Coombe Cottage House Tours

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Posted 2023-08-13 by Nadine Cresswell-Myattfollow

I have always been fascinated by the towering Y hedges at the intersection of Maroondah and Melba Highways on the drive to the Yarra Valley. Isn't everybody? Who would need such a hedge to shield them from the world?

The answer is Dame Nellie Melba– who was Australia's first internationally famous operatic superstar. Dame Nellie named Coombe Cottage after the home she rented in London when performing at Covent Garden.

Returning to Australia, she purchased this 76-acre dairy farm at Coldstream in 1909. She had the cottage remodelled and today, Coombe Cottage is a sprawling homestead with nine bedrooms and six bathrooms.

Nellie died in 1931, so history has piled up behind the fortress hedge since then.

Melba’s granddaughter, Lady Pamela Vestey, lived at Coombe for 40 years, quietly preserving her grandmother’s legacy ensuring Melba’s chosen decor remained as untouched as possible.

Lady Vestey died in 2011, and her sons Lord Samuel Vestey, and Hon. Mark Vestey, have gradually opened up this historic gem to the public but in stages.

In 2014, they transformed Melba’s garage, where her chauffeur parked her Renault and Rolls Royce, into a 150-seat restaurant and cellar door.

Tours of the garden started in 2014. These delightful gardens were designed by William Guilfoyle (creator of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens) and have a National Trust listing.

House tours began in 2016. But these were intermittent but these days they have a regular and permanent timetable. I took one a few months ago.

I found Coombe Cottage to have an Arts and Crafts feel, with cosy fireplaces, warm wood panelling, and a palette of undersea wall colours –turquoise, blue, and green.

Dame Nellie's entertaining rooms are lavish but comfortably furnished with chintzy floral-covered furniture.

Here she entertained high-profile guests such as war hero and Scouts founder Robert Baden Powell, and newspaper magnate Keith Murdoch. (Yep, Rupert's father. )

Standing beside her baby grand piano in the music room, she performed arias for prime minister Billy Hughes and English actor Ellen Terry.

Much of Melba's furniture and objets d'art remind us how widely she travelled: Hawaiin peacock chairs, English Chippendale furniture, Bristol blue glassware, French chintz sofas, and Chinese porcelain vases.

But it is Australian artists' work that graces her walls: Hans Heysen, Norman Lindsay, and Arthur Streeton.

Look out from the diva's bedroom bay window at idyllic pastoral scenes. Melba's Hermes riding boots stand at the ready. Beside her bed is one of her fine outfits, a matching Cartier handbag, and a cameo picture of her son, George Armstrong –Pamela’s father.

Like other locals, I have visited Coombe Estate many times for wine tastings or garden tours. Finally allowed inside I was struck by the emerging sense of history. With the passing of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Vestey’s royal family connections seem more pronounced. Melba’s great-grandson Sam was appointed Master of the Horse, the third most senior office at Court. He was responsible for the Royal Mews and the Queen’s carriages and horses. His wife, Celia, was a godmother to Prince Harry.

Family portraits are everywhere. A testament to the history that reaches down to us today.

Tours are not sold separately and are part of an experience from below


House tour & Devonshire tea $75pp
Tour duration – 60 Minutes
Contact the restaurant at (03) 9739 0173


Available Wednesday to Sunday
Available times are displayed at the link below
House tour & three-course lunch $130pp
Tour duration – 60 Minutes

Available Wednesday & Sunday
House tour & high tea $110pp | Premium high tea $130pp
Tour duration – 60 Minutes

Link For Bookings . Coombe Cottage is not wheelchair or walker accessible. Garden tours are.


TEL +61 (03) 9739 0173
EMAIL [email protected]
673-675 Maroondah Highway
Coldstream VIC 3770

For other historic homes around Melbourne, you should visit here.


261968 - 2023-08-12 12:12:21


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