For many of us, our memories of Healesville consist of visiting the Healesville Sanctuary as a child and holding out a handful of seeds to a flock of parakeets. While the tourist busses still roll in to this main attraction, return visitors are finding a growing cluster of cafes and restaurants in Healesville that are putting the best produce of the Yarra Valley on their plates.
Driving to and around Healesville, you can find art galleries, weekend escapes, flower farms and wineries tucked in between the undulating landscape. Set against the backdrop of evergreen hills, this little town in a valley is perfect for wandering unhurriedly or stopping to indulge in regional wine, cheese platters and wood fire pizzas.
Inhabited by artists and passionate producers of gourmet, seasonal products, Healesville is only an hour out of Melbourne and feels like the missing link between our city and a slow-moving country town.
RACV Country Club
Perched between mountains, this recently refurbished establishment is now a long, narrow building with a comfortable, contemporary interior. The corridor walls are made entirely of glass and each wing and room is fitted with large windows, which frame a view of native trees and a winding golf course from every angle. The RACV Country Club is all about modern indulgence worked into the natural beauty of the hotel's surrounds. The Country Club houses five different open-plan bars and restaurants, an all-natural day spa, a swimming pool and plenty of exercise and games facilities. Pierrick Boyer is head dessert chef and every detail of the hotel, even down to the cakes, is decadence presented simply and accessibly.
122 Healesville-Kinglake Road
(03) 5962 4899
Harvest Farm and Dairy House
This pair of rustic-meets-modern cottages help visitors unwind and get in tune with nature, without sacrificing luxury. The expansive 18-acre property includes two separate lodgings. The Harvest House is a spacious, revamped 1920s farmhouse and the Dairy House is a sweet bungalow surrounded by flower gardens, with a relaxed, contemporary interior. Rooms come with a fresh breakfast basket filled with farm eggs and provisions from the property's kitchen garden.
256 Maroondah Highway, Healesville
(03) 5962 4002
OUT / EAT
This arcade turned Italian-style espresso bar is the Yarra Valley's take on laneway dining. In the morning, the team serve up terracotta baked eggs and pump out organic sourdough pressed paninis at lunch, and the local produce tasting plates are a daily highlight. For coffee purists, the beans are roasted around the corner and are served with fresh, creamy milk and panela. A winter pick is their Belgian couverture hot chocolates, which are spiced up with salted caramel, a twist of orange peel and cinnamon.
189–191 Maroondah Highway, Healesville
(03) 5962 4613
Innocent Bystander / Giant Steps Winery and Cellar Door
Innocent Bystander’s Cellar Door is in the centre of Healesville's food and wine precinct. The best of local produce features on their wood fire pizzas and in their sweet and musky wines. The main dining area is a large warehouse space with visible machinery peeking through glass walls of their unique indoor winery. It's easy to drive through and pick up some rustic baked pastries and a dozen bottles of their famously delicious Moscato, or take the time to unwind over a cheese platter and house-roasted coffee.
336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville
(03) 5962 6111
SEE / DO
TarraWarra Museum of Art
The drama of the countryside is on display as much as the 20th century Australian art at the TarraWarra Museum of Art. From the windows of the main gallery space, you can see the perfectly aligned rows of TarraWarra’s vineyard, framed as neatly as the paintings they sit next to. TarraWarra has an excellent sense of place and often features artists who have managed to capture the landscape over time. If you get hungry, the estate's cellar door serves up wholesome dishes along with snacks like hand-cut chips, freshly-shucked oysters and house-made sorbets – all of which go down quite nicely after a day strolling through the gallery.
311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Healesville
(03) 5957 3100
A 10-minute drive past the water catchment and through tree-lined back streets gets you to Badgers Weir. A small creek is central to this family picnic spot and if you don't feel like setting up in a rotunda or at picnic table, you can perch yourself on a stone and eat lunch with your feet in the water. The secluded little area is self sufficient, with gas barbecues free to use. The spot also marks the beginning of winding trails that can guide you through kilometres of forest or on a short walk through a canopy of ferns.
Badger Weir Road, Badger Creek
White Rabbit Brewery
Picking up an ale directly from the brewery it was produced in is a novelty we can all enjoy. Perched in between Innocent Bystander and the Beechworth Bakery is the White Rabbit Brewery, with its humble shopfront and endless crates of freshly brewed beer. They prefer to stray from the pack and produce lager from untamed yeast, giving each brew a unique taste and a bit of pizzazz. It’s worth visiting for a casual tasting or to stock up on a bulk serving of your favourite dark or white ale.
316 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville
(03) 5962 6516
Perched on a corner in a little Victorian shopfront is Morris Brown. This quaint but quirky store stocks an eclectic mixture art, gifts, homewares and accessories. They also sell fresh flowers decorated with twine, tying into the store’s colour scheme of old books, haberdashery and rustic interior ornaments. Morris Brown has a quick turnover of goods, and their wooden-crate shelves are constantly filled with bags and wallets from Nancy Bird, strands of beads by Elk, hand printed cushions and creative books for children.
264 Maroondah Highway, Healesville
(03) 5962 4042