It’s hard to believe you can drive for less than an hour from Melbourne and be ensconced in the beauty of the Yarra Valley. With its pretty villages, lush countryside patchworked with vineyards and unique attractions, this really is epitome of bucolic country life. It should come as no surprise then that it’s a firm favourite for day trips and long weekends. And at its heart is the town of Healesville.
One of the main reasons people head towards Healesville is its excellent wineries and cellar door experiences. The Yarra Valley region is known for its cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and pinot noir, but you’ll find growers experimenting with many other varieties. There are more than 80 cellar doors in the region, but you don’t need to stray far from Healesville to enjoy some of the best.
Here, we’ve come up with some of the best wineries to visit, plus a selection of other places to visit in and around Healesville.
You don’t have to spend the day touring wineries. There are tonnes of excellent attractions, not least among them Healesville Sanctuary. Park the rental car and get set to meet all sorts of Australian animals, from super-cute koalas and wombats to less cuddly creatures like goannas and tree frogs.
When it’s time to stretch your legs, there are a number of walking trails through Maroondah Reservoir Park, which blends formal gardens with natural bushland, all of which you can view from the high dam wall. If you want to check out some art, the grounds around TarraWarra Museum of Art offer outdoor sculptures and exceptional views. There’s a circular walking path that passes the garden highlights, including Callum Morton’s Valhalla and Clement Meadmore’s Awakening.
The town of Healesville itself is well worth exploring. The tree-lined main street is home to heritage buildings that have been converted into cute boutiques, al fresco cafes and artist studios and galleries.
If you’re behind the wheel of the rental car, you’re going to have to step away from the tasting glass, but there are still plenty of places you can enjoy the hospitality, views, and a great plate of food. Plus, you can always pop a carton or two in the boot for later.
One of the newer places to check out is Jayden Ong Winery & Cellar Bar. The industrial space, with barrels lining the walls, floral installations hanging from the ceiling and a huge sandstone bar luring you towards it, is right in Healesville. You can taste Jayden’s four ranges of wine and food created from the finest local produce.
Nearby is the brilliant named Boat O’Craigo, but it couldn’t be more different. This is your traditional cellar door experience: huge windows, views of the vines, a deck for relaxing and platters of cheese and charcuterie to snack on.
Looking to surprise someone with a special lunch? You can’t go past Levantine Hill, where everything, from the architecture to the roasted potatoes, is super impressive. Another option is No7 Healesville. Tucked in a converted factory in the town, it acts as an urban winery where young vintners are given a chance to build their industry skills. Taste their wares and tuck into modern Mexican food from the kitchen.
It’s not wine, but Four Pillars has recently expanded its distillery, tasting experiences and workshops. The distillers have won tonnes of awards for their gins – the Bloody Shiraz Gin is epic – and have spent the past couple of years perfecting Bandwagon, a non-alcoholic take on gin that is, apparently, harder to make than the real thing. And, hello driver, you can partake in as much of it as you like.
Don’t leave home without packing an esky in your rental car. All around Healesville you’ll find amazing provedores. Viande in nearby Yarra Glen is a butchery and more. It sells locally grown meat and poultry, as well as smallgoods, cheese, fresh bread, and premade meals. It’s a great excuse to do your grocery shopping for the next few days.
You’ll need that cooler at Yarra Valley Dairy too. The Mooney family sources milk from the surrounding dairy farms and goat farms in the High Country then transforms it into cheese that reflects French and Italian styles. The shop is set up in the old century-old milking shed. Taste the different varieties, grab a platter to eat at one of the tables, then stock up on the cheese you love, and all the bread, crackers, charcuterie, and fruit pastes you need to go with it.
The last stop before turning back towards Melbourne should be Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. The cafe menu is delicious, but there’s no way you can say no to the incredible sundaes. Book in for high tea, classes, or workshops, but make sure you don’t leave without selecting some of the hundreds of different types of choccies available.
When you’re ready to explore Healesville and the rest of the Yarra Valley, hire a rental car in Melbourne then get going!