Glencraigie Cottages, Millgrove review: Rich in outdoor thrills

Read our writer's views on this property below

Kathy Evans strikes good times in a township with golden views.

Warburton is not nearly as an exciting name as the town's previous one - Yankee Jim's Creek - back in the days when gold flowed through its veins and men flocked to its forested slopes in the hope of making their fortune.

Still, Warburton remains a pretty exciting place to visit if you like the great outdoors. Treasure hunters have long since given way to suburban types wanting to get away from it all and lose themselves in a fug of incense that pervades the main street, or clear their heads in the crisp clean air of the thickly forested hills.

Glencraigie Cottages, at the nearby township of Millgrove, are a perfect base to explore all that the region has to offer. The three wooden chalets perched on stilts in the grounds of a historic homestead provide good, cheap accommodation with million-dollar views over the great black shoulder of Mount Little Joe, which once creaked and groaned with the weight of gold.

Spires of smoke rise like messages from the trees, the pungent smell mingling with the beery scent of wet leaves underfoot. At the end of the road flows the Yarra River, thick and throaty from all the recent rain, which has swelled it to impressive proportions. We are told by our host, Maurice Ellis, that it is well stocked with eels and fish, but we don't catch anything after an hour of dangling our lines over the bridge at dusk.

All cottages consist of two comfortable-sized bedrooms (one twin, one queen), bathroom, a decently equipped kitchen and a good-sized living area. There is oodles of cupboard space and the electric blankets are very welcome when the temperature drops sharply overnight. The decor is plain but smart - a shrine to pine - and given the alpine feel of the place it works quite well.

And then we ate Sunday breakfast that comes provided. It is pretty much a no-frills affair. White bread, half-a-dozen eggs and bacon. There is cereal, which pleases the vegetarians. We drive into town and supplement the rations with sausages and some gorgeous hash browns from the local supermarket. The kitchen feels cramped when you're cooking for five and eating feels more like a basic function than an act of gastronomic pleasure.

The deal maker Across the river lies the Warburton to Lilydale Rail Trail, a 40-kilometre stretch of disused track that is now the exclusive pathway of horse riders, cyclists and walkers. It is fun to pedal the easy three kilometres into the township of Warburton without having to navigate parked cars or taste bitter petrol fumes.

Stepping out We enjoy enormous slices of chocolate mousse cake at the Wild Thyme Cafe, along with the biggest strawberry milkshakes we've ever had. The calories feel well earned, however, after a 17-kilometre bike ride along the O'Shannassy Aqueduct Trail, which runs through mountain ash forests and fern gullies. The groans of pain from the ascent give way to yodels of pleasure as we free-wheel down the track.

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Back at the cottage we long to soak in a good hot bath, but ours doesn't have one (the other two do). The wood burner is toasty, however, and watching the moon hang like a fat camembert above the hump of the mountain while an orchestra of animals clamours and caterwauls the night away more than makes up for it.

VISITORS' BOOK

Glencraigie Cottages

Address 25 McKenzie King Drive, Millgrove.

The verdict Excellent value for money. Million-dollar views at a budget price.

Price $100 a couple a night. Includes a breakfast hamper.

Bookings 5966 5035; see glencraigiecottages.com.au.

Getting there A 1½-hour drive down the Warburton Highway. Turn left into McKenzie King Drive at Millgrove.

Perfect for Couples looking for budget breaks; walkers and cyclists; hearty outdoor types with dogs.

Wheelchair access No.

While you're there Take your bike and check out the trails, or visit nearby Mount Donna Buang for sledging in winter or a short trek through the rainforest.