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Nestled between Lilydale and Warburton along the scenic Warburton highway is the small unassuming town of Yarra Junction which is home to about 2,300 people. Recently we set off on a day trip to visit the highly acclaimed Blue Lotus Water Gardens but as it turned out this was just the beginning.
The Blue Lotus Water Gardens have been on my radar for some time now after seeing some magnificent photos of mountain backdrops, water lilies and Monet style bridges along with a stunning arrays of lotus flowers. This massive private garden comprises 5 hectares in total with 2 kilometres of pathways including the 750 metre River Trail walk, a kiosk, a retail nursery and gift shop.
The garden officially opened to the public in 2006 after owners Geoff and Yvonne Cochrane slowly turned their Wombok (chinese cabbage) farm into a beautiful water garden.The biggest lake, "Monet's Lake" holds approximately 11 megalitres of water and features 10 bridges, 9 islands and contains 70 varieties of flowering water plants. You will also find "Lotus Lake", "Blue Lotus Lagoon", "Lotus Flats", "Swan Pond" and "Giant Lily" which is the Giant Amazon Lily with lily pads reaching a staggering 1.7m in diameter with flowers lasting only two days.
Although not the usual school holiday activity for most children, mine loved looking at the flowers, finding the bridges, hiding in the cubby house in the fairy garden and running along the nature trail. I was impressed with the gardens and the staff were lovely.
The garden is open from late December through to the start of April and is at it's best from late January to the end of February. Entry to the gardens cost $17 adults, $14 pensioners and free for children. For more information visit their website here.
As the kids were complaining of hunger pains we headed a mere kilometre from the gardens over to the Gladysdale bakehouse which is technically not on the Warburton Hwy but located on a little side road which happens to overlook the highway. It's not what I would call your typical bakery, more like a cosy cafe with great coffee, cakes, slices and a good menu of breakfast and lunch options and with heaps of tasty salads to choose from. But what people travel far and wide for is the Gladysdale Bakehouse home made pies.
When we arrived at the little bakehouse we found ourselves amongst a hive of activity with staff busily taking orders, customers trying to decide which one of the many pies to order and others happily eating and gazing out to the view. The kids quickly made their decision of steak and bacon, steak and onion, plain pie and a sausage roll which came in at a very reasonable $15. Now usually my kids will have a few bites of a pie, eat some of the pastry and be finished but not here. The kids devoured the pies in record time and went on to declare that they were the best pies they've ever tasted, except for the ones Pop makes. As it turns out the kids are not alone in their declaration with just about every review on Gladyesdale Bakehouse being voted 5 stars and the pies receiving several of the rave reviews.
After lunch we took a stroll along the scenic Warburton Rail trail from opposite the bakehouse to the Yarra Junction playground where we enjoyed meeting some of the local families picnicking in the park. Along with the fully fenced train themed playground there is also a football oval, a relatively new aquatic centre and a skate park. So if you are taking children along it's a great spot for them to stretch their legs.
A few hundred metres from the playground brought us to the Upper Yarra Museum which is housed within the old Yarra Junction railway station. Here you will find helpful volunteers eager to share their knowledge on local history, the railway, artifacts and objects on display throughout the many rooms open to the public.
The children particularly liked sitting in the old rail car, using Morse code, ringing the bell, looking around the 'children's room' which had many vintage toys on display as well as a few things that they could play with. They also enjoyed watching the blacksmiths at work as they hammered and shaped the metal into various objects and seeing the metal dragon out the front.
The museum is definitely worth a look if you are in Yarra Junction on the days that it's open . It's open on Wednesdays and Sundays from 11am - 4pm and on the third Saturday of the month from 11am-4pm. Entry is $10 family, $5 adults, $1 for children and more info can be found here.