27 Mar. 2021
My partner Brayden and I both grew up in the Yarra Valley, and have spent most of our lives living in this beautiful part of Victoria. The Yarra Valley is well known for luxury experiences with five-star accommodation and gourmet dining. But luxury isn’t really our usual style of travel, and it’s certainly not the only way to experience this amazing region. We partnered with Yarra Ranges Tourism to highlight a different way of travelling around the Yarra Valley – on a budget!
We had a budget of $600 for the both of us, for a 3-day 2-night weekend trip. This budget needed to cover everything: accommodation, activities and food. We’ve rounded up our itinerary below, including all the dollars and cents to show you how possible it is to see the best of the Yarra Valley without breaking the bank!
Choosing an affordable accommodation option is the easiest way to stick to a small budget. We opted to stay at the Warburton Holiday Park, which is a great caravan park just outside the town centre of Warburton. It was $100 for a powered site for two nights. The park itself has beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, and the Yarra River runs right through it. The amenities are clean and modern, including toilets and hot showers, BBQs and picnic tables, and a fully equipped camp kitchen. We stayed in our converted campervan, but you could also pitch a tent or stay in a caravan.
Our first stop on day one was the Warratina Lavender Farm, in Wandin where you can wander through gorgeous purple lavender fields from November - February. Entry is $10 per person, which includes a talk from the lovely owner Annemarie. She explains the process of growing, harvesting and processing the lavender and the many different ways it is used.
Next up was lunch at the beautiful Seville Estate. Their menu changes on a weekly basis, based on the local produce that is in season at the time. We were watching the budget, but we were able to have a delicious main meal each, and a glass of the delicious Estate Shiraz.
We kept heading down the beautiful Warburton Highway and checked in at Warburton Holiday Park. We set up our van and explored the park, before heading into the lovely town of Warburton. There are some funky little shops to hunt through, and we loved the colourful and tiled Great Steps of Warburton. The town itself is nestled on the banks of the Yarra River, and the riverfront is just beautiful. Lined with lush palms and green foliage, it felt like we were in the rainforest!
Dinner was at Taste Yarra Valley, a charming wine and cheese bar in the main street of Warburton. You can create your own cheese platter from a list of over 20 varieties of cheese, and various charcuterie and tapas items. After much deliberation and discussion with the lovely manager Shane, we settled on four different cheeses, and they were to die for! We couldn’t have cheese without wine, and I settled on a glass of bubbles and Brayden a red. A gourmet, luxury dining experience came to just $74.
Day two started with breakfast at Yarra Valley institution, Gladysdale Bakehouse. They have a range of mouth-watering meals for breaky, a list of gourmet sandwiches, all kinds of meat pies and a cabinet full of sweet treats of all colour, shape and size! We each had an egg dish and a coffee, which well and truly filled us up for just $44.
We walked our breakfast off on the beautiful O’Shannasy Aqueduct Trail. It was a short ten-minute drive to the start of the trail, at the Dee Road car park in Millgrove. We walked a small portion of the flat, well-made 7km trail, running along an old aqueduct. We were surrounded by giant pine trees and lush ferns; it was just beautiful. Best of all? It was free!
After all that walking we were hungry again, so we headed for the other side of the valley to Napoleone Cider's Orchard Bar. Cider is the name of the game here, and their pear cider is one of the best we’ve ever had! The bar has such a great vibe, it's completely outdoors, with chairs, tables and umbrellas dotted around the area. On weekends there are food trucks supplying snacks, and when we visited it was Vietnamese. We enjoyed an afternoon eating and drinking in the sun and had a wander down the orchard rows before we left.
We stuck around this part of the Yarra Valley for the whole evening and headed into nearby Healesville for dinner. Innocent Bystander is a well-known restaurant and winery serving up pizzas and platters. We opted for the ‘chef’s selection platter’, a metre-long selection of cheese and charcuterie. For just $60, this easily filled both of us for dinner! A couple of drinks bought the total bill to $85.
After dinner we headed for Mount Donna Buang. At 1,200 metres above sea level this is the highest point of the Yarra Valley and a great place to catch the sunset. Coming from Healesville, we drove up the mountain on Donna Buang Road. This road is quite winding, narrow and gravel in parts, but it is an absolutely beautiful drive right through the forest. There is a 20-metre-tall lookout tower at the summit but be sure to bring a jacket or blanket as it was at least five degrees cooler up there!
Our final day started as all days should start. With coffee! After checking out and saying goodbye to the charming Warburton Holiday Park, we headed for Silva Coffee. More than a cafe, Silva is a speciality coffee roastery run by husband-and-wife duo Wayne and Cleo. We spent the morning with the lovely Cleo, doing a coffee tasting flight. For $20 each, we tried a variety of different types, flavours and styles of coffee. It was so fascinating learning more about our favourite drink, and there was so much we didn’t know about how coffee is grown, produced and made!
Fuelled and ready for the day, the next thing we needed was breakfast! We ate at the quaint and charming Nancy’s of the Valley in Yarra Junction. This little cafe is decorated with colourful and quirky decor, and their courtyard garden was a lovely spot to enjoy a meal. We definitely didn’t need any more coffee, but we shared a pot of tea and I had the hotcakes. They were the best hotcakes I’ve had in a long time – highly recommend!
Sadly we approached our final stop of the trip, the Blue Lotus Water Garden. The sheer size of these 14-acre gardens is mind blowing. As soon as we entered, we were transported to a tropical paradise. There are hundreds of lotus flowers, water lilies and lush greenery everywhere you look! The gardens have BBQs, picnic areas, and a cafe on site, and looked like the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon picnic. Tickets are $22 per person and you need to book online in advance.
We were able to squeeze so much into our trip, from outdoor experiences to fresh local produce, and the wineries and breweries the Yarra Valley is so well known for. We didn’t feel like we missed out on anything! We hope this itinerary inspires you to get out and experience the beautiful Yarra Valley, even if you don’t have a big budget to work with!