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The Yarra Valley, Victoria

The Yarra Valley, Victoria

An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983

The Yarra Valley

Located just an hour outside of Victoria‘s capital city of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations, with its rich culinary and wine culture attracting visitors from the busy city, as well as from all over the country. For the avid wine lover, or epicurean, the Yarra Valley is definitely one of Australia‘s must see destinations, with over 80 wineries in the Yarra Valley wine region, including famous names such as Coldstream Hills, De Bortoli, Rochford wines, Punt Road and many more. Some of the varieties the region is best known for include chardonnay, pinot noir, and its sparkling wine, though you can find cabernet sauvignon and shiraz as well, with a wide variety generally on offer during a wine tasting, whether at one of the larger locations, or at a smaller boutique winery. Aside from its delicious wine, the Yarra Valley also makes plenty of its own beer or cider for those who prefer something lighter, with a few dedicated brewery venues such as Napoleone Brewery or Coldstream brewery being some of the better known. Though the Yarra Valley is mostly known for its food and beverage culture, while visiting it’s definitely also worth exploring the natural heritage of the region, with stunning landscapes nearby, such as those in the Yarra Ranges National Park and the Warburton Rail Trail, or you can see some of Victoria’s native wildlife at the Healesville Sanctuary.

History

The Yarra River or ‘Birrarung’, as it is known to indigenous Australians, has been a site of aboriginal habitation for over 30,000 years, with the waters of the river serving as the region’s lifeblood. The Yarra Valley‘s name in its indigenous tongue means the “Place of Mists and Shadows”, with the river being carved into the land by an ancient ancestral creator spirit known as ‘Bunjil’ the wedge tailed eagle. The colonial history of the Yarra Valley has its origins as Melbourne’s bread basket, with an agricultural heritage the stretches back to earliest periods of settlement in the region, with the cool climate and abundant freshwater making it the ideal climate for growing a wide variety of crops, as well as for grazing and animal agriculture. The population boom of Victoria’s gold rush era saw the region grow further in importance, with the Yarra Valley serving to feed the vast influx of migrants from interstate and across the world, as well as being one of the largest timber producing regions in the state. Many old tunnels can be found around the Yarra Valley dating back to this time period, with larger ones around Warburton or Warrandyte noting the passage of this iconic moment in Victorian history.

The significance of viticulture in the Yarra Valley dates back to 1838, with the Ryrie brothers planting their own vineyard at a site called Yering station, now known as Chateau Yering. Yarra Valley wine began to grow in popularity over the ensuing decades, with Yering station even winning a Grand Prix at the 1889 Paris exhibition, the only wine from the southern hemisphere to do so. Despite these early successes, the Yarra Valley wine region essentially ceased to exist following the onset of the Great Depression in the early 20th century, with almost the entirety of wine production grinding to a halt, and the land converted to other uses such as pastures. This was largely driven by changing consumer preferences in the economically constrained environment, with many Australians opting for far cheaper fortified wines, rather than the more expensive ones coming out of the Yarra Valley. The period of economic depression and ensuing decade of war left the region’s wine making heritage devastated, with viticulture being absent until its revival beginning in the early 1960s. The subsequent decades saw the introduction of many of today’s familiar names such as Chateau Yarrina (now De Bortoli), Coldstream Hills, Yarra Ridge, Punt Road, Rochford wines and many more, this revival period even saw French champagne makers Moet et Chandon even establishing an Australian base at Coldstream in 1986, known as ‘Domaine Chandon‘. Today the Yarra Valley is a tremendously popular destination for travellers coming from Melbourne, or from further abroad, with the numerous cellar door wine tasting, and wine tours providing a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne’s city life.

Sunrise at the Yarra Valley.

Travelling to the Yarra Valley

There are numerous ways to explore the Yarra Valley region, though with the relatively lacking public transport, it’s probably best to arrange car or coach transport, the latter of which being particularly useful if you opt for a Yarra Valley wine tour. Some of the main towns in the Yarra Valley region include Healesville, Yarra Glen, Coldstream, and Warburton, all of which are a convenient distance away from one another, making exploring the region as a whole a relatively easy exercise. You could even choose to visit the Yarra Valley on a day trip, which at only an hour outside of the city makes it the perfect place to go out for lunch, or a snacking plate of wine and cheese, surrounded by the serene landscape of Victoria’s wine country. Some of the more famous vineyards you might find on a winery tour of the Yarra Valley include names such as Coldstream Hills, De Bortoli, Rochford Winery, Punt Road, or Domaine Chandon, though for the enthusiast you can find an enormous variety, with the over 80 wineries in the region offering a range of boutique wine tasting experiences to suit your taste. During a tour of the Yarra Valley you’ll also want to stop by Yarra Valley Dairy, as well as Yarra Valley Chocolaterie for some delightful culinary treats, both being located nearby to each other in the town of Yarra Glen, and adding chocolate and ice cream to the list of specialty treats the Valley holds. Another point of interesting along the way is the TarraWarra Museum of Art, which houses a private collection of figurative, abstract and landscape paintings from Australian and Indigenous Australian artists. Odyssey visits the Yarra Valley as part of its small group tour of Victoria, exploring Yarra Glen on our tour around the state. One of the best ways to explore the Yarra Valley and the surrounding region is through a small group tour. Odyssey specialises in this kind of tour, offering and engaged, and intimate tour to the Yarra Valley ideal for seniors, solo travellers, or couples heading to Victoria and the Yarra Valley.

Grapes in late harvest at a winery in Yarra Valley, Australia

Articles about Australia published by Odyssey Traveller:

For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.

External articles to assist you on your visit to Victoria:

Articles

Victorian architecture of central Melbourne, Australia Thanks to two economic booms bringing prosperity and people to the growing city, ‘Marvellous Melbourne‘ was the quintessential Victorian ‘boom-town’. Today, the city has the finest collection of Victorian…
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Arcades of Melbourne, Victoria Imagine yourself in Marvellous Melbourne, in the second half of the 19th century. The Gold Rushes – and subsequent land boom – have made your city the richest in the world,…
Aboriginal Art for small group tours Australian Aboriginal art is the oldest unbroken tradition of art in the world dating back at least 85,000 years. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in Australia, Indigenous people…
Introduction to Aboriginal Fire Management Traditional Aboriginal fire management, often called ‘cultural burning’, is the practice of regularly using fire to burn vegetation and manage the environment. Dating back over 50,000 years, to the time…
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Ancient Aboriginal trade routes of Australia Trade was a central part of life for Aboriginal people prior to the British settlement of Australia. Trading routes criss-crossed the nation, dispersing goods, information, technologies and culture thousands…
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