My private tour will take me through the Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley today.
The first stop in Dandenong is Puffing Billy, the preserved steam train that is a major tourist attraction. My tour guide, Jeff, puts me on the train in Belgrave just before it pulls out of the station, to meet me at the next stop in Menzies Creek.
The woman next to me lets her two tiny children sit in the window ledge, holding on to the horizontal bars. As cute and scenic as this train ride is, I am distracted by how easily either one of them would slip right under and through but a few other parents allow the same, and the Engineer didn’t seem concerned, so I need not to be.
I do worry so very easily.
Jeff is waiting for me on the platform at Menzies Creek as promised, and from there we drive through the Dandenong region. It’s drizzly and gray but still an enjoyable ride.
From there, we make a stop in the William Ricketts Sanctuary. It’s fairly rainy as we enter, but Jeff has umbrellas on hand and we make a quick pass through. It’s obvious that Jeff has guided lots of people through here before; he is familiar with the paths, the sculptures, the history of the artist and the park, and can explain the aboriginal symbols to me. I’m not absorbing it in anything like the depth I might on another day, but it’s beautiful and striking and not at all the sort of thing I would have stumbled upon on my own.
From there, we drive out of the mountains and into the Yarra Valley. The sun peeks out as we enter this rich growing area. It’s Victoria’s wine country, and we stop first for lunch and (for me) a wine tasting at Rochford Winery.
OK, I’m not that big a Chardonnay person, in general, but theirs is really, really good. Like, where can I get my hands on this here in the States, good.
After Rochford, we head down the street and I have a private wine tasting at Dominique Portet. Their wines are also fabulous, especially their absolutely delightful sparkling rose. (Think pink champagne as a point of reference, though it can’t be called that because it’s only “champagne” if it’s grown in the Champagne region of France.)
We could easily have spent the rest of the days with me in wineries, but I decided it was probably best if I didn’t do that (I want to remember my visit, after all, LOL)
So for our last planned stop of the day, we visited the Healesville Sanctuary, which offers a zoo experience but is also an active partner in efforts to restore and protect endangered native species.
OK, normally? I would not pick a Zoo as a major way to spend my day. But c’mon. It’s Australia. The animals they have are mostly not even in zoos here.
After all this, it was getting pretty late in the evening and I was starting to wear down. And there was a flight to get on in the morning. So Jeff drove me to my hotel (swinging back around so I could see the kangaroos “in the wild” on the way).
He was a great tour guide, and my one-and-only day in Melbourne was fun and full and fantastic. (I’ll be giving Melbourne Private Tours the highest ratings and excellent reviews, once that credit issue gets cleared up.)
And then I was in my very boring, generally remote (airport adjacent) hotel, in for the night and hoping to get a good night’s sleep before the morning trek home.