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Published June 7th 2011
Marysville is about a 90 minute drive from Melbourne through
the Yarra Valley, Healesville and along the Black Spur - an amazingly beautiful drive through a temperate rainforest with a canopy of towering Mountain Ash that seem to have been transported from a Lord of the Rings novel. If you are an opera or history fan, you may wish to take a short detour to Coombe Farm, the former house of Dame Nellie Melba now run by her descendents as a winery and farm. These en route attractions make a trip to Marysville as much about the journey as the destination.
Once you arrive in Marysville you'll be impressed by the speed with which this cute, little town is re-establishing itself after being devastated in Black Saturday fires of February 2009. Do not let the fires deter you from visiting Marysville: the bush has quickly rebounded and is now as pretty as ever and; swift rebuilding efforts mean all tourist services are available. The people cannot be expected heal as quickly, but Marysville has always been a popular destination for tourists and visitors to the town assist the residents as they work towards returning to normalcy.
Marysville is a gorgeous place to visit at any time of the year. The Steavenson River runs through the town and there are a lot of parks and gardens providing lovely places to sit, play or paddle during spring, summer or autumn. Marysville is a good starting place for numerous walks through the surrounding bush. The walk to Steavenson Falls (pictured) is not at all difficult and the beauty of the falls makes it well worth the effort. There are cafes and bakeries in Marysville and the number reopening is always increasing. If the day is nice, buy some produce from various places throughout the Yarra Valley and from these shops and have a picnic by the Stevenson River.
Although a great warm weather destination, my favorite time to visit Marysville is in the winter. 20 minutes past Marysville is Lake Mountain, the closet snow resort to Melbourne. A lot of people deride Lake Mountain. Certainly if it is down-hill thrills and spills you are after, then this is not the place for you. However if it is cross-country skiing, or somewhere to take children to play in the snow, I highly recommend a trip to Lake Mountain. This article focuses on a day trip to Marysville for cross-country skiing, but you can easily use the information for preparing a day with children for snow play. (For a day at the snow, also check out: Mt. Baw Baw and Mt. St.Gwinear
One of the best things about a day trip to Marysville and Lake Mountain is that its proximity to Melbourne means that whilst you'll need to start your day early, there's no need to start too early. Exiting Melbourne at the eminently civilised times of 8 or 9am will still provide you with plenty of time to enjoy your day. It would really be a shame not to stop somewhere along the way for a morning tea of cake and coffee. There are no shortage of places throughout the Yarra Valley, in Healesville or Marysville itself.
Once in Marysville, you'll need to hire equipment. For cross country skiing you'll need thermal underwear (top & pants), a warm fleece, waterproof jacket and pants, gloves, cross country shoes, poles and cross country skies. If skiing in late winter or early spring, make sure you take a backpack: as you ski you'll heat up and want to shed your top layers. Don't forget sunscreen and sunglasses, if you are lucky and get a sunny day then you'll need these to protect you from the sun bouncing off the snow. Apart from the thermal underwear and fleece, all equipment can be hired.
It's also a great idea to bring a picnic lunch, or at least some snacks and drinks to enjoy during your ski.
Once the equipment has been organised, head up to Lake Mountain, you'll need to pay the entrance fee – which goes towards the upkeep of the national park. Park the car and head over to the Visitor Centre to buy your ski pass – and book a lesson if this is your first time. The Visitor Centre and nearby toboggan slope are notable for hoards of excited children trying to control toboggans and harassed parents trying to control said children. Fear not, respite is close at hand.
If taking a lesson, meet up with your group and they will take it from there. If you can cross country ski already, make your way to the beginning of the trail and leave the craziness of the toboggan slopes behind.
Lake Mountain's cross-country trails are well regarded internationally and there are plenty of trails to give a beginner or intermediate a great day. Experienced cross-country skiers will also really enjoy the trails here.
My favorite thing to do is the following loop: Start on the Home Trail and continue on the Little Echo Trail. The Camp (E51 on the map) is a great spot for a stop - I once had a wombat try to join our picnic here! After this stop you can decide on your route depending upon the skill and energy level of the people in your party. If with beginners use the Echo Flat Trail to get to The Gap. If with experienced people looking for a challenge then do the Jubilee Trail as a loop before heading onto the Woolybutt Trail. Alternatively get straight onto the Woolybutt Trail. At the Gap, if you are not too tired, do the loop provided by the Panorama Trail. The Panorama Lookout is a fabulous place for a snack and a drink. On a fine day, views out across the Great Dividing Range are amazing.
Finish the day off by returning to the Visitor Centre and car park via, the Royston Trail - one of my favorite cross-country trails, anywhere!. This trail is almost all down hill so you'll get up a good bit of speed. As you whiz along there are several awesome vistas on your right, but I am generally having too much fun speeding down the hill to stop and enjoy the view.
This loop takes approximately 2.5 hours (including time for a picnic). Once you've returned to the car park you'll be quite tired and ready to get in the car and enjoy a glass of wine or a hot chocolate on the way home.