Pack your appetite

Just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne’s city centre, the verdant Yarra Valley is chock full of local producers waiting to meet you at the gate or cellar door. Get lost between rows of manicured vines, soar overhead in a great big balloon, and then toast it all with sparkling, riesling or pinot noir from some of the country’s best wineries. 

1. Savour world-class wines

The Yarra Valley has over 70 wineries ranging ranging from stunning architectural cellar doors to humble tin sheds home to world-class wines. Yarra Yering is one of the region's oldest producers and continues to innovate its craft, while Dominique Portet fuses Australian terroir with a French sensibility.

Rather have a designated driver? There are plenty of winery tours available from the likes of Hop It and Big Grape, so you can focus on swirling your glass.

2. Get crafty

Four Pillars Distillery, ranked as one of the best craft gin producers in the world, can be found just outside Healesville town. Coldstream Brewery and Hargreaves Hill are just a short drive away and Buckley’s Brewery offers beer-making tours on the weekend. The Yarra Valley also produces great apples and pears, making a cider tasting a must. Stop in at Napoleone & Co. to learn how they make cider using winemaking techniques, and visit other great cideries like St Ronan's Cider.  

3. Take a spin in a hot air balloon

Start your day at dawn floating over forests, farms, and vineyards in a hot air balloon before landing for a breakfast of sparkling wine and local produce at a winery. Global Ballooning Australia offers stunning sunrise flights, with transfers from the city centre, as well as seasonal accommodation packages.  

4. Meet wildlife at Healesville Sanctuary

From koalas to kangaroos, platypuses and dingoes, get up close to Australia’s native wildlife at Healesville Sanctuary, home to more than 200 species of native birds and animals. Head to the renovated wildlife hospital for the chance to see a wombat getting dental surgery or a wallaby getting a check-up. There’s also the new Raptor Rehabilitation Centre, where you can learn how eagles, owls and other raptors are being treated.

5. Visit local producers

Fill up your picnic basket or esky with goodies from the region’s many producers. For artisanal cheeses, you can’t go past Stone and Crow in Warrandyte or Yarra Valley Dairy, which is set in a converted antique milking shed. For something a bit sweeter, gather your own cherries at Yarra Valley Cherries or shop a rainbow of chocolate goodies at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery.

Time your visit right and you can also say hello to some of the Yarra Valley's many farmers and growers at the Yarra Valley and Yarra Glen Markets.    

6. Eat at hatted restaurants 

Some of the Yarra Valley's best restaurants have rightly earned a coveted Good Food Guide hat, including the latest newcomer: No. 7 Healesville. Settle in for a bespoke food and wine tasting experience at Levantine Hill, or book a table at Oakridge, where everything from cheeses and breads to small goods and ferments is made in-house with ingredients from the kitchen garden. Tokar Estate brings a slice of the Mediterranean to the valley, while Coombe plates up award-winning fare in the former home of legendary soprano Dame Nellie Melba.

7. Browse modern art

From rotating exhibitions to permanent immersive installations, including a full-scale recreation of a destroyed Afghani home, TarraWarra Estate Museum of Art is always pushing the artistic envelope. The museum sits alongside the estate’s restaurant and cellar door, so you can extend your visit with lunch or a wine tasting. In Healesville you’ll also find the YAVA Gallery & Arts Hub, which showcases works from Australian and international artists ranging from visual arts to dance, filmmaking and more.

8. Wander in small towns

Healesville is small but packs a wallop, with organic produce shops, vintage clothing stores, bookshops and an Aboriginal art gallery. Head to Alchemy Laneway to discover distillers, honey producers and a Mexican street food restaurant. Healesville Hotel has an expanded outdoor beer garden and play space, perfect for families. While Healesville gets the most attention, Warrandyte is also a good stop for a coffee and a walk (or swim) along the river. 

9. Sleep among the vines

Many of the region's best vineyards offer luxurious lodgings to match their wines, perfect if you want to extend your trip or stay somewhere nearby before an early hot air balloon ride. Re’em offers calming, neutral-toned rooms that let the stellar winery views do the talking, while Balgownie Estate ticks all the boxes as a restaurant, bar, cellar door and spa all in one. For a touch of old world glamour, The Farmhouse at Meletos is a charming boutique hotel inspired by Tuscany. 

10. Detour through the gardens

Take a stroll through the Yarra Valley’s vibrant gardens, and perhaps pick up a seedling to take home. Alowyn Gardens and Nursery in Yarra Glen features seven distinct gardens, including an edible garden and silver birch forest, but the showstopper is the 100-metre tunnel draped in dreamy purple wisterias. The Blue Lotus Water Garden in Yarra Junction is a seasonal garden (open from December to April), but has a spectacular display of lotus flowers and waterlilies in its tropical-themed water garden. 


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