Go-ahead vibe in a reborn Marysville
If Marysville rings a bell outside Victoria, it’s most likely to be the devastating Black Saturday bushfires that come to mind, sweeping through this tiny town in February 2009. For many Melburnians, however, Marysville was always carefree family-holiday territory.
The drive from Melbourne passes through the Yarra Valley, to Healesville and on to Marysville, 20km before Lake Mountain cross-country ski resort.
Edging the Yarra Valley and gateway to snow country, Marysville once had about 400 homes, of which 12 survived the fires.
Six years on, new homes and main-street shops blend with the landscape, the lush bush softening remaining scars. With half the number of original homes and residents, the little town nevertheless buzzes.
Many townsfolk multi-task. The woman who serves our coffee and smoked-trout baguettes at Fraga’s cafe across from Vibe Hotel, turns up at its launch party, beating out a rhythm on a saucepan with local group Pans on Fire. Behind a shop counter, I spot the community’s shuttle-bus driver.
TFE Hotels recently opened Vibe Hotel Marysville in partnership with the Victorian government as a targeted strategy for revitalising the town. With views out to Yarra Ranges National Park and the Cathedral Ranges, Vibe has 101 good-sized guestrooms (including five suites) and an impressive conference centre.
There is a lobby bar and lounge area, free Wi-Fi, strategic power points and USB plugs and wide corridors. An outdoor pool is wrapped on three sides by a glass-walled atrium tucked into the linked buildings; there’s a gym and The Spa at Marysville has recently opened.
Inside and out, colours are stylishly muted but strong, including slate and dove grey, with surfaces of natural brick and wood.
Beneath a serrated line of workshop-like roofs, the elongated, charcoal-grey and glass complex lies largely below the surrounding tree line. In front, a below-streetlevel apron links wide terraced steps from the reception desk and accommodation area to conference spaces, restaurant and cafe below.
Vibe describes its theme here as “local connection”, and what better place for that? Shortly after opening, 90 per cent of the 64 staff members are residents from the local area. Artworks in corridors and guestrooms are by local artist Don Wilson.
There is a focus on regional food, such as Buxton trout, Yarra Valley Dairy cheeses and wild mushrooms from the Marysville hills.
A note on the menu says 95 per cent of produce has been sourced within a 100km radius. And the food at Radius Bar & Grill is memorable, with Middle-Eastern inspired dishes such as slow-cooked lamb and pomegranate.
Executive chef Leigh Colville has cooked at Yarra Valley’s Chateau Yering and The Press Club in Melbourne.
For holiday-makers, the region is the haven it always was. Stroll the tiny town, strike out on bush trails and wait until after dark to climb steps beside bush pools at Steavenson Falls, where the floodlit cascades tower around lookout platforms.
Nearby Buxton’s Trout & Salmon Farm still offers mums, dads and kids fishing rods (they pay for what they catch), and Buxton Ridge Winery cellar door offers free wine-tastings.
Judith Elen was a guest of TFE Hotels.
Vibe Hotel Marysville, 32-42 Murchison Street, Marysville; (03) 5957 7700; tfehotels.com/vibemarysville.
From $179 a double.
A 98km drive from Melbourne.
Weekenders; conference delegates.
Eight accessible rooms, with double-size bathrooms, wheel-in showers with adapted facilities. All doorways are designed for wheelchairs; extensive ramp access inside and out, including between hotel, Radius Bar & Grill and conference centre.
Victoria’s Alpine Region by Jan Rossington; Black Saturday: Stories of Love, Loss and Courage from the Victorian Bushfire, edited by John McGourty.
Bushwalking trails; snow-country day visits. Black Spur Drive (Maroondah Highway, Healesville to Narbethong), through forests of ferns and towering mountain ash, links mountain areas around Marysville to the Yarra Valley. In town, Bruno’s Art & Sculpture Garden is stunning; family fishing fun at Buxton Trout & Salmon Farm; see an exhibition of Black Saturday photographs and relics at the Information Centre.
No bathrobes and slippers in my guestroom (it gets cold in Marysville); leaving the main building for breakfast in the cafe could be a minus in the dead of winter.
Excellent accommodation for visitors; a vibrant focus, employer and support for local people and businesses.
The lobby and a guestroom at Vibe Hotel Marysville, top and centre; executive chef Leigh Colville, above