We recently drove through the Yarra Valley on a road trip between Sydney and Melbourne and were very pleasantly surprised by all the area had to offer. The area has beautiful countryside, quaint villages, and the beautiful Dandenong Ranges at the western edge of the valley. While researching the Yarra Valley, the main activities I came across were wine tasting (not the most kid friendly for an entire day activity) and hot air balloon rides (not within our budget or very enticing due to my fear of heights and flying). Therefore, we only spent one night in the area, but after visiting I really wish we had spent more time.
Here are some highlights of the area:
Healesville Sanctuary: This wildlife park is an absolute must see attraction, whether or not you have kids. The park is very tastefully designed with lots of natural materials and doesn’t feel very touristy. It is pretty small and it is easy to walk through the entire place in about two to three hours. The park focuses on only native Australian animals and does a great job of showing them in the natural environments. There are a handful of shows throughout the day too which are posted on their website if you want to time your visit to take in one or two.
Food & Wine Tasting: Wine tasting is a major attraction in this region, and rightfully so with so many wineries dotting the countryside. Many of them are concentrated along the Maroondah Highway, just a short drive from Healesville Sanctuary, but there are so many scattered throughout the region that you can really choose almost any country road and you will find a winery somewhere along it. We couldn’t spend an entire day wine tasting as our son’s attention would have never lasted, but we visited two places (including the Badger Creek Blueberry Winery where he got to taste blueberry jams). The wineries are all beautiful and child-friendly, and many have lawn areas where you can sit out to picnic or play in the grass.
Other tasting options include the Coldstream Dairy (the yogurt was fantastic), the Choclaterie and Ice Cream Factory, and, if you are visiting between November and February, there are lots of u-pick cherry and strawberry farms.
Yarra Valley Farmstays: While we were driving through the countryside we kept passing signs for farmstays and would really love to go back and try one. The countryside was so picturesque that it would be a fantastic place to spend a few days letting kids experience farm life and muck about.
Hiking Dandenong Ranges: The Dandenong Ranges are a small pocket of temperate rainforest southwest of the Yarra Valley. We spent the night at an Airbnb just a kilometer outside of Olinda, but felt as though we were far out in the backcountry. Many walking tracks crisscross the park and provide an easy and quick escape into nature. The Explore the Dandenongs website has a great list of tracks of all lengths and difficulty. We hiked the Olinda Falls track and part of the Mathias Track.
Exploring Country Towns: We left the Hume Highway around Eurora to drive south down to the Yarra Valley and drove through gorgeous countryside along the B300. We passed through so many quaint towns and could have stopped in each one to try to the local cafe or visit the market (Saturdays and Sundays are best for finding local markets). We ended up stopping in Yarck for a delicious brunch at the Giddy Goat Cafe. The town of Healesville had a great park with a riding track for kids. The towns in the Dandenong Ranges, especially Olinda, also had lots of cute cafes and stores.
The Puffing Billy Railroad: We didn’t have enough time to fit in this attraction, but would love to return for the experience. You can ride an old steam engine through the country at the base of the Dandenong Ranges. Some of the stops have large parks and picnic areas where you can get off to play before heading back or moving on to the next town. It’s a perfect day trip for anyone with a kid that loves trains that also wants to see the area.
The Yarra Valley should definitely be on your bucket list for Australia places to see!