The Yarra Valley is a wine-growing area with many wineries, near Melbourne in Victoria. One advantage of the valley is that it is literally on Melbourne's doorstep. From the centre of the city, you can be there in approximately an hour, simply by driving down the Eastern Freeway (M3) and the Maroondah Highway (B360), which runs through the middle of the valley. The wineries are clearly signposted, and many of them are directly accessible from the highway.
The Yarra Valley is the region surrounding the Yarra River. The river originates approximately 240 km east of the Melbourne central business district and flows towards it and out into Port Phillip Bay. The name Yarra Valley is used in reference to the upper regions surrounding the Yarra River and generally does not encompass the lower regions including the city and suburban areas, where the topography flattens out, or the upper reaches which are in inaccessible bushland. Included in the Yarra Valley is the sub-region of the Upper Yarra Valley which encompasses the towns of the former Shire of Upper Yarra in the catchment area upstream of and including Woori Yallock.
The Yarra Valley is a popular day-trip and tourist area, featuring a range of natural features and agricultural produce, as well as the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail.
The Yarra Valley is host to a thriving wine growing industry. The area's relatively cool climate makes it particularly suited to the production of high-quality chardonnay, pinot noir and sparkling wine.
The easiest way to get in to the Yarra Valley from Melbourne is by using the M3 Eastlink and the B360 Maroondah Highway. The B360 runs right through the middle of the Yarra Valley for most of the accessible bits.
- Great cycling country all around the Yarra Valley; catch the train to Hurstbridge then climb up to Kinglake via St.Andrews (great Saturday market) then along the ridge to Toolangi; down to Healsville for lunch. Great food at Healsville; fine coffee at Yarra Glen.
- Or try the mountain bike routes through Smiths Gully (fine coffee and cake at the store) and Sugarloaf areas; or climb up past Mt Everard to Kinglake (steep in places) and then down into Dixons Creek and then onto Yarra Glen.
Things to do
- Hot air balloon flights
- Vineyard hopping
- Browse the Yarra Glen Sunday market, one of the local farmer's markets or the Healesville car boot markets behind the main street shops on the first Sunday of each month.
- Play golf at one of the quality courses
- Lilydale Airfield offers light plane sightseeing trips, flying experience, and flying lessons.
- Nearby Coldstream Airfield, operated by Yarra Valley Flight Training, offers similar services.
- Take a ride on the Yarra Valley Tourist Railway from Healesville
- Have a BBQ at Sugarloaf Reservoir
- Visit the world famous Healesville Sanctuary where you can see native Australian wildlife such as kangaroos, platypus, emus and more up close. It also includes scheduled activities with Rangers, a spirits of the sky bird show, wildlife experiences for extra costs and a wildlife hospital.
- Healesville Glass Blowing Studio, 416-420 Maroondah Hwy Healesville Victoria, ☏ . You can watch the glass blowers at work, take a lesson or buy some of their finished product.
- Blue Lotus Water Garden features an assortment of specially bred lilies, lotus flowers and other water plants. Includes a cafe, giftshop and nursery.
- Donna Buang Rainforest Gallery and Skywalk. Near Warburton, at the foot of Donna Buang, a short walk that loops through the rainforest and a skywalk allowing you to stand metres in the air, still only halfway up the mammoth trees.
- Puffing Billy Railway Ride this historic railway between various locations in the area. Tickets are between $59 - $77 for adults and $30 - $39 for children. Stops at Emerald, Belgrave, Lakeside and Gembrook.
- Lysterfield Lake
- Great coffee and muffins/croissants (or real hamburgers) at Smiths Gully store.
- At the entrance to Healesville is Wattleseed Cafe a favourite in winter with open fire, excellent Eggs Benedict, hot chocolates and coffee.
- A must for a little alternate, healthy eating is the Bodhi Tree Cafe on the far side of the township, opposite the Giant Steps Winery. Usually on Friday and Saturday nights this eatery hosts live music with local artists. Worth the effort!
- For the best views over the Yarra Ranges and a great feed from the inside barbecue, take some time out at Riverstone Estate, the last open vineyard before Healesville. Dinosaur TBones and Buffalo Sausages with great accompaniments and washed down with a good Sav Blanc.
- Giant Steps - Innocent Bystanders, 336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville, ☏ . This is a very interesting boutique winery and cafe that serves a range of food including wood fired pizza, cakes and bread all baked on site
Wineries and VineyardsEdit
- Helen's Hill Winery: A Family owned vineyard producing fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can sample their wines in a Cellar Door that attaches itself via massive glass panes overlooking the Barrel Room. The wines are excellent value and high quality. Onsite is also a superb restaurant with one of the best views over the entrance to the Yarra Valley. Kid friendly, too.
- Oakridge Wines, 864 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream +61 39738 9900: beginning as a family company Oakridge makes wine from grapes grown on the rich, red, volcanic soils of the valley. A small restaurant with views across the estate serves meals adapted for the seasons and local produce.
- Tokar Estate: further along Maroondah Highway towards Healesville is this Spanish-inspired complex which features an excellent restaurant that regularly hosts Gourmet and Degustation events. The wine is fruit driven and the show piece Syrah Reserve and Aria are particularly delicious. Friendly and inviting, this is one of the better Valley destinations.
- Whispering Hills on the Warburton Side of the Valley has a quaint Cellar Door to a vineyard which produces a tantalising Reisling amongst its range of wines. Grown above the township of Seville, its rich soils are spring-fed and produce lively wines. Coffee Shop attached and friendly folk, open on weekends and extended opening during holiday periods. A favourite during the area's ShedFest events.
Crime in Yarra Valley is almost non-existent, but care should still be taken such as lock your car doors and make sure that valuables inside the car are not visible to outside. If you follow these precautions, everything should be fine and your day would be an enjoyable one.
Since you are likely to be on a wine tasting tour, it is advisable to be aware of how high your B.A.C (Blood Alcohol Content) if you are driving. The legal limit is 0.05%. Police regularly set up check points around Yarra Valley to test the motorists' alcohol level (often referred by locals and police alike as the "Booze Bus" due to the use of a police bus to detain the drivers over the BAC limit), make sure you are not over the limit, or the police will issue you a large fine and ban you from driving in Australia.
When driving, be careful of wildlife during sunset, as this is the time that animals like kangaroos tend to be active during this period.
- The Gippsland region is your next primary destination