Local Escapes

Everything Worth Eating, Seeing, And Doing In The Yarra Valley

By Allira Sher - 15 Sep 2018


With heaps of stuff to do, see, eat (and of course, drink), the Yarra Valley is still Victoria's ultimate city escape. You can get everything here: boutique hotels among the trees, some of Australia’s best wineries, highly renowned cheese shops and some truly epic drives. Pack your bags for a cheeky weekender or settle down for a whole week—you can’t go wrong this place.

Here's everything to eat, see, do and drink in Victoria's Yarra Valley. 

Vibe Hotel Marysville

Whether you’re on the ultimate girls trip or a cute romantic getaway, Vibe is always a good bet. You can't miss it in Marysville – it takes up most of the main street. One of the new structures to emerge after Black Saturday. Relax by the pool, sweat it out in the gym (if you’re mad) and enjoy breath-taking views of the Yarra Ranges National Park. Prices start from $139 per night. Pro tip: if you're gonna tackle the Black Spur Drive to get there, do it in daylight #hairy 

Woodlands Rainforest Retreat

The Woodlands Retreat is all about seclusion and romance. It's tucked deep in the heart of the Black Spur rainforest and offers several self-contained cottages, each one with a sunken spa overlooking the gully. Feast your eyes on views of fern gullies and a private bush lake—there's literally no sound except the bush out here. You probs won’t want to leave.  

Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort and Spa

If you’ve got a bit more cash to splash, it’d be rude not to check this one out. Balgownie Estate takes the cake for ultimate luxury, with 70 accommodation suites, panoramic views, romantic restaurants and wine tastings on your door sept. HELL YES. You literally never have to leave if you don’t want to (but we recommend you do, there’s a valley out there waiting to be explored). If you’re wanting to add a bit more oomph to your stay, grab a suite with a private spa, it comes with views overlooking the valley. 

Yarra Valley Lodge

With 102 spacious rooms, Yarra Valley Lodge is the largest of the lot and just a short 45-minute drive from the city. All of the rooms include a hot buffet breaky, WIFI and 24-hour room service, which we LOVE. We personally recommend the golf view twin room, but they’re all pretty damn good. Aside from the beautiful rooms, the lodge also offers guests spa treatments at their Heritage Yarra Valley Day Spa, access to The Heritage Gold and Country Club Golf Courses, and High Tea on Sundays.

Do

Lake Mountain

Just a 2-hour drive from the CBD, Lake Mountain is Melbourne’s closest and most affordable alpine ski resort. Don’t let the word 'ski' freak you non-skiers out though (we know how it feels to have parents who don’t show you snow for 22 years and it hurts)—this place offers a little something for everyone. If you’re not keen on gliding your way through 30kms of groomed trails, there’s plenty of activities to enjoy, including a 240-metre flying fox, a 100 meter Tube Run and several gorgeous winter walks

Black Spur Drive

Linking the Yarra Valley with the mountain areas surrounding Marysville is a road known as Black Spur Drive, AKA the most beautiful drive in Victoria (soz Great Ocean Road) and possibly even Australia. The road passes between Healesville and Narbethong on the Maroondah Highway and winds its way through lush rainforests, eucalyptus regnans (the world’s tallest flowering trees) and a sh*t ton of ferns. Chuck on some happy tunes, wind down the windows and take in all of the beauty the Aussie bush has to offer. We recommend making a pit stop at Fernshaw picnic area. Need more scenic drives? We've got you covered

Total Distance: 27.9kms
Driving Time: 30 mins
Start: Healesville

Puffing Billy with Yarra Valley Wineries Tour

Choo choo. This tour combos our favourite train trip with our favourite wine region, and we're here for it. Kick off your journey in the Dandenong Ranges, where Puffing Billy will depart, and end in the picturesque Yarra Valley proper. You’ll be treated to bush billy tea from grown tea and gum leaves, a delicious hearty spit roast lunch (accompanied by a glass of wine at Fergusson’s winery), and a sweet feast at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery (we’ll get to that one later). There’ll also be wine tasting, complimentary cheese and a tour of Dominique Portet. Now that’s our kind of tour.

Healesville Sanctuary

In the heart of the Yarra Valley is Healesville Sanctuary, a zoo that specialises in native Aussie animals. Get up close and personal with some of our fave furry friends, including koalas, kangaroos, wombats, emus, dingos and platypus. Visitors are encouraged to check out the Wildlife Health Centre at the zoo, which is a working vet hospital caring for over 1500 orphaned, sick or injured animals every year. Whether you’re coming solo, with your family, a partner or friends, it’s impossible to leave this place without a massive smile on your face.

Ada Tree Trail

If you’re in the mood to get active, you’ve gotta go for a walk through the Yarra Ranges. There are plenty of walks to be done, but if you’re looking for something a little longer than 600 meters, we recommend the Ada Tree Trail. This bad boy is a 3.2km track through the ranges, with its final destination being a 270-year-old behemoth tree (which is a whopping 76 meters high and towers over the rainforest). Grab some pics for the gram and burn the calories at the same time, isn’t that what life’s all about?

Eat

Mary Eats Cake

Mary Eats Cake is a sweet little high tea venue which launched in Brunswick back in 2017. The massive success of this place led to a second store in Montrose, and we’re pretty bloody happy about it. Now we have an excuse to go on holiday AND eat cake. Think tea-infused desserts including apple teacake with salted caramel, the fluffiest scones you’ll ever have and beautifully tangy lemon tarts…drool. It's just 9kms from the Yarra Valley, so you could probs walk if you wanted to (but you won’t). Now that’s a great day out.

The Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery

Another one for you sugar babies. Situated on 40 acres of landscaped gardens is the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, AKA the ultimate destination to stuff your faces (and put on a few kilos as well…but you won’t have any regrets). Don't forget the free chocolate and ice cream tastings on arrival, and there's the chance to watch the choccy be made by some serious chocolate pros. Even a showroom chocca-block full of 250 different chocolate products.

Zonzo Estate

If you’ve seen 'Grams of girls dressed up outside a winery (we know it’s not hard to find) there’s a damn good chance it’s Zonzo. Why? Because everyone in their right mind would boast about this place if they were there. Notorious for weddings, but also popular for low-key get-togethers and more intimate days out, Zonzo is a fine-dining estate with a focus on casalinga-style Italian food with matching wines. This year, Zonzo unveiled its first five varieties of Zonzo Estate wine: Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sav Blanc.

The Stables at Stones

This seriously charming red-brick restaurant sits inside an 1800s historic building that once served as the stablehand quarters of Castellaville. It’s got a real rustic vibe (if we don’t say so ourselves). The menu is seasonal, which means it changes things up every three months, and Head Chef Hugh Davidson works closely with some of Victoria’s best producers to make sure that each dish shows off the best the Yarra Valley has to offer. You can’t go wrong with The Stables at Stones

Drink

TarraWarra Estate  

TarraWarra is one of Australia’s properly great wine estates. The wines are grown and made right here, and while all of them are bound to make your taste buds pop, it’s their pinot noirs and chardonnays that stand out most. Stroll through the cellar door (which btw is built into a hill and partly underground, overlooking the pinot vines…epic), taste some spectacular wines and then stumble your way to the restaurant for a lunch prepared by head chef Mark Ebbels. It’d be rude not to.

Four Pillars Gin Distillery

When people think ‘country VIC distilleries’ this is the place they think of. Four Pillars has been a household name for years, and their distillery doors in Healesville is pretty much the #1 attraction in town. The guys initially established Four Pillars with the focus solely on gin, before realising that the real focus should be distilling. They reckon this has been the key to their access. They’ve got six knock-your-socks-off gins in their range and you can get walk-in tastings for just 10 bucks per head till 5pm every day (although bigger groups will have to book). 

Levantine Hill

Levantine Hill should definitely be chucked on your winery road trip list. It’s a pretty impressive winery, combining two sites—an established vineyard along the bank of the Yarra (that’s been around for nearly 23 years) and a pretty magical homestead. You’ll come for the critically acclaimed wine (these guys have even been chosen to provide wine to the most exclusive Qantas lounges) but you’ll absolutely stay for the food as well, which has been created by iconic chef Teage Ezard. Bottoms up.

Alchemy Distillery

Four Pillars isn’t the only name in Yarra Valley gin. Alchemy has jumped the action as well with a kickass distillery door, also in Healesville. This isn’t a massive corner complex like Four Pillars, though. In fact, it’s actually tucked down a laneway in the main street of Healesville, inside an old bakery. Step inside and you’ll find Alchemy’s baby—a 1000L Hybrid Pot Still, which allows more versatility than other stills. Wrap your lips around some chamomile gin, quinoa vodka and homebrewed moonshine. We strongly advise against being the deso when coming to this joint. 

Domaine Chandon

If you love your sparkling, you’d be god damn mad not to get your butt here. Domaine Chandon, just as the name suggests, is a French-inspired winery dedicated to bubbly liquid gold (that’s Chandon and Moet if you haven’t caught on) The guys at Domaine Chandon won the Asia Pacific INDE Awards earlier this year and were shortlisted for the Best Restaurant and Bar Design Awards (UK) as well. Impressed? We are. Chandon’s vineyards sparkle with fruit that flourishes in cool climates and yields premium grapes with all levels of intensity and concentration. Take in the picturesque views of the valley while you sip on your champers. It can’t get any better than this.

Oakridge

This joint has been making wines in the Yarra Valley for over 40 years, so it’s safe to say they know their sh*t. Oakridge is surrounded by the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and sprawls across 10 hectares of stunner vines, renowned for producing fine quality wines. We recommend doing a wine tasting for just $20 per person (choose from either the virtual tasting or the 864 range tasting…you can’t really go wrong with either), grabbing a couple of bottles and heading to the restaurant for a top-notch feed.

Shop

Healesville organic market

So, the Yarra Valley isn’t exactly the place you go to if you’re looking for your next killer outfit. But what it lacks in fashion it makes up in really cute markets. One of these is the Healesville Organic Market, which operates every Saturday (rain or shine) from 8am – 1pm. Come along and purchase some locally grown produce for a home cooked breaky, lunch or dinner. Think fresh fruit and veggies, honey, bread, jams and eggs. Bring cash. 

Healesville Glass Blowing Studio

If you’re looking to bring home a memento, stop by Healesville Glass Blowing Studio. The studio was created by art geniuses Tim Bassett and Tali Dalton in 2009, and the guys create a range of super impressive glass art on-site (you can even watch them do their thing from a mezzanine viewing area). If you’ve got a bit of time on your hands, or you’d just prefer to make your own piece, there’s an opportunity to create a paperweight or come along to a glassblowing workshop.

Yarra Valley Dairy

Warning—if you’re lactose intolerant, stop here. The Yarra Valley is famous for producing the most mouth-watering dairy products, so it makes sense that you head over to Yarra Valley Dairy, right? This darling little cheese shop offers tastings of fresh handmade cheese and locally produced wines. They also stock a massive range of delicious regional produce like jams, relishes and pickles. If the tasting is just a tease, dive into a whopping cheese board with locally farmed smoked trout, pork terrine, duck parfait, figs, olives and more, all alongside some of the best cheeses you’ll ever have the privilege of tasting. 

Want to check out Daylesford instead? Read up with our Ultimate Guide To Daylesford

Image credit: Robert Blackburn

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