Discover Regional Victoria with Avis
Now’s the perfect time to take advantage of Avis free cancellation Rentals – available until 28th Feb 2022 – and plan a road trip through Victoria’s Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula.
What do Victoria’s Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula have in common? Apart from stunning scenery, a thriving food / wine scene, Insta-worthy villages and an artsy culture, they are both best explored by car. So, with the Yarra Valley in the north east, less than an hour from Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula around 90 minutes to the south – why not link the regions together for the ultimate road trip?
You can pick up your Avis rental car from Tullamarine airport using the Avis app for a speedy contactless experience. And if you’re looking to travel in luxury, the Avis Signature Series offers a premium range of luxury European cars, including BMWs and Mercedes. Plus, with the Avis Safety Pledge, you can drive with the confidence of knowing your vehicle has been cleaned to keep you safe.
Head for the hills via the M80 freeway east to Healesville. Naturally the loop can be done in reverse, however, with a little surprise awaiting motorists who finish the trip in Sorrento, starting in the Yarra Valley is highly recommended.
Explore the Yarra Valley with Avis
Set against a patchwork quilt of rolling hills, manicured farmland and dense bushland, the Yarra Valley sprawls across several townships including Healesville, Yarra Glen, Coldstream and Warburton. From blockbuster award winning restaurants to cosy cafés; lively festivals and farmers markets to irresistible roadside stalls, sleek galleries and a good dose of natural beauty, it really is a matter of turning the steering wheel in any direction and exploring at your own pace.
Although the Yarra Valley is so close to Melbourne, there’s plenty of accommodation to choose from. Fancy a chateau? Chateau Yering is the real deal. A shipping container? Done – Larnook Sherbrooke off grid and self-catering. How about in a vineyard? Tick – Stefani Estate has two beautiful units. On a farm? Wiggley Bottom Farm – go for the name alone. Or, maybe a town stay? Airbnb - The Loft a funky apartment above Alchemy Distillers in Healesville’s main street. Wherever you decide, attractions are relatively close together and easily navigated.
Go off grid at Larnook at Sherbrooke in the Yarra Valley; Elegance on show at Chateau Yering.
As home of Victoria’s first vineyard when the Scottish born Ryrie brothers planted a few cuttings whilst cattle driving back in 1838, there are now over 80 wineries, renowned for producing wines of excellence, particularly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. From dramatic architectural designed wineries to smaller scale rustic homely styles, guests are welcomed with open arms. And with many doubling as exhibition spaces, live music venues, providores etc, there’s plenty of interest for designated drivers.
Driving into TarraWarra Estate around 5kms out of Healesville is like entering a movie set. An intriguing wooden door sculptured into the curved rock wall leads into the tasting room and the outside deck is the must-do spot for summer. Plan ahead for a memorable lunch at the hatted restaurant before popping next door to wander through the impressive collection of Australian art at the TarraWarra Museum of Art.
Hatted fare at TarraWarra Estate.
Another architectural masterpiece with views to write home about is Oakridge Estate. Supporting a low waste mantra, the restaurant has a chef’s hat, specialises in Australian native ingredients and draws inspiration from the vibrant kitchen garden.
Zonzo Estate has a rustic-meets-chic vibe (the old milking shed is a beauty). With a European feel across the valley, at many boutique wineries, like Many Hands Winery and Warramunda Estate, you’ll think you’ve driven your Avis rental to Italy or Spain.
Aside from the wineries, the foodie vibe is strong and innovative. Bring cash for honesty boxes and let the juice drizzle down your chin from farm gate fruit; drool over runny cheese as you watch ‘the girls’ wander past picture windows at Yarra Valley Dairy; pay homage to Dame Nellie Melba with a Devonshire Tea at her beloved Coombe Farm; and don’t miss an everything-made-from-scratch breakfast at Mocha & Lime, or the slow-cooked estate farmed lamb for dinner at the Healesville Hotel. And then there’s the chocolate – 250 varieties created from local produce at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie.
To balance the indulgence, take a hike amid lush tree ferns and towering gums in the Yarra Valley National Park, say hello to the animals at Healesville Sanctuary or climb the Great Steps of Warburton and decipher the uplifting message in the 26-step community art project.
DIscover the Mornington Peninsula with Avis
From the Yarra Valley, it’s fine motoring along 120km to the Mornington Peninsula. Follow the Maroondah Highway onto Eastlink (M3) and take exit 28 onto the Mornington Peninsula Freeway (M11) towards Portsea. If you want to start in the hinterland (preferred option), exit onto Nepean Highway toward Red Hill / Flinders.
The Mornington Peninsula is the place Melburnians come to play. This thin slice of prime real estate is flanked by the pounding ocean on one side and sheltered coved beaches lined with colourful wooden bathing boxes on the other, all set against a backdrop of rolling verdant hills. And despite its popularity, the Peninsula still maintains the coastal charm we all crave.
Cape Schanck Boardwalk, Mornington Peninsula.
Generations of families holiday here all summer. Every summer. And like the Yarra Valley, with so much packed into a relatively small area, it’s a matter of balancing the-must do’s, knowing they’ll always be a ‘next time’, (or linger longer and extend your rental car booking through the Avis app).
It wasn’t until the 1970s wine became a thing here, but with more than 50 cellar doors and many more small-scale vineyards producing exceptional Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay, it’s made up for lost time. Wind your way through the vineyards, galleries, orchards, farmers markets, sculpture parks and gardens throughout the hinterland.
Lunch is a big deal and there are many standouts. Perched high with sweeping views across the vines, Montalto has a buzzy vibe. Taste the fine wine, dine in the restaurant or grab a pizza in the Piazza before meandering along the sculpture trail.
The sculpture trail at Montalto; Dine in style at Montalto.
At the chef’s hatted Paringa Estate watch geese and sheep wander amongst the vines through pretty picture windows while dining on French inspired dishes featuring locally sourced produce.
View of the vines at Paringa Estate.
A hands down fave with locals is Polperro Winery that backs up its fairy tale setting with an innovative seasonal land / sea / farm degustation menu and four stunning villas to wander back to after lunch. Scaling the heights of architectural design, Jackalope with its sleek lines, stone baths, carefully curated art collection and exquisite food creates one of those ‘remember when’ moments.
And for a back-to-nature experience, at the Peninsula Hot Springs more than 50 mineral-rich pools bubble away amid 16 hectares of natural beauty. Hot tip – the Fire and Ice experience is incredible and the recently opened glamping tents bring another dimension to sleeping under canvas.
The cave pool at Peninsula Hot Springs.
Soar like an eagle
The grand-daddy of the Peninsula’s spectacular views is the Arthur’s Seat Eagle. Silently gliding above the treetops, the gondola ride takes 15 minutes each way rising from sea level to the highest point along the coast. At the top, stretch your legs on one of the many trails throughout the Arthur’s Seat State Park.
Walking trails and gentle pathways criss-cross the Peninsula. Catch the sunset at Cape Schank or stroll along the Sorrento Back Beach. Drive past Portsea to the very end of the coastal road to Point Nepean National Park and be immersed in Victoria’s history. Frolic in the shallows along the front beaches; swim between the flags on the back beaches. Paddle a kayak; play golf; ride a horse.
Stroll along the beach at Sorrento.
And, as promised if you want that ‘surprise’ ending to your trip – instead of driving back through Melbourne to the airport, catch the car ferry from Sorrento across to Queenscliff. While you’re watching dolphins ride the bow wave, take a sneak peek at the Bellarine Peninsula and start planning your next Avis road trip.