Saturday, 19 November 2011

Yarra Valley

Located approx an hour's drive from Melboune the Yarra Valley was Victoria's first wine growing region. Today it is a mecca for food and wine and also home to attractions such as the Healesville Sanctuary Wildlife Park. (Read more about  Healesville on one of our previous blogs.)

The Yarra Valley spans a large area bordered by the towns of Gembrook in the south, Kinglake in the north, Wantirna in the west and Mount Gregory in the east. Major towns include Lilydale, Healesville, Yarra Glen and St Andrews.

Much of the area has lush green pastures surrounded by mountains making it a fantastic place to visit for a day, weekend getaway or longer stay. Accomodation, restaurants and local produce are all plentiful and there are many wineries both small and large. We've featured a couple here and you can find more on  Wineries of the Yarra Valley.

Wine Bar Restaurant Yering Station

Yering Station on the Melba Highway is one of  the Yarra Valley's best known brands. One reason is probably because it was Victoria's first vineyard estabished in 1838. Today its infrastructure is made up of  historical and modern buildings. These include a wine bar restaurant, cellar door and produce store.



Sculpture Garden at Yering Station

Yering Station also has beautifully landscaped gardens and hosts a farmers market on the 3rd Sunday of each month.

Cellar Door Sales in historic building at Yering Station

Yering Station produces red, white and sparkling wines and has won many awards both in Australia and Internationally.



Tarra Warra

Tarra Warra winery is located on the road between Yarra Glen and Healesville.Their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have consistently receivied widespread acclaim and won many prestigious Australian and international awards.  Besides the winery they have a restaurant and a privately funded Art Gallery. TarraWarra Art Gallery.

Since opening the Gallery has been recognised as one of the cultural jewels of the Yarra Valley providing visitors with a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Train Trak Winery

Also located along the Yarra Glen Healesville Road is Train Trak Winery. Originally a dairy farm vines were planted in 1995 and the first vintage released in 2000.  Producing premium varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon its one of our favourite small wineries in the area.


Enjoying a meal at Zono Restaurant overlooking the vines

Zono Restaurant is located at Train Trak Winery and since its opening in 2007 has featured in the The Age Good Food Guide and been recognised in the “OUTthere Food & Wine Awards” as one of the “Hottest Winery Restaurants” in Australia.



Dining room at Oakridge

Bordered by the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and stretching across 10 hectares of vines along the Maroondah Highway Oakridge Winery is a family-owned estate dedicated to producing outstanding and distinctive wines. In 2012 it won the Winery of the Age in the Age & Sydney Morning Herald's Good Wine Guide.  The staff are incredibly friendly and helpful and the food reasonably priced for a winery.



MG Club visiting Chandon

Chandon was established by French champagne house Mo√ęt & Chandon in 1986 and has focussed on wine quality, style and consistency – respecting its distinguished French heritage whilst embracing the spirit and innovation of Australian winemaking. The infrastructure is amazing and you can join a guided tour of the winery or wander along yourself and read the story boards along the way.




Dominique Portet a quaint cellar door and friendly staff greet you at this boutique winery. You will enjoy lovely wines and a range of food in a lovely garden set amongst the wines.



 Healesville Country Club

The range of accomodation in the Yarra Valley is extensive from bed and breakfasts, hotels, resorts, cabins and homes. We've often stayed at the Healesville Country Club which is one of the RACV resorts. It is nestled in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and has 80 rooms all with stunning views, a golf course, restaurants and day spa.

  
One Spa at Healesville Country Club

For special occassions Cheateau Yering is a beautiful old historic homestead with Eleonore’s Restaurant, an elegant fine dining restaurant, or the more casual Sweetwater Cafe.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Mungo National Park


Mungo National Park is part of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage area. Located 110 kilometres from Mildura or 316 kilometres from Broken Hill.  Travelling by car from Mildura you will need to travel approx 90 kilometres on dirt although its a well maintained road and not everyone was driving a 4WD.

The landscape is amazing with the centre piece being the Walls of China which are dramatic sand and clay structures sculptured by erosion.

Walls of China

Access to this area has now been restricted not only because its fragile but because of its significant to the Paakantji, Ngyiampaa and Mutthi Mutthi people who call the area home.  

Walls of China (lunette)

These walls formed the edge of what was once a great lake where Aboriginals are recognised as having roamed for 50,000 years. This makes it one of the most important Aboriginal sites in Australia and many important relics have been discovered in the area. Mungo Lady was found in the 1960's by a young geologist Jim Bowler and Mungo Man was found in 1974 by a slightly older Jim.

Mungo Man and Mungo Lady have been estimated to be 40,000 and up to 42,000 years old.  For more information on Mungo Man and Mungo Lady

Remarkable human footprints approx 20,000 years old were discovered in 2003 and many other interesting discoveries have been made over the years.

Aboriginal Discovery Tour

The Paakantji and Ngyiampaa are involved in the care and management of the park together with the NSW National Park and Wildlife Service. They conduct Aboriginal Discovery Tours to share their heritage with visitors. You can only gain access to the Walls of China (lunette) area with a licensed tour operator, traditional owner or Parks Ranger.  Cost is $10 per person for a 2.5 hour tag along tour to the Wall of China area. Tours commence at the Visitor Centre.  Its an amazing experience and fantastic value.

Red Top Tank

You can explore the area via a 70 kilometre one way track that takes you across the lake floor around the Walls of China and through dune and mallie country. There are information signs at points of interest along the way that explain the geological formation of the area, aboriginal history and pastoral settlement of the area.  If you don't have enough time to do this drive a shorter 10 kilometre Zanci Pastoral loop is an option.

Central Beaded Dragon

Wildlife and birdlife are prolific in the park. We observed kangaroos, goannas, emus and a range of birdlife.  We also saw a range of plant life including grasses, saltbush, white cypress pines, belah/rosewood, mallie and acacias.

Kangaroos

In the 1850s the Gol Gol Station was established and the Mungo woolshed was built around 1869. This building still stands and is near the Visitor Centre. The remains of the Zanci homestead, shearing shed and yards can be found along the self drive tour. This was originally part of the Gol Gol Station and was carved off after World War 1. The remains include a dugout where they used to keep their food. Going down into the dugout the temprature drops a number of degrees which makes you understand how effective this structure was.

Zanci yards near the shearing sheds

There are 2 camps in the Park. We stayed at Main Camp as it was close to the Visitor Centre and enabled us to do the Aboriginal Discovery Tour in the evening before heading off to drive the loop the next morning.  The campground includes toilets but showers are only available at the Visitor Centre.

Camp fires are allowed in fire boxes which are provided except during summer (December to March). You are not allowed to pick up wood in the park as it provides a natural habitat for wildlife but you can obtain some for a small fee.


Apostlebirds

The second campground is Belah Camp located half way around the loop. No camp fires are allowed in this campground. Toilets are available at this site. Camping fees are via an honour system and paid via cash left in envelopes at the Visitor Centre.

Sunset at Main Camp

If you don't want to camp accomodation is available in the Shearers Quarters for a reasonable price. These include a communial kitchen and dining room with full access to utensils, crockery, fridges and stoves.  Shearers Quarters are located next to the Visitor Centre.

The Visitor Centre also includes a large display providing a range of insights into the Park its certainly worth spending some time at the Centre.