Only 90 minutes from Melbourne yet completely secluded, the township of Warburton in the Upper Yarra is a peaceful bush retreat.
Sometimes you want a getaway that isn't a total overhaul of your city lifestyle. It always helps if there is at least one place to grab a decent coffee, plus maybe a good deli for picnic supplies, something to do at night (dinner and a movie, say) and, oh, a pub down the road wouldn't hurt either. Warburton, a tiny town in the upper Yarra Valley, delivers on these bare urbanite essentials – no more, no less. But the real reason for a visit to Warburton is the simple enjoyment of its tranquil location, hugging the banks of the Yarra, surrounded by rainforest and overlooked by nearby Mt Donna Buang.
In summer, the 90-minute drive from Melbourne is extended by welcome stops at roadside fruit and vegetable stalls. On arrival, if you're up for more than just scoffing the proceeds of your journey, the best activities in Warburton revolve around nature – tubing down the river is popular, as are several rainforest walks and biking the ‘Warby’ Rail Trail. In winter, the tobogganing run opens on Mt Donna Buang and the town transforms into a cosy retreat.
If you'd rather view nature from afar, take the scenic route home via Donna Buang Road, which passes through some of the lushest rainforest in Victoria (tip: refill your water from one of the mountain streams – delicious). Stay on this road and you'll wind up in Healesville, where you can balance out your nature loving exertions with a visit (or five) to any of the great local vineyards or breweries.
This three bedroom, self-contained holiday home is nestled in the leafy hillside just above the Yarra River, and is a great base for strolling to and from town along the riverside path. The library and record collection, along with what might be the country’s cheapest mini-bar, should keep you happily occupied during the quieter evening hours.
Available for rent through Stayz
Warburton Caravan Park
For a more basic option, this caravan and camping park is located on the beautiful banks of the Yarra, just past the town centre. Pitch a tent on well-maintained spongy-soft grass, take a dip in the river and get to know your new neighbours – the ducks.
30 Woods Point Road, Warburton
(03) 5966 2277
For regional produce, The Warburton Pantry is the place to go. Shelves abound with locally made preserves, wine, cheese, sweets – basically everything you'll need for a self-catered weekend away. It also functions as modest cafe, serving light lunches (try the duck pie), breakfast on weekends and the best coffee in town, roasted in Warburton by Silva Coffee.
3383b Warburton Highway, Warburton
(03) 5966 9688
Tucked down a laneway (just off the main street) in a riverside shanty is this Asian-inspired eatery, which describe itself as "informal yet modern". Open Thursday to Sunday, Kitchenboys was recommended to us by several locals, and the pork-belly bao is a must-try.
Poppy's Lane, Warburton
(03) 5966 2861
Warburton’s closest winery (10 kilometres away in Yarra Junction) is known as a bit of a dark horse in the wine industry. Well located with views across the valley, Bulong Estate was awarded a five-star rating by the James Halliday Wine Companion in 2012. Surely contributing to this result is the restaurant, with French-trained Japanese chef Yoshitaka Kojima’s seasonal menu making the most of the regional produce.
70 Summerhill Road, Yarra Junction
(03) 5967 1358
The Sam Knott Hotel
This classic Australian watering hole is located on a gum-shaded bend in the highway a few minutes out of Warburton and is well worth a visit. Grab a seat at the bar, settle in with the retro soundtrack and try to ignore the television showing Friends re-runs in the corner. The bistro menu has all the classic hits and Tuesday is ‘Jam’ night (not the fruit variety – a distinction that may or may not increase the appeal).
2882 Warburton Highway, Wesburn
(03) 5967 1200
Biking the Rail Trail
Kicking off where the Lilydale train line ends, the ‘Warby Trail’ meanders through 40 kilometres of farm and bushland before reaching Warburton. Bring your own bike or hire one from COG Bike Cafe – they've got a great range, from mountain bikes to genuine retro rentals from the 60s and 70s. Plus, their hearty menu is sure to revive energy levels after the long ride.
COG Bike Cafe
42 Station Road, Warburton (Thurs to Sun)
(03) 5966 2213
Of the many walking tracks criss-crossing the hills around Warburton, the Rainforest Gallery is an easy yet satisfying option. The boardwalk path works its way down from the canopy viewing platform, through the forest and alongside beautiful moss-covered streams. Keep an eye out for wandering lyrebirds.
For maps, see the Visitor Information Centre
3400 Warburton Highway, Warburton
(03) 5966 9600
Upper Yarra Arts Centre
The fact that tiny Warburton has an active Arts Centre and cinema (with a really great selection of films) speaks volumes about what makes this town special. The Arts Centre hosts several festivals and markets throughout the year, so check what’s on during your visit.
3409 Warburton Highway, Warburton
(03) 5966 4500
Although you'd be hard-pressed to give your credit card much of a workout in Warburton, you could certainly try. There seems to be one of everything in Warburton: one antiques store, one bookstore, one soap store, one hardware store, one tea shop and one especially nice homewares and florist, detailed below.
On the small Warburton shopping strip, Living Element stands out as a good option for a bit of light retail therapy. Tasteful homewares and accessories sit alongside selected vintage finds including a great collection of 1950s crystal clocks. They also serve as the local florist, should you find yourself in need of a holiday bouquet.
(03) 5966 9994
3414 Warburton Highway, Warburton