The Melba Highway is a small highway to the east of Melbourne. It is 64 km long and is mostly used by Melbournians heading to the Victorian high country or areas in that direction. Starting in the outer east suburb of Lillydale and ending at the town of Yea in the Murrundindi (Dindi) Shire in Victoria’s Upper Goulburn. It is a very scenic road trip, taking you through rich Yarra Valley vineyards, forest and agricultural land. Even being only 64 km and taking an hour or so to drive, there is plenty to see and do along the Melba Highway. Here are some of my suggestions on how to enjoy this small highway.
Where is the Melba Highway
The Melba Highway is east of Melbourne and links Lilydale to Yea.
The Melba Highway is East of Melbourne, linking Lilydale and Yea
History of how the Melba Highway got its Name
The Melba Highway is named after Dame Nellie Melba, a famous Australian Opera singer of the early 20th century. Dame Nellie was actually born Helen Porter Mitchell in 1861, and was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician. She took the name ‘Melba’ from Melbourne, her home town. She lived on and off in Australia at her estate, Coombes Estate in Coldstream, which the Melba Highway travels through – see further. The highway, Melba Highway, takes its name from the abbreviation of Melbourne and its association with Dame Nellie Melba.
Places to Visit along the Melba Highway
Lillydale is where the Melba Highway begins or ends, depending on which way you are travelling. It is a small town some 34 km north-east of Melbourne, now part of Melbourne’s suburbs. It is at the northern end of the Dandenong Ranges and the southern end of the Yarra Valley, one of Australia’s premier wine growing regions. To reach the Melba Highway you will drive through the main street of Lillydale, which contains a number of historic buildings. If you are in need of a stop, there are a number of coffee shops to visit. Or you can stop at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum and start the Melba experience when you visit the collection held there. It is only small but has a great coffee shop attached. If not stopping, follow the Maroondah Highway to where it splits. Veer left and start your journey along the Melba Highway.
Coombe Estate, former home of Dame Nellie Melba on the Melba Highway
Heading along the Melba Highway you will reach Coldstream. The town itself is tiny with a few shops but has a great place to stop for lunch or dinner – the Coldstream Brewery. I recommend its ales. You cannot miss the place, with its ‘shivering naked man’ taking pride of place on the roof. Just up the highway from the brewery is Coombs Estate, once the home of Dame Nellie Melba. Now a private residence, it is sometimes open to the public for tours through 11 acres of gardens and the art gallery. You can partake in a meal at the popular restaurant. Step inside the magnificent home for a glimpse of the extravagant life of the Australian singer diva. See her private boudoir, admire her priceless personal items and see the grand music room where Nellie hosted parties. But if not open, you can still stop outside to get a photo of the massive hedge that protects the premises. Book your visit to Coombes Estate here.
Yering is an area in the Yarra Valley. There is no town to drive through or stop at, but the area has some fabulous wineries to visit – Yering Station being one of the most notable. A walk around the estate will allow you to take in the massive wine vats where the wine is made, and the wine cellar where the wine barrels are stored. Next door to Yering Station is Chateau Yering, a heritage listed building with old-world charm accommodation. If you fancy spending a night in a four poster bed and bathing in a claw bath , a night at the Chateau Yering just might be for you.
In 2010 the Yarra Glen bypass opened. It was built to divert trucks and other vehicles from driving through the main street. If you decide to drive through the town, rather than around it, you will be treated to typical old country town buildings. If you are hungry, there are a number of bakeries – including the Yarra Flats Bakery – to enjoy a pie, cake and a coffee. At the north exit of Yarra Glen, where you re-join the Melba Highway, is the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. A great place to stock up on all things chocolate.
READ MORE: Visit Yarra Valley Chocolaterie
De Bortoli, just one of the world-class wineries in the Yarra Valley along the Melba Highway
Dixons Creek isn’t really a town, more an area that is home to many of the Yarra Valley’s famous wineries. Some notables include DeBorteli, Balgownie Estate, Mandala, Immerse, Millers and Fergusson Winery. If you like visiting cellar doors then you will want to stop at one, or two, along the Melba Highway.
Gateway to Kinglake National Park
Leaving Dixons Creek the landscape changes from vineyards to forest. Flat vined land is replaced with tall trees. This part of the Melba Highway takes you through some of the Kinglake National Park. To truly appreciate the beautiful Kinglake National Park – with its waterfalls, walking tracks, secluded camping spots and native flora and fauna – you will need to turn off the Melba Highway and into the park. By the way, there is no lake at Kinglake. It got its name after the British historian and travel writer Alexander William Kinglake. Much of Kinglake was destroyed by the Black Saturday fires in 2009, but thankfully, the area has been regenerating.
Enter another world in the Kinglake National Park
If you blink, you might miss Glenburn as you travel along the Melba Highway. I don’t mean that rudely but you are so busy looking at the surrounding grazing land that you might miss the couple of buildings that make up town. A census from 2016 advises that Glenburn has 415 residents but I suggest they are well spread out in the area.
Yea, pronounced ‘yay’ is at one end of the Melba Highway. It is a very interesting little town. Originally inhabited by the Taunaurong People it was first visited by Europeans in 1824. Soon the land was taken up by graziers. The town is now a thriving centre for those who live in this beautiful part of the world. The main street is long with a small park running through the centre of it. Parking, like most country towns is at a 45 degree angle. Yea has all the major services and a number of fabulous bakeries to enjoy. There are a number of beautiful parks to visit including the Yea Wetlands and the Y Water Discovery Centre which shows the importance of water resources and wetland ecology. Yea is also a key town on The Great Victorian Rail Trail and a great place to stop overnight while riding the 134km trail. There are also many heritage sites around the town to discover, including the railway station buildings, Purcell’s General Store and the Yea Flora Fossil Site, where ancient leafy foliage was discovered.
Yea is a typical Victorian country town with a wide main street
So, as I said, the Melba Highway is only a short highway. Even so, there are a number of things to appreciate as you travel along it. However, like many drives, the Melba Highway will take you places. If you turn left at Yea, you will head toward Seymour and the Hume Highway. If you turn right, you can end up at Mansfield and the Victorian High Country.
Sharyn McCullum has travelled all of her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. She is the creator of Live Work and Play in Australia. She loves coffee, chocolate and parmas and currently calls Melbourne home. Read More.