As one of the most picturesque regions of Victoria, a Yarra Valley day trip will prove a highlight of your time in Australia. Known for its numerous wineries, stunning views, enchanting wildlife and endless artisan foods, there is so many things to do in Yarra Valley that an entire day still won’t feel long enough.
We were very fortunate to have a local plan our Yarra valley day trip for us so not only were we able to enjoy the wineries on offer, but also discover local gems which are off the usual tourist track. Leave early, pack the road trip essentials and prepare for an unforgettable day in one of the country’s most stunning destinations.
HOW TO GET FROM MELBOURNE TO YARRA VALLEY
Although there are many day trips from Melbourne, our Yarra Valley day trip was one of our favourites and we recommend to make the most of your day to leave Melbourne around 10am (too early and the wineries won’t be open for tastings/you’ll be pissed before lunch.) As mentioned, we were fortunate to have a friend drive us who has lived in the area for over 20 years.
Without her expertise, we would have followed the usual tourist trail and not had such a memorable day. However, we will share her secrets in this guide so whether you’re the designated driver or are part of a day tour from Melbourne you can still experience the epic things to do in Yarra Valley.
If you have someone willing to sacrifice the wine tastings and play driver, then we recommend renting a car from Skyscanner. Few people realise it also offers incredible deals on car hire, not just flights. We used them for hiring our car in Cairns as well as our Melbourne day trips. It can take anywhere between 1 hour to 90 minutes to drive from Melbourne to Yarra Valley.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE YARRA VALLEY
Although it’s one of our favourite day trips from Melbourne, after reading this guide you’ll soon realise there are possibly too many things to do in Yarra Valley to squeeze into one day and that booking overnight accommodation is ideal to make the most of your time.
There are various options available to provide a base for exploring the Yarra Valley attractions, such as:
- Camping – We LOVED camping in Australia and thankfully the lush rolling hills of the Yarra Valley are home to numerous campsites. Whether you fancy free camping or you prefer the home comforts of hot showers and power, this list of campsites in Yarra Valley will have the right one for you.
- Airbnb – Stay in a local’s home using Airbnb to embrace the region fully.
- Hotels – From the backpacker friendly to the honeymoon worthy, there are hotel options to suit ever style of traveller. There is accommodation dotted throughout the region providing the perfect base for enjoying the Yarra Valley attractions (or rolling home after a wine tasting too many!)
THE PERFECT YARRA VALLEY DAY TRIP
Morning Coffee at Yarra Valley Dairy
This first stop in your Yarra Valley day trip is ideal for lining your stomach before the wine tasting commences. Although wine tasting is one of the most popular things to do in Yarra Valley, the region is also renowned for its dairy farming which is perfect for those (like us) who are mad about a cheese and wine combo. The Yarra Valley Dairy is also the perfect stop for a coffee and a few tasty treats to start your day.
Located inside a 100 year old milking shed, this wonderful wee place not only sells a huge selection of artisan cheeses, but over 60 local wines and even tea and coffees for the road. There are a handful of tables to enjoy cheeseboards and cheese tastings (yes, CHEESE tastings) as well as a cheese shop which we could have easily spent hours in.
We purchased a delicious feta marinated with thyme and garlic and chutneys to pair with our soon to be wine purchases and a takeaway coffee for our road trip.
First of The Yarra Valley Wineries: Yering Station
Our first winery of our Yarra Valley day trip happened to be the first Vineyard in Victoria – planted way back in 1838. Even more appropriate, it was first established by two Scottish brothers, who named their 43,000 acre land “Yering” after the Aboriginal name.
You will be forgiven for thinking you have peaked early, because Yering Station happened to be one of our favourite Yarra Valley wineries and one of the most stunning we’ve ever been to. It is amazing how they have combined the historical barns with contemporary design, all set against the stunning backdrop of the Yarra Ranges.
We did our first wine tasting of the day, which was only $5 for 5 wines and set within a fabulous rustic barn. The staff were charming and not forceful in us buying a purchase. There is also a restaurant on site which serves lunch 7 days a week. Unfortunately it was a tad early, so we headed to the next stop – one of the most famous Yarra Valley wineries for our favourite, sparkling wine.
Lunch at Domaine Chandon
As part of the world famous Moët & Chandon family, Domaine Chandon are the only Australian sparkling wine specialists with a genuine French heritage. What was once a dairy farm is now one of the most famous Yarra Valley wineries, which feels 5 Star from the minute you step inside.
It is time for the most important part of our Yarra Valley day trip – lunch. We had chosen a flight of sparkling wines and paired these with a delicious charcuterie. All enjoyed in the stunning terrace overlooking the vineyard.
There were two stand out wines for us which were unlike any wines we’d tried before. Firstly, a sparkling Shiraz, which is common to Australia but unheard of at home in the UK. Secondly, “Chandon S” which our friend recommended as it is a blend of Chandon sparkling wine and hand crafted Orange bitters. It offers a refreshing aromatic taste and is served over ice with a twist of orange which again, was unique to us, but one we’d highly recommend.
Wine Tasting at Rochford Wines
Suitably filled up with cheese, biscuits and sparkling wine we were ready for our next of the Yarra Valley Wineries – Rochford Wines. This family owned winery is a must visit in any Yarra Valley day trip as it is more of a small village with something for everyone! Not only does it feature a cellar door, Isabella’s Restaurant, 400 Gradi Pizza restaurant and gift shop but also a pavilion, amphitheatre and lakeside terrace which hosts outdoor concerts, foodie festivals and wine events.
Although the winery was incredibly busy we didn’t struggle to get a space at the bar and we had such a fun tasting as the staff were friendly but informative. We ended up buying a bottle of red and white before a wobbly wander round the gift shop – our third winery of the day was beginning to show!
As a tip on Fridays and Mondays, the 400 Gradi Restaurant offers one of the best things to do in Yarra Valley – a bottomless lunch! Not only with bottomless pizza, but also bottomless drinks including wine, gin and beer – for 2 hours. More information here.
One of a Kind Gin Tasting at Four Pillars
Although one of the most popular things to do in Yarra Valley is wine tasting, we were so grateful for our friend’s local insight as she took us to Four Pillars – a contemporary gin distillery. If you fancy a change of scene from the Yarra Valley wineries or are simply looking for a memorable afternoon, Four Pillars will not disappoint.
Opened in 2015, we found the distillery refreshingly modern in both the décor and the drinks. Although we are not big gin fans, we had heard about their award winning drinks and particularly the Bloody Shiraz gin, so we ordered a flight to sample their best selection. The Bloody Shiraz was a definite winner, created by steeping shiraz grapes from the Yarra Valley in the Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin for 2 months.
The results in a fabulously purple gin which has notes of juniper, spice and raspberries. Ours was served with Fever Tree tonic, but there was also cocktails on offer. Tastings are also available for $10 per person (the price is redeemed against any purchases.)
Time for a Beer or Two
If you are searching for things to do in Yarra Valley (that don’t involve wine) there are a handful of craft breweries in the area too. During our Yarra Valley day trip, or second last stop of the day was Buckleys which was simply round the corner from Four Pillars. We enjoyed a tasting paddle alongside complimentary nibbles in the no-frills warehouse surroundings. We really enjoyed our beers here so were sad to learn that the brewery has since closed down.
However, just 2 minutes down the road (on the same street as Buckleys previous brewery) is Watt’s River Brewing which looks strikingly similar. Also located within a no-frills industrial setting, they offer craft beer and nibbles for those in search of things to do in Yarra Valley that don’t involve vino. It’s the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon in the sunshine while supporting the underdogs of the brewing world.
A Treat at Beechworth Bakery, Healesville
After a busy day touring the Yarra Valley wineries we were not only hungry, but poor having spent all our pennies on wine. We were ready for something to eat, but due to our champagne lifestyle it needed to be on a Cava budget. Again, our friend took us to a local gem – Beechworth Bakery, knowing we never say no to a pie.
There was SO MANY pies to choose from alongside endless other baked goods which proved the perfect antidote to our boozy Yarra Valley day trip. Beechworth Bakery is known as “Australia’s greatest bakery” and we can definitely understand why. Alongside savoury snacks, there are delicious cakes and coffees on offer – both available to sit in or takeaway. Ideal if your Yarra Valley day trip is on a budget, so you won’t need to dine at the pricey cellar door restaurants.
Despite enjoying our tasty treats on the terrace and there was word of heading back to Melbourne, we soon spotted yet another winery and couldn’t resist squeezing one final tasting into our Yarra Valley itinerary. It was literally across the car park from the bakery, so was hard to resist!
Last of the Yarra Valley Wineries: Innocent Bystander
As mentioned, we couldn’t help but squeeze in one final tasting on our Yarra Valley day trip and as soon as we walked inside we were so glad we did. Innocent Bystander is a contemporary cellar door which offers a selection of wine, artisan pizzas and paella, beers and spirits, not forgetting barista coffees on offer for drivers.
We loved the décor as much as the funky merch – all of which followed a pretty pink theme. Wine tasting in Yarra Valley can be a pretentious affair so were grateful to stumble upon this no-frills approach and also to have our local friend on hand to point us in the right direction.
We had a very friendly host who was also a backpacker like us but had spent years working in vineyards in California. Although it was our last of the Yarra Valley wineries, admittedly it was our favourite due to the relaxed atmosphere and incredible wines. The wines were so tempting in fact we looked into getting a box shipped, but Darren put on his sensible hat and decided a bottle would suffice.
As the sunset and our bank balance ached from our wine purchases, our Yarra Valley day trip was officially over and it was time to head back to Melbourne.
MORE UNFORGETTABLE THINGS TO DO IN YARRA VALLEY
We get a boozy Yarra Valley day trip is not for everyone, so we have combined this list of the best things to do in Yarra Valley with ideas to suit all ages and budgets. From the best wildlife spots to foodie finds, you won’t be wondering what to do for long.
One of the most famous Yarra Valley attractions is the Healesville Sanctuary which is home to Australian icons such as kangaroos, wallabies and koalas. They also offer free admission to children (under 16) during holidays and weekends which is ideal for families looking for things to do in Yarra Valley on a budget. Alongside the furry friends there are activities and events to keep all ages entertained from water play dates to acoustic afternoons – check out the event diary here.
Admire Yarra Valley from the Sky
If you’re looking for one of the most special things to do in Yarra Valley, you cannot top a balloon ride over the region. Although there are a few companies to choose from, we have picked a few favourites.
- Wine Tour & Yarra Valley Hot Air Balloon: Not only does this tour includes a stunning flight over the rolling hills and endless vineyards, but it is followed by a delicious champagne breakfast and FOUR more Yarra Valley wineries (including Domaine Chandon.) Better yet, they will pick you up from Melbourne and drop you back after your day of flying and wine tasting. Booking Info & Prices Here.
- Yarra Valley Balloon Tour Plus Champagne Breakfast: Float over the picturesque Yarra Valley attractions in this one hour hot air balloon flight, followed by a champagne breakfast. Again, this tour includes complimentary transfers from and to Melbourne for a true VIP experience. More Information & Booking Info Here.
- Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Tour: This hot air balloon tour at sunrise will leave you speechless as you drift over the incredible Yarra Valley landscape. Following your flight, now you’ve seen them from above you then have the rest of your day free to explore the Yarra Valley attractions from below. This was the cheapest balloon tour we could find with the most reputable pilots and great reviews.
Enjoy the Most Beautiful Road Trip in Victoria
There’s no denying that our Great Ocean Road trip was a definite highlight from our time in Australia, not to mention one of the most popular Melbourne day trips however, we’re gonna let you in on an even MORE beautiful road trip known as the Black Spur Drive. Following your visit to Healesville sanctuary, take this epic drive from Healesville to Narbethong via the Maroondah Highway and you will be mesmerised by the stunning scenes of towering rainforest and walls of ferns.
The drive is just under 30km and offers 30 minutes of blissful nature as you wind through the picturesque landscape. If you want it to last a little longer, there are picnic stops along the way for a snack stop to remember such as Fernshaw picnic area and Dom Dom in Marysville State Forest.
Feast on Chocolate at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie
It’s maybe best saving this Yarra Valley attraction for after your balloon flight as trust us, you will leave here several kilos heavier. This is no ordinary Chocolaterie but in fact a chocolate showroom, showcasing over 250 products (including a Great Wall of Chocolate with over 34 varieties) as well as free tastings and even chocolate demonstrations.
There is a cafe and ice creamery offering artisan desserts to fuel your road trip. A stop here prove an amazing addition to any Yarra Valley day trip and one which will be a highlight for grown ups and children alike.
Admire the Largest Tree in Victoria
Eating and drinking are not the only things to do in Yarra Valley – there are numerous ways to burn those calories too including a wee hike to see Victoria’s largest living tree. The Ada Tree Trail is a gentle 3.2km track suitable for all ages which takes you passed the giant 300 year old Ada Tree, a towering Mountain Ash which soars 76m into the sky with a circumference of 15 metres!
The trail starts at the Ada Tree picnic area which has picnic and toilet facilities. It then meanders through Island Creek rainforest before passing the historical tree and back to the car park – in total around a 1.5 hour walk. For the adventurous sorts, you can also take a much longer detour and do The Walk into History trail. This 2 day walk will take you through the Yarra State forest between Warburton and Powelltown along the historical tramways used by the timber mills in the 1900s.
Enjoy The Art at TarraWarra Estate
Apologies if you thought we were finished with the Yarra Valley wineries, there is one more you cannot miss from your Yarra Valley day trip – TarraWarra Estate. Although their cellar door is built in to a hill and boasts an underground room that looks over the stunning vineyard, that’s not the reason we’ve included it in our guide of things to do in Yarra Valley.
It is instead because of this estate’s epic art collection. Adjacent to the winery is the TarraWarra Museum of Art which mainly showcases Australian works both donated by artists and previously owned by the Besen family (who own the TarraWarra Estate.) Admission to the art museum is $12 for adults and $8 for children with regular exhibitions and events suitable for all ages.
Embrace the Snow at Lake Mountain
Confession, there is no lake at Lake Mountain but there is SNOW. Yes, snow in Australia. Although Mt Buller is one of the most popular day trips from Melbourne for those in want of a snowy escape, Lake Mountain is actually closer as it’s only 120km from the city, so you can be skiing down the slopes in less than 2 hours from the city.
It is the most popular ski resort in Australia (in terms of visitor numbers) due to it being the closest to Melbourne and also the most affordable. It is also hugely popular with road cyclists on a mission to reach the summit which is a strenuous 40km climb.
There’s no denying you probably weren’t expecting skiing on a list of things to do in Yarra Valley, but we did promise something for everyone and this resort prides itself on being accessible to families, first timers and pros alike. Take a look here for more information.
Whether you are after a Yarra Valley day trip filled with the finest wines in the region or you’re looking for a family friendly escape from the city, hopefully our guide has given you some inspiration. Although there are many things to do in Yarra Valley, part of the fun is the drive itself – don’t over plan a jam-packed day and instead relax in the stunning surroundings and see where you end up.