A Weekend Guide to the Yarra Ranges for Your Next Summer Road Trip
Eat, play and stay your way around the Yarra Ranges with this essential guide to the region.
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Is summer really summer if you didn't take a road trip? If you want to make the most of the warmer weather and longer days, there's no better way to do it than by exploring somewhere new — and luckily for us, Victoria is full of spots ripe for a weekend away. Take the Yarra Ranges, for instance — the region less than two hours east of Melbourne might be best known for its world-class wine, but it's also home to countless eateries and pubs that champion local produce, plenty of outdoor spots, top-notch cultural institutions and a wide range of accommodation options that range from cosy and affordable to indulgent and luxe. And summer is as good a time as any to check them out.
But where to start? If you're considering a weekend road trip to the Yarra Ranges, we've gathered a couple of noteworthy suggestions to add to your itinerary. From where to eat and drink to fun group activities, here's how to make the most of your weekend away.
Quarters at Hubert Estate
Under an hour's drive from the Melbourne CBD, Hubert Estate is a picture-perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. The expansive property offers an elegant spread of Australian- and European-inspired sharing dishes at its contemporary restaurant, Quarters, which highlights seasonal ingredients from around Australia. Save room for a homemade pastry or even a nostalgia-inducing chocolate-dipped soft serve. After lunch, stick around to check out the estate's art gallery featuring works by First Nations artists from more than 20 Indigenous artistic communities.
Round Bird Can't Fly
Nothing beats a hearty meal to kickstart a day, and Round Bird Can't Fly definitely hits the spot for your morning needs. The Lilydale spot boasts all-day breakfast and brunch menus, which feature the likes of house-made english muffins, tofu scramble and hearty burgers. Complete your order with a beverage like a single-origin filter or cold brew, or a locally made tea or smoothie.
For a warm local welcome, head to Healesville Hotel. This classic village watering hole sources local produce to create its modern gastropub fare — whet your palette with oysters served with mignonette dressing and fresh lime or potato and truffle croquettes, before moving on to larger dishes like beer-battered king george whiting or a plant-based burger with homemade pickles. Pair your order with a selection from the wine list that showcases mostly local producers and boasts a handy selection of by-the-glass drops.
Citrine Bistro & Bar
For innovative and contemporary dishes, Citrine Bistro & Bar is the place to be. Nestled in the heart of Olinda, this sophisticated restaurant features an elevated menu of comfort classics that changes with the seasons, like a chicken cotoletta served with kohlrabi remoulade and mustard sauce, and a cider-roasted pork cheek with poached apple, candied walnuts and a micro herb-flecked apple slaw. Whatever you choose, be sure to enjoy it with a glass from the all-Australian wine list.
Indulge in Australia's first hog rum at Killik. The family-run Belgrave distillery utilises a wild fermentation technique to concoct the unique flavours of hogo — a distinctly fruity flavour originally from Jamaica — which, in this case, presents as tropical fruit, over-ripe banana and strawberry. Head to the distillery at the foot of the verdant Sherbrooke Forest to sample this handcrafted rum neat or mixed in a cocktail. Want to hang around a little longer? Killik also offers a four-course, seven-cocktail bottomless brunch on Sundays.
Helen & Joey
If you go to the Yarra Valley and don't visit a winery, have you really gone to the Yarra Valley? While there are dozens of world-class cellar doors you can visit, one that we love is Helen & Joey. Head to this expansive cellar door in Gruyere to sample the winery's unconventional drops from its large outdoor deck overlooking the vines and the valley beyond. It's more than the views that you'll remember, though — the cellar door is also home to the estate's family of unicorns.
Take on the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail
She's an icon, she's a legend and she is the moment — it's the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail. This much-loved 40-kilometre recreation trail is known for its picturesque landscape views that course through the Yarra Valley. Whether you're trekking on foot or riding a bike, you definitely won't get bored of this historic path. Along the way, don't forget to hit up some of the region's cafes, pubs, wineries and restaurants for the full treatment.
Catch a gig
Love live music? The Yarra Ranges has you covered thanks to its year-round calendar of live acts. This year, keep an eye out for the likes of Burrinja Cultural Centre's Live on the Lawn mini-festival, legendary Aussie rockers The Black Sorrows at Healesville venue The Memo, as well as the Healesville Music Festival and River Folk Festival. Elsewhere, venues like The Railyard in Tecoma, Micawbers Tavern and Sooki Lounge in Belgrave also host regular gigs by local talents.
Burrinja Climate Change Biennale
Culture vulture? Immerse yourself in art at the Burrinja Climate Change Biennale. Until February 26, the community cultural organisation is hosting a region-wide program that spotlights diverse narratives and perspectives that explore a reimagined future. The works of 44 artists have been included in the program's exhibitions and events, which shed light on crucial climate crisis issues that are occurring across the globe.
We're all about supporting local, and the Yarra Ranges is home to a diverse array of creatives and makers you can check out when you want to do just that. Olinda Collective consists of over 30 local stall-holders showcasing craft, vintage and upcycled products, while Clementine by Design in Kallista offers a range of decorative homeware. For plant lovers, Where the Wild Things Grow in Belgrave welcomes beginners and collectors alike to get a bit more green into their lives.
Extend your stay in the Yarra Ranges by booking a cosy night at Grasmere Lodge (pictured above). A short drive away from some of the region's finest wineries, this one-bedroom, one-bath space — previously a 1900s fruit-pickers' cottage — sits on a picturesque 32-acre site that's also home to alpacas, cows, chickens and other flora and fauna.
Looking for a stay that'll get see you surrounded by nature? Look no further than Santosa Cottage. This bed and breakfast hideaway in Sassafras is just the ticket for when you're looking to really get away from it all while still enjoying the creature comforts. The split-level A-frame cottage is nestled in the verdant forest of the Ranges, so you'll be surrounded by leafy gum trees and birdlife. The cottage is also conveniently located near Sassafras Village and Sherbrooke Forest, making it an ideal spot from which to set off on an adventure.
Balgownie Yarra Valley
Balgownie Yarra Valley screams luxury. This winery and accommodation destination in Yarra Glen provides an array of rooms — 70 to be precise — including ones with private terraces options and spa baths. Guests can also access the property's indoor heated pool, steam room and gym, as well as ten percent off wine purchases from the property's cellar door. Treat yourself even further by booking a treatment at the on-site Endota Spa or a hot-air balloon ride for breathtaking views of the valley.
The Farmhouse at Meletos
Another high-end option, The Farmhouse at Meletos houses 23 rooms with tranquil views of vines, apple orchards and the Great Dividing Range. Each of the rooms in this Tuscan-inspired building is unique, and is furnished with rare pieces from around the world. The property also boasts an onsite restaurant and cafe plating up elegant, Italian-inspired dishes that showcase premium local produce, as well as a dedicated massage retreat, a perfect spot for when you're after some me-time.
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