When you think of the Yarra Valley, in Australia, it’s usually the wine and gourmet cuisine that come to mind. But there’s more to this region than food and drink. From the Healesville Sanctuary – where you can see dingoes, koalas, wombats, kangaroos and even the Tasmanian devil – to a ride on the Puffing Billy steam train, and a look at Indigenous art at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, here are 12 great reasons to visit.
Victoria’s wine industry can be traced to a vineyard at Yering Station in 1838, with viticulture expanding rapidly throughout the 1860s and 1870s. Today, the Yarra Valley boasts 300 vineyards and 160 wineries, with the region’s cooler climate lending itself to the production of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and pinot noir. Wineries in the region include Domaine Chandon, De Bortoli, Oakridge and Yering Station.
Wake up bright and early for a bird’s-eye view of the Yarra Valley on a scenic hot air balloon flight. With unrivalled views of the region, this once-in-a-lifetime experience will take your breath away. Watch the sunrise as you soar over rolling hills embroidered with vines. Once you float back down to earth, it’s time for a champagne breakfast.
Healesville Sanctuary is a not-for-profit conservation organisation that specialises in conserving native Australian animals. Set within the natural bushland, the zoo features different habitat areas that showcase dingoes, koalas, wombats, kangaroos and even the Tasmanian devil. One of the most popular attractions is the Land of the Parrots, a walk-through aviary featuring just some of the zoo’s 200 native bird varieties. There are also close-up encounters, and you can visit the Australian Wildlife Health Centre.
Black Spur Drive is a spectacular 30km (19mi) ride that links Healesville with Narbethong on the Maroondah Highway. Wind down the windows as you zigzag deep into the lush forest, famous for its towering eucalyptus regnans, the tallest flowering trees in the world. Stretch your legs in the mountain town of Marysville and enjoy a break at one of its many cosy cafes.
Once the home of world-famous opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, Coombe Yarra Valley, also known as the Melba Estate, is a 7-acre (2.8ha) property in Coldstream that was opened to the public in 2016. Bordered by imposing hedges, the homestead and picturesque gardens have been restored to include a restaurant, cellar door and gallery that pays homage to its former resident.
Founded by passionate art collectors and philanthropists Eva and Marc Besen, the TarraWarra Museum of Art is a contemporary gallery set within an architecturally impressive and award-winning building in the Yarra Valley. Opened in 2003, the gallery holds seasonal modern and contemporary art exhibitions containing a wealth of Australian and international work.
Relive your childhood on the Puffing Billy railway. As you dangle your legs over the side of the carriage and take in the scenic journey between Belgrave and Gembrook, remember to snap a photo as you cross Monbulk Creek Trestle Bridge. Rolling through the glorious Dandenong Ranges since the early 1900s, Puffing Billy is one of the most popular steam heritage railways in the world and continues to delight passengers today.
Courtesy of Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery
The Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery is a decadent emporium set in the rolling hills of Yarra Valley. There are more than 250 different chocolate products, including chocolate freckles as big as your face, the rockiest rocky road around, truffles and a single-origin collection. As you browse the showroom, take a peek through the glass window and watch the chocolatiers at work before treating yourself to an ice cream.
Winding through the Yarra Valley, the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail is one of Australia’s most iconic routes. Starting at Queen Road, the trail meanders 38km (27mi) through bushland and wineries. Walkers, cyclists, and those on horseback will take the Warby Trail, as it follows the historical railway line, which dates back to the 1900s.
Since the first tree was planted at Alowyn in 1999, the garden has grown to include five distinct areas, including the perennial border, the edible garden, a forest garden, the formal parterre and numerous display gardens. There is also a dry garden, a French-style garden and a magnificent wisteria archway that is in full bloom for four weeks each October. Alowyn also features a cafe in the maple courtyard and a giant chess set.
Designed by Greg Norman, the Eastern Golf Club is a charming country estate positioned within a 120-acre (49ha) nature reserve in the Yering Gorge. In addition to the 27-hole championship course, the club also has a TaylorMade Performance Centre, fitness centre and 12km (7.5mi) of bush walking trails. Stay the night at one of 12 Yering Gorge Cottages, and awake in the company of eastern grey kangaroos, deer, platypuses, echidna and wombats.
Dating back to 1854, Chateau Yering Hotel is a grand Victorian mansion that has been lovingly restored as a boutique five-star hotel. Set on a 250-acre (100ha) estate, the chateau offers 32 lavishly furnished suites, many with views of the heritage-listed gardens and the Great Dividing Ranges. In addition, the hotel has a tennis court, swimming pool and private function rooms and features two restaurants, Sweetwater Cafe and the award-winning Eleonore’s Restaurant.