Victoria is Australia’s smallest mainland state, covering only 88,000 square miles. Located beside the Yarra River, the capital Melbourne is a sophisticated, stylish, and cosmopolitan city that is a place of intense creativity, where progressive attitudes reign and diverse expressions of culture wait around every corner.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Melbourne is Australia’s second-largest city and is consistently crowned the world’s most livable city. Melbourne embraces the new, rewards the curious, while simultaneously honoring the old. Half the fun in Melbourne is finding the hottest bars, cafés, galleries, boutiques, and live music venues. Stop by the NGV and gaze up at the Leonard French’s stained glass ceiling – the world’s largest and saturate your day with eye-popping temporary and permanent exhibition throughout the city. Head to Queen Victoria Market Square where you can indulge in a foodie tour tasting the very best products on offer, uncover specialty foods, and learn a fascinating history of the iconic heritage-listed market food halls.
GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Renowned as one of the world’s most breathtaking routes – by car, plane, or foot – the Great Ocean Road takes panoramic views to a new level. With cosmopolitan villages, surf beaches, lush rainforests, waterfalls, and natural wonders dotted along the route, this coastal escape is endlessly inspiring. Many visitors take the whole route as a day tour, but it takes at least two days to really enjoy the beauty and natural attractions. Your first stop along the winding Great Ocean Road is Lorne. Stroll along the pier, get to know the town’s Mediterranean feel and charming scenery. Browse boutique gift stores, cellars, tempting eateries, and eclectic galleries. Set aside an hour or so for an easy walk to the spectacular Sheoak Falls and look for nesting birds in the Swallow cave.
Apollo Bay marks the start of the 65-mile Great Ocean Walk, which follows the dramatic coastline between Apollo Bay and the landmark Twelve Apostles, and is a great way to meet wild koalas, kangaroos, and echidnas. The walk can be tackled as an extended trip of up to eight days or broken down into smaller sections and day hikes, with accommodation options available along the way.
In the Otway Ranges, the Great Ocean Road briefly leaves the coastline and dares travelers to try the Otway Fly, a treetop walk 82 feet above the forest floor. The road then returns to the coast through the majestic Port Campbell National Park. The massive Twelve Apostles are the most famous sight, but other highlights include the London Bridge rock formation and Loch Ard Gorge.
More of nature’s beauty is on show in the Bay of Islands Coastal Park en route to Warrnambool, the largest city on the Great Ocean Road. This charming coastal city has an interesting maritime history, told in detail at the Flagstaff Hill Museum. The city is also famous for the whales that visit each year to calve at Logan’s Beach between June and September.
Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve — its funnel-shaped crater formed by a violent volcanic eruption 25,000 years ago — offers visitors a close encounter with native animals such as emus, koalas, and kangaroos. Local Worn Gundidj guides share their local perspectives on nature, wildlife, and Indigenous culture. Just 20 minutes further down the road is the historic fishing village of Port Fairy, known for its dozens of beautiful heritage buildings.
One of Victoria’s favorite coastal playgrounds, Phillip Island is The Penguin Plus experience is recommended as your guests located 90 mins from Melbourne and is a natural wonderland, packed with native wildlife, rugged coastal trails, surf breaks, sandy beaches, and aquatic adventures. By day, friendly locals welcome visitors to their small-batch breweries and boutique wineries, and every night, hundreds of Little Penguins make their nightly march up the beach.
A fast boat ride to Seal Rocks brings visitors to Australia’s largest fur seal colony, home to over 15,000 fur seals. Witness their natural environment first hand as your boat drifts within feet of thousands of these playful creatures.
The nearby Koala Conservation Centre allows you to come ‘face-to-face’ with koalas in their natural habitat. Wander through extensive trails in Australian bushland which is also home to many animals including wallabies, echidnas, and native birds.
YARRA VALLEY & THE DANDENONG RANGES
The Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges offer a peaceful yet stimulating escape only approximately an hour from Melbourne. One of Australia’s premier wine-growing regions, the Yarra Valley offers an exquisite food and wine experience. The sensory adventure continues into the Dandenong Ranges, where idyllic scenes of verdant forest and charming scenes of quaint villages peacefully coexist. Healesville Sanctuary is home to dingoes, kangaroos, wombats, and the elusive platypus, which quests can view from a specially designed nocturnal enclosure. The Dandenong Ranges are a haven full of secret fern glades, towering trees, and delightful villages. Puffing Billy, Australia’s oldest steam train, winds through the lush forests for a unique view of the scenery. At William Ricketts Sanctuary visitors can wander among rocks and fern gardens dotted with intriguing clay sculptures of Aboriginal figures.
During the 19th Century, prospectors came from all over the world to find a new future in Ballarat and Bendigo. The wealth and opulence of Australia’s 19th-century gold rush continues to shape the Goldfields today, Visitors traveling the “Goldfields route” can follow in the footprints of these fortune hunters and be inspired through magnificent architecture, celebrated art galleries, and historic theatres.
Ballarat is just a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, and the award-winning Sovereign Hill Outdoor Museum is the ideal place to learn about Australia’s gold rush history. Set on a former gold-mining site, Sovereign Hill recreates the hustle and bustle of life in the 1850s. Guests can stay at Sovereign Hill Hotel or spend the night at one of Ballarat’s historic hotels, like the beautifully renovated The Provincial Hotel.
The Murray River flows 1,572 miles and forms the border between Victoria and New South Wales. Along its banks are sandy river beaches, redgum forests, and river-side historic towns Echuca, Swan Hill, and Mildura. Visitors can take a river cruise on a paddle steamer or hire their own houseboat. Canoeing, waterskiing, and wakeboarding also popular water activities. The vibrant region is known as being one of the state’s food bowls, with artisan producers, wineries, and destination restaurants located throughout. History enthusiasts will love nearby Mungo National Park, where some of the world’s oldest Homosapien remains were discovered, dating back more than 40,000 years.
Famous for its laid-back charm, the Mornington Peninsula is home to golden beaches, sophisticated seaside villages, and charming hinterland hamlets — a beautiful escape just 1 hour from Melbourne Boutique wineries, cellar doors, craft breweries, and distilleries sit alongside innovative restaurants, local produce stores, and farm gates. Combine this with art galleries, manicured gardens, geothermal springs, and renowned golf courses and you have a relaxing and indulgent experience. Visitors traveling by car can take a 40-minute ferry ride across Port Phillip Bay between Sorrento and Queenscliff to continue their adventure.
GEELONG & THE BELLARINE
Geelong & The Bellarine combines charming coastal villages with a lively and evolving waterfront city. Geelong is a city that lush golf continues to thrive, with a vibrant creative hub, urban precincts, and hip eateries. The Bellarine offers golden-sand beaches, al fresco dining, just-caught seafood, boutique wineries, and wildlife experiences on Port Phillip Bay. Meet local makers and growers along the Bellarine Taste Trail, wander down historic streetscapes or tee off at courses. Alternatively, surf, paddle and swim in the bay and ocean beaches and get close to the local wildlife in Port Phillip Bay. Sign up for a scenic flight across the peninsular!
The breathtaking landscapes of the Grampians exhilarate adventurers and inspire painters. Featuring majestic rock faces, hiking trails, lookouts, and waterfalls, along with plenty of native wildlife this three-hour drive northwest of Melbourne is worth the journey. It’s also home to one of Victoria’s most celebrated restaurant experiences, this destination is also high up on the epicurean’s list! The Grampians National Park is one of Victoria’s most popular destinations for rock climbing and abseiling, and features more than 100 miles of walking tracks – including Mackenzie Falls Trail, Pinnacles Trail, and Grampians Peaks Trail – waterfalls and scenic lookouts. For the Aboriginal people of the area, The Grampians has always been a spiritual place and the local caves contain many indigenous rock paintings. Visitors can learn more about local indigenous culture at Brambuk – The National Park & Cultural Centre.
Gippsland is home to beautiful national parks, rustic seaside villages, and stunning mountain landscapes. Some visit for the collection of wineries and culinary gems, while for others it’s a paradise for nature lovers and bushwalkers. The landscape at Wilsons Promontory National Park is a stunning natural showcase and the new Pennecott Wilsons to Promontory cruise adds a must-do to every itinerary. You’ll be amazed by this iconic granite monolith. surrounded by azure blue waters and protected by thousands of barking fur seals, a mysterious and untouched island sits undisturbed off the rugged coast of Victoria’s Wilsons Promontory.
Further inland is several historic gold-mining towns like Walhalla, which became home to over 3,500 people following the discovery of gold in 1863. Only around 20 residents live here today, keeping the spirit and memories of Walhalla alive. The surrounding region has a rich farming industry, and there are plenty of wineries, cheese-makers, and fruit and berry farms visit.
The Gippsland Lakes provide a wide range of activities including swimming, fishing, cycling, boating, and sailing. More relaxed travelers may prefer to stroll through the waterfront villages of Paynesville, Metung, or Lakes Entrance, where the lakes meet the sea. The region’s second nature paradise is Croajingolong National Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve that extends more than 62 miles along the coast. The park offers majestic sand dunes, a network of bushwalking tracks, and great bird watching.
On the way to Mallacoota, the coastal wilderness park at Cape Conran offers 37 miles of isolated sandy beaches facing south over the rugged Bass Strait. This region is part of the Sydney Melbourne Touring Route, a three- to seven-day self-drive tour inviting travelers to discover the rich and varied landscapes between Melbourne and Sydney.
This unique region lies approximately 2.5 hours northeast of Melbourne and is a popular stop on the Melbourne to Sydney drive. Visitors experience a natural high in Victoria’s epicenter of outdoor adventure. Biking, hiking, and horseback riding all offer spectacular views of tranquil lakes, rolling plains, and this area is known for its scenic alpine landscapes in Falls Creek, Mt Buller, and Mt Hotham, historic towns such as Bright, bushranger folklore in Glenrowan. The High Country also boasts seven wine regions, an abundance of craft breweries, and some of the state’s finest epicurean villages.