If you love a road trip like the Melbourne Girl team, you’re going to love my latest adventure to Victoria’s Yarra Valley region.
Round up your girls and get set to head East (approximately one hour from Melbourne’s CBD), to indulge in everything the Yarra Valley has to offer. I’m talking seriously fresh and delicious local produce, an inspiring art scene and one of Australia’s most scenic/picturesque/beautiful regions (take your pick, but it really is deserving of all three descriptions, so forgive me if I tend to repeat myself below).
With thanks to the team at Nissan Australia, I hit the road in a sparkling new SUV, the Nissan QASHQAI. What better way to enjoy a stylish getaway than in a super-stylish car? The QASHQAI is the ultimate package of modern design, awesome technology and easy-driving.
Before sitting behind the wheel of the QASHQAI for the first time, I’ll admit I had some serious car trust issues. This snappy little SUV conquers all those fears, allowing me to drive in comfort and safety in both the city and on the open road. My favourite features of the car include the ‘around view’ camera; the in-built sat nav; and the little light on the rear-vision mirrors, which flashes whenever another vehicle enters your blind spot… Seriously so handy and so cool.
Ohh, and not forgetting to mention the gorgeous Panoramic Glass Roof… HELLO LOVER! It’s so great being able to electronically open the top of the car, to let in extra natural light and enjoy the view of the autumn tree leaves and cloudy blue sky.
One of the best things about the Yarra Valley is how close it is to Melbourne. One minute you’re in suburbia, next minute you are surrounded by gorgeous vineyards and rolling green hills. Ideal for exploring all year round, I think I was pretty lucky to experience the area during Autumn, when the air was fresh and leaves had started to change colour and fall.
There is an endless selection of things to see and do in the region, but I’ve rounded up 8 of my favourites below…
8 things to do and see on a Yarra Valley Road Trip
Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery
Yes, that’s right all of you with a sweet tooth, I said ice cream and chocolate! In one beautiful location.
With ample parking options, this is the place to indulge your love of quality treats, with a range of free tastings to enjoy and the option to watch their team of talented European Chocolatiers in action.
Serving up local produce from their kitchen garden and nearby farms, enjoy a breakfast or light lunch, or do as we did and skip straight to dessert! Indulge yourself in one of the vast sweet options including fondue, pastries, ice creams and hot chocolates, whilst soaking up the views of the Chocolatier’s emerging orchard, sweeping lawns and wetlands conservation area.
Natskin Day Spa Retreat
Need an excuse for a day trip with the girls? It’s time to escape from the norm and get set to relax and rejuvenate at the Natskin Day Spa.
The retreat is set in a beautiful rural environment and offers a full range of luxury treatments and spa facilities. I must confess, I am a regular customer to the Natskin day spas (there are three across Melbourne including the Yarra Valley); sneaking in one of their amazing massages every few weeks helped me survive pregnancy. They are also my go-tos for manis, tinting and spray tans, but for the purpose of my ‘total indulgence’ angle, be sure to treat yo’self to one of their packages – the ‘duo massage’ has a couples getaway to the Yarra Valley written all over it!
Kinglake National Park
If you’re a keen bushwalker or love to get your picnic on, Kinglake National Park is the place for you. Nestled in the slopes of the Great Dividing Range, the park is also perfect for a spot of sightseeing, with gorgeous views of the entire Yarra Valley, Melbourne’s city skyline and Port Phillip Bay.
The National Park also has a great camping area, so I’m considering filling up the very spacious QASHQAI boot with some camping gear and booking a site for my next visit. Although, maybe I’ll wait until the weather warms up and do glamping (nothing but glam-camping for me) in ‘warm style’. There is a free communal gas barbecue and tables, so all I need to do is connect my phone to the QASHQAI via bluetooth and play my Pandora tunes all weekend while we eat, hike, eat, sleep, repeat.
Yering Station Farmers Market
I’m a sucker for a great market and the Yarra Valley Farmer’s Market is one of the best I’ve experienced to date. The markets are held in the stunning Yering Station barn and serve up a delicious selection of local produce from around the region.
Held on the third Sunday of the month, I’m a regular at the markets and enjoy stocking up on farmer-direct fruit and vegetables, fresh sourdough, cold-pressed olive oil, chocolate coated honeycomb, and homemade pasta and sauces. I recommend you arrive early so you don’t miss out (nearly everything sells out) and be sure to get yourself a steaming hot pie or tasty paella for lunch and sit on the lawn and enjoy the views of the valley. The live band makes for the ultimate way to just hang out in such a beautiful setting.
Before heading off, be sure to pop into the Yering Station’s Cellar Door. It is a beautiful space; I’m in love with the high ceilings and white painted brick walls. The Cellar Door operates as both a tasting room and a contemporary art gallery and is currently showing the works of John Forrest, a contemporary realist artist who has filled the walls with beautiful paintings. The Yering Station exhibitions rotates every four to six weeks, so if you want to catch his display you better get out there quick!
As you have already read, I’m a girl who enjoys a good pie. The Beechworth Bakery in Healesville has the yummiest pies, sausage rolls, cakes and fresh bread. There are also heaps of other dining options including all-day breakfast, sandwiches, salads, focaccia and of course coffee!
The bakery is warm, inviting and each time I’ve visited, it’s proved to be quite busy, so be sure to go with friends and get them to scout a table while one of you lines up to make the order. Thankfully, the service is fast and very friendly, and the food is ammaz-ing, so definitely worth any short waits.
Parking is ample and it’s right next door to my next place to visit…
This cellar door and restaurant in Healesville is one of my favourite places to have dinner. It’s airy and industrial-chic decor makes for a chic setting to treat yourself to the best cheese platter you’ll find in greater-Melbourne, or enjoy their freshly shucked oysters and wood-fired pizza.
Innocent Bystander is fully stocked with the best take home goodies including bread, coffee, local produce and wine (pick yourself up a bottle of their Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir to enjoy at your next party with the girls). It’s the perfect venue to enjoy a celebration or birthday, however be sure to make a booking because they are always super busy on the weekends.
Badger Weir Picnic Grounds
The Badger Weir Picnic Grounds are a short 7km drive from Healesville. The QASHQAI sat-nav guided me through the beautiful winding roads and Mountain Ash trees to arrive at this perfect spot to picnic with family and friends.
Have a BBQ or lie back on your rug and watch the native bird life (including parrots, rosellas and lyrebirds) whilst taking in the calming fresh air of nature. If you’re feeling motivated, you can also whip on your favourite sneakers and enjoy a short walk around the Weir.
What better way to wrap up your Yarra Valley adventure than by flying over the top of the region you’ve just explored by road, in a hot air balloon. An unforgettable morning with Global Ballooning, enjoying a gorgeous Yarra Valley sunrise from up high with a total view of the wineries and countryside, is the ultimate Yarra Valley experience.
Flights depart half an hour before sunrise from various locations in the Yarra Valley pending the day. Check with their website here for more information.