June 3, 2020 / By Elisha Donkin
The Yarra Valley is one of the most popular weekend getaways from Melbourne. From the manicured vines and rolling green hills, to the delicious local produce and gastronomic delights, the Yarra Valley has plenty to offer for a relaxing escape.
And don't be put off in the cooler months. You might be surprised to find out all the great things to do indoors, from café hopping in Healesville, exploring local art galleries, and of course, drinking great local wine. The colourful leaves may have fallen and you might need to rug up for some icy mornings, but the Yarra Valley is still a treat to visit.
Café hop in Healesville
Healesville is the town at the heart of the Yarra Valley and its picturesque main street is lined with tall oak trees and vintage streetlamps. A quick walk along the street and you’ll soon catch the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
Café hopping is almost a local sport on a lazy, winter weekend in Healesville. From vegan brunch spots to cosy little laneway coffee haunts, there’s almost too many to choose from.
A long-standing favourite is Mocha and Lime, a rustic café with home-style meals made from locally sourced produce. For a real local pick, try Wombat’s Chai, a cosy café at the far end of the main street that dishes up tasty meals with plenty of healthy, vegan options.
If you’re more of a sweet tooth, drop into Natures Cakes, one of the newest places on the block, for a delicious slice of home baked cake.
Indulge in great food
There’s often nothing more that you feel like doing on a cold day than indulging in some tasty, comfort food. The gastronomic scene of the Yarra Valley is insanely delectable with a variety of local produce from savoury to sweet. Two well-known stops on the local food trail are the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie for a wide variety of gourmet chocolates and the Yarra Valley Dairy for handmade farmhouse cheeses.
For something away from the overly popular spots, head to the Badger Creek Winery, just outside of Healesville. This family-run business makes semi-sweet wine from blueberries as well as homemade preserves, ice creams and desserts.
Taste the wines and spirits of the Valley
The Yarra Valley is one place that you don’t want to be the designated driver. From world-renowned wineries to award winning distilleries and new breweries, the region has plenty of spots for an excuse to day drink and stay warm in winter.
The Yarra Valley has traditionally been celebrated for its wineries that now number over 150. You can sample some of the regional sparkling from big names in the business, like Domaine Chandon and Rochford Wines. However, it’s often the smaller boutique cellar doors that offer a more intimate experience. Try Soumah of Yarra Valley, Boat O’Craigo and Yileena Park for a tasting.
It’s not just wine that the valley is known for anymore though, with distilleries and breweries also making names for themselves. Healesville is home to the award winning Four Pillars Gin, which is bursting with crowds on weekends. For more spirits, try Alchemy Distillers for gin, vodka and whiskey and for great beer you can’t beat Watts River Brewing.
Explore an art gallery
If the weather is making you want to stay indoors, then a self-drive art gallery tour could be an ideal way to spend a day in the Yarra Valley. The region has plenty of creative souls and you can check out some of the variety of work at open galleries.
The TarraWarra Museum of Art is a distinguished gallery that showcases seasonally changing exhibitions from regional to national artists. A bit further down the road, you’ll come across Art at Linden Gate, an outdoor gallery of stainless-steel sculptures by Ernst Fries, as well as indoor exhibitions by different Victorian artists.
In the main street of Healesville, you can also head into Hearth Galleries that specialises in Aboriginal art by the creative director and other indigenous artists. For something unique, you should visit Healesville Glass Blowing Studio for personal classes or just to have a look at the colourful glass designs.
Visit the Healesville Sanctuary
The Healesville Sanctuary is undoubtedly one of the most popular attractions of the Yarra Valley. The conservation sanctuary is known for its native wildlife and is busy on any day of the year. Wandering around the sanctuary on a cold and wet day may not sound very appealing, but one of the real benefits of a winter visit is that there are far less crowds.
You don’t have to be out in the weather all day either, with several indoor enclosures you can explore. The Nocturnal House, Reptile House and platypus enclosure are all under cover and the Australian Wildlife Health Centre offers daily talks from the vets.
PLEASE NOTE - At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned are at varying stages of recovery and openness from both bushfires and COVID-19. Please check government websites and directly with each business before you travel.
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