12 Apr. 2021
Now try to say that five times fast! Let us introduce ourselves: We are Kristyn & Joe, two Canadians living in Melbourne and the pandemic has given us a new appreciation of the beauty that is so close to the city we have called home for close to two years. Our weekend getaway in the Yarra Valley was definitely one for the books. We were honoured to collaborate with Yarra Ranges Tourism to Wander to Warburton down the Warburton Trail and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
We stayed at the Warburton Motel and couldn’t recommend it more. Richard is friendly, knowledgeable and has made the cutest outdoor area to enjoy. This 1966 motel has been modernized and revamped (and kept impeccably clean) and the small touches everywhere give this place a unique charm. It was also close enough for us to walk into town whenever we wanted and the Yarra River was nearby. We even had a lush green seating area out the back of our room. Have a peek in his awesome campervan on site that looks like it’s ready for an adventure and enjoy a fire to end the day.
We began our weekend with Bike and Hike (part of the Warburton Motel) renting some bikes and thankfully were driven up the steep slope to the O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail. This peaceful and lush green trail runs along with a water race that is no longer used but was dug by Italian immigrants with their bare hands we are told – this gave us a whole new appreciation for manual labour. The stunning foliage made for a quiet, peaceful and enjoyable bike ride.
After that, we needed to refuel our bodies and got to enjoy Nancy’s of the Valley. The warm staff welcomed us after our 10+km bike ride and their signature Golden Calmer Chai slid down so nicely - Joe snuck a sip in between his almond latte with Silva Coffee. The adorable decor inside was right up our alley and we managed to sneak out to enjoy dessert in their outdoor seating. This dog-friendly area allowed us to enjoy a berry smoothie and beautiful and delicious treats! They cater to GF/DF/VG/VGO and you can tell the locals love the atmosphere as well.
We managed to have enough energy after returning our bikes to Bike and Hike and swapped them for a Rivertube of the Yarra River! This was an absolute delight, some spots were calm and slow and others a bit more rapid this time of the year. The weather was perfect for a float and very relaxing after our bike ride. They even rent toboggans in the winter!
Our taste buds were tingling as we walked through the chic and smart design that is known as Taste Yarra Valley. This adorable spot is owned by a winemaker and joined by a cheesemaker and honestly, this was a wonderful experience. They have build your own charcuterie and tasting flights. Nikki, Peter, Shane and Chef Toby took such good care of us and we helped them close the place down for the night. The cheese from Mill Grove Dairy and premium WildFire Wines they helped pair the most delicious tastes that still have me salivating thinking about it. Due to COVID they opened just at the start of March and having been shut down by lockdowns you better watch out for them in 2021! From pickled figs to truffle gouda and smoked cheddar that will rival any store-bought you have tried everything was so delicious. Joe even said “How do we eat food after this?” and my sore bottom from over 20 km on a bike was completely forgotten about.
We rested up for day two and were picked up from the Warburton Motel by the wonderful George from Driven Indulgence. We both said how we felt like we had known him forever he instantly made us feel comfortable and cared for. He is very knowledgeable about the city and had lots of fun facts for us to enjoy. He didn’t mind us asking questions and was fun, kind and a true delight. Melbournians, think about that he can even come to your house and take you to the Yarra Valley for the day! He even has insurance to be able to drive your car if you prefer to cruise in your own vehicle or want a cheaper option. We were treated so warmly and he added to making our day tons of fun!
Our first stop began at Silva Coffee for a wonderful tasting with Cleo. Her passion and knowledge for coffee were inspiring and her telling us the importance of ethical, fair trade coffee is a huge priority to their business. We had even bought some of their organic coffee a few weeks before for a friend. Joe enjoyed all of the coffee, but I was a bit worried as I still haven’t managed to love the taste of coffee (gasp, I know….living in Melbourne, this is basically a sin), BUT they found me one that I loved and even got another one to enjoy while we watched her husband roast the coffee beans. The cold brew tonic and cherry tea gave a beautiful variety to the tasting and we even finished it off with a pistachio and cranberry nougat.
Our first stop on the winery tour was Seville Estate. This elegant winery was stunningly gorgeous, classy and chic but still warm and welcoming. Kirsten talked us through the tasting with her vast knowledge and shared interesting facts while we overlooked the beautiful vineyard. They even have accommodation on site that allow you to immerse yourself into the beautiful scenic views of the valley.
Next stop, the adorable boutique Brumfield Winery. David and Anda made us feel right at home and their passion for wine started from volunteering their spare time learning about wines. This hobby then slowly ended turned into selling it to friends before they realized how amazing they were at this gig and started their own winery. Their daughter also brews craft beer and Anda bakes sourdough bread. I feel in love with Brumfield’s furriest member, Benny and might have shared the smallest piece of batter from my Beer Battered Pickles with him... They have a Sangio Spritz that I had to take home with me as it hit all the right spots and their unique Red Bubbles were scrumptious. Their beautiful garden, winemaker artwork label and Mum n Pop shop vibes had me not wanting to leave!
Our last winery stop for the day was Whispering Hills Vineyard. Sitting right alongside the grapes was relaxing and a great atmosphere. This family-owned and operated vineyard was bustling and we thoroughly enjoyed being able to sit right next to the vineyard. A delicious house Cuvee tickled the taste buds and we admire the unique flavours they had to offer. We had a delicious wood-fired pizza and some scrumptious arancini balls, talked with the locals and soaked up the surroundings. I even joined in with the lively dancing before we departed to get the full live music experience.
Our last day in the Yarra Valley was still filled with lots of fun. After checking out the Observation Tower Mt Donna Buang and Big & Little Peninsula Tunnels we went to the amazing Gladysdale Bakehouse and managed to get a table around the lunch rush and boy are we ever glad we did! Although we had pondered a pie (definitely will come back for some takeaway) the stunning cabinet full of the most visually appealing eats and treats made it so hard to choose. Jason helped us decide on the Veggie Sanger and Smoked Hummus with dukkah, with a couscous pesto salad and I just about fell over from the taste! Fresh, tasty and beautifully crafted I even heard someone say when they walked in the door ‘I wanted takeaway but now looking at that I think I’ll sit in.’ They use High Ground Coffee roasters from Mansfield and Mel whipped us up an amazing iced almond latte and a berry smoothie that had us licking our lips. The great decor and friendly staff we felt right at home and loved every second of our time here!
Before we decided to head back home our bellies were rumbling for some fruit! We stopped at Rayner’s Orchard for some fruit. We loved the tractor ride on the Fruit Tasting Adventure Tour from Andrew to pick the most salivating stone fruit: apricots, nectarines, peaches, kumquats, mandarins, I could go on but there are 450 varieties of fruit and they have fruit to pick every single day of the year. They even have the Peach Cafe if you are looking for some eats with your fruit. We enjoyed our U-pick experience and saw how hard Len works to keep this such a fantastic orchard. There are also Fruit Bottling Workshops that can help you preserve fruit as your granny might have done.
Kookaberry Farms is a name we recognize from the supermarket! Their jams have won many awards and we learned that Tony was born on this property and he and Frances have lived there together for the last 42 years! Their immaculate grounds, warm hearts and tasty berries tick off all the boxes. There are no preservatives, artificial colors or additives in their products and are most definitely ‘made with love’ including jams, vinegar, syrups and hampers. In addition to strawberries, they have raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries. Their website even gives you suggestions on what to do with all the berries you will come home with. We snuck in right before they closed and boy are we glad to be on their farm.
Last stop before the weekend ended was Hop Hen Brewery. A delicious tasting paddle tickled so many flavours and the smoked porter was delicious. We happened to be there on Live Music Sunday and the beautiful live duo soothed our ears. The awesome decor in this warehouse with indoor and outdoor seating was the perfect way to wind down and end the weekend. Michael told us they have Brewery Bingo on Wednesday’s (think fun pub bingo) and Thursday Pot n Pizza where you get a free pot with every pizza. We enjoyed their Veggie Pizza to go with our cold brew and finished the weekend off right!
Huge thanks to Yarra Ranges Tourism for giving us a wonderful itinerary to enjoy! It wasn’t our first and definitely not our last visit to the Yarra Valley and we have opened our eyes to wonderful new experiences we hope to come to enjoy again! This is where the Wandering Wagner’s sign off. Happy Wandering, and maybe you will find yourselves Wander to Warburton down the Warburton Trail.