Tarra Warra Estate, Healsville, Yarra Valley, VIC © Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Tourism Australia

Guide to Healesville

Tarra Warra Estate, Healsville, Yarra Valley, VIC © Tourism Australia

Sample art and wine in a striking contemporary building

There are many Yarra Valley wineries lining the Maroondah Highway as it heads into Healesville, as well as in the hills and valleys around the town. The enormous, curving rammed earth and concrete structure of TarraWarra is a particularly interesting venue close to town. It is divided into the TarraWarra Estate winery and the TarraWarra Museum of Art, Australia’s first privately-funded public art museum, which houses an impressive collection of Australian contemporary art. After looking at the art, stroll across the courtyard to the wine bar café to taste excellent pinot and chardonnay and savour Yarra Valley seasonal fare on the sleek terrace or in front of the fireplace.

Giant Steps Cellar Door and Restaurant, Healesville, VIC © Tom Ross

Enjoy an urban winery and café experience

Named after jazz saxophonist John Coltrane’s first solo album, Giant Steps injects a little bit of urban chic into Healesville. The glass-sided winery is in the middle of a large warehouse where you can watch every step of the winemaking process while you taste their single vineyard wines, purchase local products at the provedore, and sit down to delicious dining in the restaurant. Across the car park, Innocent Bystander offers tastings of more affordable wines as well as wood-fired pizzas.

Healesville Hotel, Yarra Valley, VIC © Visit Victoria

Explore a low-key Aussie country town

Walk around Healesville to discover some local gems. Look out for Graceburn Wine Room, an edgy tasting room and wine bar of Mac Forbes Wines, one of Victoria’s renowned boutique wineries; Morris et al, which has great gifts, home wares and Australian-designed clothing and accessories; and Silvermist jewellery gallery and goldsmith’s workshop, which also displays local glass and ceramic art.  Spend some time at the Healesville Hotel where you can enjoy smoked bacon and free range eggs or a handmade pie at its Harvest Café, hang out with the locals in the pretty hotel garden, or eat gourmet meals in its charming dining room. K&B Kitchen and Butcher, just next door, stocks local charcuterie, cheese, handmade jams and relishes. Pick up baked goods and coffee at Habituel bakery and roastery and head to Maroondah Reservoir Park for a picnic.

Wade with platypus experience, Healesville Sanctuary, Healesville, VIC © Healesville Sanctuary

Pat a wombat and tickle a platypus at Healesville Sanctuary

Get up close and personal with Australia’s native animals at Healesville Sanctuary, set on 32 hectares (79 acres) of bushland outside the town. Learn fascinating facts from the wildlife rangers as you pat and pose with a wombat, step into waders to hand feed and tickle a platypus, and wander along the wallaby and kangaroo walk. You can also experience close up encounters with koalas, dingoes, emus, echidnas and even pythons. Don’t miss seeing the Spirits of the Sky, a free flight presentation with wedge-tailed eagles and colourful parrots. There are three terrific cafés, all serving food from local Yarra Valley producers, and you can even pre-order picnic hampers and barbecue packs to savour in the natural setting.

Four Pillars Distillery, Healesville, VIC © Four Pillars Distillery

Taste modern Australian spirits at a hip distillery

Visit the tasting room of Four Pillars Distillery, located in a re-purposed timber yard in Healesville. Learn all about gin botanicals and the distilling process over a guided tasting of five neat gins. You can also enjoy a paddle of four gins served with Fever-Tree tonic or a terrific gin cocktail with a cheese board. Check out their award-winning Negroni marmalade made with oranges left over from the distilling process. Private distillery tastings are also offered to groups of nine or more. Just down the road you'll find Alchemy Distillers, tucked in a laneway off the main street of town. The team have transformed an old bakery into a distillery, using grain to make their spirits. Pop in to taste their three core products - Chamomile Gin, Quinoa Vodka, and Moonshine - or enjoy a cocktail and some food in the cellar door or outdoor garden.

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