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The Yarra Valley in Victoria, Australia is famous for its wineries and stunning scenery. But the best part is that it’s only a one hour drive from Melbourne, making it the perfect destination for a Yarra Valley day trip from the city.
There are plenty of activities and things to do in Yarra Valley, I especially love the outdoor adventures, most of which are free or just include a small parking charge. A Yarra Valley day trip wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a cellar door, but if you’re looking for an alcohol-free alternative or more family friendly activities, check out my blog post on 8 things to do in Yarra Valley that don’t involve wineries.
This Yarra Valley day trip itinerary incorporates rainforests, redwoods, scenic drives, waterfall hikes suitable for any level of hiker, towns to explore and time to relax at a winery before you head home.
How to get to the Yarra Valley?
It’s only a one hour drive from Melbourne to Yarra Valley, taking the Maroondah Highway. The best way to do this is with your own vehicle or by hiring a car.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to do a wine tour, there are several organised tour options that will organise a day trip with a bus pick up and drop off from Melbourne city. This is a great option if you’re looking to head to the wineries with friends for a fun and boozy day trip.
Tours like Wine Bus will take you tastings, lunch and even a stop of the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and creamery.
The best time of year to visit the Yarra Valley
There is no wrong time of year to visit the Yarra Valley. During the summer months of November - February, the weather is a lot more predictable, especially if you’re looking to sit out and enjoy some wine in the sunshine.
I also love the Yarra Valley in the autumn and winter months of March - July, the rainforests are much more lush and atmospheric and the waterfalls are much heavier flowing thanks to the higher rain levels.
If you are looking to stay overnight in Yarra Valley, I absolutely recommend this spectacular Yarra Valley Lodge Accommodation for a getaway with friends or family.
Yarra Valley day trip itinerary
Start your day at a good time by leaving Melbourne no later than 9am to drive just over an hour to your first stop.
Drive the Black Spur Drive
Black Spur drive is a 1hr 15 drive from Melbourne. This iconic drive takes you on winding roads through the rainforest, underneath lush canopies of gum trees and through fern gullies. There aren’t many places to stop on the drive and it often wouldn’t be safe to, but there is a car park at the end with a picnic area so you can safely stop and take some photos. This is called Dom Dom Saddles picnic area on Google Maps.
Allow time for this drive, this scenic stretch of road is only a few km but it’s windy and can’t be travelled fast.
Hike Steavenson Falls
After your drive through Black Spur, continue on for 30 minutes to Steavenson Falls.
These falls are great for any level or walker or hiker as the viewing platforms at the bottom of the falls are just a short few minutes walk from the car park on an accessible and maintained gravel path.
There is a bridge across the river to view the falls and also a viewing platform on either side to get closer to the falls.
If you’re feeling more adventurous then there’s a short hike to the top of the falls. This is a marked path but it is rocky and steep in places. It takes around 20 minutes each way and leads to a viewing platform across the drop of the falls.
It is a bit of a strenuous walk if you’re not a regular hiker, but I also saw lots of families with young children going up the hill so it’s definitely doable, although not accessible for wheelchairs or walking assistants.
The car park at Stevenson Falls does have a pay & display machine, it was not operational when we visited so we parked for free, but we also saw people parking on the side of the road outside the car park in order to avoid the parking fee.
Walk among the California Redwoods
A 1 hour drive from Stevenson Falls will take you south on the Yarra Valley day trip to the California Redwoods plantation. There are two routes you can take to get here, both are roughly the same and with beautiful views, I prefer the slightly longer route from Stevenson Falls and east around the Yarra Ranges National Park. The views are stunning across the valley and there are more winding roads, we drove through rain, fog and sunshine all on this short one hour drive through the hills.
I love visiting the redwood plantation because seeing California redwoods in Victoria and when you’ve been driving through rainforests is just so unexpected. Seeing how huge and towering they are, especially packed close together like this in a plantation is spectacular.
This is also a great spot to stop for a picnic lunch. The car park is large and there’s a large grassy area right next to the trees which is perfect for picnics and games or two before you continue on your journey.
The track from the main road to the redwoods car park is not maintained towards the end and it does get a bit rocky and muddy. We managed it perfectly fine in a small SUV and saw others in wagons also manage it, however there is space on the side of the road for plenty of cars to park if you’re not comfortable going on the track.
Check out Healesville
Just over 30 minutes drive from the redwoods is Healesville, the main town in the Yarra Valley area and with plenty of options for a short or long stay.
Healesville is the home to Healesville wildlife sanctuary, where you can interact with and get close to all the famous Australian wildlife. This could easily be a day trip in itself, especially if you’re looking for a family day out.
Healesville is also home to Four Pillars Gin distillery. If you’re a gin fan, then this one's for you! They have a huge indoor and outdoor seating area. There are also tasting sessions and snacks if you want to make an afternoon of it.
I love Healesville for it’s quaint, countryside vibe and location. The main street is full of independent stores and op shops that I always love to check out when we’re driving through.
Relax at a winery
End your Yarra Valley day trip by sitting back and relaxing at one of the many famous Yarra Valley wineries.
There is a huge choice of wineries and many of my favourites are just outside of Healesville back on the Maroondah Highway, so you’re on the right track to head home, being just one hours drive back to Melbourne from here.
Head to the cellar door or seating areas at any of these local wineries and you’ll be sure to find a spot to relax and enjoy the vineyard and Yarra Valley views. Many wineries will offer you a tasting of some of their current wines with the option to buy. Or you can just purchase a glass from their menu.
Some options for you to consider:
Helen & Joey
Be responsible when visiting wineries and either take your wine to go or make sure you have a designated driver to take you all home.
If you’re not a wine fan and craft beers and breweries are more up your alley, then be sure to check out Coldstream Brewery which is also on the Maroondah Highway, at the township of Coldstream, Victoria. Another great stop to make on your way back to Melbourne.
This is one of my favourite day trips from Melbourne and I hope you love it too! Let me know if you do this route and where your favourite was.
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Flights: I use Expedia to find great flights and the best deals all over the world, they have regular sales and offers so I always check their website. I also check CheapOair to find cheap deals on round trip flights.
Car Rental: I love the customer service I've always gotten and the variety of options with Rental Cars. But for short notice rentals, I've been using Expedia for the last year, they always seem to have great one-day rates or last-minute rates from the main rental companies.
Accommodation: I prefer the flexibility of booking accommodation with Booking.com so I can cancel or change my reservation without a fee or only pay on arrival for most properties. For longer or more unique stays I prefer AirBnB because you can get the long stay discount, you can also find more unique properties and book experiences with talented locals and businesses. For my budget trips, I always stay in hostels and book through Hostelworld because they have great guarantees if anything does go wrong. If you arrive and your booking is not at the property, they refund the full deposit AND give you $50 extra credit.
Tours and organised trips Although I don’t use tours that often, I do like to book local experiences or day trips once I reach my destination. For that I use GetYourGuide because it has the biggest selection and variety of tour and experience options.
Travel Insurance: For all my longer trips and for the entire year I’ve spent in Australia, my partner and I have always used World Nomads. They cover everything I need and I can buy coverage for a year at a time, they also allow you to purchase cover when you’re already outside your home country. Plus my camera gear and equipment is covered and they also have special cover for when I’m scuba diving too.
My camera gear and equipment: I use a Canon 77D with an 18-135mm lens or a 50mm lens. And a DJI Mavic Mini Drone. For all my gear including laptops, tripods and more camera accessories read my travel photography gear guide.