The lush Yarra Valley is Victoria’s premier wine region and weekend getaway – partly for its close proximity to Melbourne, but mainly for the 80-plus wineries, superb restaurants, national parks and wildlife. This is the place to rise at dawn in a hot-air balloon over patchwork fields and vineyards and kick back with a pinot noir at world-class wineries.
The Yarra River starts its journey in the upper reaches of the Yarra Ranges National Park, passing through Warburton and close to Healesville before winding into Greater Melbourne and emptying into Port Phillip Bay near Williamstown.
The valley covers a huge area from the ruggedly beautiful Yarra Ranges National Park in the east to Kinglake National Park in the west, a huge eucalypt forest on the slopes of the Great Dividing Range. In the centre of Kinglake National Park is Kinglake, a small township devastated by the 2009 bushfires but now rebuilding itself, with a great country pub, a few shops and cafes, and an inspiring community spirit. Toolangi, 18km east, was the home of CJ Dennis, who wrote The Sentimental Bloke.
In between is the vine-covered valley itself. Coldstream is considered the gateway to the Yarra Valley winery region and most of the wineries are found within the triangle bound by Coldstream, Healesville and Yarra Glen. Further southeast, Warburton is the gateway to the Upper Yarra Valley region. There’s another knot of wineries around Wandin and Seville along the Warburton Hwy (B380).