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Lush green rolling hills emerge in the distance, as we speed down Maroondah Highway. The air is cool, crisp, fresh. The sky is covered in a thin veil of cloud, but the playful rays of sunshine are peeking out, exposing patches of royal blue sky. It’s going to be a beautiful weekend! We are on our way to Yarra Valley to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, to soak up the rustic feel of the vineyards, to dine and wine, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of this famous region in Victoria.

On the way to Yarra Valley

On the way to Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley, the region surrounding the Yarra River, covers a large area stretching from the Yarra Ranges National Park all the way to the Kinglake National park. But it’s the vine-covered hills of Coldstream/Healesville/Yarra Glen that draw millions of Australian and International visitors to this renowned wine growing region.  Many choose to explore the region in just 1-2 days and it’s no secret why. There are many reasons that make Yarra Valley the perfect destination for a weekend away.

Yarra Valley, view from Sugarloaf Reservoir Picnic Area

Yarra Valley, view from Sugarloaf Reservoir Picnic Area

 1. Proximity

It’s no secret that one of the biggest advantages of the Yarra Valley is its close proximity to Melbourne. Hop in a car heading North East and an hour later, you are cruising down the vineyard-lined roads in the valley, feeling like you are thousands of miles away from your day to day life. Getting to Yarra Valley isn’t a 3-hour affair like it might be if you were trying to get to Barossa Valley,  Margaret River, or many other fine wine regions in Australia.

Vineyard along the side of the road in Yarra Valley

Vineyard along the side of the road in Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley makes for a great day trip from Melbourne. In fact, over 70% of the regions’ visitors hop over for just a few glasses of Pinot Noir and a few tasting of locally made cheese, before heading back to the city shortly after sunset. A trip to Yarra Valley doesn’t have to be an elaborate trip. But there are certainly many reasons why it can be!

Max and I at the Innocent Bystander Winery in Yarra Valley

Max and I at the Innocent Bystander Winery in Yarra Valley

For us, 2 days in the valley was plenty of time to explore the wineries on our list, visit other attractions, indulge in some delicious meals, relax, and unwind.

 2. Beautiful Scenery

Mother nature was kind to Yarra Valley, rewarding it with a picture perfect combination of far reaching farm lands, perfectly manicured vineyards, thick and luscious natural reserves, and an abundance of wildlife. Sheep, horses, and cows enjoy their daily feeds on the sides of the road, but pop into Healesville Sanctuary and you’ll find many of Australia’s favourite reptiles, birds, and mammals. From cute-as-a-button echidnas, to wombats, koalas, and red kangaroos.

Beautiful drive in Yarra Valley

Beautiful drive in Yarra Valley

Sheep are easy to come by in Yarra Valley

Sheep are easy to come by in Yarra Valley

For nature admirers, Yarra Valley’s lookouts are not to be missed. Scattered around Healesville to the East and just past Christmas Hills to the West, they offer incredible views of the valley’s rolling green hills, sprawling vineyards, and forest covered mountains.

Beautiful views from Sugarloaf Reservoir Lookout

Beautiful views from Sugarloaf Reservoir Lookout

Vineyard in Yarra Valley

Vineyard in Yarra Valley

For us, the views at TarraWarra Estate and Domaine Chandon were some of the best in the valley, but it was the sunset at SkyHigh Mount Dandenong that won the top prize. It was a perfect medley of colours with the sun setting over downtown Melbourne.

Sun setting over Melbourne. View from Mt Dandenong

Sun setting over Melbourne. View from Mt Dandenong

3. Fine Wine

The cool sun-kissed climate of the Yarra Valley region creates the perfect condition for an assortment of fine wines from some of the worlds most renowned wineries. Whether you are after a smooth Pinot Noir, a crisp Chardonnay, or you prefer a playful glass of sparkling wine, there is no shortage of options to please even the fussiest wine connoisseur. There are over 80 wineries in Yarra Valley, ranging from the award-winning “must-see” wineries like De Bortoli, Domaine Chandon, Yering Station, Yarra Yerring, and TarraWarra Estate, to the smaller producers, like Coldstream Hills, Acacia Ridge, Innocent Bystander and many others.

Cellad Door entrance at Coldstream Hills Winery

Cellad Door entrance at Coldstream Hills Winery

Glass of Pinot Noir with a view at Oakridge Winery

Glass of Pinot Noir with a view at Oakridge Winery

Wine displays at Yerring Station

Wine displays at Yerring Station. Photo by Max St John

Inside Domaine Chandon Winery

Inside Domaine Chandon Winery. Photo by Max St John

Our favourite was De Bortoli’s comprehensive tasting menu perfectly matched with a selection of cheeses from the cheese shop inside the cellar door. Combine that with friendly and knowledgeable staff and you’ve got a recipe for a great experience. Just an hour in the cellar and $300 later and I had found my new favourite wine!

De Bortoli Winery: perfect cheese and wine pairing

De Bortoli Winery: perfect cheese and wine pairing. Photo by Max St. John

4. Other Beverages

If wine isn’t your thing, don’t fret! For those, pining over a cold pint of cider or refreshing Pale Ale, there are plenty of non wine options as well, like the Meletos Ciderhouse and Brewery that offers a perfect tasting paddle of 4 beers/ciders of your choice, or the White Rabbit Brewery with a large selection of Belgian Style beers.

Inside the Meletos Cafe in Yarra Valley

Inside the Meletos Cafe in Yarra Valley

Lots of options on tap at the Meletos Cafe

Lots of options on tap at the Meletos Cafe

Our choice of the tasting paddle

Our choice of the tasting paddle

 5. Great Food

If you are visiting Yarra Valley on the weekend, you’re in for a treat. Many wineries offer a special Saturday night dinner menu, pairing their finest wines with their best chef’s creations. Add to that a lovely view, sprinkle a bit of romance and elegance, and you’ve got yourself an ultimate out of town date night.

This view at Tokar Estate Winery almost convinced us to splurge for a 4 course meal. But we resisted.

This view at Tokar Estate Winery almost convinced us to splurge for a 4 course meal. But we resisted.

We weren’t in it for the fancy 4 course meal, so we ended up at the Innocent Bystander for finger-licking-good food sharing plates and their famous pink Moscato. With the perfect outdoor seating area and the sun going down in the corner of our eyes, it was a picture perfect ending to our first day in Yarra Valley.

Delicious meal at the Innocent Bystander

Delicious meal at the Innocent Bystander

Oh and if you are looking for a great brunch/lunch spot with home made meals, head over to Mocha & Lime.

Mocha & Lime Homestyle Cafe in Healesville

Mocha & Lime Homestyle Cafe in Healesville

Our lunch: pumpkin dal and pistachio dukkah with Turkish bread.

Our lunch: pumpkin dal and pistachio dukkah with Turkish bread.

Inside the Mocha & Lime cafe

Inside the Mocha & Lime cafe

6. Secluded Accommodation

If there is anything more important than the wine and food on a weekend away it’s great accommodation and Yarra Valley is certainly full of options. From 5-star luxury hotels, to small B&B places, there is something here for everyone. But for us, it was Airbnb all the way.

There are tons of options in Yarra Valley, ranging from rooms in shared houses, to entire houses suitable for families or groups of friends. We stayed in an amazing secluded cabin in the forest of Christmas Hills. The cabin was a bit of drive away from the wineries, but what it lacked in proximity it made up in cosiness and ultimate comfort. With a deck overlooking the forest perfect for taking in the smells and sounds of nature in the morning and a kitchen stocked with fresh breads, eggs, cheese, it was exactly what we were looking for!

Morning tea with a view

Morning tea with a view. Photo by Max St John

Our deck looked out onto a beautiful forest

Our deck looked out onto a beautiful forest

Small but mighty, this kitchen was perfect for our stay

Small but mighty, this kitchen was perfect for our stay

7. Unique Shopping

Yarra Valley isn’t a place to stock up on the latest fashions. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find more than just a few shops in Healesville. But for those with a bit of a shopping addiction, there are a few options, you know, in case you need to pick up a few Christmas gifts for yourself or others. Check out Yarra Valley Dairy shop (hint: it sells more than just milk and cheese) or the Yarra Valley Gift Shop

If you time your visit right, the Yarra Glen Sunday market is meant to be fantastic. Taking place on the 3rd Sunday of every month, the market features a great variety of arts and crafts, homewares, gourmet food, and produce.

Yarra Valley Dairy Shop

Yarra Valley Dairy Shop

8. Outdoor Activities

If the thought of wining and dining for 2 days straight sounds like too much, Yarra Valley has a few options to help you break up your day with other activities.

Try a round of golf at one of the many courses in the valley. Four of them have been ranked in the Australian T0p 100 by the Australian Golf Digest. If golf isn’t your thing, why not book a Segway Tour, or spend some time cycling/hiking many of Yarra Valley’s great trails.

And for those looking for the ultimate experience, there is always Hot Air Ballooning. The flight isn’t cheap at $300-$400 per person, but the views are nothing short of amazing.

Hot Ari Ballooning in Yarra Valley

Hot Ari Ballooning in Yarra Valley. Photo credit: VisitVIctoria.com

9. Family Activities

Many wouldn’t think of a wine region as a destination for the whole family, but in Yarra Valley, kids can easily have fun too. Just imagine letting them ride through a lush green forest in an ultimate zip-lining adventure through the tree-top obstacle course of the Dangenon Ranges?  Or how about a day at the Healesville Sanctuary among Australia’s wildlife?

Healesville Sanctuary, Yarra Valley

Healesville Sanctuary, Yarra Valley. Photo credit: www.visitvictoria.com

But if that’s not enough to keep your kids happy, then head straight to…

10. Yarra Valley Chocolatier and Ice-Creamery

The biggest, most impressive, Willy Wonka-like land of chocolate goodness is what every child and adult ultimately dreams of.

Not only does this place offer free chocolate tastings, but they have hundreds of premium chocolates on display and some of the best chocolatiers at work on their creations. It’s impossible to leave without buying something, and even harder to restrain yourself from trying way too much!

Yarra Valley Chocolatier

Yarra Valley Chocolatier

Valley Bush Tucker chocolate bars

Valley Bush Tucker chocolate bars

Chocolate flavoured lip gloss. Yum!

Chocolate flavoured lip gloss. Yum!

I’m not a huge chocolate fan, but somehow the magic world of chocolate even had me in awe! Check out my amazing find!

Chocolate Tea... ummm YES PLEASE! There are actual bits of chocolate in the mix

Chocolate Tea… ummm YES PLEASE! There are actual bits of chocolate in the mix

Needless to say, if the other 9 reasons didn’t convince you to add Yarra Valley to your Australia travel list, the Yarra Valley Chocolatier surely will. And the best part is: you don’t even need a golden ticket to get in!

It's hard not to smile in a place like this

It’s hard not to smile in a place like this

Essential Travel Information

Getting there: Yarra Valley is located 1 hour away from Melbourne by car. Take the Eastern Freeway to Maroondah Hwy. Alternatively, travel by train to Hurstbridge, Lilydale or Belgrave. A number of companies also offer day tours to Yarra Valley for around $110-$150/pp, which include visits to 4-5 wineries, gourmet lunch, and transportation to and from Yarra Valley.

Where to stay: If you choose to stay overnight, any accommodation in Yarra Glen, Healesville or Coldstream will be in close proximity to all the wineries and other activities. Find hotels through Agoda or alternative accommodation options on Airbnb

What to do: For activities that fit your interests, visit the Yarra Valley Information Centre in Healesville. It’s a perfect place to  get extremely helpful wine maps, walking maps and info about the region.

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Lush green rolling hills emerge in the distance, as we speed down Maroondah Highway. The air is cool, crisp, fresh.