23 unmissable things to do in the Yarra Valley & surrounds
Looking for things to do in the Yarra Valley? Located just an hour from Melbourne, this region is renowned for its food and wine scene. It’s the perfect destination for a day trip – and there’s certainly enough to do to extend your trip, if you fancy.
Here’s some other things to do in the Yarra Valley and surrounding region.
Victoria is not a big state by any means, but there is so much packed into it. And it doesn’t take long to get from Melbourne, to somewhere equally as interesting.
At just over an hour’s drive from the heart of the city, the Yarra Valley is the perfect destination for a city break.
The region is best known for its wine, with some world-famous brands firmly established in this part of the state.
If you don’t drink or simply don’t like wine, don’t worry. There’s plenty of other things to do in the Yarra Valley.
Seek thrills, explore some gorgeous nature, take a scenic road trip and stuff yourself full of delicious food.
This is just a small part of what’s on offer in the Yarra Valley and its immediate surrounds. Let’s explore.
If you’re in the area and fancy extending your trip, I recommend checking out things to do in the Dandenong Ranges.
See other ideas for a weekend getaway from Melbourne.
Where to stay in the Yarra Valley
Top things to do in the Yarra Valley
1. Find furry friends at Healesville Sanctuary
This is one of the best things to do in the Yarra Valley for non-drinkers.
Healesville Sanctuary is where to go to see many types of Australian animals. Kangaroos, wombats, platypus, echidnas, all kinds of birds and reptiles.
Many of the animals in this sanctuary have been injured in the wild and are often re-released, upon on their recovery.
In some circumstances, they’re unable to be re-wilded. The sanctuary provides them with a home that’s as close to their natural habitat as possible.
One real boon of the sanctuary is that you can book close encounters with several of its inhabitants.
And on Sundays, you can hear Wurundjeri Elder Murrundindi share the cultural stories of his land.
You’d probably need at least a couple of hours to do the sanctuary justice. It’s a great way to entertain the kids on a day trip to the Yarra Valley.
If you’re childfree, your best bet is to rock up first thing in the morning, or early afternoon to avoid the crowds.
And save time by booking your ticket in advance, online.
2. & explore Healesville
Healesville is the main town of the Yarra Valley and contains many of the region’s top attractions.
It’s a food and wine hub and the shopping is pretty fantastic too, especially the op shopping (at thrift or charity stores).
For beers, check out Matilda Bay Brewing and Watts River Brewing. Nearby Hargreaves Hill and Coldstream Brewery are also worth a visit, Coldstream alone for the entertaining statue out the front.
For a meal in town, head to Innocent Bystander or drop into Willow & Jackson for lunch. Stock up on produce at Kitchen & Butcher and explore the wines and wares at Barrique Wine Store.
For something fancy, book a table at TarraWarra Estate.
And as a bibliophile, it would be remiss of me not to mention Verso Books. Always make a point of popping in when I’m in town and buying a book or five.
Discover other small towns in Victoria worth visiting.
3. Drink all the wine on a wine tour
Unsurprisingly, this is one of the top things to do in the Yarra Valley. It is one of Victoria’s premier wine regions, so makes the sense.
You have the option of:
- self-driving to wineries (with a designated driver of course)
- jumping on an organised tour
- or hiring a private driver.
Tours usually include stops to other Yarra Valley attractions, along with wineries.
Book onto a Yarra Valley wine tour from Melbourne:
If you’re self driving, I recommend popping into Long Gully Estate, which is just outside of Healesville and has the most delicious port.
Or head to Blueberry Winery, where all the wines are made with – you guessed it – blueberries.
Soumah Wines specialise in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with Italian wines. If you’re a fan of Italian varieties, I recommend visiting the King Valley to tour its ‘Prosecco Road’.
Noting a lot of the bigger wineries charge for a tasting, but this is often included in the price if you end up buying a bottle.
4. & take your pooch along with you
Victoria is probably the most dog crazy state in Australia and there’s plenty of pooch-friendly places to visit in the Yarra Valley.
Wineries that allow your furriest friend to visit include:
If you don’t want to drive, you can book onto a half or full day wine tour with your dog. Pooches & Pinot and Gourmet Pawprints cater for patrons with both two legs and four.
For something extra special, take your dog along to a High Tea in the Yarra Valley.
Looking for something a little different? Check out these unique ways to experience the Yarra Valley Wine region
➳ Take a scenic Yarra Valley horse trail ride
Take in the Yarra Valley from horseback and have a special tasting at Tokar Estate wines, at a private mountain hut.
➳ Join a Yarra Valley wine tasting tour by bike
Pedal along the Warburton Rail Trail on a guided tour, which includes a wine tasting at 1-2 cellar doors.
➳ Yarra Valley wine & chocolate tour
Visit four cellar doors, have a delicious lunch and drop into Yarra Valley Chocolaterie for free tastings.
5. If you don’t like wine, jump for juniper at a distillery
A visit to Four Pillars Gin is one of the top things to do in the Yarra Valley.
Drop into the recently expanded distillery for a G&T or cocktail, or book in for a tasting session.
Attend a maker session or masterclass and learn how to make gin-based cocktails at a workshop. There’s plenty to do.
6. See in the sunrise from a hot air balloon
I can’t really think of more picturesque spots to lazily drift over in a hot air balloon.
You’ll watch the sunrise break over the valley, the light spreading across the acres of vineyards.
There’s the possibility of upgrading your aerial adventure, to include a champagne breakfast once you’re back on the ground.
This is absolutely one of the most romantic things to do in the Yarra Valley.
7. Tandem-skydive over the valley
Or forgo the hot air balloon to jump out of a plane from 15000 feet.
Free fall over the valley with an expert, then see sights from the ground.
Your experience ends with a visit to Punt Road Winery or Napoleone Cider.
8. Grab some sweet treats at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery
Sweet tooth aching? Make a point of heading to the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie.
Here you can sample chocolatey treats on arrival, before getting down to the serious decision of what to buy.
The store is massive and has a pretty decent choice of choc.
There’s your usual milk, darks and whites for sure, but also unique mixes.
Choose from beautifully packaged chocolates from their Gourmet series, hot chocolate sets, chocolate balls of all kinds of flavours and even chocolate infused lip balms, body oils and soap.
They also offer workshops and a high tea.
Something for any sugar lover, for sure.
Then you can let the kids burn off their sugar highs, running around the outside garden, while you take in the view of the surrounding valley.
9. Eat some cheese, please, at Yarra Valley Dairy
If you are in the mood for something cheesy to complement your wine, head to Yarra Valley Dairy for not only cheese, but a delicious array of chutneys, dips and oils as well.
Coldstream Dairy is another excellent place to pick up some cheese, please.
There were five cheese on display when I visited and I bought three of them. Enough said.
10. Ogle the pieces at Tarrawarra Museum of Art
This art museum houses the collection of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AC, who have had a keen interest in Australian art since the 1950s.
Along with its permanent collection, there’s exhibitions of works by Australian artists.
The garden is gorgeous, with a circular walking path leading past outdoor sculptures.
Needless to say, the museum itself is a work of art and worth taking in from every angle.
11. Pick fresh fruit at Cherryhill Orchards
Love cherries? Head to this Yarra Valley orchard during cherry season (November through to early January) with a picnic, to pick delicious fruit straight from the trees.
Bonus beauty – the cherry trees blossom for two-weeks from late September to early October.
This event is as you can imagine, one of the top things to do in the Yarra Valley and extremely popular (blaming Instagram here).
Register your interest to snatch up tickets to the 2023 festival.
12. & fill your basket along the U-Pick Trail
Get in the market for some fresh produce along the U-Pick Trail, where you can load up your basket with locally grown goodies.
Explore local farmgates or follow the trail from the Dandenong Ranges into the Yarra Valley.
13. Visit an Edible Forest
Designed using Hügelkultur and Permaculture methods, this is a one acre food forest, filled with plants that have a purpose – whether that be to eat, to heal, to attract birds or fix nitrogen levels in the soil.
You can book a tour of the gardens, join the Gardening Club or attend specialised workshops where you learn to cook with easily grown plants and produce.
14. Have a picnic at Maroondah Reservoir Park
For a breather and a bit of nature, head to Maroondah Reservoir Park, known locally as the Maroondah Dam.
It’s the perfect place for a spot of bird-watching and a picnic.
There’s a play area for children and some lovely gardens.
If you don’t fancy packing or organising a picnic and are up for an adventure, consider booking onto a mystery picnic in the Yarra Valley
You’ll follow the clues to local produce stores and food vendors, to pick up cheeses, meats, fruits, crackers and more.
Once you’ve collected all your gourmet goodies, you’ll be taken to a final picturesque location, to throw down a blanket and gorge to your heart and stomach’s content.
Find out what it’s like to go on a mystery picnic in Melbourne.
15. Go white water kayaking
It’s certainly not all about wine. There’s plenty of adventurous things to do in the Yarra Valley.
Kayak through Grade 2 rocky rapids on the Yarra River, for a daring 5 kilometres.
You’ll see native animals along the way and will probably get at least a little bit wet.
16. Explore Warburton
Warburton is particularly picturesque during autumn, when the town explodes in an array of colour.
However, it’s worth visiting any time of the year.
Top things to do include pedaling along the Warbuton Rail Trail and walking out to Lal Lal Falls.
17. Wander the Redwood Forest
The Warburton Redwood Forest is also a sight worth seeing in this neck of the literal woods.
Thousand of towering Californian Redwoods have been planted here. There’s also bizarre tree art within the woods.
It’s one of the top things to do in the Yarra Valley and draws plenty of admirers.
Try to get there early in the morning and avoid peak summer crowds, in order to have the place somewhat to yourself.
Alternatively, jump on a guided bike tour, where you ride 12 kilometres through forests to the Californian Redwoods.
18. Hike to your heart’s content in ancient rainforest
Being located in the heart of some of Victoria’s richest rainforest, hiking is one of the top things to do in the Yarra Valley.
Toolangi State Forest is a great destination for walking, with plenty of trails to discover.
Some options include:
- Tanglefoot Loop, a 10 kilometre trek, which starts in Wirrawilla Rainforest Carpark and takes 3-4 hours to complete
- Myrtle Gully Circuit, which is eight kilometres long and can be hiked in 2-3 hours
- Wirrawilla Rainforest Walk is a one kilometre boardwalk walk, which winds past Myrtle Beech and Sassafras trees
- Toolangi Sculpture Trail, where dozens of artworks line the trail, designed to decay right back into the forest
- Kalatha Giant Tree Walk is a short walk which takes you past the Kalatha Giant, a large mountain ash thought to be over 350 years old.
19. Take a scenic road trip along Black Spur Drive
This short drive might be one of the prettiest in Australia.
It connects Healesville with the nearby town of Marysville – 27 kilometres of road winding through an ancient Eucalyptus forest.
Take in the trees, which are one of the tallest flowering plant species in the world and stop in one of the many picnic spots on the way.
20. Check out Steavenson Falls at Marysville
These magnificent falls are one of the highest in Australia, with a drop of 84 metres.
They’re a 4 kilometre drive from Marysville and have plenty of viewing platforms from which you can see the falls.
You can even visit when it’s dark, as the path and falls are floodlit between dusk and midnight.
Alternatively, you can jump on the Tree Fern Gully Trail from Gallipoli Park in Marysville, which leads to Steavenson Falls Scenic Reserve. It’s about a 1.5 hour return walk, 3.4 kilometres one way.
Best to note dogs are not permitted at the falls, even on a leash.
For more, check out my guide to the best waterfalls in Victoria.
21. Marvel at the views from lookouts around Marysville
Another popular track in the area is the Keppel Lookout Trail.
It’s a longer, more difficult trail, which travels through the forest to four scenic lookouts, which offer stunning views across Marysville, Steavenson Falls and Cathedral Range State Park.
It takes around five hours to complete as a 15.5 kilometre loop. Make sure you wear suitable footwear, and bring water and snacks.
The trail starts in the car park on Falls Road and winds through Robertson Gully. The first lookout is Keppel Lookout, with views over Marysville.
You’ll pass Oxlee and De La Rue Lookouts and get a good look at Steavenson Falls from the top.
From there, you descend to the base of the falls and head back to the car park.
The car park is metered and I recommend bring coins to feed it.
Ogling views is definitely one of the top things to do in the Yarra Valley.
22. Play in the snow at Lake Mountain
Did you know you can see snow on a day trip from Melbourne?
Lake Mountain is around a two hour drive from Melbourne and is the closest alpine resort to the city.
There’s well-marked ski trails to explore, along with opportunities for snow play.
Visit in spring to see wildflowers blanket the land or bring your mountain bike to tackle the trails around the mountain.
23. Tour an art & sculpture garden
170 sculptures by artist Bruno Torfs lie scattered throughout this rainforest garden.
These fantasy figures have been handcrafted from clay, before being fired in the kiln on site.
The gardens were completely destroyed in the 2009 Black Saturday bush fires, along with Bruno’s home and art gallery.
The artist stayed in Marysville to rebuild and the gardens continue to be enjoyed by visitors, today.
Where to eat in the Yarra Valley
Okay. Where to even begin?
As this region is renowned for its food scene, eating is one of the top things to do in the Yarra Valley. Most wineries, breweries and distilleries have their own dedicated restaurants or kitchens, catering to hungry visitors.
At Ai Fiori Trattoria within Soumah of the Yarra Valley, the focus is on northern Italian cuisine. Similarly, Meletos in Coldstream serves up Euro-Australian inspired dishes.
TarraWarra Estate puts on an exceptional meal (visit in autumn to see the changing tree colours) and Eleonore’s Restaurant at Chateau Yering Hotel serves up both dinner and an afternoon high tea.
Innocent Bystander have a restaurant at their Healesville cellar door and you can grab a decent burger at Monroe’s Burgers down the road.
And you can’t go wrong with a pie from Beechworth Bakery if you’re in a hurry to get home (or need something substantial after all that wine).
As you can see, there’s plenty of things to do in the Yarra Valley (and not just based around wine). Take a day trip from Melbourne or stay for awhile, to experience what this picturesque region of Victoria has to offer. And visit in autumn to see a lovely display of fall foliage.
Looking for more inspiration for travel in Victoria? Drop into the gold rush towns of Bendigo or Ballarat or plan a weekend escape to Daylesford.
And check out this list of wine regions in Australia.
The Yarra Valley is located on the lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge them as Traditional Owners and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.