To celebrate my 26th birthday, my boyfriend Steve and I went on a quick getaway to the Yarra Valley – a region about an hour’s drive east from Melbourne, which surrounds the Yarra River and is renowned for its numerous wineries and vineyards. It is a picturesque part of Victoria, and its sprawling green hills would make for the perfect backdrop for a stunning outdoorsy wedding or quick weekend getaway. If you ever find yourself in the area, here is a rundown of what we did to inspire your trip planning.
We left our home around 11:45am on Saturday, driving an hour down winding country roads before arriving at Zonzo Estate. This venue specialises in authentic Italian food and pairs it with their own wine made on the estate.
Steve and I shared two pizzas at $24 each: pizza del porcini (porcini mushrooms and panchetta on a bed of creamy milk-like cheese with tomato) and pizza con melanzane (featuring the two best vegetables, zucchini and eggplant). The pizzas were divine, made with just bases at that perfect thickness, thin but still sturdy to never collapse under the weight of the generous toppings, but still quite filling and the smoky, earthy flavours dissolved into heavenly perfection. I had to pair this with a glass of their moscato, which was sweet and refreshing.
AirBnB in Yarra Glen
Our stay for the night was a lovely AirBnB, the nicest home in the heart of the region. Our host Tracy was very accommodating and friendly, with two yellow canaries Fred and Barnaby who loved to twitter. Steve and I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon and evening here on Saturday. It was relaxing taking it easy; I planned our itinerary for Sunday, read a magazine, walked down to the local IGA five minutes away and cooked a scrumptious pasta with vegetable and chicken sausages. I also had numerous glasses of cabernet merlot from our host Tracy, who is a red wine lover. Breakfast was laid out for us the next morning, which set us up for a good start.
I highly recommend Tracy’s place if you’re looking for lovely yet affordable accommodation in the area! She has two rooms (hosting up to five people), a really lovely living area with big windows that let in the afternoon sun (good for a read!), and a bathtub (I love treating myself to a bath on a trip).
I tend to prefer AirBnBs over hotels for their wallet-friendly price point (vineyard stays ranged in the hundreds of dollars, which was much too scary for my bank account to comprehend) and their personal touch – usually you’re sharing the home with the owner themselves, and it’s nice meeting a new friend for the night where you can share tips of what to do in the area, stories and sometimes food (and wine, in our case here!). I’ve personally had amazing stays at AirBnBs in both Australia and the United States, with only one being a utter disappointment (in New York City… but that’s another story!)
Yarra Valley Chocolaterie
After breakfast at Tracy’s AirBnB, we hopped on over to the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie for our morning sugar fix. I ordered the ‘real hot chocolate’ which includes an extra shot of chocolate – I opted for milk chocolate. In my head, I was expecting something revolutionary, but I found the hot chocolate fairly standard for a chocolate cafe… much like the what I can find in the Lindt Cafes and Max Brenners in Melbourne. The chocolate merchandise section was very big and bursting with loads of gift options though, perfect for picking up souvenirs for yourself, friends and family.
The view in the outdoor seated patio area was gorgeous though – lots of rolling green hills. Definitely sit outdoors if you can.
A twenty minute drive from the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie, the Healesville Sanctuary was next on our itinerary. It was a manic drive as we were keen to make the keeper talks, all of which are free and most happen daily. I highly recommend planning which keeper talks and shows you are most interested in beforehand, so you can time your visit appropriately.
Spirits of the Sky was the highlight of our visit – a half hour spectacle where birds of prey literally swoop over and even through the audience, showing off their skills and talents. All the birds were pretty well-behaved, except for the cheeky Kevin (the parrot?), who refused to show up when called by the keeper (I’m lying if I said I was disappointed).
Another highlight was the Fighting Extinction Aviary, where the birds were quite friendly and weren’t afraid as we got up close. You can even feed the birds with a liquidy mix from the keepers if you were so inclined. The birds were so pretty and colourful – we saw Rainbow Lorikeets, Regent Parrots and other species that I can’t remember the name of.
Yarra Valley Dairy
We finally moseyed our way over to the Yarra Valley Dairy for a late lunch, tucking into their cheese platter and antipasto side. I remember feeling very hungry and looking at the rather average-sized plate with four cheeses (each the size of half my fist… and I have small hands!), and thinking it wouldn’t be enough to fill both Steve and I up… but it was surprisingly filling! We ended up taking away the leftovers (it isn’t quite a Michelle meal unless I bring home leftovers; restaurants love me), which was enjoyed later that night. I do recommend the cheese platter which features four of their own cheeses – a mixture of hard and soft, spreadable varieties – and sharing that between 3 people (the perfect amount, in my opinion) or 2 (like us, if you’re feeling indulgent!). Other than that, food options are pretty limited, so be sure you’re keen on cheese before you go.
Let me know if you found this itinerary useful in the comments. If you have any other recommendations in the Yarra Valley area, feel free to share below, would love to hear your thoughts and perhaps check out more on our next visit!