Are you in desperate need of a girls weekend away? There’s no place quite like Victoria to relax and unwind while taking in the scenery and fresh air. How do I know this, you ask? Well, it’s exactly what I discovered during my recent weekend away!
With my suitcase full of winter woolies, a girlfriend in tow and a jam-packed itinerary in hand, I caught a plane to Melbourne to explore the Yarra Valley.
After a pleasant flight, we arrived to our very own sleek and shiny Mazda3 to zip around in. To say it was the perfect car for a road trip is an understatement. It had all the features ready for road trippin’ glory: a handy satellite navigation system, Bluetooth, cruise control, plenty of space for our luggage, comfortable leather seats and seat warmers to keep us cosy in the cold Victorian weather - it was our favourite feature!
The Mazda3 comes with SKYACTIV technology - ensuring more power is being created while using less fuel. One of the most interesting features was i-stop - this automatically turns off your engine to save fuel when you’re at a halt. It’s super easy and quick for the engine to restart, so this feature won’t hold you back. Another tech feature that I found really impressive was the clear screen on the driver’s side dash. This displayed the speed we were going and often updated to indicate what the new speed limit was. It also provided me with navigation cues without having to take my eyes off the road and gave emergency warnings too. It even prompts you to take a break if you’ve been driving for a while! Talk about safety.
i-ACTIVESENSE assisted with blind-spot monitoring, and it also has Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alerts and Smart City Brake Support-Forward. This was super convenient when it came to driving around tight corners, changing lanes, parking and general driving.
I was really impressed with how light the Mazda3 felt, how smooth it was to drive and how quiet it was. We had the hatch model in Snowflake White Pearl Mica and were sad to say good-bye once our weekend came to a close.
To give you a better picture of what it was like zipping through Melbourne City and the Yarra Valley, I’ve put together a detailed guide on where to go to make the most out of a girls weekend away!
5:30pm: Check in to Adelphi Hotel
This is hands down the best designed hotel I have ever stayed in. Located on Flinders Lane, this high-end hotel is just a five-minute walk to Federation Square. It was so unique and the staff were attentive and friendly. Here we checked in to our Comfy King room, which had a complimentary minibar, WIFI, an iPod dock, espresso machine, unlimited last release movies and local phone calls. To celebrate our arrival we ordered a delicious dessert to be brought up to our room - it was definitely a good choice!
6pm: National Gallery of Victoria
We set off to the NGV to see Degas: A New Vision as part of Melbourne Winter Masterpieces. The exhibition showcased the work of Edgar Degas sorted by decades and included paintings, drawings, printmaking, sculpture and photography. I was especially interested with Degas’ quotes - some of which I couldn’t help but jot down to reflect on later. It was great to see Mazda support Art Exhibitions Australia, too. Be quick to see this one! It finishes on September 18.
8pm: Dinner at Saké Flinders Lane
Although we have Saké in Brisbane, I had never tried it before this trip. We walked down to the restaurant in Flinders Lane, which was located just two minutes from our hotel. Here we had a variety of different plates to share including delicious chicken karaage and the best oysters of my life, seriously. We couldn’t forget cocktails either, it’s a must for any girls trip - right?!
8am: Breakfast at Om Nom, Adelphi Hotel
We woke up early and had a fabulous breakfast in Adelphi. After that, we checked out of the hotel and got in our Mazda3 to drive straight to the Yarra Valley.
10am: Arrive at Piaf Day Spa for a massage
Our first stop was at Piaf Day Spa in Healesville for the most wonderful and peaceful massage I have ever experienced. You instantly feel calm when you step inside and you’re able to relax and enjoy the surrounds of rainforest ferns and gum trees. We both opted for a full body massage, which included hot stones - a sensation I have not experienced prior to Piaf but one that is truly unforgettable. We were able to unwind to the sounds of falling water and soothing music - it was a little slice of heaven. We were treated to tea and water post-massage and sat in the beautiful rainforest cabin in our robes and slippers admiring the view all the while being kept warm by the fireplace.
12pm: Head to Zonzo Estate for lunch
I’m never one to shy away from Italian food, so Zonzo was the perfect place to head for lunch. We had a table facing the vineyards and mountains, which was incredible. We ordered a couple of starters - arancini and schiacciata - and I couldn’t help but try one of their wood-fired pizzas… it was delish! My friend Rachelle went for the gnocchi, which she said was REALLY good. Zonzo received a big thumbs up from us!
1:30pm: Pop in to Healesville Glass Blowing Studio
For a quick break, stop at the glass blowing studio and take a lesson in glass art! We were absolutely amazed at the technique and talent needed to create a blown glass design. Tim and Tali run Healesville Glass Blowing Studio and were happy to show us how it was done. They made a colourful pumpkin design in less than 10 minutes at extreme temperatures - you could say we were pretty gobsmacked!
Side-note: They had a really cute dog too, which was an added highlight for this dog stalker lover!
2:15pm: Arrive at Napoleone Brewery & Ciderhouse
With all of that driving, we were well overdue for a drink! We stopped at Napoleone Brewery & Ciderhouse to have a tour and afterwards, I got to have a sneaky cider tasting paddle! We learnt quite a lot about the brewing process from Head Brewer Ben. While you may think it’s all fun and games, it’s also quite time-consuming and you definitely need to know your stuff! After the tour, I was able to taste their cider flavours - Apple, Cloudy Apple, Pear and Apple and Pear. Apple was the clear winner for Rach and I, so much so that I couldn’t help but purchase some cider afterwards!
3:30pm: Depart for Marysville, via the Black Spur
This was the absolute highlight of the weekend - the Black Spur drive. It’s the most beautiful and breathtaking experience and one Rach and I definitely won’t forget! Put on a calming playlist and take in the mountain ash trees and ferns that border the drive as you wind your way up the Great Dividing Range. This is one drive you should add to your bucket list!
4:30pm: Arrive at Steavenson Falls
We arrived to an incredibly cold Marysville (note: “incredibly cold” is Brisbane talk for nine degrees) and we went straight to Steavenson Falls, one of the tallest in Victoria! We stood on the viewing platform and enjoyed the view and read about the history. This is definitely a must-do in Marysville!
5:30pm: Check in to Vibe Hotel Marysville
We checked in to Vibe Hotel and had a bit of a break before dinner. It’s in the perfect location and it’s just a short walk to stores and the markets. It’s even pet friendly! Just remember where your room is because it’s a bit of a maze to walk through! Which, for us, was simply added fun and had us giggling away trying to remember where to go.
7pm: Dinner at Radius Bar & Grill at Vibe Hotel
After a huge day of driving, head to Radius Bar & Grill for dinner. The name Radius is a tribute to the restaurant’s 85 per cent locally-sourced produce within a 100km radius. You can’t go past the 12-hour Roasted Lamb Shoulder and the local Whole Grilled Buxton Salmon for mains, with the Wood Fire Flowerdale Broccoli as a side dish. Yum!
9am: Breakfast buffet at Radius Café at Vibe Hotel
Enjoy a buffet breakfast at the hotel café.
Tip: Order a coffee to warm you up for your next pit stop!
10am: Visit Bruno’s Art & Sculpture Garden
Bruno’s was an absolute ball! I highly recommend visiting and having a chat to Bruno - he’s such an interesting person and we had so many laughs. He told us that he lost his work in the Black Saturday fires and how he’s rebuilt his garden. He is extremely talented and his paintings and sculptures are out of this world! Easily one of the most talented artists I have ever seen. Take a walk through Bruno’s Art & Sculpture Garden - you won’t regret it!
11am: Explore Marysville Community Market and Chocolate in Marysville
We had a quick browse of the Marysville Community Market then we walked up to Chocolate in Marysville to have a cuppa and buy some treats to take home! Neither Rach or I could go past the fudge. If you were there, you’d buy some too… trust me.
12:30pm: Stop in at Saladin Café & Produce Store for lunch
Head to Narbethong and stop in to see Kim at Saladin Café & Produce Store for a bite to eat. Not only is there a café, but it’s also a B&B and a fantastic space for events, weddings and conferences. Kim is the loveliest person you could ever meet and you can tell she has a true passion and love for what she does - putting her guests needs first. Saladin is in the most gorgeous location, offering nature walks and a lake to sit around; perfect for a sunny afternoon. The lodge has such a homey feeling and the fireplace is a standout! Unfortunately, Saladin was also in the Black Saturday fires and had to be rebuilt. Seeing the fabulous turn-around after such a horrible event was a great feeling. It’s a perfect place for families to stay, too. I’ll definitely be back to stay!
2pm: Arrive at Four Pillars Distillery
Drive back through the Black Spur, through Healesville and arrive at Four Pillars Gin Distillery. We were taken through to the back room and walked through the distilling process. Their copper stills were beautiful! As I got to enjoy the cider the day before, I let Rach take the tasting reigns this time around! She was presented with a paddle of five gins to taste test including Navy Strength, Bloody Shiraz, Rare Dry, Barrel Aged & Spiced Negroni. Since I was driving, this just means that I have to come back to do a full tasting another time, of course!
3:30pm: Depart for Melbourne Airport
And we’re off! After a jam-packed weekend, we’re back to reality. It’s not goodbye Yarra Valley, it’s just see you soon!