Just an hour east of Melbourne is the delight that is the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. With its rolling mountains and towering rainforests, entering the Dandenong Ranges can feel like you’ve been transported to a scene from Lord of the Rings. The lush, green paradise with a peaceful ambiance makes it hard to believe it’s less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne. Next door, the Yarra Valley is equally as beautiful, featuring rolling emerald hills dotted with more than 80 wineries. Take a deep dive with us into the various activities and attractions at the Yarra Valley, where you’ll quickly realise that you need several days to fully experience everything it has to offer.
The Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges is known for its gourmet food, award-winning wines and breathtaking nature walks. If you live in Melbourne, you’re likely familiar with the wide array of things to see and do in this area. Offering city-slickers a sanctuary away from the busy city, the Yarra Valley is a popular spot among locals and tourists alike. And once you discover everything this region has to offer, you’ll understand why. So, drink it in at world-famous cellars and distilleries, cycle the winding roads and endless mountain bike tracks or just lose yourself among the towering trees, creek beds and sunlit clearings.
Due to the popularity of the region, an insider’s tip is to visit during the week, as the weekends can be booked out months in advance and attract more expensive accommodation rates due to the high demand. Not to mention, you have a better chance of getting into your favourite cafe or restaurant!
Wineries and distilleries
The most spectacular part of the region has to be the 80 or so wineries perched upon green hills with sprawling vineyards and stunning architecture. Some of the big names include Domaine Chandon, where the famous Chandon sparkling wine is made, De Bortoli Wines, Innocent Bystander, Hubert Estate and Yering Station — just to name a handful. Many of the wineries feature farm-to-table restaurants and offer informative wine tastings.
And if wine isn’t your tipple of choice, there’s the famous Four Pillars Distillery in Healesville, offering the country’s number one craft spirit, Four Pillars Gin. Or Coldstream Brewery, offering beer and cider tastings, locally sourced food, special short-run seasonal release beers and much more.
Due to the fertile soil and wet weather, the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges is home to a number of farms and orchards. Luckily, many of these places offer a pick-your-own-fruit experience. The U-Pick Trail is a series of farms offering visitors the opportunity to pick fresh, in-season fruit to take home for better than reasonable prices. A whole day can be dedicated to picking juicy berries, truffles and more, but check in advance as to what's in season.
The trail includes a number of participating growers, including Blue Hills Berries & Cherries, Cherryhill Orchards, Jay Berries, Kookaberry Strawberry Farm, Oasis Berry Farms, Rayner’s Orchard, The Orchard at Montague, Summerberries Blueberry Farm, Truffle Valley, Wandin Valley Farms, Wandin Yallock Farms, Yarra Valley Cherries, Yarra Valley Dairy and Gateway Yarra Valley. More information about the trail can be found at www.visityarravalley.com.au/trails/u-pick-trail.
Another fun way to see the region is to walk, bike or road trip the Wander to Warburton Trail. Enjoy amazing food and drinks in award-winning places or check out the secret nature spaces along Warburton Highway. You could easily spend a day or three visiting the cafes, vineyards, orchards, bakeries and much more on this tree-lined trail.
If you love exercising, you can’t come to the Dandenong Ranges without doing the famous 1000 Steps Walk (The Kokoda Track Memorial Walk). The steps wind up the hill through lush rainforest, and while it can be a gruelling slog to the top, it is definitely worth it once you see the view and breathe in the fresh mountain air.
There’s no shortage of gourmet restaurants in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. With many of the restaurants and cafes sourcing local produce for their dishes, and some even from their own gardens, sitting down to lunch or dinner in one of these places is an experience in itself.
Some of the noteworthy restaurants include the extravagant Levantine Hill in Coldstream, 1309 at Balgownie Estate, Eleonore’s Restaurant — where you can dine in a 19th century chateau — and The Stables at Stones. But remember to book in advance as spots can fill up fast, especially on the weekends.
And if it’s coffee and a more casual bite you’re searching for, there are dozens of quirky cafes to choose from in the region. The locals say you can’t go past Round Bird Can't Fly in Lilydale and Miss Marple’s Tearoom in Sassafras (you have to try their famous fluffy scones).
Where to stay
The Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges offers a wide array of accommodation options, from lovely camping and caravan sites where you can feel enveloped by the beautiful surrounds, to chateaus and boutique hotels for those without a caravan or camper handy.
Lilydale Pine Hill Caravan Park is the perfect base to set yourself up for an extended exploration of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. The park offers a range of accommodation options, including plenty of RV friendly sites (powered, unpowered, drive through and ensuite). All RV sites are pet friendly. The park also offers a pay six-stay seven deal, ensuring you have plenty of time to explore all the nearby attractions, with the choice of self-drive or guided tours, public transport, cycling, canoeing or walking.
Nestled among the rolling hillsides of Healesville, the Big4 Yarra Valley Park Lane Holiday Park is not one to be missed. Set up camp surrounded by the towering gum trees or by the lake, or for those without a caravan or camper, you can test out the modern cabins, studios or glamping pods. The park offers a large range of amenities to keep the whole family busy or wander into the surrounding area and explore attractions such as the Healesville Sanctuary, the Puffing Billy Railway, or appreciate the Yarra Valley from a different angle with Global Ballooning. Park Lane Holiday Park was also the proud host of Caravan of the Year 2023, and the judges, photographers and organisers spoke only praise about the hospitality and ambiance of this wonderful park.
There are plenty of caravan parks ready where you can set up your base camp to explore the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, and a comprehensive list can be found here.
Whether you’re looking for an activity-filled adventure or a tranquil time to just sit and relax, the Yarra Valley is best explored over several days, and with dozens of caravan parks ready to welcome you into this beautiful region, there’s really no excuse.
Lilydale Pine Hill Caravan Park
105 Warburton Hwy,
Lilydale Vic 3140
P: (03) 9735 4577
BIG4 Yarra Valley Park Lane Holiday Park
419 Don Rd,
Healesville Vic 3777
P: (03) 5962 4328
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