Eat & Drink
With its diverse soil types and cool climate, the Yarra Valley is primed for plenty. Yarra Valley Dairy retail manager Catherine McCarthy sources 80 percent of their Cheese Shop stock locally. Think YVD cheeses, Cunliffe & Waters preserves, Yarra Valley Sourdough and wine from small vineyards, with Riess enamelware, Laguiole knives and vintage tea towels thrown in. Visit the picturesque dairy for a free tasting of their famed Persian feta and just launched White Savourine goat’s milk log.
70–80 McMeikans Road, Yering (Open daily 10.30am–5pm)
Produce sprouts before your eyes at the Gateway Estate Farm Gate Shop. The store opens onto a hydroponic farm, which yields 100 tonnes of eggplant and capsicum each year. Gateway also has 100 acres for fattening Black Angus cattle in a free-range fashion – one bite of their scotch fillet (sold exclusively at the Farm Gate Shop) and you’ll want to hug owner Brett Spurling for making it so. Stop by and fill up on fresh produce, as well as the Mt Evelyn-based Functional Beverage Company’s organic teas and tisanes and Buxton salmon.
669 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream (Open daily 9am–5pm)
Where to eat a meal made from all these super local foodstuffs? Giant Steps is certainly a slick place to start. Founded around the philosophy that good food and wine belong together, it houses a bistro, artisan bakery, cheese counter and coffee roaster as well as working winery. Be sure to sample their pizza (the roast mushroom, asiago and black truffle with garlic and parsley is our favourite) with a glass of Innocent Bystander’s Pink Moscato.
336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville
In the mood for something rustic but ritzy? Head to the Healesville Hotel, a gorgeously restored 1910 pub that never fails to elicit a swoon. Sip on some local wine at The Hotel Bar & Bistro, feast on Ben Arnold’s red wine braised beef short rib (served with ricotta gnocchi, wilted spinach and black olives) while seated in The Dining Room, slip upstairs for the night (rooms start at just $100), then breakfast on Bill’s bacon and eggs and Genovese coffee at Harvest Cafe. Don’t forget to swing by K&B – country butcher, delicatessen, bakery and grocer – to shop for the Hotel’s own produce.
Healesville Hotel: 265 Maroondah Highway, Healesville (The Harvest Bistro bar menu is available from 12–9pm daily, The Dining Room is open for lunch and dinner Wed to Sun)
Harvest Cafe: 256 Maroondah Highway, Healesville (open 8am–4pm daily)
Finally, if you fancy dining in amongst the vines, call on Mandala Wines. “I try to source as much produce as possible directly from the land,” says chef Neil Cunningham, and boy can you taste it in dishes such as roast fillet of local venison and Mr Smedley’s imperial mandarin crème brulee. The full range of Mandala wines is available for tasting at the modern cellar door.
1568 Melba Highway, Dixon’s Creek (cellar door open daily 10am–5pm, restaurant open for lunch Wed to Sat and dinner Sat)
No Yarra Valley visit is complete without a whirl around the TarraWarra Museum of Art. Occupying 10 acres of TarraWarra Estate (a 400-hectare cattle grazing property, vineyard and bushland reserve), the Allan Powell-designed museum shows works from the collection Eva and Marc Besen have been building since their marriage in 1950, as well as various curated exhibitions of leading contemporary artists. We’re excited for James Morrison: The Great Tasmanian Wars (which runs from August 6 to October 2), a rare opportunity to view the artist’s 55-canvas work in its entirety. Drop by TarraWarra Estate’s cellar door post-viewing.
311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Healesville (Open Tue-Sun 11am–5pm)
Eclectic art and design (we spied a disco ball-embellished moose head) is the order of the day at Healesville Contemporary Art Space. Opened last month by the team behind Mt Rael (see below), the industrial, underground gallery showcases both local and interstate artists. The nature-themed, inaugural exhibition involves 30 members of the Yarra Valley Open Studio collaborating on a rolling canvas.
Basement 177–179 Maroondah Highway, Healesville (Open Tue to Sun 10am–5pm)
But if you’re after something truly quirky, head over to HCP Antique Emporium. Look past the derelict exterior and spend an hour or so fossicking through the strange fruits within: intact 1960s chemistry sets, kewpie dolls, unused military postcards, kenzan for ikebana, nautical dioramas, enough old serials and books to sink a ship, and vintage teapots and tins. You will go gaga for these chotchkes – just don’t let the dust phase you!
81 Badgers Creek Road, Healesville (Open daily 11am–5pm)
Imagine waking up to a 180-degree view of Healesville, Mt Riddell and the ranges beyond. Mt Rael has made this a reality, and with just five luxury suites – two for couples, three for groups – there’ll be no queue for the breakfast buffet. You won’t even have to leave your room for the morning meal; Mt Rael provides each suite with their bread, preserves and muesli, as well as yoghurt and fruit (arrangements by nearby Clarence Flowers & Fancy Goods another lovely touch). But if you are inclined to emerge, Mt Rael's restaurant has an excellent seasonal menu (and wine list for the après-midi).
140 Healesville-Yarra Glen Rd, Healesville
For something altogether different, why not spend a night at the Japanese Bathhouse Guesthouse. Run by Hiromi Masuoka, proprietor of Collingwood’s Ofuroya (the first sento in Australia), the Guesthouse has two small abodes fitted with Japanese style deep baths. Soaking while taking in a tranquil country setting? Heaven. As is the monk-style vegetarian dinner and traditional breakfast prepared by Masuoka. Opt for a shiatsu massage and you might just return to Melbourne enlightened.
8 Fleay Road, Healesville (visit Ofuroya to book)