There’s another wonderful reason to pack a weekend bag and head upstate (not that I needed one, you know I am a huge fan of the region!) Meet Sonya Wurster, a dual Aussie-American citizen, who along with her husband, bought and renovated a charming 4-room inn called The Yarra up in Roscoe, NY. With its tastefully decorated, color-themed rooms (each with its own private bathroom), stunning living and dining area, and weekly Aussie-inspired dinners made with seasonal ingredients from local farms—it certainly deserves a spot on your must-visit list. We connected with Sonya to hear some more about her incredible journey from Melbourne, to the US, to Singapore, and back—and how a successful career in academia segued into owning and operating a bed and breakfast upstate.
Where are you originally from and how did you make your way to the US?
I was born in Melbourne but my father was American so I have been a dual US/Australian citizen since I was born. I lived in Melbourne until I was 7, then NZ for a couple of years and then did 4-9th grade in the US before returning to Australia where I lived up until moving to Singapore in 2016. I arrived in the US in 2018.
How long have you been living in the US and what do you do before you opened The Yarra?
On and off, I’ve lived in the US for about 10 years. Before I opened The Yarra I was an academic (my field of research was Classics) and I did a Ph.D. at The University of Melbourne, where I taught and researched until I moved to Singapore in 2016. In Singapore, I worked remotely and then worked at Yale-NUS College. When I moved to the US I taught high school Latin for one year and then I worked at an educational non-profit called Marketing EDGE as the Director of Academic Content & Conferences.
What inspired you to open a B&B and how did The Yarra come to life?
I had been thinking of opening an inn for some time. When I decided to permanently leave academia, it felt like the right time. I started looking at possible places to buy in 2019 and I saw the building that has become The Yarra. It was built in 1890 and I loved its whole vibe: very simple architecture with the hill rising behind it. My husband Paul and I saw it for the first time in the depths of winter but loved it. It needed a lot of work (we replaced all the windows and doors, redid every bathroom, and the kitchen, and repainted the interior). We spent a couple of years doing that before opening The Yarra in November 2021.
For someone who has never visited, what can they expect from a stay with you?
A night at The Yarra is all about relaxation! In the wintertime, you can order a glass of wine and sit in the living room near our wood stove. In summer, you can sit on our back patio. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, we offer dinners—always, a set menu. Our rooms are newly renovated, each with its own private bathroom. Each morning, we offer a light breakfast and fresh coffee or tea.
Tell us about a typical day as the owner/operator of an upstate hotel/B&B?
If I have guests staying, I get up early to put breakfast out. Once breakfast is over, I usually start prepping for dinner. In summer, I visit local farms and farmers’ markets to get produce. There is a lot of paperwork to be done and organizing staff.
What are some special touches that make The Yarra unique?
The Yarra is unique because it combines some of the comforts of a hotel (our rooms have amenities such as shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, personal hygiene items and more, wine and food for purchase) with the intimate side of a bed and breakfast (although we plan to expand, at the moment we have just four rooms).
Tell us about the food/beverage options and the inspiration behind the menu?
We offer an extensive list of Australian, American, and European wines together with local beers and low-ABV cocktails. My menu changes each time we’re open for dinner, so each Wednesday and Saturday are different from each other. My menus are influenced by the season and what feels right. As is often the case with Melbourne food, there is often an Asian influence. In summer, my menus are heavily influenced by what is available at the local farmers’ markets. I also offer a meat and vegetarian option and on some occasions, there are also vegan options.
What’s your favorite thing about the B&B experience so far?
It’s 100% meeting the incredible people who join us here to stay or at one of our dinners.
To find out more about The Yarra and to book a room, please visit their site yarrany.com, and follow all their happenings on IG at @the_yarrany.