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Thursday, September 22, 2005

With a population of around 9000, Healesville is the Yarra Valley's biggest town. It is the heart of the valley's wine and food region, surrounded by vineyards and low-lying mountains. Visitors flock there to sample the latest vintages and every February the area buzzes with the Yarra Valley Grape Grazing Festival. The Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary is another drawcard.

The Yarra Valley Tourist Railway offers rides in a motorised open-air trolley. It relies on dedicated volunteers to succeed. It runs trolley trains from Healesville to the Tarrawarra Winery, crossing the Watt River, going under the Donovan's Road overbridge and through the winery's historic tunnel.

The lines the trolley runs on were laid to transport timber from Healesville to Melbourne. It tootles along at about 20km an hour, ideal for taking in the pretty countryside.

The Healesville Sweet Company in the town's main street is hard to pass by. It has plenty of old favourites — boiled lollies, fresh liquorice, lollipops, chocolate-covered nuts and coffee beans, fudge in many tempting flavours, chocolate bullets and candy canes. They also stock a wide range of local quality lines, make up great hampers, bomboniere, personalised gifts and charming gingerbread houses at Christmas. They also have a good range of sugar-free treats. The proprietors also own a local restaurant, Wattleseed.

Not far away is Cheese Freaks & Book Nuts. The former fruit barn is café meets bookshop. The café serves breakfast, lunch and snacks and a wide range of cheeses, including some locally made. The signature dish is a cheese and antipasto platter. The lime curd tarts are reputedly the world's best and the raspberry jam is addictive. Young visitors are supplied with butcher's paper and coloured pencils — their works of art adorn the walls.

Bookcases line two walls and the centre of the café. The books are for sale, everything from classics to contemporary, some rare and obscure. Customers are encouraged to read while enjoying their food.

Just metres from the main street is a new place to stay called "the tuck in:) yarra valley". In what was the town's Masonic Lodge are five beautifully-appointed guest rooms, each with ensuite facilities and individual heating and cooling. Beds are made with crisp white linen and luxury woollen quilts. Works by local artists decorate the rooms.

They cater to individual requirements with summer barbecues, late brunches, private dinners, "host a murder" nights, wine tastings and picnic baskets.

Rochford Wines is winery, restaurant and special events venue. Its award-winning restaurant is the feature of the architect-designed premises. The modern, light-filled steel and glass design is warmed by wooden floors. Much of the produce is grown at the winery and other ingredients are locally sourced. They serve lunch from noon to 3pm every day.

The cellar door has a good range of wines for tasting and purchase and the staff has excellent wine knowledge.

Joan Armatrading, Wendy Matthews, Julie Anthony, Don Burrows and the Melbourne Symphony have enthralled audiences at winery concerts.


About an hour north-east of Melbourne


Yarra Valley Tourist Railway rides are $8 for adults, $6 for children and $22 for a family. They run on Sundays and public holidays and Wednesday to Sunday during school holidays.

tuck inn:) rooms start at $135 a night.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information

Yarra Valley Tourist Railway
Ph: (03) 5962 2490
Fax: (03) 5962 1782

Healesville Sweet Company
197 Maroondah Highway
Healesville 3777
Ph: (03) 5962 6311

Cheese Freaks & Book Nuts
217a Maroondah Highway
Healesville 3777
Ph: (03) 5962 2288

tuck inn:) yarra valley
2 Church Street
Healesville 3777
Ph: (03) 5962 3600
Fax: (03) 5962 3630

Healesville Sanctuary
Badger Creek Road
Healesville 3777
Ph: (03) 5957 2800
Fax: (03) 5957 2870

Rochford Wines
Maroondah Highway & Hill Road
Coldstream 3770
Ph: (03) 5962 2119
Fax: (03) 5962 5319

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