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Mice Net : August 2009
educational Sue Sedelies of Summit Conference Group shows us other meeting spaces and 10 syndicate ooms. This day they’re full, but we note natural light, magnificent views of the grounds, a teambuilding ropes course bearing names such as The Wall, High ‘Y’, Mohawk Walk, and Leap of Faith. My only leap of faith is deciding whether to drink the local pinot or chardonnay. We lunch in the private board room for 20. Since we’re in the area we visit a Melbourne icon, Sky High Mt Dandenong with 180 degree views of Melbourne and its peninsulas. Suitable for 250 for cocktails or 190 banquet style, its outdoor terraces and gardens make perfect break-outs. Coldstream was home to Dame Nellie Melba, whose Coombe Cottage is still in the family. Now it is acclaimed for cool climate wines. Helen’s Hill Estate has built a magnificent winery, tasting room, restaurant and event space amid rolling hills of golden vines. Strictly for educational purposes we learn by tasting first sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, then shiraz, pinot noir and cabernet – eventually some old vine pinot makes its way on to our minibus. A stroll up the hill is their Vines restaurant, which seats 120 (dining) or 200 (cocktails). Upstairs there’s private dining for 40. We drive past Yering Station - Victoria’s first vineyard and a popular events venue – and we can see evidence of the fire that raced to its doorstep, but there’s plenty of cars in the carpark. algownie Estate has added a Yarra Glen facility – restaurant, conferencing, day spa and luxury our-and-a-half-star accommodation managed by Mercure. After an inspection and before nner, team-builder Dean Aitken of Vitality, applies some corporate mental gymnastics. Then e’re magnificently wined and dined at a long table in the cellar door space, adjoining Rae’s estaurant. Balgownie has dedicated meeting spaces for up to 130, or up to 320 (cocktails). Outdoors a covered terrace is an ideal break-out or post-event space. A boardroom with private amenities seats up to 12, however some of the 65 accommodation and spa suites can be used as 16-pax break-outs. Book 55 suites to guarantee exclusivity. Until September 30, Balgownie’s winter conferencing special is the 10th single or 20th twinshare delegate “stays, eats and meets for free”…could be popular with partners interested in Balgownie’s awarded Natskin Day Spa. Overnight we enjoy The Sebel, now boasting two 18-hole championship golf courses and magnificent clubrooms, with two 180 square metre meeting/event spaces for up to 100. Within the hotel, the divisible ballroom sits 380 (theatre), 150 (classroom) or 200 (banquet). Popular for its wellness retreat and day spa, Sebel attracts a strong corporate meetings following boosted by its discounted room rates and full-day delegate rates from $69 pp through September. Healesville Sanctuary has meeting spaces around its bushland setting, but the highlight is its raptor show where native birds of prey swoop around an outdoor amphitheatre. En-route to our final destination, we find ourselves in fire-ravaged Kinglake, a town stripped of s foliage, many houses now just foundation stones, blackened roadsides shooting green and esidents cleaning up their blocks. Incredulous at the destruction, you try not to look. No-one takes ny photos until we’re well out of the town and the blackened eucalypts shoot green from every orifice…it’s something city folks never see, so we grab a quick photo and drive on to Dixons Creek. Directly in the path of February’s bushfires, staff at Immerse tell of great escape and great loss. As fire engulfed the driveway, Manager Michelle Knott stayed to oversee a wedding, ushering guests into a coach as soon as the “I do” was uttered. Flames had already torched 100 of the 1500 rose bushes at the front of the property. Then it was threatening buildings. Fire spared Immerse’s other accommodation, day spa, conference room and restaurant, and with the fire brigade on-site, Michelle then rushed to join her partner fighting to save their own house 20 minutes away. They lost that fight, but remain philosophical. Immerse is rebuilding, with a wedding and a full restaurant when we visited…Phoenix-like, so too is Yarra Valley. FROM THE TOP: Vines restaurant & function centre; Spa Suite at Balgownie Estate; Offsite to the raptor show at Healesville Sanctuary; Immerse - restaurant spared from fire that destroyed accommodation outside these windows; Blacked eucalypts shoot anew near Kinglake.