The Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Mountain Ranges are a great country escape from the bustling city life of Melbourne. Less than an hour drive from Melbourne’s city centre means that you can easily escape to a mountain getaway for a weekend holiday (or longer). The Yarra Valley is host to the Dandenong Ranges, which are known for the tall Mountain Ash trees that make up the dense forest and rainforest that dominates the area. The mountains are low lying; mostly made up of low lying mountains, rolling hills, valleys, and gullies. The tallest mountain in the range is Mount Dandenong, at 633 metres high.

Budget Blog - Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Budget Blog - Mt Dandenong

Mt. Dandenong photo credit: Wikipedia

Budget Blog - Melbourne to Yarra

Melbourne to Yarra Valley Map Photo Credit: Google Maps

Hiring a Car in Melbourne

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Melbourne Car Hire Map Photo Credit: Budget.com.au

As you can see, there are many convenient places to hire a car in Melbourne for a trip to the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges. The car rental locations in Melbourne are separated into north, east, south, and west regions. You can hire a car in Melbourne City, or as one of the 3 airports: Melbourne Airport car hire centre, Melbourne Airport West, or the Avalon Airport just to name a few of the convenient car hire locations in Melbourne. When you hire a car, be sure to consult with the car hire specialist so that he or she can give you travel tips about the Yarra Valley region, share maps with you and educate you as to any driving or safety restrictions.

Things to do in Yarra Valley             

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Yarra Valley in Autumn Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Budget Blog - Dandenong - Ranges Lake

Photo Credit: VisitMelbourne.com

The Yarra Valley is a great escape from the city life. Your holiday here can be a blend of relaxation and outdoor adventure. When visiting the Yarra Valley some of the highlights to look for are: dining, arts, and culture, and exploring the forests and wildlife. The list of things to do in the Yarra Valley includes RJ Hamer Arboretum, SkyHigh Lookout, Dandenong National Park, William Ricketts Sanctuary, hot air balloon trips, the National Rhododendron Gardens, and the Puffing Billy Rail Road.

Fine Dining in the Country

Budget Blog - Yarra Valley Restaurants

Photo Credit: VisitMelbourne.com

The valley is known for its quality eateries that feature fresh produce from the countryside prepared with modern dining preparations. The result is delicious offerings that will make your palate very happy. Hearty country fair, farm to table dining, and wine pairing are among the delights.

Art and Culture

Budget Blog - Yarra Valley Arts

Photo Credit: VisitMelbourne.com

A great deal of art and culture come from the Yarra Valley. The famous Heidelberg School gets much of its inspiration from this region. The Yarra Valley is home to Montsalvat, which is Australia’s oldest artists’ colony. So you can be sure that some of the top notch and most creative works in the world come from this area. To see some of the artistic works from here, check out the TarraWarra Museum of Art. In addition to being an art museum with plenty of art on display, you can also see all different artists including wood carvers, painters, digital artists, sculptors, jewellery designers, and more at work in their studios.

William Ricketts Sanctuary

Budget Blog - William Ricketts Sancutuary

William Ricketts sculpture “Dromana” Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The William Ricketts Sanctuary is located near Mount Dandenong. Where you can see statues he carved in the forest. Most of the subjects of his work included respect for the natural world and Aboriginal culture. The Victorian Government bought the Sanctuary from Ricketts, who lived out the rest of his days there until he passed away in 1993.

Hot Air Balloon Aerial Tours

Budget Blog - Ballooning in Yarra Valley

Photo Credit: VisitMelbourne.com

Hot air balloon scenic tours are popular in Melbourne and in the Yarra Valley. Sunrise balloon rides are a very popular and relaxing way to see the beautiful landscape of the valley and the mountain ranges. Early hot air balloon tours allow you to see the valley come alive as the sun rises and they usually end with a delicious breakfast, gourmet local produce, and local Yarra Valley wine (as long as you are not driving.)

Dandenong Ranges

Budget Blog - Train Ride Dandenong Ranges

Train Ride through the Dandenong Ranges Photo Credit: ExperienceOz.com.au

Budget Blog - Dandenong Ranges Forest

Photo Credit: VisitMelbourne.com

The Dandenong Ranges is known for the villages that you can visit via the fairytale train. The ranges are beautiful and different in all seasons, so no matter what time of the year you visit, you will see different sights and sounds. Experience the old world traditions combined with modern touches. You can shop in the galleries in Olinda, Belgrave, and Sassafras and acquire one of a kind, home-made souvenirs of jewellery, furniture, or glasswork. Explore the forests, wildlife, and learn about the Aboriginal culture and history of the region. Find magical places in the mountains like Sherbrooke Forest, Doongalla Homestead, and One Tree Hill. Fitness enthusiasts can conquer the Thousand Steps or traverse the Kokoda Walk.

Puffing Billy Train Ride

Budget Blog - Puffing Billy Railroad

Puffing Billy Train Ride Photo Credit: PuffingBilly.com.au

The Puffing Billy steam train is over a year old and still runs on the original mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook. It operates daily taking tourists through the scenic Dandenong Ranges with the help of hundreds of dedicated volunteers. The trip is perfect for families. Different train rides are available that include refreshments, lunch, or dinner.

National Rhododendron Gardens

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Large Leaf Rhododendron Photo Credit: Parkweb.vic.gov.au

The National Rhododendron Gardens are located in Olinda. The gardens are likely to be different each time you visit because of the vast amount of seasonal changes. Brightly coloured flowers are always in bloom including rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, cherries, and daffodils. There is a café on premises that is open seasonally during the warmer months, so you can make a nice day of visiting the garden and enjoying a meal in the café.

Dandenong Ranges National Park

Budget Blog - Dandenong National Park

Dandenong National ParkPhoto Credit: Parkweb.vic.gov.au

The national park protects the tall forests of the Dandedongs. When visiting the park you will be able to admire the hectares of Mountain Ash trees and lush fern gullies. Activities in the park include picnicking and exploring the forest on the walking trails provided. There is plenty of wildlife including a large variety of birds. Some of the main points of interest include the Living Bush Nature Walk, One Tree Hill Picnic Ground, Sherbrooke Picnic Ground, Olinda Falls Picnic Ground, and ODonohue Picnic Ground.

Sky High Mount Dandenong

Budget Blog - Sky High Mountain

SkyHigh Photo Credit: skyhighmtdandenong.com.au

Budget Blog - Sky High Train

SkyHigh Photo Credit: skyhighmtdandenong.com.au

SkyHigh is a retreat located near Mount Dandenong where you can visit to see some of the most amazing views and panoramic skylines in the region. In addition to the lookout, there is much to see and do there including dining in the restaurant, the SkyHigh Maze, and the gardens. SkyHigh is available for weddings and other functions too.

RJ Hamer Arboretum

Budget Blog - RJ-Hamer-Arboratorium

RJ Hamer Arboretum Photo Credit: Parkweb.vic.gov.au

Within this arboretum is home to over 150 species of native and exotic trees. This is a perfect place for a peaceful stroll along the trails and walking tracks with spectacular views from the Yarra Valley to the Warburton Ranges and beyond. The arboretum is especially charming in the Autumn with the amazing rainbow of colours the leave turn.