Warburton is a pretty village on the banks of the Yarra River at the base on Mt Donna Buang with easy access to walks, cycling and the national parks of the region. It is a pleasant 30 kilometre drive on the Warburton Highway (B380), which starts on the east side of Lilydale and is well signed.
For those wanting to explore beyond the main road, the drive can easily be modified to take in what the locals call ‘short cuts’ but are actually picturesque roads steeped in local history and well worth the deviation.
At Woori Yallock, take the left-hand turn at Old Warburton Highway. This side road, which was the old main road to Warburton, ambles for about 10 minutes though the residential area of Woori Yallock before opening up to farmland and re-entering the main Warburton Highway. The highlight of this section of road is the ridge area, which offers amazing views across vines and paddocks towards the Yarra Ranges and Warburton. Low lying mists in winter make this a special spot for photography, but any time of the year the sunrise to the east is a perfect addition to a roadside rest stop.
Turning left back on the Warburton Highway continue on to the outskirts of Yarra Junction and turn left at Corduroy Rd-Settlement Rd (unless you want to explore the township of Yarra Junction which is 2 mins drive ahead). This back road is notable for its opportunities to see farm life in action with the local free-range chickens (look for their super cute Maremma dog minders), a biodynamic dairy farm (the brown jerseys are often visiting the chickens) and several market gardens. This rich river flat area is very fertile and always lush and green, and the views towards the mountains are majestic to say the least. Where the road forks (look for the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail crossing the road), take the right option (to head up past the Upper Yarra RSL) to rejoin the Warburton Highway in Wesburn. Turn left and continue a short distance to the next ‘short cut’.
Although you can continue straight through Wesburn and Millgrove to the township of Warburton, the Old Warburton Road is a scenic drive up through the forests of Mt Bride and past the turn off to La La Falls. It weaves through the historic site of Old Warburton town (and an existing enclave of off-grid residences), an old quarry (interesting for photos) and some existing and proposed mountain bike tracks. The road is an elevated drive with many bends and it is typical to spot many types of wildlife including lyrebirds, wombats, cockatoos, deer, echidnas and wallabies. Care should be taken at dusk.
Drive past the La La Falls turnoff (a great stop for a picnic and walk) on Old Warburton Road and head down the hill past the local residences (including original homes of the area) to Park Rd. Turn right and follow a short distance to a T intersection. Turn left and you are once again on the Warburton Highway. The village shops will be in view, with essentials such as a petrol station, hardware and supermarket in the first section, or drive another 500 metres to the town centre for many shops, cafes, restaurants and river walks that explore the seven bridges that cross the Yarra. Returning to Lilydale is a straightforward 30 minute drive (with no turns) on the Warburton Highway.
Towns along the way at: Lilydale, Launching Place, Yarra Junction, Warburton
Distance: approx. Approx 70 km loop from Lilydale return (with shortcuts)
Time: Approx 60 minutes (with short cuts)
Terrain: Some main roads, all sealed, easy drive in farmland, some bends in forest section of drive
Note: Keep an eye out for wildlife especially on Old Warburton Road