12 Apr. 2021
Growing up on the outskirts of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, I have always had a love for this beautiful untapped region I call home. My love for exploring and experiencing new adventures go hand in hand with what this beautiful part of Victoria has to offer.
Join me on an adventure as we explore some of my favourite spots within the picturesque Yarra Valley hillside and Dandenong Ranges on a full day escape that will make your next trip itinerary a breeze!
We started off our morning with a short drive out to the beautiful recently renovated Balgownie Estate where we were greeted by the welcoming staff from Global Ballooning Australia for my first ever hot air balloon experience! I must say the nerves were kicking in and the adrenaline was high for 5am in the morning but I knew this was going to be an experience I would remember for the rest of my life.
We met our fellow flyers and took a quick bus ride out to our take off location where we helped the crew prepare the balloon for take-off. It was such an incredible spectacle to see these balloons up close with the blazing hot fire bringing these magnificent giants to life right before my eyes! It happened so quickly I barely had time to blink! Before I knew it, we all stepped into the balloon preparing for our flight and everyone was beaming with smiles in anticipation of what’s to come.
Now when I say the balloon took off like a feather, I mean it! I barely felt it lift off the ground and within minutes we were gliding across the Yarra Valley skyline. The air was crisp and the sound was so silent. It was so peaceful. I remember feeling all of my nerves just dissipate as I took in the rising sun before me.
Our flight lasted around 30 minutes and just like that, we touched down on the ground with the lightest bump! The paddock we landed in felt like a scene from a dream with high grass and frost from the morning cold air. It was such a perfect way to end our morning experience as we came to the realisation of what just happened and how epic it was!
After a quick coffee and morning breakfast refuel, we were ready to take on the rest of the day!
Our friendly driver George from Driven Indulgence picked us up right on time from our doorstep and was just as excited as us to enjoy the sunshine and explore the vast Dandenong Ranges. We made a quick pit stop over in Belgrave to one of the best South Indian restaurants in town – Babajis Kitchen – who supplied us with the feast of all feasts to enjoy on our picnic adventure! They were so kind and generous with their offerings and even gave us a beautiful picnic bag to take away all our goodies in!
We then jumped back into the car to continue our journey over to the serene Emerald Lake for a much-needed lunch stop overlooking the beautiful lakeside. I could barely hold my excitement in with all the food in front of us! The Pani Puri was a hit and the Chicken Tikka & Mango Baguette was my personal favourite.
We kicked back and relaxed in the sun with the park all to ourselves taking in the sunshine and washing down our delicious meal with the Canned Summer range which includes 12 cans of 6 local brewers all locally sourced from the region and a Spotify soundtrack to keep the vibes pumping!
You can check out this awesome range over at the Regional Pantry website for your next picnic adventure in the Yarra Valley or Dandenong Ranges.
Once we were full to the brim, we decided it was time to walk it off around the lake so we headed over to the paddle boats to take in the view over to the swimming pool across the water. (It’s pretty cool you can swim in a pool built inside of a lake right?!)
You can also walk right up to the Puffing Billy train station and if you’re lucky even catch a glimpse of the train while you are there as it stops on its journey through the Ranges.
After a couple of hours exploring we headed on our way with driver George to Incy Wincy Cafe in Emerald township. This shop is so adorable and has such a great range of locally supplied small businesses inside of the shop to browse. I spotted a copy of one of my favourite cooking books ‘Simple’ on the shelf along with some beautiful ceramic keep cups I can’t stop thinking about…I might need to go back for those!
Once the iced coffee kicked in and all the ice cream was gone in the bottom of my glass, it was time to move on to the final stop on our Dandenong Ranges escape.
George from Driven Indulgence took us over to a little hidden gem called Brumfield Wines nestled in the Seville township of the Yarra Valley.
The lovely owner greeted us like family and welcomed us into his tasting room to sample a selection of available wines from the cellar. After I tasted the sparkling red I knew that was coming home with me! I picked up a bottle for the journey home along with some fresh bread baked by his lovely wife and off we went back home to finish up a big day of exploring and sightseeing.
Even though I have been fortunate enough to grow up so close to this beautiful area for most of my life, it still blows my mind just how much there is still left to explore in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. I can’t wait for my next adventure and to tick off more bucket list moments in this magical place right in the heart of Victoria.