Taking a breather in the Yarra Valley
*This guide was originally published in partnership with Sitchu.com.au
Known as the birthplace of Victoria's wine industry, with a history stretching back 170 years, the Yarra Valley encompasses all the offerings of what makes a city escape ideal; great wine, amazing food, and an abundant of boutique businesses — all reachable within a leisurely one-hour drive from Melbourne's CBD.
Whilst the area is known for its award-winning wineries and locally sourced food, the ‘back to nature’ pull of its surrounds is one not to be underestimated. Being a natural amphitheatre, the Yarra Valley also offers city dwellers the perfect opportunity to retreat and recharge.
Book a table for lunch at one of the many winery restaurants in the area, walk around the picturesque Healesville Village where you’ll discover shopping, cafés and local food producers, or perhaps, simply lose yourself in the breathtaking views of mountains that surround the valley. However it is you decide to spend your time, let the breeze usher you from one corridor of vines to the next with our guide below.
WHERE TO EAT
When visiting the Yarra Valley, you really must pack your appetite with you. The many passionate chefs heading up the region’s restaurant menus, really mean business when it comes to serving delicious quality meals to visitors. Treat yourself to a lazy long lunch on a table with a view, or visit a local provedore to grab all the essentials for a picnic.
Set amongst green, rolling hills and rows upon rows of vines, Zonzo Estate’s restaurant is the perfect pitstop to enjoy a leisurely lunch of traditional Italian cuisine. Sit inside on one of their wooden tables by the roaring fire, or soak up the sunshine outside overlooking the vines.
Sitting snug on a hill, TarraWarra houses a restaurant, cellar door and art gallery that overlooks the estate's picturesque vineyard. Try a three-course meal in the restaurant, managed by chef Troy Spencer who uses produce from the kitchen garden. Don't forget to visit the cellar door, where, for $5 a person, guests can sample wines in a romantic-lit venue.
If you’d prefer to put on a DIY lunch or picnic, head over to Kitchen & Butcher, lovingly known by the locals simply as ‘K&B’. Here you can create your own grazing plate, however big or small, from their large offerings of gourmet cheese, cured meats, and other delicious delicacies.
WHERE TO DRINK
Whether you’re looking to do some serious wine tasting within one of the Valley’s countless cellar doors or you’re keen to sit down for an afternoon coffee date, the hardest thing you will have to do during your visit is deciding which wineries or cafe to give your time to. If your time is limited, these three options below are a great place to start for a tipple.
The beautifully renovated tasting room is enough of a drawcard in itself, to head along to one of the main attractions of the Yarra Valley, Domaine Chandon. The luxurious pastel-hued venue is only topped by the incredibly vista of Chandon’s vines spreading out to the horizon.
If a no-fuss cellar door experience is what you’re after, then the Graceburn Wine Room is the place. Located in the centre of Healesville’s main street, the Mac Forbes-run wine bar is a cosy and intimate space to sample a wine flight and obtain some in-depth knowledge from the friendly staff.
WHERE TO STAY
Intro: You won’t find many of the larger hotel chains in the Yarra Valley, and that’s a good thing. What you will find instead is a host of cottages and B&Bs, seamlessly merging with the surrounding lush landscapes, wild forests and singing cascades. The accommodations on offer are both homely and stylish, so much so that you might just be tempted to stay in and ‘be’, even when there’s so much to see and do at your doorstep.
If you’re after more than just a ‘bed for the night’, give yourself some nature and nurturing at one of Botanica Editions’ intimate residences, the Willow House. Have your morning coffee on the deck overlooking the considered and curated garden, with overhanging willow trees and pick from the seasonal produce garden beds to cook-in.
Dwelling next door is Habitat House, the second of the two Botanica Editions’ offerings. This two-bedroom retreat is styled with heart, right down to a gas fireplace that will have you cosying up beside it with a good book. Karen, the owner, is well connected with the local business and will only be too happy to offer advice on getting the most out of your stay.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
The trick to making your Yarra Valley visit all the more special is to look beyond the wineries and get to know the heart of the region. Like paying a visit to the weekend farmer’s market and meeting the growers and makers of the local produce, or popping in to visit the workspace of a resident florist, to see the creative process that takes place before they head out to style a wedding. Even Mother Nature herself is working behind the scenes, always putting on a magical show, whatever the season, tempting you to take a walk in the park or a hike through the mountains.
At the gateway to the Yarra Valley, in Coldstream, an unassuming strip mall hides the delight that is Sugar Bee Flowers. While the enigmatic owner and floral stylist, Youki, primarily does weddings in the Valley, if you’re staying at one of Botanica Editions’ residences, you can also get in touch with her to provide some blooms for your stay.
Just behind the main street, Coronation Park, in Healesville, hosts local organic growers selling their produce every Saturday morning. Head on down to have a chat with the farmers about the ‘real food’ they have on offer and what’s in season. You might also be lucky enough to have the chocolate van For Fudge Sake stop by for a little extra treat.
Perhaps the best offering the Yarra Valley serves both its locals and visitors is the visual feast and calming presence of its surrounding nature. Take an early morning walk through the many parklands, or simply drive around and watch the heartwarming display of wide open fields play out from your window.