It’s so easy to forget that the Yarra Valley is just an hour’s drive outside of Melbourne. With its stunning views, food, wine, and wildlife, the Yarra Valley is a tourist’s dream – it’s really no wonder that millions of people flock there every year! Here’s just a few ideas for how to fill out your itinerary and get the most out of your Yarra Valley weekend.
Firstly, if you’re heading down from Melbourne’s CBD, we’d be remiss not to mention a slight detour from the Highway so you can swing by The Hatter and The Hare for breakfast. Parking can be a bit hairy though, so take our pro’s advice and utilise the expansive Bayswater Hotel parking across the street (shhh…).
I’m sure it won’t be hard to figure out why we love it so much.
Once you’re thoroughly full of cake and wonder, find your way back to the Highway and set your first stop for Lillydale Lake. Not only is it beautiful, but it offers over 10km of walking tracks, fishing, boating, a Farmer’s Market on the first Sunday of every month, and even an artificial beach.
It’s also a hotspot for dog walkers with it’s off-leash dog friendly areas, in case patting hoards of cute puppies is your thing.
Next, continue on through Coldstream (or stop for a quick cold one at the Coldstream Brewery), and you’ll suddenly find yourself in Victoria’s award-winning wine-country! And boy, is it gorgeous.
The drive alone is one you won’t forget.
From Coombe Farm AKA the former home of Dame Nellie Melba, with it’s 7 acres of stunning gardens, to the more top-shelf Domaine Chandon with it’s lineage to the Moet & Chandon Champagne giants, or the famous De Bortoli; there’s certainly no shortage of wineries here. In fact, there’s over 55 in the Yarra Valley alone, best known for producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz – something for every budding young sommelier.
Check out this more comprehensive list to find something perfectly tailored to those tastebuds of yours.
Now, let’s be honest, you could probably spend your entire weekend checking out these incredible wineries and leave it at that. Heck, why not just make a (very drunken) week of it? Treat yourself!
Nurse your hangover with a next-day hot air-balloon ride while you’re at it! The views over the backdrop of the Dandenongs are said to be unbeatable.
Or maybe wineries just aren’t your cup of tea. In which case, head on down to Healesville! Healesville’s one of those towns that just makes you stop and go “Aw!”. It’s bloody beautiful, especially if you can catch it on a sunny Spring day. I mean, when the backside of a supermarket is this lovely, you just know the rest of the town will be as well.
It’s the perfect place to find quaint little B&B’s and cute accommodation, too!
But the real crowning jewel of Healesville is Healesville Sanctuary.
To be completely, brutally honest, Healesville Sanctuary may be one you want to skip if you’re an Aussie native and are used to seeing roaming Kangaroos, as the only animals on ‘display’ here are purely Australian, and an adult ticket will set you back $37. However, if you’re an international guest, or it’s just been a while since you’ve spied a wild, wandering Wombat, get your butt here immediately.
Tasmanian Devils, Wallabies, Emus, Koalas, and Dingoes are just a few of the native Australian species you’ll find at Healesville Sanctuary. And since they know that you’ve always wanted that coveted Koala bear-hug photo for your Instagram, you can even book up-close encounters with the animals for an extra $12.
Sure, a Zoo by any other name will still keep animals in cages, but this is a Zoo like no other. You’ll find no animals behind steel bars here.
Next up, if you’ve got kids with you, why not make a quick stop in at the Hedgend Maze? Their hedge maze boasts over a kilometre of trickery, as well as access to a cute little fossil dig area, rainbow tile maze for the really little ones, and even mini golf. Though the real highlight here for us is the adjoining farm. Horses, chickens, and goats! Oh my!
It gets extra points for only being a 5 minute drive down the road from Healesville Sanctuary too, so you can make a nice pitstop for some gelato and cakes on your way back to town. If you’re not too tempted to drop in on Healesville’s Beechworth Bakery, that is…
If you drive just a bit further out of Healesville towards the Yarra Ranges National Park and the Black Spur (a worthwhile drive if you have the time), you’ll also hit the scenic look-out for Maroondah Reservoir. It’s well worth the stop for a view like this. Or, you can even head down towards the Reservoir itself and follow the walking tracks across the Dam.
It’s a hidden little local gem that you don’t tend to find on lists like these, and those are often some of the best places, in our opinion.
Of course, no trip to the Yarra Valley would be the same without stopping by the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery! It’s like stepping into Wonka’s very own Chocolate Factory, just disappointingly without the Oompa Loompas… All I really need to tell you about this place is that there’s free chocolate tastings. Yep. You heard right.
There’s also a café, picturesque gardens, and chocolate making classes where you craft your very own chocolate bars, truffles, and chocolate lollypops. Oh, and did I mention free chocolate tastings? Excuse me whilst I wipe the drool from my keyboard.
And if food is what you’re stopping by for, it might also be a good idea to head out to the Yarra Valley Dairy for some delicious artisan cheese, or if you’re feeling healthy, Rayner’s Orchard, where they grow over 450 varieties of fruit. You can even pick your own!
An honourable mention at this time of year also goes to the Tesselaar Tulip Festival in Silvan. Whilst not ‘strictly’ in the Yarra Valley, the tulip festival is just another short drive down the highway that is sure to delight. I mean, 750,000 tulips planted across 5 acres, live entertainment, Wizard of Oz shows, and Dutch mini pancakes? What more could you want in an afternoon?
Due to a late start to the season because of Melbourne’s (quite frankly, crappy) weather, Tesselaar’s is now staying open until October 15th, so you better hurry if you want to check it out! Don’t stress too much though, it’s open every year from September through October.
Also extending through to the Yarra Ranges and Dandenong Ranges National Park, you’ve got more insta-worthy attractions, like the Puffing Billy Railway, the National Rhododendron Gardens, William Ricketts Sanctuary, and the 1,000 Steps… but that’s an article for another time 😉