We decided to spend 4 nights in Yarra Valley after 2 nights in the Melbourne CBD (click to read about our short adventures there). I marked (on Google maps) all the places that I was interested in, and then scouted around for places to stay. We found High Street House in a “little” place called Healesville.
We instantly loved High Street House. It was very clean, had 3 bedrooms, and an extra folding bed and a foldable cot and baby bedding. It had all the amenities you could ask for, including a washing machine and dryer. It also came with some laundry detergent and softener and some cooking oil and condiments, which I assume were left by previous occupants. There were also several children’s books including Julia Donaldson and Australian award winners. The kitchen is an open kitchen next to a large living area, where the kids would be playing or drawing while we were cooking. We liked the house a lot! I doubt we ourselves would ever be back to this area again since there are so many places to explore in Australia, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone!
All the tourist attractions in the area closes at 5pm, so we tried to make sure we were out of the house early, and since the sun set only at around 730pm, we still had time to go to Coles or to the playground before dinner. The house is just a few minutes away from a large Coles which is open until 11pm every day! Since there is not much for dinner options in the area, we cooked all our dinners except for the one night we went to Innocent Bystander, which is coming up in the next post.
On our first day, we went trout fishing at the Buxton Trout and Salmon Farm, which I had read about on Maddy’s blog. She detailed her Melbourne trip so well and even has a printable itinerary, so please head over for more info if you need!
Lucky for us it was a beautiful day, so the drive was gorgeous, and I also read on Maddy’s blog about the winding roads there, but I totally forgot to bring some travel sickness pills. I will definitely remember to bring them on all trips from now on!! My eldest is like me, quite prone to motion sickness, and he rode in the back row got sick halfway through the journey, but all was well after that.
We were in Yarra Valley just after a long weekend of a bank holiday, so probably only the smarter fish were left in the ponds, and we had a hard time getting a bite. After a while, they asked us to fish from the breeding ponds where anyone could get a bite within 10 seconds! Although it wasn’t “real” fishing, the boys have been asking to go fishing so this was the perfect opportunity to do so and a wonderful experience for them.
We brought our haul to have them cleaned up, and the guy at the farm even cut and served one sashimi style for us. We had the salmon for sashimi, whose flesh is white because all the pink colour has gone into its eggs! You learn something new every day. After that we proceeded down the road to the Buxton Hotel where for a small fee they will cook your fish for you. I think it was $25/head but included a drink (including wine or beer), and sides like chips and salads. It was great to eat our freshly caught fish!
One of the mornings, bright and early, we headed to the Healesville Sanctuary. I have heard quite a bit about Healesville Sanctuary, and we love visiting such zoos because there are so many interesting animals that you don’t get to see elsewhere. We thought the Sanctuary was similar to Perth’s Caversham Wildlife Park, but the latter being smaller.
This Sanctuary has a wonderful section of the Animal Hospital, devoted to teaching kids about veterinary, and the best was the pretend play area, which I had to drag the kids away from. I was also finally satisfied that we’d finally seen a platypus since the kids are familiar with Perry the Playtypus, who unlike real platypuses, is a secret agent and is turquoise.
After the sanctuary we headed to pick strawberries and raspberries at U-pick Blue Hills Berries and Cherries. There are actually quite a number of berry picking farms, and even one where you can have a 3 hour tractor experience! Here is a website and map (with a lovely design, I might add) that shows the different farms in the area. I wish we could have gone to the lavender farm, but we just didn’t have the time!
Despite the blazing heat on the day we were out there picking strawberries (I think I came away a shade darker, despite using sunblock!), the kids loved it and loved eating the strawberries along the way. Although the strawberries were a little warm, they were still very yummy. Upon payment, each adult and child gets a box to fill and you can take it all home. If you want to pick extra you just need to pay extra for that. We had 4 adults and 3 kids and we were eating strawberries EVERY DAY for a few days and still couldn’t finish them.
Eventually we hand carried them home as in HOME HOME. We actually we thought we’d do a picnic on the way to the airport but it rained a lot that day and we ended up carrying it ALL the way, and I had to make jam the next day to prevent them from going bad. I usually make them by boiling it with a bit of water and nothing else and it tastes fine to me, but my husband put in a little sugar for himself.
After berry picking we headed south to Puffing Billy, which was great fun for all ages despite being super touristy. I bought the tickets online in the morning, just to make sure it was still available. You can buy tickets for the current day up to 8am, so just to be sure of the weather and our plans I only did it at 7:55am :D.
We decided to make a round trip from Belgrave to Lakeside, and made sure we arrived early enough not to miss the train, because you know, how it is like having kids around! While waiting for the train to depart we were able to see them load up the coal into the train, while taking photos, and eating our late lunch of pies and stuff we bought from Beechworth Bakery.
Once the train pulled out of the station, we had fun hanging out legs outside of the train cabin and enjoying the views and the fresh air. We were seated in one of the carriages quite close to the front of the train as some of the rear carriages were reserved (maybe for tour groups?). Do be warned not to wear your bestest white tops on this trip because there will be coal bits spewing out of the engine and right into your face. Very tak glam! Thankfully it was our last stop for the day and not the first.
One of the highlights along the way was spying Thomas and Percy! They have occasional Thomas weekends, so they were probably getting ready for that. We bought train tickets to Lakeside with a supposedly 45 minute wait at Lakeside for the return train. But when we got to Lakeside, one of the return trains had not departed, and it was already pretty late in the afternoon so we quickly hopped on and were soon on our way back.
On another day, we stopped by the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. These places are great stops for kids, and not much else. You have one glass window to view chocolate making, and there is free chocolate for grabs (some of which we put as toppings on our ice cream), but it is really all too sweet for my liking. Here at the Yarra Vallery version though, it is quite a large estate and they have lots of kids activities such as colouring sheets, and an outdoor play area, and also an orchard of fruits, which might go into their products.
Another place we quite enjoyed was Hedgend Maze. I wasn’t sure what to expect because we’d already been to a maze in Perth, but we enjoyed the maze here too. And they also had several other activities, such as mini golf, brain teasers, a dinosaur dig and a chicken coop where you can feed the chickens. There is also laser tag on the weekends.
The dinosaur dig was impressively put together. Each child had their own bucket (so they wouldn’t fight, I guess??), and they spent a good amount of time “digging”. More like playing with sand.
On our last day, we visited a cellar door in the morning, and drove to the airport for our 7pm flight. The entire trip we had not visited one farm at all, so I was quite insistent that we stop by Collingwood Children’s Farm. It wasn’t a good decision on my part because it was raining the whole day and continued to drizzle while we were there. The animals and all of us were feeling quite miserable so we really didn’t enjoy ourselves there.
What was worse was the traffic from the farm to the airport after 4pm on a Friday! I really should have seen that coming. Although we had a rainy end to the holiday, we had many good days of wonderful weather, and we can’t wait to go back and explore other areas of Melbourne. Coming up is my next post on vineyards. I’ll start writing that right after I reward myself with a glass of wine 😀