WORDS Victoria Johnson
Looking for a delectable day trip? The Yarra Valley is just an hour’s drive from Melbourne and is packed with sweeping vineyards, superb restaurants and passionate local foodies. So buckle your seatbelt and unbuckle your waist belt – here’s an itinerary to make your mouth water.
8AM HIT THE ROAD
Grab yourself a coffee, plug Healesville into the GPS and hit the road. Skip breakfast for now, you’ll need to save plenty of room for the day of indulgence ahead.
9AM BEECHWORTH BAKERY
Self-proclaimed as Australia’s greatest bakery, this little gem in Healesville is an essential pit-stop for any foodie. The original Beechworth Bakery is nestled in the charming town of Beechworth in high country Victoria, but its sister business in Healesville is equally impressive. Opening its doors bright and early every day of the week, serving freshly ground coffee and a range of irresistible pies, pastries and baked goods, this is the perfect place for a leisurely breakfast. Plus, there’s free WiFi, so you can make your croissant Insta-famous.
10AM BADGER CREEK BLUEBERRY FARM
It’s never too early for blueberry wine, right?! The Badger Creek Blueberry Farm is just a few minutes’ drive down the road from the Beechworth Bakery, and it opens at 10am Thursday to Monday. It takes more than a kilogram of blueberries to make a 750ml bottle of wine (think of those antioxidants!), so it’d be rude not to try it. It’s not just about the blueberry wine here; there’s also a range of hand crafted jams, pickles and jellies (try the raspberry, rhubarb and vanilla jam), plus berry toppings for ice cream and pancakes. Yum.
11AM FOUR PILLARS DISTILLERY
Gin lovers, prepare to be in heaven when you step foot into this former timber yard on the main drag of Healesville. The gins here are seriously high quality, which is clear from the multiple medals they’ve racked up at prestigious international spirit
competitions. With a cosy vibe, friendly staff and walk-in gin tastings for $10 per head (refundable on purchase), it’s the perfect pre-lunch stop. Gin and tonic tasting paddle, anyone?
NOON EZARD AT LEVANTINE HILL
Tasting gin is sure to whet the appetite, so luckily lunch options in the Yarra Valley are never far away. Just a five-minute drive from Four Pillars is legendary local restaurant Ezard at Levantine Hill. A gastronomic partnership between hatted chef
Teage Ezard and Levantine Hill Estate winery, you’re in for a treat when you dine here. To reserve some belly space for the afternoon’s activities, we recommend a selection of small plates from the all-day share plate menu – save the eight-course degustation for next time. Try the sugar cured salmon with goat’s cheese and pickled fennel, and truffled mac`n’cheese croquettes with spiced mayonnaise.
2PM DOMINIQUE PORTET WINERY
Who’s up for a wine tasting? No need to venture far – our next stop is literally a kilometre down the road from Ezard at Levantine Hill. Ninth-generation winemaker Dominique Portet chose the cool climate of Coldstream in the Yarra Valley as the site of his winery, which is renowned for producing outstanding wines. There’s a range of wines to sample here but the méthode
traditionelle sparkling rosé is our pick – and not just because it’s been named Best Australian Sparkling Rosé at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships in London (but maybe a little bit!).
3PM YARRA VALLEY DAIRY
Just seven minutes’ drive from Dominique Portet is Yarra Valley Dairy, which is famed for its fresh, soft cheeses made in distinctly Italian and French styles. The shop is housed in a century-old milking shed with beautiful views of the countryside. Here you can taste a range of cow’s cheese made with milk from nearby Yarra Valley dairy farms, and goat’s cheese made with milk from the neighbouring Victorian region of Gippsland. Try the ‘Saffy’ – marinated fresh cow’s milk cheese with saffron. Delicious!
4PM YARRA VALLEY CHOCOLATERIE & ICE CREAMERY
Free chocolate and ice cream tastings? Sign us up! Conveniently, the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie is just 10 minutes down the road from the dairy, and it’s the perfect place to indulge your sweet tooth.
With a Willy Wonka-style showroom chock-a-block with more than 250 different chocolate products, this place is a chocolate lover’s dream. Sit back and enjoy the valley views with a cup of freshly made hot chocolate, or indulge in a chocolate fondue.
5PM COLDSTREAM BREWERY
On the way home, swing by Coldstream Brewery. You’ll be driving right past it if you take the Melba Highway, and it’s open until at least 9pm daily. Brewed with high quality hops, malt and yeast, the beers here are top-notch. Taste through a paddle
in the Brewery Bar, or simply enjoy a cleansing ale to finish the day. For the non-beer drinkers, try the cider – it’s made from 100% Victorian apples.
APPOINT A SKIPPER
The Yarra Valley is a wine region, after all, so if you’re not keen to spit your wine/beer/gin tastings, appoint a skipper within your group or hire a driver for the day.
GO LIGHT ON BREKKY
This is a food-filled itinerary, so don’t load up at the start of the day –save plenty of room. Make a lunch reservation: Whether you choose to dine at Ezard at Levantine Hill or elsewhere, we recommend phoning ahead at least a few days in advance to book a table.
PACK A COOLER BAG
Insulated bags are available from most supermarkets and will help keep your take-home goodies cold.
TAKE A KEEP CUP
If you’re grabbing coffees throughout the day, bring a keep cup. Most takeaway cups aren’t recyclable, so spend $15 on a keep cup and help save the planet.