothing to fear – its just me standing in from of our car looking a little haunted for the effect.
At the end of the path we came out at the Rainforest Gallery. It was pouring by this stage and pretty damn cold so we thought we’d save the walk for next time we were there in Summer. Andrew did brace the cold (for about 2 minutes) to snap a shot of this roadside waterfall close by. I enjoyed it from inside the car ;)
No matter the weather, there’s always time to stop and shoot some roadside friends.
Tarrawarra Estate is a must do if you’re in the area, the architecture and surrounding land is brilliant, but the art gallery and cellar door/restaurant are the real show stoppers. This shot above is taken from inside the gallery looking out.
White Rabbit Brewery for an afternoon ale (since closed).
And maybe a cheeky steak pie at the Beechworth Bakery next door.
Our neighbours’ view (very similar to ours) at Lyrebird Cottages.
After a long day it’s back to the cottage to light the fire and settle in for round 2 of Scrabble (which ended in a tie in case you were wondering).
The sun finally come came out on day 3 to explore some wineries. Anyone that’s been to the area knows you are spoilt for choice when it comes to picturesque vineyards, good food and delicious wine. There are the more well know ones like Yering Station and Domain Chandon, as well as Sticks, Tarrawarra, St Huberts, Boat O’Cragio, Train Trak just to name a few. Start with those and then we’ll give you more next time.
First stop for us was the infamous Yering Station.
Second stop the Stones Winery in Coldstream.
Their Tuscan inspired courtyard at the Stables was the perfect spot for lunch.
8 hour slow cooked lamb, flash fried in breadcrumbs with some sort of mint dew drops and sprouts. Food highlight!
Then it was back to the cottage for our last night.
The owners of Lyrebirds have also created a 15 minute track around the property through beautiful shrubbery and bushland for you to explore.
The sun finally came out to show us the view all the way to the city form our balcony.
To celebrate our last night we slow cooked Guinness Lamb Shanks with foamed potato mash and green beans. Delicious!
Paired with some local red from Innocent Bystander.
Tasted much better than it looks here, so soft after 3 hours the lamb just fell off the bone, thank you Jamie.
The next morning we met some friends at Healesville Harvest cafe on the main strip for breakfast, before heading off to Andrew’s parents’ place for late lunch and a much needed catch up!
If you’re thinking about heading to Healesville or Yarra Valley for your next weekend away we’ve got plenty of options for accommodation under our ‘where to stay’ section. If you’d like to download a more packaged version of this guide that you can take with you, click here. Or, if you’d like one of our printed guides for this trip we have both him and her versions for that special gift in our shop here.
Of course we’re only two people and can’t get to see everything that this region has to offer so if you have any other tips feel free to leave them in the comments below as we’d love to hear from you. Happy holidaying!