Robert Blackburn
Yarra Valley & Dandenong RangesUtter indulgence is encouraged in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. The region's lush natural havens are home to an abundance of premium food and wine, secluded boutique accommodation, artisans and galleries, and stunning scenery.
An hour's drive east of Melbourne, the tall trees and ancient mountain ranges of the Dandenong Ranges meet the vine-strung hills and rolling farmland and world-class wineries of the Yarra Valley. A sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Yarra Valley takes in the Healesville and Yarra Glen vineyards and the green valleys and pristine rivers around Marysville and Warburton. Back on earth, numerous cellar doors beckon for laid back tastings and meals in their acclaimed restaurants, where fresh local produce and regional wines are the stars of the show. There's also the opportunity to get up close to Australian wildlife at Healesville Sanctuary, home to dingoes, kangaroos, wombats and the elusive platypus. Neighbouring Dandenong Ranges is a verdant realm of fern glades, towering trees and eclectic and artistic villages. Climb aboard Puffing Billy, Australia's much-loved historic steam train, for an alternative perspective of secluded bed and breakfast cottages, sun-kissed gardens and vast national parks. Villages such as Belgrave, Sassafras and Olinda bustle with activity around their quaint shops and blend of contemporary and traditional cafes serving up decadent Devonshire teas and more. All of Melbourne lies before you when you look out from the Sky High Observatory. The Yarra Valley is less than an hour by car from Melbourne along the Eastern Freeway and Eastlink tollway, exiting at Ringwood Bypass for the Maroondah High-way. The Dandenong Ranges are also less than an hour from the CBD, along the Eastern Freeway and Eastlink tollway, exiting at Burwood Highway for Upper Ferntree Gully, or Canterbury Road for Montrose and the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road.
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Things to do
Dine at Healesville Hotel
Old world charm and new world style - the Healesville Hotel is an iconic Yarra Valley restaurant. In winter it’s the perfect place to rug up with a glass of sumptuous red wine and acts as the perfect introduction to many of the wineries you will no doubt visit, with an extensive wine list that celebrates small producers and iconic names. The food here is consistent and delicious, showcasing seasonal flare and locally sourced ingredients.
Dandenong Ranges
Go green in the Dandenong Ranges, a verdant realm of fern glades, towering trees and eclectic villages less than an hour from Melbourne. See the seasons in the villages of the ranges as they burst with vibrant colour in spring and are softened by mist and dustings of snow in winter. Absorb the creative vibe of shops and galleries in Olinda, Belgrave and Sassafras. Gaze down at the city's twinkling panorama of fairy lights from SkyHigh atop Mount Dandenong. Stay in an elegant guesthouse dating from a century ago when the Dandenong Ranges was Melbourne's favourite retreat, or choose from more contemporary accommodation that combines old-world affectations with modern luxury, space and style. Glimpse the shiny flanks of the Puffing Billy steam engine from your hilltop cottage or sun-kissed garden as it chuffs along its narrow-gauge track. Jump aboard and dangle your feet out of the open-sided carriages, or opt for first-class travel. Get reacquainted with the elements in the vast national parks and gardens, from the blooms of the National Rhododendron Gardens to the whispering forests in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Meander through lush gullies and misty mountain ash to magi-cal places like Sherbrooke Forest, Doongalla Homestead and One Tree Hill. Be guided in quiet contemplation by mystical sculptures hidden among ferns in the William Ricketts Sanctuary. Conquer the Thousand Steps and the fascinating Kokoda Walk. To reach the Dandenong Ranges, travel along the Eastern Freeway and continue onto Eastlink tollway to Burwood Highway and onto Upper Ferntree Gully. Alternatively, travel through Montrose to the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road through Kalorama and Mount Dandenong to Olinda.
Chardonnay tasting at Oakridge Wines
Bordered by the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and stretching across 10 hectares of vines, Oakridge Wines is an award-winning winery, restaurant and cellar door, located in the heart of Victoria’s oldest wine region, The Yarra Valley. Established in 1978, Oakridge pioneered the wine-growing region of the upper Yarra Valley and today, under the guidance of Chief Winemaker (and 2017 Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year) David Bicknell, is an internationally recognised name, producing outstanding single-vineyard wines. The Cellar Door boasts unparalleled views of the Yarra Valley, offering complimentary wine tastings for groups smaller than eight people. For groups of eight or more, bookings are essential. Open seven days from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Oakridge’s sublime hatted Restaurant showcases the best in Yarra Valley produce. Inspired by their surroundings, Co-Executive Chef’s Matt Stone and Jo Barrett construct their innovative, seasonal menu around the thriving ingredients in the Oakridge Kitchen garden, as well as wild produce foraged from around the region. Recent accolades include; The Australian’s Hottest 50 Restaurants, Best Regional Restaurant and Australia's Hottest Chefs. The Oakridge restaurant serves lunch Thursday to Monday from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm. Bookings essential.
Healesville Sanctuary
Explore a bushland haven for Australian wildlife at Healesville Sanctuary, just one hour from Melbourne in the stunning Yarra Valley wine region. Wander tranquil tracks and see iconic Australian animals including koalas, kangaroos, platypus, dingoes, wombats, emus and more. Discover majestic birds of prey and magnificent parrots in the spectacular Spirits of The Sky bird show. Tales from Platypus Creek allows you to see the platypus up close in the world-first interactive daily platypus show. Take a visit to the Australian Wildlife Health Centre to meet our vets and nurses as they care for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife in need of care. Healesville Sanctuary is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day of the year.
Puffing Billy Railway
Loved by generations for over 100 years, Puffing Billy is one of the finest preserved steam railways in the world. Kids and adults alike will love the feeling of the wind in their hair as they wind through the lush rainforest and beautiful fern gullies of the magnificent Dandenong Ranges National Park, enjoying the views from the iconic open-sided carriages. Located one hour east of Melbourne, it makes for the perfect day out for the whole family. This century-old steam train is still running on its original 24-kilometre mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook, and the convenience of catching the train at any of its stations is a great way to experience the region. Puffing Billy Railway is now a major tourist attraction and operates every day (except Christmas Day), thanks to the tireless efforts of more than 600 dedicated volunteers. Alternatively, you can travel first-class in their fully enclosed dining carriages enjoying the daily Steam and Cuisine Luncheon, or themed evening dining, including Murder on the Puffing Billy Ex-press.
Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Situated on the gorgeous Sherbrooke Road in the Dandenong Ranges, the Burnham Beeches Estate is home to the stunning and highly regarded Alfred Nicholas Gardens. Synonymous with the Dandenong Ranges, The Alfred Nicholas Gardens are known for their picturesque waterfalls, water features and its iconic ornamental lake and boathouse. Parks Victoria acknowledges the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Victoria - including its parks and reserves. Through their cultural traditions, Aboriginal people maintain their connection to their ancestral lands and waters. Further information is available from Aboriginal Affairs Victoria AAV and Native Title Services Victoria. Conditions can change in parks for many reasons. For the latest information on changes to local conditions, please visit the relevant park page on the Parks Victoria website. Be bushfire ready in the great outdoors. Refer to the Bushfire Safety section on the Parks Victoria website for tips on how to stay safe.
Explore Healesville
The heart of Victoria's Yarra Valley food and wine region, Healesville is also world-famous for its wildlife sanctuary housing more than 200 species of Australian native animals Healesville Sanctuary is the place to go for guaranteed encounters with iconic Australian animals like the platypus, koalas, Tasmanian devils, lyrebirds, kangaroos, emus, wallabies, dingoes and echidnas. The sanctuary has played a leading role in the long-term care and protection of Australian wildlife, and visitors can peek into the Australian Wildlife Health Centre to glimpse an injured or orphaned animal on its journey through the process of rescue, care and rehabilitation. There's also lots to see and learn about Aboriginal culture at Healesville Sanctuary. Healesville is an important food and wine centre. The Innocent Bystander gourmet emporium is conveniently close to Healesville Sanctuary for post-wildlife wine tasting, pizzas, artisan bread, cheeses, and freshly-roasted coffee. A packed calendar of food and wine events throughout the year shows off the region's bounty. Visit local vineyards to sample locally produced wines and talk to their makers at cellar doors. Healesville is surrounded by scenic countryside. Enjoy a picnic at the peaceful Badger Weir Park then take a short stroll through fern gullies and mountain ash. Wander through the town and browse the eclectic range of shops and boutiques selling pottery, handcrafted jewellery, vintage finds and handmade treats. Ride in a motorised, open-air trolley on the Yarra Valley Tourist Railway. The original trolleys were used by workmen checking the line. Healesville is 60 kilometres or just under an hour east of Melbourne on the Maroondah Highway. Travel north-east on the Eastern Freeway, the Eastlink tollway and Maroondah Highway.
Explore Olinda
One of the highest villages in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges, Olinda's pronounced seasons are reflected in its gardens and scenery. Spring blooms, autumn colours, crisp summer days and occasional light snowfalls are all on show throughout the year. Olinda is well known for its magnificent public and private gardens. A particular jewel is the National Rhododendron Gardens, which contain thousands of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and daffodils. There are also the quirky sculptures hiding in the William Ricketts Sanctuary, rare and historic plants at Cloudehill, and botanically important trees at Pirianda. Lyrebirds lurk amid the tree ferns in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, there is a tranquil forest in RJ Hamer Arboretum, and Olinda Falls reward a strenuous walk. Resident emus, wombats, possums and echidna companions can be found if you look carefully as you tour the area. Olinda village reveals a treasure trove of art and handicraft galleries and antique and vintage stores, as well as eateries serving famous Dandenong Ranges Devonshire teas. Local restaurants treat regional produce with respect and serve up delicious meals to cap off a day full of fresh air and spectacular scenery. Olinda is 44 kilometres east of Melbourne or just under an hour's drive. Travel along the Eastern Freeway and continue onto Eastlink tollway. Exit at Burwood Highway and follow the road to Upper Ferntree Gully, or exit at Canterbury Road and follow the road to Montrose and onto the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road.
Lake Mountain
The closest snow resort to Melbourne, Lake Mountain is an adrenaline-pumping year-round destination perfect for premier cross-country skiing, challenging mountain biking and invigorating walking. Around 30 kilometres of well-marked ski trails wind through snow gum woodlands at Australia's top cross-country ski resort, a stone's through from Marysville. There are also toboggan slopes and snow play areas, making it an ideal and affordable destination for a family winter weekend. When spring arrives those trails are transformed by bright wildflowers that last into summer. Scenic lookouts on the plateau offer spectacular panoramic views of the Victorian Alps to the east, across to Melbourne and over to the surrounding foothills of the Great Dividing Range to the west. Exciting single-track mountain bike trails are dotted around the mountain, and dual flying foxes, dune buggies, laser skirmish, and much more keep the post-winter adrenaline pumping. Lake Mountain is approximately 120 kilometres from Mel-bourne, or around an hour and 45 minutes by car along the Eastern Freeway, Eastlink tollway and the Maroondah Highway.
Sky dive over the Yarra Valley
Take in Victoria’s oldest wine region from 15,000 ft as you jump, tandem, from a light aircraft. Float under canopy for close to 7 minutes over the lush Yarra Valley countryside, littered with vineyards, organic farms, rolling green pastures, historic buildings and the Dandenong Ranges.
Yarra Ranges National Park
Cradling the Yarra River headwaters and much of Melbourne's water catchment, the park features majestic Mountain Ash trees. Visit the Rainforest Gallery with its spectacular observation platform and rainforest walkway on the southern slopes of Mount Donna Buang. Enjoy cross-country skiing and tobogganing at Lake Mountain. Drive the world-famous Black Spur between Healesville and Narbethong, continue through to Marysville stopping along Lady Talbot Drive to walk through ancient rainforests at the Beeches and view the waterfalls at Keppel and Phantom Falls.
7 Peaks Ride - Lake Mountain
Victoria’s 7 Peaks Ride is an at-your-own pace cycling challenge which runs from late October to April. Taking you up winding mountain roads, around steep turns and past spectacular views right to the top of seven Victorian Alpine Resorts. Lake Mountain is the closest of the 7 Peaks to Melbourne and is a great first challenge. Start the ride in Marysville and climb a challenging 21 kilometres to the resort village. Reaching grades of up to 10 per cent, the first 4 kilometres up Robley Spur is the most sustained and steepest part of the whole ascent. Once you reach the top of the spur the stunning views across the Cathedral Range are your reward. Refer to the website for more detail on the distance, rise, grade and schedules.
Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden
The Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden (formerly the National Rhododendron Garden) is host to brilliantly coloured blooms of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, cherries and daffodils. Seasonal changes ensure the gardens are a delight all year around. When not in bloom, you can still soak in the beauty of rich bark textures, seed capsules, foliage shapes and beautiful fragrance as you stroll through the grounds. Parks Victoria acknowledges the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Victoria - including its parks and reserves. Through their cultural traditions, Aboriginal people maintain their connection to their ancestral lands and waters.
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