It’s hard to believe you’re only about two hours from Melbourne. When you walk through the Yarra Ranges National Park’s lush, cold-climate rainforest, you’ll often feel as though there’s no other people for miles around. Stand beneath the world’s tallest flowering tree, the mountain ash, which towers over tree ferns and ancient myrtle beech trees, some thought to be more than 400 years old. Listen for a beautiful whistling bird call – that could be one of the ground-dwelling lyrebirds with their incredible tail feathers. Lyrebirds also mimic the sounds they hear, so if you catch the sound of a car alarm or smartphone ringing in the middle of the forest that could be one too.
The towns of Healesville, Warburton and Marysville are all located near the park, and provide excellent stops for lunch, coffee or a stroll along the main streets. Lucky you’re in the rental car because the Black Spur drive from Healesville cuts through the rainforest to the mountainous areas of Marysville. The road is winding, so slow down, lower the window and let the scent of the eucalypts fill the car.
Spend Some Time in Marysville
On the drive up from Melbourne, you might want to stop at Healesville Sanctuary to check out the Australian animals or even drop into one of the many Yarra Valley cellar doors for a quick tasting (remember to take very little tastes if you’re the designated driver). But it’s worth checking out some of the attractions of Marysville.
If you’re feeling hungry, stop by Marysville Country Bakery. Pies, pastries and coffee are all on the menu. If you want something more substantial, take a seat at Keppel Cafe, with its all-day brunch menu.
Remember your tissues when you drop by the Phoenix Museum. Marysville was devastated by the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. Through personal stories, this exhibit shows the damage fire can wreak and what can be achieved when a community comes together.
Just a quick drive out of Marysville, you’ll find one of Victoria’s highest waterfalls. The drop at Steavenson Falls is 84m high. Tourists first began coming here in 1866; now there are lights that capture its beauty from sunset to midnight. As you walk from the car park to the platform at the base of the waterfall, you’ll pass a turbine generator.
Take a Hike in the Yarra Ranges
Step out on the Warburton Rainforest Gallery. This walkway takes you through the forest – listen and look for forest-floor-dwelling lyrebirds as you go – and past Cement Creek. There’s also a 15m-high elevated walkway that finishes at an observation platform overlooking this beautiful rainforest. Both walks are only short, but there’s about a hundred steps at the start of the walkway to get the heart racing.
Another beautiful walk takes you around the Redwood Forest. Planted more than 90 years ago, these Californian redwoods are still just babies – the species lives for up to 2,000 years – but already make an impressive sight. Meander among these towering sequoias during summer and you’ll notice the difference in temperature as you head into the shade looking for birds in the trees and blooming native orchids on the forest floor.
Want to take on a longer hike? Just past Warburton, head out on the 12km McMahons Creek Goldfield walk. You’ll pass through the forest and see some evidence of old gold mining operations. Make sure you stick to the track though because there are shafts in the area. Give yourself four or five hours to finish the loop.
It probably won’t take quite as long, but the trek up Mount Riddell, near Healesville, includes 650m of elevation, so you’ll need to be quite fit. At least there’s a picnic table at the top where you can stop and catch your breath. On the way down, be sure to stop where the view is cleared to take in Lake Maroondah and Mount St Leonard.
Lake Mountain’s Winter Wonderland
When the temperatures begin to drop, many of the walking trails can become inaccessible. Why? The snow, of course. Thankfully, Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, past Marysville, is all decked out to make the most of conditions. You won’t be doing any downhill skiing or snowboarding here, but there’s plenty of other opportunities for snow play.
You can hire a toboggan and slide down the three mountain trails all day. There are more than 35km of cross-country trails to explore, and you can rent the gear – either skis or snowshoes – and join one of the daily lessons.
There is a resort entry fee of about $62 for each car (you save a few dollars if you pre-book it online), but you will get a full day of fun while you’re on Lake Mountain. Just remember that you need to check whether it’s a chain day – if you’re driving a 2WD rental car, you’ll need to hire snow chains at either Marysville or Lake Mountain ski hire to head up to the resort.
When you’re ready to drive to the Yarra Ranges National Park, hire a rental car from Melbourne Airport.