You may see a kangaroo bouncing through the vineyards in the Yarra Valley, one of Australia’s premier wine growing regions an hour’s drive from Melbourne. Home to iconic names in viticulture (Domaine Chandon, Rochford Wines, and Coldstream Hills), this nearly two-centuries old wine-growing enclave sits amongst thick forests and clear lakes. Dotted with more than 70 cellar doors (as tasting rooms are known here), it also has trendy restaurants, fruit orchards, organic farms, and a bevy of artists’ ateliers.
While they all have a down-to-earth Melbourne vibe, its wineries run the gamut from architectural gems to rustic vineyards and include renovated ranches and boutique growers. While the region is best known for its pinot noirs and chardonnays, the area’s rich, volcanic soil, ensures a diversity of varieties thrive here, along with the prime organic produce used by local chefs. Don’t miss De Bortoli, Fergusson, and Yering Station (some of the region’s venerable favorites), and new cellars, such as Punt Road and Mandala Wine. A number of tour companies provide insider access to the wineries and the valley’s other highlights such as soaring above the vines in a hot-air balloon with Global Ballooning. While in the area, you can also meet some of the area’s most interesting locals when you wade in the water with a platypus at Healsville Sanctuary, which is home to some 200 species of native creatures—including kangaroos.