The Yarra Valley may be synonymous with Victoria’s wine country, but as the wettest region in Victoria it’s also home to spectacularly lush scenery, first-class produce and unique wildlife. Travelling in the Brand-New Mazda BT-50, it takes a little over an hour to get to the Yarra Valley though this region is deserving of your attention over an entire weekend.
Get out of work a few hours early on your Friday afternoon, stock up on provisions for a home-cooked meal (if you’re organised enough, it’s a brilliant opportunity to order a meal from your favourite restaurant through Providoor, and you’ll be able to finish off the cooking at your weekend’s accommodation), and hit the road towards the Maroondah Highway. You’ll want to leave early because a) Melbourne Traffic, and b), if the weather is clear, driving towards and through the Yarra Valley in dappled evening light is one of the most stunning drives in the state. Case in point; the winding road of Black Spur.
Surrounded by giant ferns and a towering forest of mountain ash trees, lower your windows, and let the cool fresh air fill the cabin of the car. This is the kind of drive you want to turn around and start again once it’s over (the time will come later in the weekend), but it’s best to head to your accommodation while there’s still a little bit of natural light to help guide the way.
Cabn have set up a completely off-grid, sustainable tiny house called ‘Allira‘ in the middle of the Yarra Valley, and unlike other eco-cabins, Allira’s are also dog-friendly. Board games and star-gazing are the set itinerary for the night, and a symphony of birdsong is guaranteed to wake you in the morning.
Perhaps one of the most-known activities – and with good reason – in the Yarra Valley, is hot air ballooning. Taking in the entire spanse of the valley from the sky, at sunrise is a truly unforgettable experience. Book in early with Global Ballooning Melbourne and they’ll take you on a floating jaunt over the rolling hills and vineyards. If you’re more inclined to see the sites of The Valley from ground-level, grab your bikes from the back of the BT-50 and head to the O’Shannassy Aqueduct trail, a 30km walking and bike riding trail that takes from your East Warburton to Don Valley in the upper ranges of the Yarra Valley. The trail is set into the mountain ranges, and gives a gloriously contrasting view to the natural beauty of the Yarra Ranges than what you would see from above, and its slight gradient makes it perfect for all ages and fitness levels.
After taking in the sites and working up an appetite, head to Healesville and local hotspot Habituel – well known in the region for their excellent coffee and danish pastries. You can even grab a bag of their freshly roasted coffee beans to take home and tide you over until your next trip.
While you’re in the hub of The Valley, park the car and head for a wander along the main drag, dropping in to a few art galleries and even glassblowing studios as you go. You’ll get the best feel for the local and Australian art scene at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, where a brilliant collection of Australian art from the second half of the 20th century right up to the present day is on show.
After your cultural dose, you’d be remiss not to head on over to Healesville Sanctuary, where it’s just as good as your childhood memory leads you to believe. You’ll catch all the usual suspects (koalas, echidnas and wombats) in an hour, or spend a chunk of your afternoon here and relish the opportunity to get up close and personal with dingos, birds of prey and Tasmanian devils. With or without kids, visiting Healesville Sanctuary is a must for all urban dwellers.
Mineral-rich soil of the Yarra Valley, paired with an average of 1,200 millimeters of rain per year means that the fruit and veg out here is up there with the best in the country. Ramarro Farm provides fresh produce to Melbourne’s best restaurants including Attica, Bar Liberty, Carlton Wine Room and Cumulus (to name a few), and you can now order produce boxes and/or seedlings and pick up direct from the farm. If you ask nicely, you might be privy to a tour of 200 fruit trees and 3.5 acres of veggie production. A tiny but mighty production that will leave you wanting to start a new life living off the land.
Start your day slowly and waking with the birds, put on a pot of coffee in your amenity-filled Allira cabin, and take a seat outside in full, smug knowledge that you are the only one here for miles around. Check-out time is mid-morning, leaving you plenty of time to drive between vineyards and between mountain ranges, while the BT-50 does its thing and tackles some of the unsurfaced roads around the area with ease. Take a couple of the roads less travelled upwards and you’ll find panoramic views at Mount St Leonard, or climb up the 21m lookout tower at Mount Donna Buang.
Sunday lunch could be nowhere else but in Coldstream and at the two-hatted Oakridge, a restaurant and operating winery that gives you a true tasting of the region. Opt for a table outside (if it’s warm enough) to set yourself amongst the low-hanging clouds that settle across the vineyard, while your mind is blown by a waste-free kitchen that has created a tasting menu with most of the fruit and vegetable is grown in the Oakridge garden, the bread and cheeses are made in the kitchen, and meat, dairy and fish are all sourced within a few hours from the restaurant.
The kitchen here was put on the map by chefs Matt Stone and Jo Barrett, who moved on to new sustainable adventures in 2020, but left their baby in the talented hands of Aaron Brodie. The future of restaurant operations appears to be right here at Oakridge, and it’s an inspiring end to a weekend of wonders. The soft leather seats of the BT-50 will nurse your full, content body all the way back to the city.
This article is part of a series, proudly presented in partnership with the Brand-New Mazda BT-50. Thank you for supporting the brands who support Boss Hunting.