In today’s manic world, a trip to the Yarra Valley is a magical, time-stopping escape. By car, it’s less than an hour from Melbourne to the region’s vineyards, villages and tall, mist-cloaked forests. Taste wine in Yarra Glen and drink Devonshire tea high in the Dandenong Ranges. Linger over a long lunch in a winery restaurant or picnic next to waterfalls on fresh local produce. Puff through Sherbrook Forest on a steam train or float over the countryside in a hot air ballloon. Whether you spend a day, weekend or longer, you’ll never feel rushed in this relaxed, romantic and compact region.
The Yarra Valley is home to 40 wineries, ranging from small, family-owned operations to sprawling big-name estates. They grow some of Australia’s finest pinot noir and sparkling wine here, along with a huge range of other cool-climate wines. Follow one of the many self-drive wine trails or design your own route between the barrel halls and cellar doors. Pick up expert tasting tips on a luxury food and wine tour. You can even visit the vineyards in a Clydesdale-drawn carriage, classic Chevrolet convertible or chauffeured limousine. For all-out romance, start your day with a sunrise hot air balloon ride, gliding over forest, farms and vine-lined corridors before a champagne breakfast.
Life is one long lunch in the Yarra Valley. Wake up with a barbeque brunch, wind down with a cheese platter or savour perfectly-matched food, wine and views in the many acclaimed vineyard restaurants. In February, top chefs from more than 20 wineries host feasts accompanied by live music at the Yarra Valley Grape Grazing Festival. The region is known for its delectable produce - including freshwater salmon, trout and caviar, ice creams, hazelnuts and chestnuts, organically grown fruit, berries and vegetables and handmade cheese, pastas and preserves. Stuff your picnic hamper with goodies on the self-drive Yarra Valley Regional Food Trail or at the many huge, fresh food markets.
With your picnic hamper packed, head into the Dandenong Ranges, home to hilltop villages, flower-filled gardens and fairytale forests. Spread a blanket next to rioting daffodils, rhododendrons and azaleas in the National Rhododendron Gardens. Hear the bell birds or spot a lyrebird in the lush green fern gullies and misty mountain ash forests of Dandenong Ranges National Park, where walking and bike trails weave through the enchanted scenery. Explore Sherbrooke Forest, hike to Olinda Falls or challenge yourself on the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk. Afterwards, enjoy Devonshire tea and shop for art and antique treasures in Olinda, Mt Dandenong and Sassafras villages. Or take a ride on Australia’s oldest steam train, which travels east through the forest from Belgrave to Emerald Lake and Gembrook.
The Yarra Valley has many more accessible delights on offer. See ceramic sculptures of Aboriginal Dreamtime figures in William Ricketts Sanctuary. Get up close to wildlife at the Healesville Sanctuary or combine the therapeutic properties of spas and wine at an indulgent day spa in Yarra Glen. Stretch out your stay with a night or few in boutique Yarra Valley accommodation. Retreat to a romantic, mist-shrouded cottage in the Dandenong Ranges or settle into a charming bed and breakfast or luxury hotel closer to the vineyards. Wherever you stay, you’ll leave feeling rested.