Healesville is one of the best places to visit in Victoria.
At less than 65km or 1hr 15mins from Melbourne, it is the perfect destination to escape the big city for a couple of days.
With world-class wineries, a Belgian style chocolaterie, one of the most awe-inspiring drives in the state and a native wildlife sanctuary there is certainly a lot to choose from!
In this article, I pick out 6 of the best things to do in Healesville.
Things to do in Healesville: Contents
1. Healesville Sanctuary
NEED TO KNOW
🕒 0900-1700 Daily
💰 Adults $37 / Kids $19 (free at weekends and holidays)
If you heading to Healesville, then chances are you’ve heard of Healesville Sanctuary. It is the main attraction here, and for good reason.
We spent nearly 5 hours at the sanctuary, and it is worth making the trip from Melbourne for this alone. All the animals and birdlife here are Australian, so as new people to the country this was the perfect introduction to the incredible breadth of nature on offer here.
The setting for the sanctuary is amazing, with native eucalyptus trees offering shade in amongst the huge enclosures.
There were almost too many highlights to list, but if I were pushed it would have been the koalas, platypus and big aviaries of native birds. The Lyrebird with its incredible mimicry was especially impressive, and something I’ve wanted to see ever since David Attenborough’s ‘Life Of Birds’ documentary.
I would highly recommend seeing the ‘Tales From Platypus Creek’ and ‘Spirits of the Sky’ keeper talks. Both offered fascinating insight into their respective animals, and also gave simple advice on how to change your own habits to secure them for the future.
If you get a chance, stop and speak to one of the knowledgable staff or volunteers. We had great chats all over the sanctuary which really enhanced our experience, and gave us even more insight into the wildlife of Australia.
2. Black Spur Drive
NEED TO KNOW
I’d seen a couple of photos of Black Spur Drive on Instagram before we arrived at Healesville, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
We were blown away….
This spectacular half hour drive through the woods to the east of Healesville is breathtaking. It feels like being transported onto the set of a Jurassic Park movie.
You simply must do this drive if you’re in Healesville!
There is only one road out and back, so it means you get to do it twice from different directions! You can stop off for a coffee at Narbethong or Maryville before turning round to come back.
3. Yarra Valley Chocolaterie
NEED TO KNOW
🕒 0900-1700 Daily
💰 Free to enter
We knew the Yarra Valley was famous for its wine, but hadn’t realised until we arrived there was a very special chocolate shop here too. We had been to Bruges only a few weeks prior, and were impressed at how similar this chocolate was! It turns out Yarra Valley Chocolaterie’s experts are actually from France and Belgian. This is high quality stuff.
They had free tasters of white, milk and dark chocolate at the entrance and a chocolate version of everything Australian you can imagine (chocolate boomerang anyone!?). There are big glass windows at one end of the shop that show the chocolatiers hard at work in amongst the vast metal production vats.
The drive out to the chocolaterie is stunning taking you out to a part of the Yarra Valley you may not have visited without this destination. They have a cafe that serves fantastic food alongside a selection of chocolate products, from which you can sit and take in the surroundings. We recommend trying out their brownie. Warm, gooey and served with extra dipping chocolate and ice cream, it’s a meal in itself!
4. Take a Wine Tour
The Yarra Valley is famous for its wine, specialising in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Of all the things to do in Healesville, visiting one of the Yarra Valley wineries has to be top of the list!
A number of these wineries are open for tours, which you can book into via local companies, or on the links below.
The most highly recommended wineries to visit are Maddens Rise, TarraWarra Estate and Rochford Wines, but we also really liked the Innocent Bystander which has the added advantage of being in Healesville town, which make sit easier to stagger back to your accommodation after an afternoon of tasting!
5. Healesville Hedgend Maze
NEED TO KNOW
🕒 1000-1600 Mon/Thurs/Fri | 1000-1730 Sat/Sun | Closed Public Holidays
💰 Adults $18 / Kids $15
Hedgend Maze is a mix of mazes, mini golf, frisbee golf and a few other attractions.
Set in a beautiful spot overlooking part of the Yarra Valley, it is a great place to take the kids (though we had fun with just two adults!).
The mazes are cleverly done, designed to get you thinking about more than just the way out. There are clues hidden in the main maze that spell out a word, meaning you have to explore every dead end and passageway. The smaller maze is perfect for kids and for adults you can put on a blindfold and use it as a ‘trust exercise’.
We especially enjoyed the ‘Where’s Wally’ style pictures, where a local artist has carefully hidden numerous animals and objects in four huge paintings.
As mini-golf connoisseurs (we’ve played in places from Cape Town to Cambodia) we really enjoyed the course. Challenging and fun, it was a real leveller (I say that as Becca thrashed me!).
6. Four Pillars Gin
NEED TO KNOW
Gin has seen a real resurgence in the UK recently, so we were interested to see a distillery here in Healesville too.
For $10 you can have a tasting session and learn more about their ‘Four Pillars’ of gin – the copper stills, pure local water, native botanicals and love!
There is a shop here too to pick up a bottle on the way out.
Where To Stay – Sanctuary Park Cottages
We stayed at the magnificent Sanctuary Park Cottages.
If the picture doesn’t convince you then here are a few things to know.
They are located just at the back of Healesville Sanctuary in some pristine countryside, with a small lake at the centre (see the photo at the heading of this page).
Each wooden cottage is beautifully presented, with breakfast provided and a spa bath for extra relaxation. The owners were lovely and have a huge selection of DVDs and board games available to use whilst staying. There is also a pool and they have agreements with local attractions, such as 10% of tickets at the Sanctuary and adult tickets at kids prices for Hedgend Maze.
We will definitely be back, I can’t think anywhere we’ve stayed that is more relaxing or peaceful.
How to Get There
There are a few ways to get from Melbourne to Healesville. State Route 46 and C726 may not be the fastest, but it is the most picturesque, getting you out of the city faster onto some beautiful valley roads. If you’re staying in the west of Melbourne, it is also a good way to avoid the busy centre, by skirting around the north of the city.
Keep Your Eyes Open
If I was to offer one last piece of advice about Healesville, it would be to keep your eyes open.
The area is filled with wildlife. We saw mobs of kangaroos, large groups of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, Galahs, Parrots and even our first Kookaburra on the grounds of Sanctuary Park Cottages.
Useful Tools for Booking Your Sabbatical
I always use Skyscanner or Agoda alongside Google Flights to make sure I’ve got the best price. I use Google Flights to save a route and monitor price changes and a combination of Skyscanner and Agoda to get the cheapest tickets.
If you are in the UK I would also highly recommend signing up for Jack’s Flight Club to get incredible flight deals sent to your email inbox every week.
When booking accommodation I always start with Booking.com as they generally have the best range and prices. I also regularly use Airbnb for longer stays and apartments in cities (use this link for £25 off your first stay). For a different experience try signing up to Housecarers for free house-sitting opportunities (get 10% off membership with this link).
Travel insurance might seem like an unnecessary cost, but when a flight gets cancelled, injury occurs or you damage a piece of gear you’ll regret not paying in advance. I’ve used World Nomads for two sabbaticals and (after badly damaging a hire car in Laos!) found the claim process to be simple and transparent.
Getting from the airport to your destinations is an added stress after a tiring flight, so take the guesswork out and pre-book with JayRide.com. Their prices often beat the local taxis and I've found them to be reliable and easy to use.