On my travels to Australia and around Melbourne I was lucky enough to meet Dutch-born landscaper John van de Linde.
Despite his Dutch heritage he told me he has always adored French gardens. So amazingly, when he transferred to Holbrook in regional NSW he became overwhelmed by the arid heat (who would have thought?).
Upon visiting his garden I could see the experience shaped him and in his own words he’s “been seeking shade ever since”.
Mr van de Linde and his wife Prue discovered a vacant paddock available to buy in the Yarra Valley approximately 2 decades back and have been producing Alowyn, a botanical wonderland complete with French gardens, ever since.
During the build, they actually built it with shade as a priority in their heads – so much so that in summer, you can walk from one end to another in the shade if you desire to.
Beyond the garden, the region is also well known because of its magnificent yarra valley wines and vineyards, but a culinary escape in the area should surely include a dash by Alowyn.
When locating a foundation, look no farther than the lavish Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort and Spa. From the well-appointed suite, you can overlook the valley and tuck into breakfast in Rae’s Restaurant, watching the hot air balloons float through the clouds.
The hotel is just 1 kilometre from the two and gardens; and close to the area’s sweetest appeal – the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery.
There you can catch a hot chocolate, a spoonful of samples and see the staff make their magic throughout the mill window. Open in 2012, this mecca for chocolate fans has recruited six qualified chocolatiers out of Belgium and France to direct the group hand crafting some 250 distinct products, such as fresh, tasty truffles; something you’ll struggle to find in even the best European bistros in Melbourne.
After satiating your sweet-tooth, it is time to locate wine and there’s a yarra valley winery for every taste and price point.
For a casual dinner and cheeky tasting, you cannot go beyond Innocent Bystander at Healesville. It is shareable plates paired with its unique way of wine tastings – kegs and automatic pourings.
But if you’re more accustomed to the taste of luxury, Levantine Hill will leave you wowed and desiring more.
A winery that won’t compromise on quality, owners Elias And Colleen Jreissati have spared no expense in producing French-inspired wines, an architecturally-designed basement door complete with helipad for aircraft, and a menu which emphasises regional freshness.
When you have not had your fill, then Yarra Yering’s basement door is not far away and ought not to be missed.
James Halliday winemaker of this year (2017), Sarah Crowe is creating stunning drops at what’s often named among the area’s top wineries.
On day two, in case you are in a more lively mood, the Award-winning Four Pillars Gin distillery in Healesville will have your tastebuds and Instagram account popping.
Four Pillars create eight, exceptionally popular gins. So go in, grab a tasting plus a share platter and I dare you to not take a photograph in the fashionable space decorated with contemporary, native floral structures.
And when a traditional country pub is exactly what you’re craving, then Look no farther than the “center of the Yarra Valley” – the Healesville Hotel.
The resort prides itself on providing a seasonal menu prepared by chefs on par with South Yarra’s very own luxury European styled restaurant bistro, along with an outstanding wine list, showcasing the very best the area has to offer with welcoming staff also.
IF YOU GO
Travelling there: The Yarra Valley is roughly a one-hour drive from both the Melbourne CBD and Melbourne Airport.
Accommodation: There are several amazing spots that also provide luxury catering and wedding facilities. Prices for most accommodation is roughly $150 per night for a standard queen room.
Activities: For more advice about exactly what the Yarra Valley has to offer visit visityarravalley.com.au