We have been visiting Melbourne a few times a year for several years now, because both our children, and now our first grandchild, all live there. We don’t usually blog about these visits, because, although we do some sightseeing, the visits are mostly about private family stuff.
However, this February we did some things we’d like to document – and thought we may as well share them with any of our blog readers who are interested. We are posting this after our return.
Our itinerary, briefly
Day 1: Canberra to Wodonga
Day 1 was Len’s birthday, so we headed off around lunch-time – straight after his German class – to make Wodonga, and the lovely Miss Amelie restaurant in the old repurposed Wodonga railway station precinct, in time for dinner. Miss Amelie, where we’ve eaten before, did not disappoint – but it was distressing to see such smoke and dryness on the drive down. Our Miss Amelie server told us that the smoke had returned to Wodonga the previous day.
Wodonga is a country town on the move, with much redevelopment of old buildings. One was our motel, which had been upgraded and turned into a completely self-service check-in motel. Efficient, but lacking the charm of the country motel reception office, I must say.
Day 2: Wodonga to Healesville
More smoke this day, as we meandered down through Beechworth and Milawa to Mansfield, checking out some craft breweries en route for Evan’s birthday gift. We could not see the hills we knew were there (and that we saw on Day 9 during our return trip). The thing about the dryness is that in certain light, it gives off a beautiful shimmering gold – but you can’t really like it! The landscape as we drove down the Black Spur from Narbethong into Healesville changed significantly – beautiful tall Mountain Ash gum forests with lush tree fern understories. No fires here in recent years, though the Marysville end of this road experienced the terrible Black Saturday fires of 2009. We saw some aftermath of those fires in late 2009 when we brought Len’s Mum down this way.
We had a great meal that night at a place called Herd – with wonderful, attentive-to-our-comfort service, and really delicious food (we shared 5 entrees). I also loved Healesville’s little bookshop called Verso, where I bought my first book of the trip. As we walked back past it after dinner, it looked like a reading group was underway. Lovely. Our accommodation in Healesville was in the National Trust listed, 1892-built Mechanics’ Institute. The building has been beautifully repurposed to contain four units, without destroying, I believe, the building’s original fabric.
Day 3: Healesville to Melbourne
One of our reasons for travelling this route to Melbourne and overnighting in Healesville was for me to visit the Healesville Sanctuary, which has been on my bucket list for decades – long before “bucket list” was invented! I know, my “bucket list” is pretty tame – no climbing Everest or bungy-jumping for me, but still …
Anyhow, the main highlight of our visit to the sanctuary was seeing and hearing a lyrebird in full repertoire – singing, displaying and dancing. This was, in fact, our main reason for deciding to write this blog post, as we knew certain readers will love the video Len took.
Days 4-7: In Melbourne
Melbourne was great – and not just because, for the first time in a year, we had good weather. We:
- spent time with Max – including visiting Edinburgh Gardens playground twice, North Fitzroy Public Library twice, and the Melbourne Museum once; taking him on a tram-ride; also babysitting him at his place and eating out for a dinner and a brunch with him and his lovely parents!
- spent time individually with Evan and Hannah – including seeing the film Peanut Butter Falcon, with Hannah.
- ate at some new places – including lunching at the social enterprise cafe Sibling, and brunching at Carolina (in an old Italian shoemaker’s shop).
- met (just Sue) with the two founding members of the Friends of the NFSA’s Melbourne sub-committee.
- visited two more bookshops – Readings in Carlton, the Little Bookroom in North Fitzroy – and bought more books.
Day 8: Melbourne to Daylesford
Two other “bucket list” items for Sue were ticked off today – to climb Hanging Rock and visit the Daylesford and the spa towns area of Victoria. Was it just us, or is the signage to the actual entrance to Hanging Rock not very good? Either way, we circumnavigated the rock by car one and a half times before we found the entrance to the visitor carpark. Perhaps it was just us! Anyhow, while the climb is advertised as strenuous, it is fairly short (under 1km) and the landscape and the view from the top were worth the effort.
Although this wasn’t on the decades-old “bucket list”, we did eat at the famed Lakehouse Restaurant. A lovely experience.
Day 9: Daylesford to Wodonga
We meandered to Wodonga via more backroads – through Castlemaine (where we had coffee in the Old Mill precinct), Heathcote, Violet Town (where the little cafe actually served grilled not only battered fish!), and Beechworth (where the smoke had significantly subsided) this time around.
Day 10: Wodonga to home
One of the reasons we chose to overnight again at Wodonga was so we could go to the Albury Library Museum first thing next morning to see “The Lynley Dodd Story”. Those of you who have had children will know New Zealand artist-author Lynley Dodd and her joyful children’s picture books featuring Hairy McLary, Slinki Malinki, Scarface Claw (the toughest Tom in town) and many others. It’s a little exhibition but we both enjoyed it immensely. I was particularly tickled by reading a statement from Possum Magic’s Mem Fox that “unless your name is Julia Donaldson, Lynley Dodd or Dr. Seuss, never write a story in rhyme”.
From here it was the boring drive up the Hume to home, made pleasant by a cuppa at J&B’s Gourmet Cafe in Holbrook and lunch at Jugiong’s Long Track Pantry.