World-class wines and craft beer, manicured gardens and national parks, hot air balloon rides and skydiving, there’s something for everyone when you follow the winding roads through the Yarra Valley.
It only takes an hour or so to drive from Melbourne to one of Australia’s best wine regions and while some come for day trips to the cellar doors there are so many things to do in the Yarra Valley beyond enjoying a top drop.
Immerse yourself in the dense nature of the Yarra Valley. (Image: Visit Victoria/Robert Blackburn)
Life moves at a different pace in this special corner of the Victorian countryside where you can explore specialty shops and boutiques in the villages, visit art galleries and wildlife sanctuaries, and get a taste for local chocolate, cheese, tea and more. Here are some of the best things to do in the Yarra Valley.
Get active in nature
Get the blood pumping in that clean fresh air either on your own two feet or a little higher off the ground.
1. Take a hike
Whether you like to take it relatively easy or go hard there’s a Yarra Valley trail for you.
For more of a picnic and an easy stroll, the Badger Weir Picnic Area walk near Healesville is a 2.6-kilometre loop through trees and ferns to a shady picnic area, while the La La Falls walk is a moderate grade 3.2-kilometre return walk just outside of Warburton that takes you through tall Mountain Ash forest to a small waterfall.
The tranquil Lal Lal waterfall offers a perfect place to soak in the beauty of this landscape. (Image: Visit Victoria/Ben Savage)
For a family-friendly walk, the Riverside Tracks is a 5.5-kilometre loop from Warburton that takes you along the riverbank and over bridges. Dogs are also welcome on this one if they’re kept on a leash.
Discover the beauty of the Yarra Valley. (Image: Visit Victoria/Robert Blackburn)
If you’re after more of a challenge the 14.8-kilometre Mount Donna Buang Track starts on the banks of the Yarra River and then climbs 1100 metres up through Mountain Ash and myrtle trees into dense rainforest with huge tree ferns. This one is for experienced hikers who will need to bring enough food and water for the day.
2. Explore the enchanting gardens of Yarra Valley
Yarra Valley gardens are another way to enjoy the fresh air and thanks to the valley’s rich soils there are some spectacular gardens to see.
At the Alowyn Gardens at Yarra Glen you can visit seven gardens in one, including the formal parterre garden with its tightly clipped geometrical shapes, the edible garden and the forest garden, as well as walking through the wisteria archway.
When more than ten thousand lavender plants are in full bloom from late November until February the Warratina Lavender Farm is one of the Yarra Valley’s most popular photo spots. But if you miss the summer spectacular you can still see Ploughman’s Blue lavender in the gardens throughout the year, as well as trying lavender scones in the Lavender Tea House.
Warratina Lavender Farm is one of the Yarra Valley’s signature destinations.
And from Boxing Day until the 18th of April one of Australia’s best seasonal gardens, the Blue Lotus Water Garden, invites guests into their tropical-themed water garden where they can see Giant Amazon Waterlilies, the Kakadu Lagoon Native Waterlily display and a lot more in dozens of ponds and two lakes.
3. Hit the Rail Trail
The Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail runs all the way from Melbourne’s outer suburbs to the Yarra Valley and you can either do the whole thing or simply choose to walk or ride a section or two.
Go for a walk and explore the Yarra Valley. (Image: Visit Victoria/Robert Blackburn)
Following the historic broad-gauge railway line that closed in 1965, the trail travels through bushland and villages and thanks to its gentle gradient is nice and easy to ride a bike or walk along.
Cog Bikes Australia offers bike hire for adults and children and can drop off and collect bikes at various points along the trail.
Bike your way through the Yarra Valley and enjoy the views along the way. (Image: Visit Victoria/Robert Blackburn)
As the trail is 40 kilometres one way if you’re planning to do it all you should spend a night or two in the valley. You can see some of our top picks for Yarra Valley accommodation here.
And while the entire ‘Warby Trail’ is wheelchair accessible the 8.5-kilometre Yara Junction to Warburton is a mostly sealed section that travels through thick forest before finishing at the trail’s end.
4. Saddle up for a horse ride
Horse riding in the Yarra Valley isn’t just for people with experience. At Chum Creek Horseriding and Huts they have a horse for absolute beginners up to confident riders and can have you riding through the bush within minutes of getting into the saddle.
Explore the Yarra Valley like never before. (Image: Chum Creek Horseriding and Huts)
Options include a 2.5-hour trail ride that includes wine tasting in a mountain hut, and a three-day, two-night horse riding adventure with traditional Australian campfire meals and overnights in the Chum Creek Huts.
There are also one-hour experiences for younger riders starting at six years of age.
5. Float above in a hot air balloon
While hot air ballooning may not be the most strenuous of activities, as you’ll be getting up well before dawn, we’ll consider it part of a more active stay.
Hot air balloons are a beautiful sight in the Yarra Valley, and it’s all the more beautiful if you’re up there in the basket looking down.
Hot air ballooning is a unique experience not to be missed when visiting the Yarra Valley. (Image: Visit Victoria/Robert Blackburn)
The mountain ranges around the valley help to provide stable conditions at dawn, and as you float through the valley you can take in the vineyards, farmland and forests below.
6. Jump out of a plane
For a more adrenalin-fuelled time in the sky you can also skydive in the Yarra Valley. Tandem skydives from up to 15,000 feet are available for people 16 years and over (under 18s will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian).
See Melbourne and the bay in the distance before jumping out of a plane and freefalling for about 60 seconds. Then when your chute opens, you’ll have five minutes or so to slowly come back to earth and take in those views as only a skydiver can.
Get a culture fix
From internationally acclaimed artists to emerging local talent, the Yarra Valley has a lot to share with art lovers.
7. TarraWarra Museum of Art
Designed by acclaimed Australian architect Allan Powell the TarraWarra Museum of Art is a work of art in itself, with contours and colours that are heightened by the landscape around it.
Step inside those rammed earth walls and you’ll find modern and contemporary art exhibitions that can include paintings, sculptures and drawings from some of Australia’s most significant artists.
TarraWarra Museum of Art presents stimulating and innovative exhibitions. (Image: TarraWarra Estate)
Repeat guests may notice that as well as the art changing, the walls may have moved or changed colour since the last time they were there. And no visit is complete without a visit to Valhalla, Callum Morton’s installation that was originally created for the 52nd Venice Biennale before being moved piece by piece to its new home in the Yarra Valley in 2016.
Enjoy the grounds of the TarraWarra Estate. (Image: Tourism Australia)
8. The Wurundjeri Walk
While Healesville Sanctuary is best known as a great place to see Australian animals it also has a special section where you can learn about the traditional custodians of the land.
Meet some of Victoria’s cutest wildlife at Healesville Sanctuary.
The Yarra Valley is home to the Wurundjeri people from the Kulin Nation, and the self-guided Wurundjeri Walk was created in consultation with a Wurundjeri elder and spiritual custodian of the land Murrundindi.
You’ll learn more about Wurundjeri elders past and present stories at Healesville Sanctuary. (Image: Cormac Hanrahan)
Visitors can listen to soundscapes of Wurundjeri elders past and present sharing stories, read plaques explaining the Wurundjeri perspectives of the plants along the walk, and sit in a dreaming place. On Sundays and public and school holidays you may even meet Murrundindi and hear his stories first-hand.
9. The Hubert Gallery of Art
When the new-look Hubert Estate opened in March 2022 it had a new cellar door and restaurant as well as the Yarra Valley’s latest art gallery. The Hubert Gallery of Art was established by Adam Knight and Gerry Ryan OAM and reflects their passion for Indigenous Australian art.
Browse, admire, and celebrate Indigenous art forged from the archives of Australian history.
The gallery shares works from more than 20 Indigenous communities and includes paintings, sculptures and Marebu (woven mats). The gallery is open seven days a week and found directly underneath the stylish cellar door so it’s easy to visit as part of a wine tasting or on its own.
10. YAVA Gallery & Arts Hub
The community face of Yarra Valley arts, the YAVA Gallery & Arts Hub is a non-profit, volunteer-based organisation where artists and art lovers can come together in Healesville. As well as hosting exhibitions by local, national and international artists the YAVA holds workshops and live events from the visual arts to music, poetry, theatre and filmmaking.
11. Take a ride on Puffing Billy
For more than 120 years Puffing Billy has puffed its way along the same track from Belgrave up to Emerald and along to Gembrook. While it used to carry people, livestock and food up to the communities that lived in the hills, these days it’s a fun day out for all the family, including four-legged friends on selected pet-friendly days.
Hopping on board the Puffy Billy train is another way to explore the lovely nature of the Yarra Valley. (Image: Visit Victoria/Emily Godfrey)
Travel through pristine forests and fern gullies, and rumble across historic timber trestle bridges all while your legs hang over the edge of the open side carriages. If you’d prefer more of a first-class experience you can also book a Steam & Cuisine trip that includes a three-course meal under the pressed metal ceilings of the first-class carriage.
Watch stunning views from your seat and don’t forget to get your camera out. (Image: Puffy Billy)
Taste the Yarra Valley
The countryside that produces world-class wine has some more tasty treats up its sleeve.
12. Four Pillars gin distillery
One of Australia’s top craft spirits Four Pillars has a long list of international gold and best gin awards to its name. Book ahead to secure a spot at one of the tastings and masterclasses in their Yarra Valley distillery where you can get to know the trademark botanicals behind their signature and limited-edition gins.
Since its launch in 2013, Four Pillars has become Australia’s most famous spirit. (Image: Wine Victoria)
And thanks to their alcohol-free Bandwagon range the designated driver will also get to enjoy a cocktail of botanical flavours without needing to worry about watching their drinks.
Sip on gin and enjoy a range of tastes at Four Pillars. (Image: Wine Victoria/Andrew Poole)
13. Craft beers
Explore the Yara Valley brewery scene with a visit to some of the area’s microbreweries. At Matilda Bay Brewery you can learn about the sustainable side of their beer-making on a brewery tour and taste the freshest beer from the stainless-steel tanks. Taste your way through a paddle of beer and cider at the Coldstream Brewery where you can also tuck into a pub-style lunch with parmas, pizzas and more.
After starting as a hobby the Hop Hen Brewery is now a family-owned small brewery in Lilydale where 100% of the production is conducted in-house. While Watts River Brewing brings two young families together to create a brewery and cellar door in Healesville.
14. Cheese tasting
Wine and cheese are a winning combination and in the Yarra Valley, you can taste both at the source. At the Yarra Valley Dairy fresh cow milk from Yarra Valley farms and goat milk from the neighbouring region of Mansfield are used to create a range inspired by the farmhouse cheeses of France and Italy.
Sample a range of fresh cow and goat milk cheeses at Yarra Valley Dairy. (Image: Wine Victoria)
Choose a Premium Tasting package to try their entire range of handmade cow and goat milk cheese, or opt for a cheese plate with local freshly baked bread and charcuterie.
15. Chocolate and ice cream
The Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery makes more than 400 different chocolate products and thanks to the large viewing windows you can watch their chocolatiers at work before enjoying a free chocolate tasting.
Some of the edible art on offer at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Learn how to make your own chocolate in one of their hands-on classes, or let the kids lick their fingers in the Junior Chocolatiers class for six-to-12-year-olds.
Chocolate is a perfect excuse to stop at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. (Image: Visit Victoria/Roberto Seba)
Then when it’s time to burn off all of that sugar the kids can play on the lawns, gardens, orchards and wetlands, or you can simply relax with a bite to eat in the all-day café.
The expansive grounds of the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. (Image: Tourism Australia)
16. Cherry picking
Eat cherries right off the tree during the cherry-picking session at Cherry Hill Orchards. As well as eating all of the cherries you can in a two-hour session you can also buy your handpicked cherries by the kilo to take home.
Try your hand at cherry-picking at Cherry Hill Orchards. (Image: Supplied)
BYO picnic to go with your cherry feast or take advantage of the wood-fired pizza and wine tastings from Rochford wines at the Coldstream orchard, and a rotating roster of food trucks at the Wandin orchard.
Enjoy your loot with a BYO picnic at Cherry Hill Orchards. (Image: Supplied)
17. Tea time
Take a peek behind the tea-making scenes at the Yarra Valley Tea Company. This family-owned company in Coldstream has a focus on organic and ethical tea and uses the only certified green tea grown in Australia. At the factory, you can watch the team blending and packaging the tea through a public viewing window and pick up some new tea in the tea emporium.
18. Smell the coffee
While you could have a single coffee with a delicious pastry at the Silva Coffee Roasters coffee bar, we say it’s even better to go for the coffee-tasting flight. As well as being able to try their latest selections you’ll learn all about the people and stories behind the beans. Take a seat at the bar or relax in the indoor and outdoor seating and let the flights come to you.