Take a Sunday Drive to the Yarra Valley
An hour out of Melbourne may as well be a whole new world - one full of hills and dales, mountains and valleys, and more picturesque fun than you can poke a stick at.
If the winter doldrums have got you hard, or you just need to escape the city for a little while, the Yarra Valley is an incredible, family-friendly spot to take a Sunday Drive to.
How to get there
A drive to the Yarra Valley is about three hours return, which leaves plenty of time to pick a few spots to stop at and thoroughly enjoy the day. Choose from the locations below, or plot out a circular route along the way and choose your own adventure!
Head northeast on the M3 to get out of town towards Lilydale and you're on your way.
Things to see, eat, and do
Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery
If you've got a sweet tooth you cannot do a day trip to the Yarra Valley without stopping at the Chocolaterie!
Not only do they have free chocolate tastings but there's plenty of delicious goodies to take home with you too - giant freckles, licorice bullets, nougat, fondue kits, rocky road, macarons, chocolate sauces spreads and bars - just about anything you could want!
Grab a bite to eat at the cafe or ice creamery and let the kids stretch their legs around on the lush green lawns outside.
The Chocolaterie has free entry and is open every day 9am-5pm except Christmas Day.
Find them: 35 Old Healesville Rd, Yarra Glen
Phone: (03) 9730 2777
Yarra Glen Adventure Playground, McKenzie Reserve
Nothing better than hauling the kids out of the car on a long drive and letting them run around in a park that caters for all ages. Yarra Glen Adventure Playground has something for everyone, including slides, ladders, climbing frames, monkey bars, swings, seesaws, sandpits, shaded picnic areas and a skate park.
Find it: Cnr Anzac Avenue & Bell Street, Yarra Glen
Phone: 1300 368 333
Mt Donna Buang
Lookout towers! Snow play in winter! Scenic mountain drives! Barbecues, Picnics, boutique shops, cosy pubs and the quaint village of Warburton awaits should you head out Mt Donna Buang way to the Yarra Ranges National Park.
If you have time you should absolutely check out the Rainforest Gallery, a 40 metre long observation platform (one of only three of its type in Australia) which takes you into the rainforest canopy 15 metres above the ground. See magnificent 65m old growth Mountain Ash trees, ancient Myrtle Beech trees (many of which are 300 to 400 years old), ferns, mosses and other plants that make up this damp and diverse rainforest environment along the banks of Cement Creek.
Find it: Mt Donna Buang, Warburton, Vic
Phone: 13 1963
Balgownie Estate Vineyard
If you're looking for a high-class lunch and wines to match, Balgownie Estate is a great place to stop and indulge. The Yarra Valley is the heart of winemaking country in Victoria and you're absolutely spoiled for choice for cellar doors and eateries. Balgownie has excellent fudge and is quite child-friendly, two big ticks for me!
Find them: 1309 Melba Hwy, Yarra Glen
Phone: (03) 9730 2777
Cast your eyes over the dramatic blue that is Lilydale Lake, take a stroll along one of the walking trails, have a barbecue or a picnic on the banks, and let the kids scramble over the Lilydale Lake Playspace, where they'll find a Splash pad, sensory creek bed, wooden climbing sculptures, giant basket swing, expression swing, double flying fox and spinning carousel.
A fabulous place to break up a day's driving, Lilydale lake is free and open year-round.
Find them: 435 Swansea Road, Lilydale
Phone: 1300 368 333
Rather than looking at animals through car windows, why not make one of your pit stops the Healesville Sanctuary?
Wander around the bushland and marvel at the quiet peacefulness, spot the native animals, or even check out the Australian Wildlife Centre, a hospital that sees 2000 animal patients through its doors every year.
Healesville sanctuary is home to parrots platypus, dingoes, wombats, emus, and of course koalas and kangaroos.
And if you're there around lunchtime, why not stop at any one of the eateries there? Choose from Sanctuary Harvest, Candlebark Cafe, the Pavilion Cafe, or order 48 hours ahead and grab one of the BBQ or Picnic Packs on offer.
Open 9am - 5pm daily, kids are free every weekend, public holiday, and every day of Victorian School Holidays.
Find them: Badger Creek Rd, Healesville
Phone: 1300 966 784
Warrantina Lavender Farm
Lavender scones! Have I got your attention? If that's not your bag, there's plenty of other regional fare at this heavenly lavender-scented hotspot in the Yarra Valley.
At the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges lies acres of amazing lavender farm along with the Lavender Cottage Tea Rooms and gift shop so you can take the calming flower home with you in all its forms. A nice change from the "we've been in the car all day" smell that can accompany road trips!
The farm is open Wednesday to Monday: 9am to 4pm during February to September, and Wednesday to Monday 9am to 5pm October to January. Also open all public holidays, except Good Friday, Christmas Day & Boxing Day, and closed Tuesdays unless by prior arrangement.
Find them: 105 Quayle Road, Wandin Yallock
Phone: 03 5964 4650
Yarra Valley Railway
Why not take a break from the car with a heritage train ride instead? It's a 40-minute return trip seeing the sights through the amazing Yarra Valley and through the 150m-long brick tunnel along the railway.
Better yet, once seeing all those mountains and wildlife on your trip, you can settle back with a drink and let the kids stretch their legs on the adventure playground at the front of the station. It's win-win!
Yarra Valley Railway is open on Sundays, public holidays and Wednesdays during school holidays.
Find them: Healesville-Kinglake Rd, Healesville
Phone: (03) 5962 2490
Main image credit: Yarra Valley Facebook
Buckle up! Adventure awaits.
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