Imagine waking up in the picturesque and bountiful King Valley. You’re surrounded by mountains, rivers and rolling vineyards. You roll out of bed, walk out of your yurt to the sounds of Australian native birds singing. You sneakily flick on the stove and make yourself a latte, before hopping into a hammock and watching the sun rise across the valley. A small flock of sheep walk on by looking for a little bit of latte love and don’t blink an eye at your pantless hammock time. After a late breakfast it’s a shower with a view, before popping back into the valley to indulge in a bottle of wine or two and some cheese.
Really it isn’t that hard to imagine how much fun, relaxation and frivolity that you could be having. Just like us. Recently James and I went on another mini road trip across one of our favourite regions of Victoria. This time upgrading ourselves from peasant status (camping in a regular tent with the dogs snoring in my ear) to royal luxury in a yurt.
The King Valley is the Australian home of Italian varietal wines including Prosecco, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo and is one of the oldest gourmet regions in Victoria. The picturesque and bountiful King Valley is located at the foothills of the Alpine National Park, surrounded by mountains, rivers and rolling vineyards. Being only a three hour drive (roughly 300km) from Melbourne it’s a perfect area to explore and indulge on a self given long weekend. King Valley is readily accessible from the major towns and villages in North East Victoria, providing an opportunity for half day or full day excursions. All major access roads are fully sealed and you will be treated to spectacular views. The drive from Melbourbne to the King Valley is rather bland and non-eventful for a good two hours along the Hume Highway. I’d strongly suggest that you get coffee and croissants before you leave the city.
The first stop on our road trip was Milawa with a visit to the infamous and delicious Milawa Cheese Company to stock up on all the cheeses. Tasting the cheese here is half the fun. The staff are young but fairly well trained in the different varieties and potential food matches. There’s a gold coin donation for tasting, with all funds donated to a nominated charity. Now choosing what cheese to take home is the other half. We ended up with an assortment of Millawa White and Brie. On offer is also a bakery and restaurant. The prices here where a bit steep for what we where after so off along the Prosecco Road and to Brown Brothers Winery for wine and fine food.
Despite the perfectly pretty name Prosecco Road isn’t actually a single road that you’ll find on any map. It’s a collaboration of five wineries joined forces to create an exciting food and wine trail especially for lovers of the sparkling wine. The prosecco variety of wine was originally planted by Otto Dal Zotto in 1994, to accompany their successful vineyard varieties. The prosecco is a varietal and wine style that is the foundation of Otto’s Italian hometown. Like many of the wineries in the area you’ll find them steeped in history and family connections. With many wineries now running multi generational family businesses.
Brown Brothers winery was established in 1889 and boasts Australia’s largest range of varietal wines, some available exclusively through the cellar door. One of the amazing things is taking your time to do a tasting at the cellar door. So much wine on offer! The A3 sized tasting note can be a little daunting but the staff here are exceptionally knowledgeable and friendly. After spending a good hour tasting all the new wines it’s time to walk over the soft grass to Epi.Curious for some much needed nibbles. This area has been designed for the sleepy traveller in mind. The lawn area welcomes you with couch style bean bags, picnic rugs and low tables. Perfect for an afternoon of relaxation and napping. The Epi,Curious menu offers visitors a chance to experience the local produce without having to run from farm gate to deli back door. Local produce accompanied with exceptional (and well priced) wine it’s a win for all involved! There’s a great selection of non-alcoholic beverages for the designated driver and underage members of your party.
After great food and wine it was time to go and discover our inner relaxation royalty selves and find The Yurt Alpine Retreat.
The Yurt (ger?) itself is located on a working farm surrounded by natural bush-land perched on top of a mountain in the middle of a vineyard. Absolute privacy from other people is guaranteed. Pants not required! Upon arrival you’re greeted by Sharon and John plus a few friendly dogs and you are taken up and over the hill to your new home. The road winds through natural bush-land teeming with kangaroos, wombats, rabbits and deer. Not to mention some very curious little sheep.
This lovely couple live and work on the farm which includes over 350 acres of active farmland. Don’t be surprised if the cows try to follow you up the road looking for a snack as we found out after going for an afternoon drive.
Inside the Yurt (ger?)
The Yurt itself is stunning and rather authentic to stay in. You walk in to find a complete home hidden away from the modern world. Upon arrival there’s fresh linen, bottled water and the sound of serenity. There’s cute little lamps, Mongolian-esh decorations and subtly placed mod-cons like a small car fridge, all cooking needs, a fan and light switch. Other than food and clean underwear you don’t need to worry about too much BYO gear.
The ornate ceiling offers a delightful glass dome. From the comfort of your bed at night you can lay back and just watch the stars. The ropes inside and outside of the yurt are woven from horse hair or lambs wool. Surprisingly soft and hard wearing given that this area does get snow and hot weather.
Amazing! In the middle of the yurt you’ll be thrilled to see a stove on offer and wood outside. Perfect for those chilly winter evenings. I’ll admit that I was sadden that we didn’t have the opportunity to use the stove as it was the middle of summer when we visited. Outside there is a gas BBQ and a smaller stove top. Perfect for an authentic Australia cooking experience- a BBQ as the sun is setting.
As there’s a small car fridge in the yurt you are best suited to bringing along your own gourmet selection of food and drink. The closet general store is a good 15min drive away. Don’t be like us and forget to grab food before you arrive. As soon as you are settled into one of the hammocks you’ll have very little desire to get up and go anywhere.
The Yurt Alpine Retreat is an eco-site. For those who are afraid of digging their own hole you have nothing to worry about here. There is an eco-toilet which is exceptionally clean and contained.
If you really pushed me and threatened to take away my coffee until I had to pick one of my favourite moments from our stay here it would have to be the hot shower. Just wow. I’ve had some pretty good showers in my life time and I’m an advocate for the skinny dip bathing in a river/lake/creek. How often does one get the chance to shower, with hot water, and look down and across a valley as stunning as the King Valley? If you’re lucky you may get to watch the kangaroos hop on by or in my shower situation have a flock of sheep yell at you.
What to do?
Other than the obvious drink great wine from a local winery. Eat some fabulous cheese and food from local producers and relax in the hammock there’s an abundance of activities you’re able to partake whilst staying at The Yurt Alpine Retreat. If you don’t want to leave the property than why not take yourself on a mini hike and watch the sunset? We took our mountain bikes and rode amongst the vineyard and watched the sun set.
If you’re willing to leave paradise and come away from your castle than Sharon has a great list of places to visit near by. We opted for some water time and popped over to Gentle Annie for a swim in the King River and a relaxing drive through the valley before returning home for dinner.
In final conclusion of words from temporary glamping royalty we decree that The Yurt Alpine Retreat gets 5/5 (million) stars for originality, comfort, view from the shower and general niceness. We can’t wait to return in July to really experience the chill of the high country and test out the stove inside the ger.