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Melbourne-Yarra Valley-Great Ocean Road-Barossa Valley-Adelaide

29 April 2011 9,375 views 3 Comments

Yarra Valley
Great Ocean Road
Barossa Valley


In the last sixth months I’ve had a few excellent trips to Melbourne. One with Sarah and Tim when we partied hard, a few weeks ago when I went salsa dancing and a day trip in November that was brief but included one of the best lunches I have ever eaten. So, I was glad to be back with Mum to show her around a bit.

Friday night out

We stayed at the Crowne Promenade. It’s the best Crowne I’ve stayed at in Melbourne – great service, excellent gym/ spa and cracking views (although I admit we were upgraded..) It was a coolish evening so rather than attempt the laneway-trawl we sat at a bar on the river. I mean on the river, underneath the bridge, right beside the ducks. It was fun, and we were kept warm by the drum & bass sounds and the chimney heaters.!
With the city on Good Friday half-service we headed to Lygon Street for dinner at Di Mattina’s. Not an exceptional Lygon Street experience but very nice. I had the fish special (yes fish is back on the menu), it was lemon, garlic meltingness. Mum’s brushetta was perfect. And we had a delicious Heathcote Shiraz.

Saturday morning

Obviously Melbourne is all about the eating so straight on to the breakfast review… after another meander along the river (“we really were sat right next to the ducks at that bar!”) and a little look at Federation Square we took the back streets to a long row of street-seated coffee shops – Degraves Street I think. It was cosy, neighbourly and great food (awesome toasted muesli). A mooch around the shops, malls and streets, and we took in Parliament House, the State Library, tram stops and the Windsor Hotel.

Now, I never knew this, but Mum is interested in cricket and so she really wanted to see the MCG. When I say ‘interested in cricket’ it turns out she’s read Don Bradman’s biography and so was educating me on how he changed the sport forever. Honestly, it’s amazing what you learn… The MCG is an impressive sight though: immense, polished, commemorative. It’s done so well you could think it’s English…
We wandered back along the river, earning ourselves another cup of coffee and some people watching and then it was time to collect the hire car and get on the road to the Yarra Valley. Byeeee Melbourne…

Yarra Valley

The Yarra is a nice, easy drive out of Melbourne and as we crept further into the Valley the landscape was increasingly rolling, autumnal and dewy. We went directly to Valley Farm Winery, we were staying in Cottage 1 which is half used for living in and half for farm stuff storage. The look was corrugated iron, fresh stone finishes and blankets, just about warm enough for the increasingly misty day.
Back in Healesville we spent some time at Giant Steps. All the good things in life are in this building: the winery for the Giant Steps & Innocent Bystander labels, a fromagerie, coffee roasting stuff, a bakery and an awesome pizza oven. Literally everything this place produces is delicious and it all complements meaning once you’re in, you’re in.

A little cruise around town and we were ready to get back to Cottage 1. There were heaps of stars, the friendly alpacas were mincing around the field and weathered vineyards. All in, it was a peaceful, calming corner of the Valley to snuggle in to for the night.

Waking up was bliss, the same gentle surroundings, but I’ll admit it was a bit nippy and definitely soggy. So what do the English do when faced with drizzle..? Go out for a walk of course… a good nose around the vineyards, met the very friendly owner-farmer, had our first kangaroo sighting, yeee.

So, ready to go and explore the Yarra Valley and all its juicy goodness… First stop was the TarraWarra Estate where the view was satisfying enough, a full panorama across the Valley and its spectrum of autumn colours and textures. We took the pretty Healesville-Yarra Glen drive, popped into several charming but not impressionable boutique wineries and then soaked up some rays and village-chill outside the Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company.

Yarra wines

Next stop was Yering Station which is more like a winery complex! We sampled some good drops here, I think the Sangiovese and Shiraz were our favourites, but you know how it is – they get muddled up. We were lucky with lunch – the ‘second’ restaurant at Stones is renovated stables with chunky, dark wooden furniture, foliage from the garden, and a spot-on tapas menu. The tasting plate was absolutely melt in the mouth and we had our favourite wines of the day from Punt Road and Airlie. It was a lingering lunch so our final stop was Domaine Chandon watching the sun go down. That night we bar-b-qued under the stars variously peered on by alpacas, collies and ducks, it was glorious.

Great Ocean Road

Today we were motoring Yarra Valley to Barossa Valley via the Great Ocean Road. Getting a good start and not getting lost were crucial to the plan but both went wrong immediately: it was foggy and I was sure the satnav was taking us the wrong way. It all turned out ok and we trucked along towards Melbourne. I was getting freaked out by the numbers of people who were up and about – it was a bit 28 Days Later – and we’d had two police blockades, then I remembered it was for the Dawn Service, phew!

Bells Beach

By the time we started the Great Ocean Road proper the sun was up, warm & shiny, and we were reasonably well settled. Our first intended stop was Bells Beach. Unfortunately because it was the Rip Curl surf festival the road to Bells was actually closed. Reasoning that I had brought Mum this far and I wasn’t letting a few ‘turn around’, ‘wrong way’ signs deter me. It was worth it. Bells was busy with surfers and surfing groupies, it was a great atmosphere considering the breezy, pre-coffee conditions. Mum and I checked out the view and the action. It seemed to be warm-up surf taking place and it was breathtaking looking at the little ripply waves and then, when someone stood up, realising oh no, they’re massive! We’d seen our first Great Ocean Road landmark and were already happy campers.


Anglesey was the next stop, this time for brekky by the ocean lagoon. All of these towns along the Great Ocean Road are so good: great campsites, cute towns, beautiful beaches and parks. It just makes you want to turn Brady Bunch, throw the kids in the VW and plan campfires. We did none of the above, we had long blacks and muesli then got back into our Toyota and listened to Take That.

Apollo Bay

We rolled along enjoying the views, on one side the amazing cliff faces, sweeping surf, bouldered beaches; on the other side the different shapes & shades of trees, the waterfalls and lagoons. Sometimes we stopped to take in more and to grab a photo but really we could have stayed a week and immersed ourselves in every place. We had to settle for drinking in as much scenery as possible in passing. Apollo Bay was the next proper stop, it was getting warmer so we hung on the beach for a fair while watching the kids mucking around in the surf and marvelling that we’d covered this much distance already! Our one disappointment was that despite keeping a close eye out we didn’t see any koalas. Frustratingly specific, shy creatures.

Twelve Apostles

Actually another little disappointment, if we’re truly honest, was the Twelve Apostles. To be clear, it is a spectacular bit of coast and it makes your head spin thinking about how these monoliths were created and why it’s these masses of rock that are standing where others have fallen. But (and I know if we had read our travel guides blah blah we would have known) there aren’t twelve. We made the most of the ones we could see, wished we’d researched more and then got on our way. I thought the whole view was looking very Dartmoor: open skies and shades of brown, amazing how often Australia looks like England, especially when there are no koalas!

Port Fairy

We accidentally bypassed Warrnambool but stopped at Port Fairy which is a cute town with pastel houses, an old fashioned high street and lovely riverside features.

in land

So we had done the pretty ocean road and it was time to head in land up to the Barossa and as we made our way to the Victoria/South Australia border we took in the last of the day’s sunshine. We had been blessed with a beautiful day and the sunlight lingered over the horizon waxing through shades of amber, pink and blue before fading to grey. From Penola it was through the wine regions of Wrattonbully and Coonawarra, further into South Australia until we hit the outskirts of Adelaide and wound in to the Barossa.

It was late & dark and we were entirely dependent on the satnav. Mum and I had had a good giggle about the usual satnav jokes throughout the day, I know they’re cliches but we enjoyed ourselves. And we’d renamed the satnav ‘laughing chops’ for her lack of humour, but she had the last laugh now, we would have been buggered without her!

It’s quite exciting arriving somewhere new by night I think, you get a sense of the place but you don’t really know what’s happening out there. We arrived at Lyndoch Hill Retreat at a horribly unsocial hour but the staff looked after us really nicely and we barely wolfed the complimentary cheese plate before crashing solid.

The Barossa Valley

After a smashing sleep we finally got to take check out the scenery and our location. The Retreat was gorgeous with beautiful gardens and after a lingering breakfast we went straight to another scenic look to take in more of the Valley. It was so very different to the Yarra: dry, big skies, and we were hot!

Although we claim to prefer boutique wines, the first winery we went to was Jacob’s Creek :) Full disclosure: I nearly crashed the car when I saw Jacob’s actual creek. We looked at the grounds and the shop etc but sensibly didn’t taste anything, we were saving ourselves… Next up was another production behemoth, Yalumba which was hosting a country fair. It was a nice event they had happening: local producers market, live music, food & wine to buy plus bring your own anything. There were heaps of families (free face painting), it looked like the #1 place for Adelaiders to come for the day. We poked around the cute stalls, picked up a few bits & pieces but still no wine tasting…

Barossa wines

Having got the village feel we walked around Angaston which is charming, although typical. Even more charming and completely not typical was Vintners, a restaurant down the road. We had a table on the beautiful patio – roses growing over the pergola, sun shining through – had some delicious dishes and sampled a couple of really good drops, my Rogers & Rufus rosé was outstanding.

And so we got down to some tasting: Penfolds, Peter Lehmann Wines, Rockford and, back at the Retreat, God’s Hill. Maybe we didn’t work through enough varieties or maybe, as we concluded, we prefer wet-climate flavours, but there were very few wines that we really enjoyed, and we’re not a tough crowd! God’s Hill was our favourite, four really exceptional reds, and we had a really good tasting experience as well – which is half the ‘thing’ isn’t it…


Although we felt that we’d ‘done’ the wineries in the Barossa it was such a nice day we wanted to see more of the area so we visited the Dam with the Whispering Wall – not sure if it works properly or not, and drove a little bit into the Para Wirra park where we saw a lots of kangaroos. On our way back to Adelaide we took a detour via Uleybury because it just looked prettier than the main road. There was a lovely winery on the hill side and we had a very civilised coffee and biscotti looking over the valley. I was still keen to see if we could find koalas so we trawled around the national park a bit more but it wasn’t happening.

We didn’t have long to spend in Adelaide and mostly I wanted Mum to see the riverfront which I think is really pretty. We had lunch in the park, fed the ducks and then walked around to see the Cathedral, the cricket ground (another one!) and the South Australian Museum. Mum was funny: have we seen all of Adelaide? Yep, that’s it! I quite like Adelaide though – it’s basically a town which means it’s easy to navigate and see everything quickly, there are parts with good character and the people are generally quite nice. I wouldn’t want to live there, but it’s nice.


So that was it, back to the airport, bye bye to laughing chops, few beers in the terminal, good flight back, bit of bad timing with the ferries but nothing can do about that, and we were home. Mum and I had wicked fun, it was a bit of a whirlwind of places, sights, road miles and restaurants but on the whole it was relaxing, chatty, quality time.



  • Amanda said:

    We ate at Vintners as well! :)
    Lovely post – and reminded me how much we LOVED our trip too!!
    Pity we never were able to coordinate our journey’s.

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » travelswiththemothership said:

    […] is a brilliant diary of their time together. Brought back a lot of memories of roadtripping with my own Mum last year. travelswiththemothership has some mouth-watering food refs, highly […]

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » Ireland said:

    […] of Moher we got properly stuck into the tourist thang (sorry but this really reminded me of the Twelve Apostles). It was dramatic landscape, we had a dramatic downpour, there were some dramatic Americans around, […]

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