Located only 50 minutes from Melbourne's city centre, the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges feels a million miles away with its vast rows of grapevines, towering mountain ash forests and irresistible culinary delights. Visitors can appreciate locally renowned art at Tarrawarra Museum of Art, or sample some of the best cool climate wines Australia has to offer at one of over 80 vineyards and cellar doors.
The Festival will host two exceptional Regional World Longest Lunches in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges on Friday 4 March 2016.
At RWLL Coldstream enjoy an exclusive three-course lunch by culinary legends Shannon Bennett and Teage Ezard overlooking the spectacular Levantine Hill Winery, while sampling their famous wines. Alternatively, enjoy an Argentinian feast by chef Mauro Callegari with wines by Gembrook Hill and Melbourne Gin at RWLL Gembrook, followed with music and dancing at this premier event.
Here are some ideas on how to make the most of your weekend away:
The Yarra Valley is bursting with new things to do and see. The new Coombe -The Melba Estate showcases the home of the famous opera singer Dame Nellie Melba and offers garden tours, wine tasting and a restaurant. Ezard @ Levantine Hillis a brand new gastronomic partnership between hatted chef Teage Ezard and Levantine Hill Estate. Here, visitors can enjoy classic European cuisine with a twist paired with Levantine Hill wines while overlooking the stunning vineyard.
Golfers will enjoy teeing off at the recently launched Eastern Golf Club. Designed by golfing-great, Greg Norman, the first 18 holes of the 27-hole course is now open, while the remaining nine are due to be complete by mid-2016.
The fertile soil of the Yarra Valley is the birthplace of some of Australia’s finest cool climate wines. To help visitors plan their trip, Yarra Valley local, and well-known wine authority, James Halliday, has selected some of his favourite cellar doors to create the James Halliday Handpicked Yarra Valley Trail. The trail includes the likes of Rochford Wines, Domaine Chandon and Oakridge and is best experienced during a two-day stay.
Beer and cider
The Yarra Valley is home to some stellar cider and ale producers, and the Cider and Ale Trailhighlights the region’s best, including Coldsteam Brewery, Giverny Estate, Buckleys Brewery, Kellybrook, Hargreaves Hill, St Ronan’s Cider and Napoleone Brewery and Ciderhouse.
Nature and wildlife
Head to Healesville Sanctuary andimmerse yourself in the Australian bush, and get up close and personal to some of the nation’s most iconic wildlife. The Spirits of the Sky free show is on daily at 2.30pm the adventurous can book ahead to ‘wade with the platypus’.
Hot air balloon ride
Rising early is rewarded with a stunning birds eye view from the clouds, with a sunrise balloon ride over the vines and rivers of the Yarra Valley with Global Ballooning. Follow this with a champagne breakfast at Rochford Estate, and the high continues back on solid ground.
Sweet tooths will love Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery where chocolatiers can be seen making chocolate creations, while cheese fiends will enjoy tasting the various vintages at Yarra Valley Dairy, before heading to the hills of the Dandenong Ranges.
Quaint hilltop villages
A haven of hidden delights with scenic winding roads to quaint hilltop villages, Olinda and Sassafras. Here lies an abundance of artist studios, craft stores and renowned gardens. The Piggery at Burnham Beeches is a top spot to refuel, as is Miss Marples tearoom for a traditional Devonshire tea.
An icon of the area, and a must for families, Puffing Billy Steam Train departs from Belgrave daily at 2.30pm, when it rolls through the hills, past tall trees and stunning scenery to return soon after 5pm.
Quick pit stop
En route to Melbourne (just 45 minutes away), views of the city can be seen from Sky High Mt Dandenong, and those with another night to spare can stay at one of Candlelight Mountain Retreats inviting bed and breakfast style cottages.
For more information go to http://visityarravalley.com.au/ or http://www.visitvictoria.com/Regions/Yarra-Valley-and-Dandenong-Ranges
Pizzini pop-up cellar door with barrel tastings plus fabulous salumi bar
Project Forty Nine, Collingwood
Whole hog served Tex-Mex style in a West Footscray block party
Harley and Rose, West Footscray
Founder of the The Perennial and Mission Chinese in San Francisco with a Zero Foodprint vision
House of Food and Wine - Hotel, Melbourne