The Yarra Valley is a wine-growing area with many wineries, near Melbourne in Victoria. One advantage of the valley is that it is literally on Melbourne's doorstep. From the center of the city, you can be there in approximately an hour, simply by driving down the Eastern Freeway and the Maroondah Highway, which runs through the middle of the valley. The wineries are clearly signposted, and many of them are directly accessible from the highway.
Great cycling country all around the Yarra Valley; catch the train to Hurstbridge then climb up to Kinglake via St.Andrews (great Saturday market) then along the ridge to Toolangi; down to Healsville for lunch. Great food at Healsville; fine coffee at Yarra Glen.
Or try the mountain bike routes through Smiths Gully (fine coffee and cake at the store)and Sugarloaf areas; or climb up past Mt Everard to Kinglake (steep in places) and then down into Dixons Creek and then onto Yarra Glen.
Nearby Coldstream Airfield, operated by Yarra Valley Flight Training, offers similar services.
Take a ride on the Yarra Valley Tourist Railway from Healesville
Have a BBQ at Sugarloaf Reservoir
Visit the world famous Healesville Sanctuary where you can see kangaroos, platypus, emus and more close up.
Healesville Sanctuary, Badger Creek Road, Healesville, Vic, ☎ 1300ZoosVic, . 9 - 5. The sanctuary is the best place to see Australian wildlife if you're in Victoria. It also includes scheduled activities with Rangers, a spirts of the sky bird show, wildlife experiences for extra costs and a wildlife hospital. $25.40 adults Children 4 - $12.60. edit
Healesville Glass Blowing Studio, 416-420 Maroondah Hwy Healesville Victoria, ☎ 0359622211, . You can watch the glass blowers at work, take a lesson or buy some of their finished product.edit
Great coffee and muffins/croissants (or real hamburgers) at Smiths Gully store.
At the entrance to Healesville is Wattleseed Cafe a favourite in winter with open fire, excellent Eggs Benedict, hot chocolates and coffee.
A must for a little alternate, healthy eating is the Bodhi Tree Cafe on the far side of the township, opposite the Giant Steps Winery. Usually on Friday and Saturday nights this eatery hosts live music with local artists. Worth the effort!
For the best views over the Yarra Ranges and a great feed from the inside barbecue, take some time out at Riverstone Estate, the last open vineyard before Healesville. Dinosaur TBones and Buffalo Sausages with great accompaniments and washed down with a good Sav Blanc.
Giant Steps - Innocent Bystanders, 336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville, ☎ +61 359626111, . This is a very interesting boutique winery and cafe that serves a range of food including wood fired pizza, cakes and bread all baked on siteedit
Visit Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery on Old Healesville Road, a great cafe to indulge in desserts, fondue, pastries and ice creams while enjoying the Yarra Valley views. Excellent brownie and chocolate varieties.
Dixons Creek Café Bar & Grill, 1925 Melba Highway, Dixons Creek 3775 (on the left not long after De Bortoli winery, northbound up the Melba Hwy), ☎ 03 5965 2126, . A lovely restaurant in the Yarra Valley located next to several wineries. They serve up Australian style food using delicious local produce and offer a range of local wines, beers and cider. edit
Helen's Hill Winery: A Family owned vineyard producing fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can sample their wines in a Cellar Door that attaches itself via massive glass panes overlooking the Barrel Room. The wines are excellent value and high quality. Onsite is also a superb restaurant with one of the best views over the entrance to the Yarra Valley. Kid friendly, too.
Oakridge Wines, 864 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream +61 39738 9900: beginning as a family company Oakridge makes wine from grapes grown on the rich, red, volcanic soils of the valley. A small restaurant with views across the estate serves meals adapted for the seasons and local produce.
Tokar Estate: further along Maroondah Highway towards Healesville is this Spanish-inspired complex which features an excellent restaurant that regularly hosts Gourmet and Degustation events. The wine is fruit driven and the show piece Syrah Reserve and Aria are particularly delicious. Friendly and inviting, this is one of the better Valley destinations.
Whispering Hills on the Warburton Side of the Valley has a quaint Cellar Door to a vineyard which produces a tantalising Reisling amongst its range of wines. Grown above the township of Seville, its rich soils are spring-fed and produce lively wines. Coffee Shop attached and friendly folk, open on weekends and extended opening during holiday periods. A favourite during the area's ShedFest events.
The Sebel Heritage Yarra Valley, Heritage Avenue, ☎ +61 3 9760 3333, . Beautifully appointed and located at the foothills of the stunning Yarra Ranges, this sophisticated hotel offers guests the very best leisure activities, meeting and conference facilities, stunning restaurant and luxury accommodation. edit
RACV Healesville Counry Club, Yarra Glen Road Healesville 3777, ☎ 0359624899, . This is one of the RACV Club's golf resorts which is located in the foothills of the Yarra Valley. Accomodation can be booked by members and non members and guests have access to the golf course, swimming pool, gym, day spa, restaurants and bars. edit
Chateau Yering, 42 Melba Highway, Yering, Yarra Valley, Victoria 3770, ☎ 0392373333, . This is a historic hotel which provides five star luxury rooms include large rooms all with quality antique furniture and large bathrooms. There are a number of restaurants on site. Not cheap but worth the price for a special occassion. edit
Crime in Yarra Valley is almost non-existent, but care should still be taken such as lock your car doors and make sure that valuables inside the car are not visible to outside. If you follow these precautions, everything should be fine and your day would be an enjoyable one.
Since you are likely to be on a wine tasting tour, it is advisable to be aware of how high your B.A.C (Blood Alcohol Content) if you are driving. The legal limit is 0.05%. Police regularly set up check points around Yarra Valley to test the motorists' alcohol level (often referred by locals and police alike as the "Booze Bus" due to the use of a police bus to detain the drivers over the BAC limit), make sure you are not over the limit, or the police will issue you a large fine and ban you from driving in Australia.
When driving, be careful of wildlife during sunset, as animals like kangaroos tend to be active during this period, often venturing out onto the road. A collision with a kangaroo or wombat can cause serious damage to a vehicle, possibly rendering it undriveable.
If visiting the Yarra Valley on a hot day (particularly if it is hot AND windy) take note of bush fire warnings through local news and radio, as well as warning signs posted on roads that lead into the area. Bush fires are not frequent but do occur (mostly during the summer months of December - February) and can be very fast moving, which makes it impossible to drive to safety via the winding roads. Plan ahead and take note of the locals actions.