Our alarm went off with a gentle trill at 4:45am and in the pitch black, in my sleepy state, I couldn’t remember why the heck it would be sounding off so early. For a split second I nearly turned it off and rolled over to go back to sleep, but then I remembered… we were going to Marysville! Woohoo!
If the name of this charming town sounds familiar, it’s because it was ravaged by the Black Sunday fires in 2009. But this catastrophic event isn’t what defines this town or its people. Instead, it’s the warm, welcoming nature and sense of community and pride that stands out. They are a close-knit group of incredibly strong people who have overcome an unimaginable situation.
We got ready quickly, Matt piled all our stuff in the car while I fed the cat and we took off to the airport. Before we knew it were at Melbourne airport, picking up the keys for our sweet little hire car, a grey Mitsubishi ASX that still had that new car smell. We hooked up the GPS and set a course for Marysville, knowing we’d make a few stops along the way for coffee and photos. Before long we drove through Diamond Creek, pulling in at the quirky-cool cafe, Piccolo Meccanico and grabbing a couple of cappuccinos for the road. They were delicious.
The scenery along the drive was beautiful and the ASX was the perfect car to be doing it in. We zipped around corners, stopping along the way to take photos and sitting up high enough to see everything along the way. Everything had an authentically Australian feel to it, straight out of a car ad or tourism campaign. Eucalyptus trees lined the sides of the winding roads, giving way to dense bushland with kangaroos nibbling in the grass. We drove through small towns with quaint corner stores, antique shops and local pubs perfect for the lunchtime pitstop. It didn’t take long to get to Marysville and the second I got out of the car I realised I hadn’t dressed warm enough.
My immediate impression was that it reminded me of a town in the Canadian Rockies, a smaller version of somewhere like Banff. Standing at the top of the main street we could see the entire length of the town, with huge trees stripped bare of their leaves lining the road, like something out of a Tim Burton film. Both Matt and I instantly fell in love with the town and the crisp, fresh mountain air we were breathing in.
The trip had been organised by the lovely team at TFE Hotels, the hotel management team who look after hotels you’ve probably heard of, like Adina, Medina, Vibe, Rendezvous, Travelodge, Hotel Kurrajong and Far East Hospitality. The cool thing about this is that they chose the destination and organised all the activities for us, which means it’s different to what we would organise ourselves. It was almost like a mystery holiday, taking us to places and experiencing things we may not on our own.
We checked into our room at Vibe Hotel Marysville and settled in. The room was really modern and beautiful and the bed was huge! It was nice to be able to spread out properly and have different areas to hang out in, like the couch near the window, instead of being confined to the bed. The bathroom was also pretty wonderful as it as big and modern. After taking some photos for a written review I’m going to do of the hotel, we piled on some more layers and headed out.
Our first stop was to Fraga’s Cafe along the main street. We popped in and met owner James, who treated us to a delicious lunch of home-made pumpkin soup and spinach and ricotta ravioli with basil pesto. The cake fridge was stocked with all sorts of yummy home-made treats and we couldn’t resist, I had a really, really good piece of baked lemon cheesecake and Matt got stuck into a cinnamon and coffee scroll. Afterward, we took a walk around the town and snapped photos of the local area.
We made a bee-line for Bruno’s Sculpture Garden on Falls Road and meet friendly Belgian artist and musician, Bruno. He had us in stitches the whole time with his great sense of humour and all the stories he had to share. He showed us proudly around the sculpture garden and art gallery, pointing out his favourite pieces and sharing funny stories about the life of the garden.
That evening we went to the Radius Bar & Grill for dinner. If you ever visit this area, Radius is one of those places you just have to eat at! Head Chef Leigh Colville, formerly of The Press Club and Southside Diner, draws inspiration from the local area, sourcing all ingredients within a 100km radius of the restaurant. The result is out-of-this-world food bursting with flavour. I couldn’t believe how good the food was, everything was so fresh and crunchy and earthy, it felt like we were eating the land. The dessert is one of the best I’ve had, it was SO good… Chocolate parfait with nut crunch, peanut butter ice cream and salted caramel. It was sweet, salty, crunchy, gooey, chocolatey and nutty but not at all sickly or too sweet. I’ve been having dreams of that dessert. I want to marry it.
The next day we got up early and, after a light breakfast at Radius Cafe, we headed straight out to the Buxton Trout & Salmon Farm where we met owner Mitch. He showed us around the entire farm, talking us through how it all works. The really cool thing about this place is they use a naturally flowing water stream for the ponds. It comes from the mountains, along the land, into the farm and through the ponds then out again. It’s closely monitored and has no negative effects on the environment. This means tastier, happier, healthier fish for people to eat! After playing with Mitch’s cute pugs we grabbed some rods and reels and set about catching trout to be smoked later that day on-site. I’d forgotten how relaxing fishing can be and Matt I vowed to break out our MOTackle rods when we get home and spend more time in the outdoors. Not that we’re very good fishermen!
Our next stop was to Buxton Ridge Winery, where we met owner Michael and set about sampling his range of 6 wonderful wines. The wines were all really enjoyable, made even more so with great conversation, a very tasty cheese platter and the bush outside making the perfect backdrop. It’s really nice trying wines from the local area and talking to the person who created them, it ties it all together and makes you appreciate it even more. We left with a bottle of Pinot Noir and big smiles on our faces.
We jumped back in the ASX and drove to nearby Steavenson Falls and made the short walk to the actual falls, one of Victoria’s highest waterfalls at 84m high. With our warm winter gear on, we walked around near the falls, taking photographs and enjoying the fresh air and feeling of being outdoors. We took the relatively quick hike up to Keppel Lookout, offering us fantastic views of Marysville and the local area, giving us a chance to take it all in and get some amazing photos of the area.
That night we were invited to the Christmas in July FEAST put on by Radius Bar & Grill. We met lovely people, including Vibe General Manager Phil and his very cute little son Nathan. With so many locals around the table, it felt like a real family Christmas. We really truly feasted like I have never feasted before. Every inch of the table was covered in perfectly cooked food, so good that you couldn’t help but eat more even though you were totally stuffed. There was freshly cooked trout from Mitch’s farm, mountains of tasty turkey, perfect pork and slow-cooked lamb. There were fresh salads and dessert after dessert. It was so good, the kind of meal you’ll remember for a very long time to come. Our last night was spent with full bellies and very tight top-buttons on our jeans.
After meeting Ashraf, owner of the Marysville Patisserie, at the feast the night prior, we couldn’t help but stop in after breakfast for a coffee (and fudge) and a chat. He showed us around the kitchen and told us how he’d made the change from big-city living to small-town bliss. It just reminded me that the most important thing in life is to do what you love and what makes you happy.
Our time spent in Marysville was really memorable, mostly because of the people we met. Every single person opened up their business with open arms and was more than happy to share their story with us. Even thinking about it now, it feels like they’re our friends and will remember us when we come to visit next time. Marysville is a beautiful area, with awe-inspiring natural scenery and a feeling of rest and relaxation all around it, but it’s the people who give it its heart and soul.
All of the wonderful experiences we had were thanks to the generous people of Marysville and the team at TFE Hotels for piecing it together and organising it for us. Thank you so much for everything you did for us, it is very much appreciated.
I’d also like to take a second to appreciate the car that took us through all of these beautiful places. Our little Mitsubishi ASX made the transition from city to country perfectly, keeping up in peak-hour traffic and tight inner-city turns then opening up in the countryside and making stopping for photos really easy.
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Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.