Go-ahead vibe in a reborn Marysville

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - JU­DITH ELEN

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.

CHECK­LIST

Vibe Ho­tel Marysville, 32-42 Murchi­son Street, Marysville; (03) 5957 7700; tfe­ho­tels.com/vibe­marysville.

TAR­IFF

From $179 a dou­ble.

GET­TING THERE

A 98km drive from Mel­bourne.

CHECK­ING IN

Week­enders; con­fer­ence del­e­gates.

WHEEL­CHAIR AC­CESS

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.

BED­TIME READ­ING

Vic­to­ria’s Alpine Re­gion by Jan Ross­ing­ton; Black Satur­day: Sto­ries of Love, Loss and Courage from the Vic­to­rian Bush­fire, edited by John McGourty.

STEP­PING OUT

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.

BRICK­BATS

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.

BOU­QUETS

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

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