Vanessa Amorosi is one of Australian music's great voices and has been singing for most of her life. She has enjoyed hit singles and her debut album The Power
took her to No. 1 on the national ARIA chart. She was just 18 years old! Her eagerly anticipated second album Somewhere in the Real World
has just been released.
Vanessa was born and grew up in the beautiful town of Emerald in Victoria's Dandenongs and, while her family no longer lives there, she still loves to visit and enjoy the country calm it offers. It's a long way from the hectic touring and it's a place where Vanessa can ride her motorbike and horse.
Emerald and its surroundings towns are all just an hour out from Melbourne, where you can find quiet roads, parks and quaint little shops and pubs. Vanessa says this is a great area for families.
The first settlement in the Dandenongs, Emerald is on top of a ridge and enjoys a beautiful outlook. Gold was discovered here in 1858 and the town was planned the following year. When it petered out, the settlement was slow to develop, and eventually emerged as a service centre to the agricultural industry.
Vanessa paid a sentimental visit to her primary school and had a talk with her former teacher, Mrs Huisintveld. They shared fond memories of the old school days, and Vanessa's picture is on the corridor wall with those of other past successful students including Red Symons.
Emerald Lake Park is where Vanessa and her family enjoyed picnics and paddle boating in summer. The 50 hectare heritage park has 15km of walking tracks, electric barbecue facilities, a cafe and the Puffing Billy railway and station. There are amphitheatres scattered throughout the park and picnic shelters can be hired through the kiosk.
The park was once part of the historic Nobelius Heritage Nursery, which is still in operation, but on a much smaller scale. At its peak in the 20th century, it had about two million trees and 80 employees. The lake was established in 1940. Six murals on the hillside depict important features of local history.
Emerald Lake Park is owned and managed by Cardinia Shire Council, with support from the park business operators and Friends of Emerald Lake Park.
Puffing Billy, Australia's century-old steam train, still runs on its original mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook. It travels the 25km track every day, passing through beautiful forests and fern gullies. Open-sided carriages give wonderful exposure to the views, and passengers can hop off and on at any station along the way. It's a wonderful way to recapture the romance and charm of the bygone days of steam.
Fifteen minutes away in Upper Beaconsfield is the Pine Grove Hotel, Vanessa's favourite pub. You can sit on the veranda and enjoy a drink while overlooking the rows of vineyards. She loves to go there for a cool drink after a long horse ride.
"The Piney" was built in the 1880s but was burnt down in the early 1900s. It was rebuilt, only to be destroyed again in the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983. It was again rebuilt and reopened in 1984. It is open for lunch and dinner every day and accommodation is available.