Shopping in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges is an activity of leisure, not of routine. The modest towns throughout the region hold a veritable treasure trove of things to peruse and purchase. In particular, Belgrave, Olinda and Sassafras are renowned for having an extensive collection of unique boutiques, selling everything from crafts to candles and antique vases to vintage-wear.
If you pride yourself on stocking a wardrobe full of one-off pieces and eclectic attire, you will love the dozens of op-shops and second-hand emporiums throughout the Yarra. Make sure you pop into rockabilly haven Sandra V in Tecoma, retro hotspot The Gilded Lily in Healesville and Belgrave's Walk in Wardrobe Vintage for bygone-beautiful clothing and accessories.
There's also plenty of opportunities to treat your inside as well as your outside, with providores and local larders stocking a fantastic feast of Yarra Valley delights – jams, preserves, smallgoods, chocolates, stone fruit, breads and more, all fresh from the farm. Before you leave, a visit to at least one of the Yarra Valley markets is a must. Sample the flavours of the Yarra and pick up a handcrafted souvenir from the Yarra Valley Farmers' Market at Yering Station, or the Healesville Community Market at River Street and Coronation Park on the first and third Sunday of the month respectively.
Watson's Creek Antiques & Cafe
At the gateway to the Yarra Valley, just 40 minutes from Melbourne, Watson's Creek Antiques and Cafe is the perfect introduction to country lifestyle. Astute antique hunters can rummage to their heart's content with a stunning selection of Victorian and Edwardian furnishings and home wares – there is a constant influx of new stock and six-weekly deliveries from the far reaches of England, France and China. Once you've satisfied your curiosity with the collectibles, quell your hunger with Devonshire tea, homemade cakes, breakfast or lunch at the on-site cafe, continuing the gourmet experience with a wander through the Provedore & Produce store. Watson's is open Wednesday to Sunday from 09:30 to 17:30.
Healesville Glassblowing Studio
If you've never seen glassblowing in action, schedule in a trip to the Healesville Glassblowing Studio and be amazed by this traditional practice. From the mezzanine viewing area you can see the sculptors hard at work, creating everything from custom light fixtures and chandeliers to unique pieces of jewellery. The studio is open Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 until 17:00 and is stocked with a range of delicate mementos and unique souvenirs of your visit to the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. You can even give it a go yourself with a beginner's glassblowing class, taking home a keepsake paperweight at the end of the day.
Warratina Lavender Farm
Lavender is a multiple feast for the senses with its honey-sweet scent, floral flavour and brilliant plummy hue. At the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges are acres of luscious lavender growing at Warratina Lavender Farm, which are crafted into a range of household, culinary and cosmetic products. Traditionally harvested by hand and sickle, the fragrant buds are also the star of the cottage Tea Rooms on site, serving up lavender scones, lavender shortbread biscuits and lavender tea among conventional breakfast and lunch options. The Farm runs from 09:00 to 17:00 Wednesday to Monday, closing a little earlier when the weather cools.
The Big Bouquet
Have you ever wondered about the growing of top-quality gerberas or the breeding of alpacas? The Big Bouquet can answer all of those questions, from 10:00 to 17:00 every day. Operating as both a working cut flower farm and alpaca stud, the Big Bouquet in Healesville cultivates a rainbow of speciality gerberas under their spacious Dutch glasshouse. Some 62,000 plants are grown under the dome, and the flowers are of such high standard they are sent all over the country. Outside, the paddocks surrounding the glasshouse are home to a herd of friendly alpacas, whose fine fleeces are spun into a range of garments available at the Big Bouquet coffeeshop, including socks, scarves, capes and cardigans.