Monday 4 May 2015

Melbourne Day 4: Dandenong Ranges & Yarra Valley

Woke up just in time to see two hot air balloons floating by our apartment! It was the closest we got to the hot air balloons because they were too expensive for us to experience ourselves! *laughs*

View of hot air balloons floating by from our windows

We decided to take our time this morning and have breakfast at one of the many Hungry Jacks along the way to the Dandenong Ranges. Almost all the Hungry Jacks have a relatively large playground attached to them so the kids were more than excited to play! It's too bad that land-scarce Singapore have so few eateries with attached playground.

After breakfast, we headed to visit Australia's oldest and only steam train, the Puffing Billy Railway, which is approximately 45 minutes away.

Puffing Billy
(Address: 1 Old Monbulk Road, Belgrave VIC 3160, Australia
Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm)

Do take note that a typical return journey is at least 3 hours so make sure that you allocate enough time in your itinerary as well as park at a carpark that allows you to park for more than 3 hours. We made the expensive mistake of parking at a 2-hour only parking spot (thinking erroneously that we'll be back in time) and got a AUD 86 fine as a result *ouch* =(

The Puffing Billy departs from Belgrave Station and ends at Cockatoo Station (see here for part of the map). The prices of the train tickets depend on which station that you are alighting from (check out the ticket prices here). The tickets are not cheap but all the money goes to maintaining the train. Interestingly, the trains are maintained by a team of very passionate volunteers who are mostly retirees. They look like they were having a lot of fun riding up and down the hill! =)

We chose to take the train to Lakeside and back as it had the shortest waiting time at both stations.

Next train departs for Lakeside in 10 minutes!
The train has arrived at Belgrave Station
At the front of the train
(You can see the steam chugging out of the engine!)

Travelling in a steam train was a first for all of us! =)

Clockwise from left: Baby Boy enjoys dangling his legs outside of the train (when it was stationery of course);
Girl enjoying the view;
Selfie of us in the train
(Background poster explains the history of the train).
Train travels through the idyllic forests and hills of Dandenong Ranges
Travelling through the pretty Monbulk Trestle Bridge
Left: We have finally arrived at Lakeside Station, which is chilly because it was located at a higher altitude;
Right: Bro-in-law with the steaming train, choo choo! :D

Here's a video of the Puffing Billy's steam engine in action:

Even though most people sat on the window ledge and dangled their legs on the outside, we, the typical law-abiding Singaporeans, didn't because we didn't know if it was allowed. As a result, we didn't really enjoy the ride to Lakeside. On the way back however, we decided it was time to let loose and joined everyone else in sitting on the window ledge and man, it was fun!! =)

Left: One of the railway crossing lights;
Right: Bro-in-law enjoying the ride!
It was really cheap thrill but well, I loved it! :D
Look at the beautiful countryside view along the way! 
Girl had no problem doing the same and enjoyed herself tremendously! :D
(Love this photo of us hehe)

When we arrived at Belgrave Station, it was already 2pm. We quickly made our way to Yarra Valley, which is approximately 35 minutes from Puffing Billy Railway.

Welcome to Yarra Valley!
The land of wineries, farms and hot air balloons.

I actually had a long list of attractions to visit but since I had underestimated how much time we needed at Puffing Billy, we decided to visit only three (we later realised that we liked Yarra Valley a lot so we arranged to return on Day 7 of our trip to check out the other attractions in our itinerary).

Our first stop in Yarra Valley was the Yarra Valley Gateway Estate. It was the only place in Melbourne that we know of which still had fresh strawberries to pick from the plants.

Yarra Valley Gateway Estate
(Address: 667 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, VIC 3770, Australia
Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm)
They sell all sorts of farm produce but mainly grow strawberries on the farm

Entry is FREE; you just pay for the strawberries according to their weight. The lady at the counter told us that they had a lot of people coming through the past week and most of the strawberries had been picked. Thankfully there were still some leftovers so we could try our hand picking fresh strawberries.

As you can see, most of the strawberries have already been picked.
The strawberries were not very big (because the big ones are most probably already gone) but good enough for us (beggars can't be choosers)
My girl had a lot of fun taking pictures and cutting the strawberries from the plants herself.
It was a first time for her as well as the rest of us and we were all super happy!

Baby Boy doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. It's just strawberry growing on plants isn't it? *laughs*

There weren't enough strawberries for us to pick so we had to buy fresh strawberries from the store. We also got a couple of bottles of strawberry jam, which were the freshest and tastiest I have ever eaten! *yum*

Mum-in-law choosing which box of strawberries to buy

We washed the strawberries and ate them on premise. So sweet and fresh! =)

Our next stop was Chandon, one of the more famous wineries in the area that is approximately 6 minutes from Yarra Valley Gateway Estate. We wanted to introduce the bro-in-law to wine tasting as he had never been to a winery before.

(Address: 727 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, VIC 3770, Australia
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm)

Ironically, the wines sold here were more expensive than the same bottles sold in BWS, Woolworths! Plus, you need to pay AUD 5 for wine tasting, which you can use to offset your wine purchase. We thought it wasn't worth it so we spent the rest of our time enjoying their very beautiful vineyard instead. The colours of autumn are stunning! =)

Rows and rows of vine in their vineyard
Trees turning red, orange and yellow in the autumn.Girl had a lot of fun playing in the fallen leaves as it was her first time doing so (there's no autumn in Singapore)
Lovely family photo taken using the self-timer of my Olympus OMD. Love! =)
Baby Boy was so mesmerised by the fallen leaves! It's one of the few times that I allow them to play with leaves on the ground (cos they're crisp and dry)

We still had a bit of time so we made our way to Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, which is approximately 15 minutes from Chandon.

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery
(Address: 35 Old Healesville Road (cnr Melba Highway), Yarra Glen, VIC 3775, Australia
Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm)

The hubby said this dessert place would be perfect for the chocoholics like me. Just look at all the desserts! *yum*

Clockwise from top left: Machines constantly mixing chocolate!;
Bright pink coffee machine! Love it!;
A whole counter full of cakes, mousse and macarons;
So many flavours of ice cream!

There were so many kinds of desserts to choose from (and I really wanted to try everything) but we ended up choosing macarons (my girl's favourite), ice cream and chocolate mousse.

Clockwise from left: Girl loves the macarons!;
Dark chocolate and peppermint ice cream;
Chocolate and vanilla mouse *yum*

As it was almost dinnertime and we were really hungry, we ordered a pizza to share.

Surprisingly delicious pizza! :)

The best thing about Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery is being able to enjoy sweet treats while admiring the spectacular view of Yarra Valley.

Family photo outside the shop with the postcard-worthy backdrop of Yarra Valley. Beautiful! =)

As the sun was going to set soon, we quickly set off for home because the hubby wanted to avoid driving at night as far as possible. We took about 50 minutes to get back and were exhausted once we arrived back at our apartment.

Left: The Yarra Valley Gateway Estate strawberry jam is awesome!!;
Right: Box of 12 truffles from Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery *yum*!

All in all, I really loved Yarra Valley! I could've picked any spot to sit and paint the landscape all day and I would have been super happy! Since that is not possible, the next best thing would be to paint from the pictures I took (look out for it ;P).

Continue to >> Melbourne Day 5: Queen Victoria Market
<< Back to Melbourne Day 3: Philip Island


Check out our full list of kid-friendly attractions in Melbourne
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