This post shows you a Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive from Melbourne, Australia. My self-drive trip takes you to the wine-producing area of Yarra Valley and back over Dandenong Ranges. You can make this as a day trip from Melbourne.
The drive also takes you to Healesville Sanctuary which is a perfect place to get close to native Australian wildlife.
Healesville Sanctuary, Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive
Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Drive Map
Above you can see my Yarra Valley day trip itinerary on the map.
Yarra Valley is roughly the area between Yarra Glen Road and Warburton Highway. I marked the main roads on the map but you can as well choose any road and to visit local wineries you have to take small side roads. The area is full of fantastic wineries where you can taste local wines.
Yarra Valley vineyards and hills
When you leave behind the Melbourne suburbs there are already the rolling hills, after just half an hour’s drive from the city.
Our first destination was the pretty tourist town of Healesville. Healesville main street has nice historic buildings and Healesville Sanctuary is a few kilometres south of the town centre.
Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive
Healesville Sanctuary is a large zoo just one hour’s drive from Melbourne. It is set in typical bushland and specializes in native Australian wildlife.
The sanctuary’s winding paths take you through separate areas fpr kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, dingoes, birds and many more animals that are 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 could never ever see in the wild. Since many of the animals are nocturnal and sleep at daytime. But here in the sanctuary you can see at night animals active in dark rooms.
It was fantastic t to observe a diving platypus and outside we saw a screaming Tasmanian devil which made quite a noise. And there were rock-wallabies, tree-kangaroos and tiny potoroos that almost look like mice but jump like kangaroos.
After the sanctuary we returned to Healesville and took the road east to Marysville where we wanted to see giant mountain ash trees.
Yarra Ranges National Park
Road to Yarra Ranges National Park
Yarra Ranges National Park begins right at Healesville. The road starts climbing and soon there is a lookout where you get a view of the vast lake of Maroondah Reservoir.
Drive further and you will pass a picnic area along a small river. From that picnic area there is a path leading up to another picnic place Tom Tom Picnic Ground. We however didn’t take the path but continued driving along the road up to Tom Tom.
And from Tom Tom we turned back after walking a bit in the forest that had very high trees.
The giant mountain ash tree is the world’s highest flowering tree. Giant mountain ash trees grow 1oo metres high. It was surprising how high these giant trees were and I felt really small and unimportant among them.
Giant mountain ash trees of Yarra Valley, Australia
Luckily these are not the only giant mountain ash trees of the area, there are a lot more of them on both sides of the Marysville road – and everywhere in the National Park.
There’s also another popular destination where you can see mountain ash trees: the Toorangi forest which is further north.
When we walked in the forest up the hill from Tom Tom Picnic Ground we had three happy rosellas following us all the way. But they kept a distance to us and didn’t want to come close.
Grants Picnic Ground, Sherwood Forest
Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive, Grants Picnic Ground
But when we stopped in another place, Grants Picnic Ground in Sherbrook Forest, the rosellas came close! And this time there were dozens of them, Australian rosellas that we don’t have in Europe! And there were other birds as well around the picnic ground, cockatoos and rainbow lorrikeets.
Grants Picnic Ground, Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive
An Australian specialty are the public barbeque that anyone is free to use. You can find them almost everywhere in the country: on picnic grounds, in beaches and in parks in the cities. And people use them, a lot.
Australia is a picnic country and lots of people, young and old, had come to the Dandenongs for a weekend picnic even when the weather was cool and cloudy.
More Sherwood Forest birdlife
Dandedong Ranges and Rainforest
Dandedong Range rainforest
So from Yarra Valley we climbed up to the only high hill in the area, Dandenong Ranges. There was the winding Dandenong Tourist Road.
The Dandenong Tourist Road leads from Montrose to Upper Ferntree Gully and along the route there are some pretty villages – and a lot of lush rainforest with ferns. And there is the William Ricketts Sanctuary.
Dandenong Ranges rainforest, Australia
I love walking in these rainforests! They 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 lived at Mt Dandenong from the 1930s to the 1990s. He created his hideaway in the middle of the rainforest where 92 of his ceramic sculptures still stand.
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 on any Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges drive. Since there are both the massive statues and the lovely rainforest where you can walk.
Olinda and Sassafras
Olinda, Dandenong Ranges by car
Driving on from William Ricketts Sanctuary there are the two charming hilltop villages Olinda and Sassafras. Both villlages have historic buildings and small tourist stores, boutiques and eateries. Olinda and Sassafras also make a good 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. It’s the town of the historic steam train Puffing Billy.
Puffing Billy is a nice way to tour Yarra Valley and the rainforests and you can take a Melbourne suburban train to Belgrave where the historic steam train starts. So if you don’t have or want to rent a car you can just take a train to Belgrave and tour the area with Puffing Billy.
Back to Melbourne
An Australian olive tree
Now we have seen Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges and it’s time to head back to Melbourne. Or not. Maybe you want to see more, in that case go ahead and book a night in any of the small hotels in the area and you will have more time for this beautiful region. And if you start visiting Yarra Valley wineries you will need time…
More Day Trips from Melbourne:
Great Ocean Road self drive
- Yarra Valley is a must and another must is to make a trip to the Great Ocean Road. My post Great Ocean Road Self Drive will guide you.
Nobbies boardwalk, Phillip Island
- Phillip Island is another popular day trip from Melbourne: Phillip Island from Melbourne
My Posts on Melbourne
- If you want to learn about Melbourne and its sights see my post Sightseeing in Melbourne.
- You can see penguins and possums right in Melbourne: Melbourne Evening Nature Tour
- A post about Melbourne winter: Yarra River walk in Melbourne
- A big event in Melbourne is the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix that’s held each autumn.
- How does it feel to return to Melbourne and start living there again? Settling in Melbourne
Drive from Melbourne to Sydney
Melbourne to Sydney coastal drive with campervan
- I have also written about the drive from Melbourne to Sydney along the coast. The itinerary description begins here: Melbourne to Sydney Drive along Coast