Come for the Aussie animals, stay for the gourmet goodies and great drinks. This hipster Victorian country town offers a chilled local vibe and punches well above its weight in the sipping and eating department.
Built at the confluence of the Watts River and Grace Burn Creek, surrounded by vineyards and low-lying mountains, the once sleepy Healesville could now easily be renamed ‘Hipsterville’. This low-key but increasingly buzzy town is the gateway to the Yarra Valley wine region. And it’s just an hour’s drive from Melbourne.
It’s home to Healesville Sanctuary, one of Australia’s finest Australian animal sanctuaries, where you can pat a wombat and tickle a platypus in natural bush surroundings. Healesville has also become something of a destination in its own right thanks to its exceptional food and drink offerings.
Best hotels in Healesville
This luxurious hotel offers affordable, fully refurbished rooms with pressed-tin ceilings, and shared bathrooms down the hallway. There are six king rooms and one queen. The hotel also offers the designer cool Furmston House located directly behind the main building, with views of the mountains. It has three king bedrooms, each with ensuites, an industrial-chic designer kitchen and a north-facing deck and garden.
This upstairs loft, located above a small-batch distillery in the heart of Healesville, offers a spacious living area with leather couches, two bedrooms and one bathroom. Located right above main street, you’ll find the distillers cellar door, a cocktail bar, garden and many cafés and boutiques.
Best restaurants in Healesville
Giant Steps Yarra Valley
Named after jazz saxophonist John Coltrane’s first solo album, this popular restaurant injects a little urban chic into Healesville. The glass-sided winery is located in the middle of a large warehouse, where you can watch every step of the winemaking process while tasting Giant Steps single vineyard wines. It’s also a terrific spot for a classy restaurant meal.
Located in a welcoming warehouse space, this urban restaurant, bar and cellar door offers tastings of its affordable wines, beers and ciders – which go down a treat along with its superb wood-fired pizzas, paella and share dishes. Choose from casual leather couches or a more formal dining area.
The Healesville Hotel ticks all the boxes. In the mornings you can enjoy coffee and muffins, while later in the day you can taste Yarra Valley Wines with cheeses, charcuterie plates and toasties. Hang out with locals on Sundays for a barbecue of slow-grilled local sirloin or pork belly with all the trimmings in the pretty garden, or enjoy gourmet meals in the charming dining room.
Healesville Candy Emporium
This good old-fashioned lolly shop offers a wide range of both old-school and new Aussie, US, and British sweet treats. There’s also hampers, giftware and toys available.
Best bars & cafés in Healesville
Serious coffee roaster and sourdough breadmaker, this is the perfect place to start the day, with an in-house or single origin coffee blend alongside a sweet treat. Be sure to try some of the scrumptious sourdough bread.
This establishment is an edgy little tasting room and wine bar of Mac Forbes Wines, one of Victoria’s cult cool climate boutique wineries. Taste vertical vintages from Mac Forbes as well as a range of wine flights which give insight into the Yarra Valley wine region. On Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday lunch, enjoy healthy bistro fare that showcases local produce alongside an extensive selection from Mac’s cellar and friends’ wines from Australia and overseas.
The groovy contemporary tasting room of this place is located in a repurposed timber yard in Healesville. Visitors can learn about gin botanicals and distilling over a guided tasting of neat gins. You can also enjoy a paddle of four gins served with Fever Tree tonic or a terrific gin cocktail with a cheeseboard. Four Pillars gin uses native Australian botanicals and each bottle is individually numbered and hand labelled. Check out the award-winning negroni marmalade made with oranges left over from the distilling process.
Watts River Brewing
An IPA, a blonde and a stout are the main brewer-driven brews on offer at the relaxed cellar door of this new brewery in Healesville.
This distillery offers small-batch gin, vodka and whisky, which are made into creative cocktails alongside rotating streetfood specials.
Payten & Jones Wine
This is a brand-new cellar door from Healesville-born-and-bred winemakers Behn Payten and Troy Jones, who produce minimal intervention wines ‘with a little soul left in’. There’s also cider, beer and great music.
Herd Bar & Grill
With its edgy slatted bunker architecture, striking wall art and appealing outdoor space, this place is a popular local hangout that serves up Middle Eastern-inspired share plates at reasonable prices.
Looking for more weekend escapes from Melbourne? Read up on beautiful Beechworth or get your fill of Victorian hospitality in Daylesford.