At the turn of the 20th century, Nellie Melba was one of the most famous women in the world—an opera legend with a name as recognizable as Adele’s and Beyoncé’s today (after all, Peach Melba and Melba toast were both created for her). And, given the chance, wouldn’t you want to take a peek inside their private homes?

You can do just that at Coombe, Melba’s former estate in Australia’s Yarra Valley.

Helen (Nellie) Porter Mitchell adopted Melba as her last name, a reference, in shortened form, to her hometown of Melbourne. (Photograph by Henry Walter Barnett, wiki)
Helen (Nellie) Porter Mitchell adopted Melba as her stage name, a reference, in shortened form, to her hometown of Melbourne. (Photograph by Henry Walter Barnett, wiki)

About an hour’s drive northeast of Melbourne, the Yarra features everything you might want in a wine region: farm-to-table meals, generously poured glasses, and gorgeous vistas that seem to go on without end.

Properties like Coombe add a level of depth and sophistication to the good-life culture of eating and drinking well that pervades the valley.

And though the cottage’s interior is reserved for private use, guests can get a sense of the socially conscious soprano at the estate’s on-site eatery, housed in what was once a garage—“Instead of Rolls-Royces, there’s now a restaurant here,” property manager Daniel Johnson told me—and the estate’s small on-site museum. On one wall hangs one of Melba’s suffragette ensembles, whose green, white, and violet shades were meant to embody the slogan “Give Women Votes,” and her massive Louis Vuitton luggage stands proudly in a corner, worn from age and many trips around the globe.

The new visitor experience at Coombe was spearheaded by Melba’s own well-heeled great-grandsons, one of whom is Lord Samuel Vestey, Queen Elizabeth II’s Master of the Horse. Daily tours of the 7-acre grounds surrounding the estate show off a row of regal elms, a lovely French rose garden, and rows of seasonal produce (I noticed spring asparagus when I visited).

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