Having never been to Marysville or the surrounding area, but well aware of its sad history as a result of the infamous Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, it was with mixed emotions that we travelled the 1.5 hours west of Melbourne on a beautiful sunny day to take part in Chatterbox Marketing’s familiarisation event – There’s Something About Marysville.
I don’t think we knew quite what to expect or how we would feel, but as we drove around the twisting turns of the Black Spur road between Healesville and Marysville it was still clear that we wouldn’t just be facing the emotional scars of this strong country community – everywhere you looked were signs of the disaster, both great and small. The towering trees now full of fresh green growth, but scarred by black trunks that the still-growing undergrowth has yet to hide. The mountains surrounding the valley covered in tree trunks that will never again bear greenery thanks to the tremendous heat, leaving only dead white sticks in its wake. In the town itself there are vacant blocks of land that would have once been home to families and businesses. Happily, these are more than matched by new buildings and ongoing construction work, and our lasting impressions of Marysville – formed in our first five minutes of being there – will be ones filled with hope, strength, purpose and visions of the future. All in all, the ideals and attitudes of everyone in this welcoming community are what everybody – and every community – should aspire to.
With our itinerary for the next three days in hand, we drove down the Main Street of Marysville, took a right and arrived at our first stop – Marysville Patisserie.
Marysville Patisserie, 7 Falls Road, Marysville. Web: www.marysvillepatisserie.com.au
Like all buildings in the town, the Patisserie was completely rebuilt and is now a charming and homely cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, both of which overlook beautiful gardens and waterways across to the on-site 5-star B&B accommodation also on offer. Fans of local produce won’t be disappointed, as owners Ashraf and Christine are just as passionate and source their ingredients from local. Yarra Valley and Upper Goulburn Vallery producers. Their menu includes a scrumptious assortment of European pastries, cakes and fudge, light lunches and seasonal dining, as well as a personal favourite in Gelati (apple pie flavour anyone?). The Patisserie is fully licensed so you can complement your meal with locally produced wines as well.
Our lunch selections were ‘Home-made smoked salmon and leek quiche with salad’ and ‘Baked vegetable strudel with tomato salsa and salad’. Both dishes were absolutely delicious, full of flavour and well-priced for the serving size. You can view the rest of their menu options at http://www.marysvillepatisserie.com.au/menu/.
Marysville Garden Cottages, 2 Barton Avenue, Marysville VIC 3779. Web: www.marysvillegardencottages.com.au
Feeling right at home and with stomachs well satisfied, we headed just up the road to our accommodation for the night – Marysville Garden Cottages. If the words ‘garden cottages’ bring images to your mind, chances are those images will never compare to what you are faced with here. These eight beautiful cottages have all the mod-cons of modern living – and more – but still retain their old world charm thanks to masterful design-work and styling on the part of owners …. They are designed purely for couples wanting a quiet, relaxing and utterly romantic retreat. All the cottages differ slightly in their internal decor, from the window seating to the metal bucket hanging lampshade to the large two-person shower, but the common elements include gas log fires, deep-soaking baths, open-plan living and tasty chocolate treats perfect for a hot drink in front of the fire.
The grounds on which the cottages are built are themselves steeped in history. Once the site of a much-loved family home with its own picturesque garden, here is where you will find evidence of hope and life arising from the ashes. Many of the thriving plants, including daffodils and other bulbs, were salvaged from the block and worked into the new garden design, and when speaking with the proud new owners it is clear that they have taken care in ensuring the previous residents, who found it too painful to stay on post-fire, and their history in the area are not forgotten.
After settling in and declaring we could quite easily call both our cottage and the town itself home one day, we journeyed down the road to Buxton Ridge Winery.
Buxton Ridge Winery, 88 Seal Rock Road, Buxton
A family-owned business, Buxton Ridge has six wines on offer at their cellar door, including the popular 2008 Molly Jean Blanc de Noir, 2012 Katie Maree Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Lorna Grace Pinot Noir, all named after the owner’s children. All wines are produced from grapes grown on their own 8-hectare vineyard property.
With some of our group scheduled for massages at Moondani Accommodation and Spa (we were reassured ours would come tomorrow!), the free time in the afternoon allowed us to stroll around Marysville’s local shops and take in both the scenery and new businesses coming to life. After being introduced to Christine Adams, Manager of Marysville Caravan and Holiday Park, at lunch earlier in the day, we decided to make that our first stop.
Marysville Caravan and Holiday Park, 1130 Buxton-Marysville Road, Marysville VIC 3779. Web: www.marysvillecaravanpark.com.au
Owners and managers of the former Scenic Bed and Breakfast Motel, Christine and husband Ken put their hands up to revitalise and overhaul the historic Marysville Caravan and Holiday Park just after the bushfires hit. Knowing its value to the region, they have put years of hard work – and a lot of blood, sweat and tears – into returning the park to its former glory. With brand new cabins, powered sites overlooking a beautiful flowing creek straight from the region’s renowned Stevensons Waterfall, level camping sites, amenities and children’s play areas, not to mention their 3-bedroom ‘Claire Keppell Cottage’ (which sleeps up to 12 people), the Park is right in the heartland of Marysville and a perfect place to relax and unwind, or hit the specialty shops just around the corner. If you feel like a corporate getaway or have a special occasion coming up, the Park also has full conference and function-room facilities.
Being somewhat of a sweet-tooth, the sign to Marysville Lolly Shop was spotted as soon as we entered town, so it was naturally the first store we entered. And my wasn’t that a mistake…in the most positive sense of the word! Every type of lolly we could think of was there, and more. An absolute sucker for pineapple lollies, I was delighted to see that they came both pre-packaged or in massive jars on the shelf, allowing you to pick your own weight. While I gazed in wonder at the rows and rows of goodies, wondering just how many I could get away with without adding to my waistline, Wayne discovered another treat in the corner – frozen yoghurt. A small sample turned into a large container, as neither of us could get enough of the taste. This wasn’t any ordinary vanilla frozen yoghurt – this was pure heaven in a cup. It’s very hard to put into words just how good this tasted, but lets just say, if you are ever in Marysville, you simply MUST stop in and try this. It was too late in the day for other flavours to be available, but that only makes us want to go back even more. If vanilla was that good, one can only imagine what the rest are like!
Marysville Lolly Shop, 8 Murchison Street, Marysville VIC 3779. Web: www.marysvillelollyshop.com.au
Our good intentions of wandering the rest of Marysville main street were cut short thanks to our delicious and extended stopover at the lolly shop, so we made a quick return to our cottage for a change in clothes before heading to dinner at Saladin Lodge.
Saladin Lodge, 1188 Maroondah Highway, Narbethong VIC 3778. Web: www.saladinlodge.com.au
Immediately on our arrival we were greeted by the property’s bubbly owner, Kim, a larger than life character who welcomed us with a huge smile and open arms. Thus our evening of storytelling, laughter and 5-star cuisine began. If you ever stop by (which you must!), be sure to ask her to regail you with her tale of the porcupine in the shower – a classic Aussie story made even better by the storyteller herself.
Initially built as a bush retreat back in the early 1900s, the property contained a log and stone cabin overlooking a small lake, and became known as an exclusive getaway. After being completely destroyed in the fires, it stands tall and proud today, a true testament to the strength of its remarkable owner, who has used the original stone throughout the building to retain its heart and history. The Lodge itself is named after a racehorse called Saladin, owned by a previous owner of the property, James Robert Crooke – the same JR Crooke who became the first man to drive a car over the Black Spur. The new Lodge has a mix of country and modern, with black and gold polished floors, two stone fireplaces in the open living/dining/kitchen area, all overlooked by a loft with conference rooms, separate kitchen, living, games and relaxation areas. The accommodation is as modern as you could ask for, and all come with Kim’s promise to cook you up an treat your heart desires. This woman has a heart of gold and will adopt you as her own for the duration of your stay. Our dinner turned into a very late evening, and it was close to midnight before we walked out through the massive custom timber doors and then spent a further 10 minutes admiring the stunning display of stars overhead.
Day one of our three-day trip in and around Marysille was an absolute delight, and we looked forward to the next two with anticipation.