In this post we will show you our Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive from Melbourne. It was a day trip to the wine-producing district of Yarra Valley and back over the mighty Dandenong Ranges.
Our drive also takes you to Healesville Sanctuary, a perfect place to get close to native Australian wildlife. Like this cute koala:
Healesville Sanctuary, Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive
Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Drive Map
Yarra Valley day trip map
Above you can see our Yarra Valley day trip itinerary on the map.
On the map, the Yarra Valley is roughly the area between Yarra Glen Road and Warburton Highway.
Only the main roads are visible on the map but you can choose any road you like, and especially to local wineries you will have to take the smallest roads. The area is well-known for its fantastic wineries where they let you taste famous Yarra Valley wines.
Yarra Valley vineyards and hills
Leaving behind the last Melbourne suburbs we were already in a landscape of rolling hills, just half an hour away from the city.
Our first destination was the postcard-pretty tourist town of Healesville. In Healesville the main street has historic buildings that look so nice and the sanctuary is a few kilometres south of the town centre.
Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive: Healesville Sanctuary
Healesville Sanctuary is a large zoo just one hour’s drive from Melbourne. It is set in typical bushland and it should be in Australian zoo, specializes in native Australian wildlife.
The sanctuary has winding paths through separate areas for kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, dingoes, birds and many more animals so typical of Australia.
A kangaroo at Healesville Sanctuary, Yarra Valley
We had a pleasant and educative walk in the sanctuary and met many kinds of Australian animals that we would never have a chance to see in the wild. Not least as many of the animals are nocturnal and therefore sleep in their nests at daytime. But here in the sanctuary night animals are active at daytime – in dark rooms.
It was a great experience to look at a platypus dive in a dark room and outside we saw a screaming Tasmanian devil that made a terrible noise. We also saw rock-wallabies, tree-kangaroos and tiny potoroos that almost look like mice but jump like kangaroos.
More about Healesville Sanctuary: Zoos Victoria: Healesville Sanctuary
After seeing the sanctuary we drove back to Healesville and took the Maryville road east to a forest where we wanted to see giant mountain ash trees.
Yarra Ranges National Park
Road to Yarra Ranges National Park
The forest of Yarra Ranges National Park begins right at Healesville. Then the road starts climbing and there comes a lookout over a vast lake called Maroondah Reservoir.
Driving further there is a picnic area along a small river. From this picnic area there is a path to another picnic spot called Tom Tom Picnic Ground. Alternatively you can continue driving up to Tom Tom which we did.
Then, from Tom Tom we turned back after walking a bit in the forest that only had incredibly high trees. They were Giant mountain ash trees.
The giant mountain ash tree is the world’s highest flowering tree that grows 100 metres high. We were surprised how high these giant trees were and felt really small and unimportant below them.
Giant mountain ash trees of Yarra Valley, Australia
Luckily those were not the only giant mountain ash trees in the region, a lot more of them exist on both sides of the Marysville road – in fact the national park is full of them!
There’s one more popular destination where you can see mountain ash trees: the Toorangi forest further north.
Walking uphill in the forest from Tom Tom Picnic Ground three happy rosellas started following us all which they did all the way up and back. However, they kept their safety distance to us and didn’t come close at all.
More about Yarra Ranges National Park
Grants Picnic Ground, Sherbrooke Forest
Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive, Grants Picnic Ground
From Tom Tom we headed on to a forest area called Sherbrooke Forest.
There on the Grants Picnic Ground all rosellas, however, came very close. And this time there were dozens of them, coloured Australian birds that we never see in Europe. Also there were other kind of birds around the picnic ground, cockatoos and rainbow lorrikeets.
Grants Picnic Ground, Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive
An Australian specialty are public barbecues that anyone is free to use. You can find them almost everywhere in the country: picnic grounds, beaches and parks in all cities. And people really use them, a lot.
Australia is a picnic country and crowds of people, both young and old, had come here for a weekend picnic, not minding the cool and cloudy weather.
More Sherbrroke Forest birdlife
Dandedong Ranges and Rainforest
Dandedong Range rainforest
Then, from the Yarra Valley we took the road up to the only high hill in the whole region, the Dandenong Ranges. It was the winding tourist route Dandenong Tourist Road.
The Dandenong Tourist Road leads from Montrose to Upper Ferntree Gully, along which route exist many pretty villages – and a lot of lush rainforest with ferns. And then there is the William Ricketts Sanctuary.
Dandenong Ranges rainforest in Victoria, Australia
I so much love walking in the rainforest! The trees and plants are so special and very very different from our forests back home in Finland.
William Ricketts Sanctuary
William Ricketts Sanctuary, Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive
The sculptor William Ricketts stayed a long time at Mt Dandenong, from the 1930s to the 1990s. Here he created a hideaway for himself in the deep rainforest – where 92 of his ceramic sculptures still stand to be seen by visitors.
William Ricketts art work was inspired by the two indigenous desert tribes of Pitjantjara and Arrernte.
Statues at William Ricketts Sanctuary, Dandenong Ranges
William Ricketts Sanctuary is a must see place on any Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive. It’s a striking combination of massive statues and lovely rainforest.
Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Drive: Olinda and Sassafras
Olinda, Dandenong Ranges by car
Driving on from the sanctuary there are the two charming hilltop villages Olinda and Sassafras. Both villlages have historic buildings and nice tourist shops, boutiques and eateries.
Olinda and Sassafras also make the perfect base for longer walks in the Dandenong hills.
Olinda, Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive
Art work for sale at Olinda, Dandenong Ranges
After Sassafras we turned off to a smaller road down towards Belgrave. Belgrave the town of the historic steam train Puffing Billy.
Puffing Billy is a great way to tour the Yarra Valley and the rainforests around it. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can just take a Melbourne suburban train to Belgrave where the historic steam train starts – and tour the area with Puffing Billy!
More about the steam train Puffing Billy
Back to Melbourne
An Australian olive tree
After we have seen the Yarra Valley and its Dandenong Ranges area it’s time to head back to Melbourne. Or not?
Maybe you want to see more of this beautiful region? In that case go ahead and book a night in any of the small family hotels in the area, and you will have more time to explore the region.
And, if you start touring Yarra Valley wineries tasting their good wines you will need even more time in the valley….
More information on the Yarra Valley on the official website of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges
More Day Trips from Melbourne:
Great Ocean Road self drive
- The Yarra Valley is a must and another must is the Great Ocean Road. The post Great Ocean Road Self Drive Trip will guide you through the lovely coastilne.
Nobbies boardwalk, Phillip Island
- Phillip Island is another popular day trip from Melbourne: Phillip Island Self Drive Trip from Melbourne
Routes and Trips in Melbourne
- If you want to learn about Melbourne and its sights see this: Sightseeing in Melbourne.
- Where to see penguins and possums in Melbourne: Melbourne Penguins and Possums Nature Tour
- The Melbourne winter seen from the riverside: Yarra River walk in Melbourne
- A massive Melbourne event, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne is held each autumn.
- How did it feel to return to Melbourne from Europe, for work? Settling in Melbourne for Work and Living
Drive from Melbourne to Sydney
Melbourne to Sydney coastal drive with campervan
- What about a drive from Melbourne to Sydney along the coast? The travel story begins here: Melbourne to Sydney Drive along Coast