Nothing exciting has been happening with our finances lately. Things are going smoothly for us, money-wise. While we’re still trying to reach our goal of living on one paycheck, we are generally on track with our savings goal. I’d say that personal finance in this household is a bit boring and I haven’t been motivated to write about it lately.
So I thought I’d take a bit of a turn and write about something else that isn’t 100% personal finance but is still someway related to it – travel.
International and interstate travel can be expensive, especially when you have other financial goals of higher priority. My boyfriend and I like exploring new places but since we also want to own a home and invest, and see our families overseas during Christmas, we hardly go on major trips and choose to travel locally instead.
We like going on road trips. The thing we like most about local travel is that we don’t need a day off from work to do it. We usually drive on Saturdays, going to different National Parks in Victoria. The goal is to visit as many national parks as we can – to tick off as many parks as we can from this list. So far, we’ve been to 11 since we started dating. It will take a lifetime before we can cross everything off!
One of our most favourite places to go to is the Yarra Valley, particularly the Coldstream and Healesville areas. I can’t count how many times we’ve been to the Valley but we both never seem to get tired of it. It is our go-to destination on weekends when we feel like going for a drive after doing some household chores. It is also the first place we take visiting relatives and friends to.
Yarra Valley is well-known for its wineries here in Victoria. It is close to both the Yarra Ranges and the Dandenong Ranges National Parks. It is about 90 minutes drive from the Melbourne CBD. While wine is the first thing one may think at the mention of this place, the Yarra Valley offers more than our favourite reds and whites.
This is our usual order of events when we visit the Yarra Valley. We usually go in the afternoon, after having lunch so we won’t have to spend money on restaurants or take away. The drive to Yarra Valley in itself is a treat. Although it is a fair bit of a drive, the road travel is relaxing. There are vineyards left and right and the Yarra Ranges serve as a backdrop during the whole trip.
We usually start with cheese. I like cheese. I can eat it every day. I do eat it every day (with some avocado!). I never pass up the chance to have cheese when we go to The Valley, because 1) their cheeses are so good and 2) tasting is free*. No purchase is required when you do the tasting, but if you love cheese, it would be very difficult to walk out of their shop empty-handed. Their marinated cheeses are worth buying.
Then we go taste wine. My boyfriend likes wine. Probably a bit too much that the GP prescribed him to cut down. We always stop here because they make good wine and tasting is also free*. You probably see the trend here. Yering Station also does exhibits of local art and sometimes hold weekend markets for local producers. They also offer a good view of Yarra Valley.
Victoria’s water reservoirs usually have beautiful parks and lookouts in their surrounds. The park at the bottom of the Maroondah Reservoir is really beautiful and has a few floras such as roses and azaleas. Visitors can walk to the top of the dam wall and enjoy the view. Water is always calming and it’s a bonus that you can see other parts of the Yarra Ranges from the dam wall. You can either take a hike from around the spillway or walk the stairs through the garden.
There is nothing special about this lookout, it doesn’t even have any picnic tables or benches. But it provides a different view of the Maroondah reservoir. You can park your car here and enjoy the view. We usually stay a few minutes here when we go.
Sometimes we take friends or guests out to the valley and on top of our usual spots, we also take them to more touristy places. These are places we’ve been to but don’t visit often (although we do go when we feel like spending some money).
- Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. We don’t have any lactose intolerant relatives and friends, so we take everyone to this place. It’s chocolate heaven (duh) but in my opinion, they do ice cream better. Visitors can observe how chocolate is done as the production area is behind a looking glass. There are also chocolate chips at the entrance for visitors to try – milk, white and dark, at that! I mean, who doesn’t like free chocolate?!
- Innocent Bystander. I’m not an alcohol drinker, I gave up my alco** ways a long time ago, but I’ll never say no to an Innocent Bystander’s Pink Moscato. A former colleague bought me a 4-pack of this moscato for me to try and enjoy and I became a fan since then. Innocent Bystander is not only a winery but also an artisan bakery. They have nice bread and pizzas. It’s almost always difficult to get a table here during weekends. I recently tried their Prosecco and that was nice too (yes, I like my wine sweet).
- Beechworth Bakery. There are a few restaurants and cafes in the Healseville town centre, but it’s worth stopping by this iconic bakery on your first time. I like their meat pies and their sweet pastry.
- Domaine Chandon. This is definitely a must visit for wine and champagne lovers. They do tasting as well, with a small fee (refundable when you purchase a bottle). It’s still worth visiting this estate even if you’re not planning to do wine tasting. Visitors are free to take a tour of their estate and their cellars (visible from the outside) so they can learn more about their history.
For our regular road trips to Yarra Valley, we really only spend money on petrol. We can fill $20 worth of petrol and this will be enough for a return trip from our house. As I wrote above, we usually eat before we go for a drive, but when we feel like having a meal or coffee or tapas, we’d probably spend no more than $40. Of course, it’s a different story if we’re taking other people out.
We also rarely buy wine even if we do wine tasting. The last time we bought wine from the area is when we bought a bottle of Pink Moscato for a friend. That costed us $20 (and then we saw it on special in Costco, at $15. Bugger!).
While we are saving for bigger goals, we found a way to satisfy our wanderlust. Local travel, particularly short road trips, appeal most to us. They are fun and we get to explore new places without any financial setbacks.
Do you like to travel and see new places? Do your financial goals limit you from doing all the travel you want to do? How do you satisfy your travel cravings?
*Minimum 2 people and maximum 10 per tasting.
**Standard wines are free to taste, but you have to pay to taste premium ones.