The allure of tall mountain ash lining the roads, the warm, cozy winters enjoying locally made wines to the adventurous sunrise mission in a hot air balloon, we know all too well as Melbournians the best things to do in the yarra valley.
Famed for the rolling hills of the countrysides wineries and cellar doors, a vibrant mix of flora and fauna plantations and the most incredible places to view from high in the sky in a hot air balloon, we’ve made sure to include all of the most incredible things to do in the Yarra Valley in this very guide.
Family fun days can be spent admiring the collection of Australian wildlife at Healesville Sanctuary, or the adventurous can explore the region’s towns like Marysville & Warburton.
The waterfalls of the region come as a surprise to many given the vast countryside and vineyards throughout. There’s something for everyone in the Yarra Valley.
Only one hours drive from Melbourne to the Yarra Valley, the best wineries of the Yarra Valley provide the perfect day trip from Melbourne if time is one of the essence.
Explore more of Victoria using the Day Trips from Melbourne to help you plan more amazing adventures on your trip
NB: Due to the covid situation a lot of places and activities are temporarily closed but will open up once restrictions ease and visitors return.
What is the Yarra Valley?
Basically, aside from the Mornington Peninsula it is one of Victoria’s premier cold climate wine growing regions that boats globally recognised wines such as De Bortoli, Oakridge and Yering Station.
However with over 80 wineries in the Yarra Valley it snot hard to get caught up trying to hit them all, which is why we created a short and sweet list of the top Yarra Valley wineries selection.
Where is the Yarra Valley?
One hours drive from Melbourne CBD, the Yarra Valley is Metropolitan Melbourne’s far North Eastern region that encompasses townships like Warburton, Healesville & Marysville.
The Yarra Valley boasts one of the more impressive rivers of the entire state, the Yarra River, affectionately known as the ‘Yarra’. It runs down stream for approximately 60km ‘as the crow flies’ from far eastern Victoria until the river mouth into Port Phillip bay within the city.
The traditional custodians of the land, the Wurundjeri people of Victoria have lived here prior to European settlement for 35,000 years and their land extends far north to the Great Dividing Range, Mt. baw baw to the east, Mordialloc creek to the south and west to Weribee river.
When to visit the Yarra Valley
The best time of year to visit the Yarra Valley depends on what you’re going there for. If it’s the snow mountains then the best time of year is between the months of June- September when it’s freshest.
The warm summer months sitting on a deck enjoying a delicious drip of wine is best enjoyed over the Christmas period from December through to March, being aware of school holiday peak times and public holidays, ordinarily the region can get quite busy so booking ahead of time is crucial.
If you’re doing a self-drive and you plan on staying overnight in the Yarra Valley we recommend finding your accommodation ahead of time and securing the best overnight stays at the most competitive prices in the Yarra Valley.
How to get to the Yarra Valley – Melbourne to the Yarra
If you’re coming in from Melbourne then take the Eastern Freeway/Eastlink (M3) all the way until you hit Ringwood, turn left onto Maroondah highway until you reach Lilydale.
Once here, veer left towards Coldstream which effectively begins the entry into the Yarra Valley.
Going by car
It seems a bit snobbish but we almost never use public transport. Reason being we enjoy having the luxury of being able to plan our own day on our own schedule.
If you’re driving into the Yarra Valley from Melbourne we recommend picking up a car from these guys who have some of the most competitive prices on the market.
Coming from the Airport
If you’re flying into Melbourne and making your way straight to the Yarra Valley then it makes perfect sense to pick up your rental car from the Airport and waste no time figuring out the logistics! We recommend going with these legends here for the most affordable prices!
How long do I need in the Yarra Valley?
If you plan on ticking off all of these epic yarra valley attractions in our guide below then you will want to dedicate 5 days to the region.
You are free to pick and choose these experiences below and create smaller itineraries that span 2-4 days, bearing in mind you get your experiences booked beforehand to maximise your time and plan your trip out well.
- Morning sunrise flight in a hot air balloon
- Breakfast in Healesville at Yarra Valley harvest
- Mid-morning gin session at 4 pillars
- Drive up to Steavonsons falls in Marysville via the Black Spur
- Mid-afternoon wine tasting tour at Boat O-Craigo
- End the day at Healesville Sanctuary
13 Incredible Things to do in the Yarra Valley this year
Explore the Yarra Valley Wineries
It goes without saying that the Yarra Valley’s draw card is above all…its wineries. The 170 year old legacy of Victoria’s oldest wine making region surpasses all pre-conceptions and imagination one might have as to the vastness of the land.
Unfortunately unless you travel here exclusively for wine tasting you will find it very difficult to hit every single winery, so we’ve compiled a short list of the best wineries of the Yarra Valley.
Balgownie Estate Winery
This premier 30 hectare winery boasts 70 rooms and suites for wine wasting in the heart of the region. It has both a pop-up cellar door as well as a contemporary Australian restaurant that is currently under construction. Having won multiple awards for their accommodation, enjoy a selection of 5 star wines including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
Of course we couldn’t not include this famed winery on the list of the wineries in the yarra valley. Their story begins in the northern regions of Italy, which has spanned 90 years of wine making till now where the 3rd generation of De Bortoli wine makers run one of the Valleys most impressive wineries.
To make it the perfect day trip in the Yarra Valley, one of the best tours in the region is a full-day wine and lunch experience with a small group guided tour of the Valleys premium wineries.
This tour has over 200, 5 star reviews and is without a doubt the best winery tour in the Yarra Valley!
I have been to a handful of weddings at Zonzo and it is the most spectacular winery you can imagine. The Italian inspired food offering complete with a beautiful glass house interior makes for the perfect evening of wines.
Exceptional manufacturers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – TarraWarra’s restaurant is highly recommended with head Chef Mark Ebble’s focussing on locally sourced ingredients and dishes that make for a fantastic afternoon in the Yarra Valley.
Bonus – Four pillars Gin
Founded in 2013 the award winning Australian Gin Distillery makes a variety of different Gins, such as the world’s only Gin made to suit a Negroni. Operating out of Healesville and now a gin bar running out of Sydney, a visit to 4 pillars gin is one of the best things to do in Healesville.
Drive the Black Spur
If you have never driven along the Black Spur in Victoria’s east then you are missing out! Pre-covid we managed to sneak out here for the weekend and drove up and down this gorgeous mountain-ash lined forest.
The Black Spur runs for 36km between the townships of Healesville and Marysville and will take 1 hour to complete. We drove through here earlier in the year and shared the photos over on our Instagram page.
There’s a number of stop off points along the way that permit you to park your car on the side and walk through the Fernshaw Picnic ground, or the Dom Dom Saddle picnic area.
Traffic on the road can get very busy and it’s a two way road so make sure you are careful about pulling into the carparks from the correct side of the road and not crossing the double lines to do so; the Black Spur is a high accident road for these very reasons.
If you are wondering what to do in the Yarra Valley and you’ve never been before then we highly recommend being one step ahead of everyone else and booking a tour here for some of the best things to see and do in the Yarra Valley at discounted rates.
Sunrise hot air balloon ride
A once in a lifetime opportunity to fly high across the skies of the Yarra Valley wineries at the break of dawn, our personal recommendation and the best things to do in the Yarra Valley.
This beautiful hot air balloon ride is the only provider in Victoria to be carbon neutral.
You do not want to miss out on the experience of flying in a hot air balloon over the Yarra Valley, so grab your tickets from here and get excited!
If you feel like getting a little tipsy in the sky then you can add on a champagne breakfast for your 1.5 hour flight over the Balgownie Estate.
The valley is often filled with low lying mist that sweeps across the vineyards that makes for the perfect backdrop at 6:15 in the morning.
Healesville, Warburton & Marysville
The three most populous towns in eastern Victoria form a triangle on a map and make for the perfect places to stop and explore in your Yarra Valley day trip.
Healesville is a low-key country town famed for being the gateway to the best wineries in the yarra valley, a quaint town that’s often used as a bypass township for access to Lake Mountain alpine resort during the winter months in Victoria.
Start the day off correctly with a coffee to go (and stay) at Habituel for the Yarra Valley’s most freshly baked breads and pastries baked daily on-site.
If you’re looking for things to do in Healesville we suggest heading into Innocent Bystander on maroondah Highway for a culinary delight and sensational wine experience. Their wines are second to none and export both regional and metropolitan retailers for purchase.
Ending the day at Healesville Sanctuary makes for the perfect way to end your itinerary on a day trip to the Yarra Valley.
An easy 90 minute drive from Melbourne and a perfect escape from the city, Warburton is well hidden and far out enough that you leave the hustle and bustle of the CBD in exchange for mountainous sequoia trees in the RedWood forest and an old charm feel of the town.
Being local Melbournians we had previously been to the RedWood forest years ago and to this day it’s still one of our favourite things to to in the Yarra Valley.
Mount Donna Buang is 1 hour and 43 drive from Melbourne but a 22 minute ascent from the foothills of Warburton.
It is the closest snowfield from the city without heading further north east into Hotham or Buller.
Fear not however, there still is a fair share of cute bakeries, cafes and restaurants without attracting the crowds like the Mornington Peninsula.
Devastating Black Friday bushfires in 2009 saw Marysville on the brink of complete destruction, yet it has surpassed all notion and completely recovered to its former glory, attracting thousands of visitors each year to explore the best things the Yarra Valley has to offer north of its centre, such as Stevensons Falls and many mild to difficult hiking trails.
We recommend staying overnight in the Valley and these are some of the most budget friendly places at the most competitive prices.
Warburton RedWood Forest
Officially the Cement Creek RedWood forest, this enchantingly beautiful Sequoia forest is one of the best things to do in the Yarra Valley by far, conveniently nestled in the township of Warburton.
From here you can find the beginnings of the Yarra River and Cement Creek, but what separates this Redwood forest from the redwood in the Great Otways is the tree art that is sprinkled throughout the forest.
Go for a short hike along the loops around the forest, following the creek that runs through.
This perfect little day trip from Melbourne shouldn’t take you more than 45 minutes to an hour, spending time admiring the Sequoias from all different angles with your camera.
Access can be a little confusing but the entry is via Cement creek rd off Woods point road north of the township.
The morning light is the best time to get the most incredible pictures of the Redwood forest so having accommodation close to the forest is essential to avoiding the crowds and being the only ones there. Booking through these guys is the best way to avoid the crowds and we cannot recommend these stays enough!
Visit native wildlife at Healesville
Trust us, we’re not normally the caged animal kind of folk, but Healesville Sanctuary (part of the Zoos Victoria group) are dedicated to fighting extinction of Australia’s wildlife species, conservation efforts and public education.
Hopefully you’re not too tanked from spending an entire day at the glorious Yarra Valley wineries otherwise you would be missing out on the adorable creatures here!
A top yarra valley attraction by far, visitors travel long distances to be able to get up close and personal with their favourite aussie animals, including Kangaroos, Koalas, Platypus and Dingoes.. many of whom whose species has suffered habitat loss and destruction, particularly during the 2019-2020 summer bushfires season in Eastern Australia.
Adults start around $40 per person with the chance to add on an animal encounter experience for an additional cost.
It’s personally one of our favourite tourist attractions in the Yarra Valley and we come here everytime we visit because we both love to support organisations making a difference, hence spending a day at Healesville Sanctuary is highly recommended.
Avoid the queue and pre-book your V.I.P experience with Australian wildlife up close and personal at Healesville Sanctuary for a 2 hour private experience with Koalas, kangaroos and more incredible Aussie wildlife! It’s one of our favourite experiences at healesville that we can’t get enough of!
Steavensons Falls – the hidden waterfall of the east
We’ll be honest with you, we didn’t actually know this waterfall existed! We had so much fun exploring the waterfalls of the great ocean road that we forgot about the rest!
This 84 metre long waterfall isn’t a single drop waterfall..so it’s not the highest of them all, but is one of the longest by distance.
From the carpark the walk to the top of the viewpoint is in total around 700m, but only 350 of those to the first viewpoint which is the best bay far if you ask us.
One of the ultimate things to do in the Yarra valley is to take the Tree fern gully trail walk from the heart of Marysville town to the base of the falls, a 6.8km round trip.
To get here, simply drive 3km down falls road to the car park at the base and hike up the hill until you reach the first viewpoint.
Yarra Valley Chocolaterie
Family owned and operated since 2012 in the heart of wine country, Yarra Valley chocolaterie and Ice- Creamery is hands-down the most delicious afternoon pit-stop in the Valley.
This outstanding attraction in the Yarra Valley is known for their variety of hand-crafted chocolates capable of satisfying even the pickiest of sweet tooths; they even have dairy free Chocolate-perfect for us!
The Ice-creamery is next level, with over 30 flavours of dairy milk options and vegan sorbets, you cannot visit the region without visiting the Yarra Valley’s most delicious tourist attraction.
The best part about enjoying the wonderful sweets here is that the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice-creamery is a part of the Cocoa Horizons program, which supports farmers and producers of cocoa ensuring it is sustainably sourced and supports a wide range of ethical responsibilities globally.
Where to eat and drink in the Yarra Valley
This French style patisserie, The Flying Apron opened in 2016 by French trained staff that has brought the tastes and smells of the French countryside to the Yarra Valley.
Our personal favourites are of course the sweets; their roasted cashew bar & spiced peach frangipane tarts are to die for.
Eat in or take away, don’t forget to try their roasted vegetable pastries and the roasted mushroom cauliflower pies!
Where: 2874 Warburton hwy, Wesburn VIC
The local millennial hideout over the past 15 years serving up incredible Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This Healesville institution has been serving up fresh Neapolitan style pizza used with locally sourced ingredients from the Yarra Valley, as well as an Hispanic mix of both Paella & Tapas.
This eclectic combination of internationalism makes Innocent Bystander one of the best places to visit in the Yarra Valley and a top attraction to the Yarra Valley.