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, kick back with a Pinot Noir at a winery festival, explore orchards and farms of blueberries and lavender, or take to the many cycling and walking trails. While the Yarra Valley is a popular day trip from Melbourne, the region boasts some fantastic B&Bs and cottages, and there’s much more to do than you can manage in a day.
The namesake Yarra River starts its journey in the upper reaches of 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 the park is Kinglake, a small township devastated by the 2009 bushfires, but rebuilding 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, with most of the wineries found in the triangle bounded by Healesville, Yarra Glen and Coldstream – the region described in tourism brochures as the ‘triangle area’. Further southeast, Warburton is the gateway to the Upper Yarra Valley region, and there’s another knot of wineries around Wandin and Seville along the Warburton Hwy (B380).