Yarra Valley - A perfect winter weekend break
|A perfect winter weekend break - Quick Facts|
The Yarra Valley is under an hour's drive from Melbourne.
Yarra Valley Tourism
For a perfect winter weekend break don't drive past the Yarra Valley.
At Immerse in the Yarra Valley, they believe that the only real way to start a weekend away is with a massage. Or at the very least, a relaxing hydrotherapy bath. And at just over an hour's drive from Melbourne, you have to admit the idea has merit. Start as you mean to go on. Immerse in the Yarra Valley has mixed wine, food and pampering, combining the three most essential ingredients of a good weekend away in the one place and in the process, taken the idea of an indulgent weekend escape to a higher level.
Opened in April 2003, Immerse's Natskin Spa offers a range of rejuvenating and pampering treatments, from the standard beauty treatments like facials, manicures and pedicures, to a range of hydrotherapy, exfoliations, body wraps and massage treatments, and a few fun things thrown in as well, such as the red wine bath, just to make sure you don't forget you are in one of the country's best wine producing areas.
Spend the morning being rubbed, scrubbed, soaked and wrapped then float out into the café next door for a herbal tea or espresso coffee and a snack, or try some of the wines grown from the 15-year-old vineyard that surrounds the restaurant and cellar door complex, before hitting the Yarra wine tasting trail.
Yering Station is the oldest vineyard in Victoria, and worth a stop on any trip through the Yarra. Tour the winemaking area, stroll around the historic buildings; enjoy a coffee and wicked chocolate brownie or glass of wine in one of the deep couches overlooking the vines at Matts Bar above the tasting room; browse the produce room with its shelves groaning under the weight of local produce from the Yarra Valley Regional Food Group or check out the art in the cellar door gallery.
The smaller, more casual Roundstone Winery at Yarra Glen is the place to find a table next to the large open fire and linger over a plate of Yarra Valley salmon smoked in the wood-fired oven out the back, or share a tasting plate piled high with home made pâtés and terrines, smoked salmon, warm quail, quince paste, local cheese and the winery's own olives.
Finish off the afternoon by walking off all that food and wine at Healesville Sanctuary. Not just another zoo, this 31-hectare park focus is on conservation. It's home to more than 200 species of Australian wildlife, all housed in open-air and open range exhibits, many so cleverly constructed that it's almost impossible to see the enclosure boundaries. Highlights include the birds of prey flight demonstrations with wedge-tailed eagles, ospreys and other hunting birds and the platypus enclosure. The sanctuary also looks after more than 1500 rescued animals each year and a new wildlife centre where you will be able to watch the vets and keepers caring for these sick and injured animals is due to open mid next year.
Next morning, if it's not too cold, and you're not more inclined to sleep off the excess of too much fine Yarra Valley food and wine from the night before, catch the sunrise over the vineyards on an early-morning balloon ride. There are several companies who offer champagne breakfast sunrise balloon flights over the Yarra Valley. Try Global Ballooning (Tel: (03) 9428 5703) or Peregrine Ballooning (Tel: (03) 9730 2422).
Tarrawarra Estate and Museum of Art
Round off the weekend with a couple of hours at Tarrawarra Estate and Museum of Art. Housing one of the most significant collections of modern Australian art, this private gallery is one of the hidden gems of the Yarra Valley. The collection includes works by outstanding Australian artists from 1950 onwards, displayed in a series of seasonal exhibitions in a stunningly designed gallery space, where even the view is framed as art.
The winery next door offers wine tastings, coffee and casual dining. When you can finally drag yourself away from the fireside and the view, it is around 60km back to Melbourne via the Maroondah Hwy and Eastern Freeway.
Story by Lee Atkinson, July 2004. Images courtesy of Victoria Tourism.
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