Outside of Melbourne, settlement in the Yarra Valley represented a very significant segment in the history and economic development of the state of Victoria.
In the 1850s, the region was on the bustling route to the Warburton goldfields. The Yarra River was also the main traffic path for the timers industry during the 1890s, as such, it was developed as the primary food production region for Melbourne.
The Yarra River or ‘Birrarung’, as it is known to the Indigenous Wurundjeri people means "Place of Mists and Shadows", played a huge role in the development of Melbourne which was rapidly growing up around its banks. The Wurundjeri people have occupied the lands around the Yarra Valley for at least 30,000 years and the Yarra River was a life-source. Their dreamtime stories tells us that the river was etched into the landscape by the ancestral creator spirit Bunjil - the wedge tailed eagle.
Beginning with the Victorian gold rush it was extensively mined, creating the Pound Bend Tunnel in Warrandyte, and the Big and Little Peninsula Tunnels above Warburton. These can be visited today. Widening and dams, like the Upper Yarra Reservoir have helped protect Melbourne from major flooding. The Upper reaches of the Yarra Valley remain very important for Melbourne’s fresh water supply and feed close to 70% of all inflows.
The Yarra Valley was also Victoria's first wine growing district – with a history stretching back nearly 180 years. Vines were first planted in 1838 by the Ryrie brothers, on their property known today as Chateau Yering. Viticulture spread rapidly through the 1860s and 1870s, led by the early settlers including the de Castella and de Pury families, who were exporting local wines to the British and European markets and were winning awards around the world. However, increased demand for fortified wine saw Yarra Valley wine production cease in 1921. Replanting began in the late 1960s and by the early 1990s, the acreage under vines hit a high.
Today it is one of the worlds leading cold climate wine growing regions, with internaitonally known names such as Domaine Chandon, St Huberts, De Bortoli, Yering Station, Oakridge and Coldstream Hills.
By the turn of the 20th century, the region was serviced by a rail link to the city and became the playground of holidaymakers looking to escape the city.
The region continues to play an important role in agricultural berry and fruit production along with its acclaimed reputation for cool climate wines. It remains Victoria’s premier food and wine tourism destination owed to it natural beauty flanked by the Great Dividing Range.