Victoria seems to be an inconsequential state from looking at a map of Australia; it’s the smallest state on the mainland, pushed into a corner by the other states.
Appearances in this case are very deceiving, for even though Victoria is small, it is by no means unimportant. The capital of Victoria, Melbourne, is one of Australia’s most important cities as well as the second largest. Victoria also manages to fit into its small frame 39 national parks, as well as numerous state parks. Plus the amazing stretch of coastline that follows the Great Ocean Road and the beauty of Phillip Island, home to the Little Penguin March.
No matter where you are in Victoria, there’s always a town nearby with plenty of attractions, and since this is the Garden State, expect to see just as much by heading out into the wilderness.
Melbourne will end up being your hub as you travel from attraction to attraction in this state, and for good reason. Melbourne’s ever-changing cosmopolitan feeling will have you wanting more, yet its urban frenzy is kept to a minimum, allowing you to enjoy the town at your own pace, despite the ever-changing weather.
Melbourne is the cultural heart and soul of Victoria, but don’t let that discourage you from heading outside of the city to get your fix on fantastic attractions. From far-flung towns located on the Mornington Peninsula and the beautiful vistas on Phillip Island and French Island to the east of the city, to the surf beaches and amazing wineries that make up the Bellarine Peninsula past the city of Geelong to the west, there’s definitely a reason to get out of the city for the weekend. Feel free to click on any of the links above for an in-depth look at them.
– Where to stay: There’s a number of places sprinkled around the countryside, but Melbourne is centrally located to all of these, and if you’re only going to spend the day there it only makes sense to stay inside the city.
• Visit the town of Werribee and its top attractions: its open-range zoo, the Werribee Park Mansion, and the rose garden, conveniently all located on the same block.
• Head out for surf along the amazing beaches that line the Bellarine, especially in and around the towns of Queenscliff and Barwon Heads.
• Visit the islands of French and Phillip, enjoying the natural splendour around you. Highlights include bushwalks through koala colonies and the penguin parade.
• Wander around the town of Sorrento, Victoria’s first official settlement, and enjoy the two walking tours that will take you through the historic town, or up into ‘Millionaire’s Walk.’
• Go for a dive off the shore at Queenscliff, exploring the wrecks in the area that have occurred as a result of the treacherous currents nearby.
Victoria’s coastal west is dominated by the most famous stretch of road in all of Australia. The sights and sounds that you can see as you drive along the Great Ocean Road are unparalleled in the country. From Torquay, the surf capital of the state, in the east to the end of the road in the west near Warrnambool, a great town with a thriving whale watching industry, the road is just as much a tourist destination as the towns along it. Also take note of the towns of Anglesea, a great place to spot wild kangaroos, and Apollo Bay, a laid-back location where you can catch some great waves.
• Enthral yourself in the surf culture that makes Torquay such a popular destination, from the popular surf beaches Back Beach and Bells Beach to the Surfworld Australia Surfing Museum.
• Hit up the nightlife in Lorne, a popular summer destination for Victorians with plenty of great cafes, restaurants, and bars.
• Visit the Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell National Park, some of the most well known rock formations in both Victoria and Australia.
• Go on a whale-watching tour from the town of Warrnambool, and afterwards, hang out in some of the pubs attracting students from the Warrnambool campus of Deakin University.
• Head to the southwest town of Portland and head out for a daylong hike on a part of the Great South West Walk, a huge 250km loop that begins and ends in town.
Further inland, the area known as the Grampians is dominated by the national park that lends its name. The Grampians National Park is a rich combination of natural ranges, sandstone mountain peaks, fantastic walking paths and a rich Aboriginal culture. Inside the national park is the small town of Halls Gap, which caters to the ever-exploring tourist with its one main street and several thousand beds, and just north of the park is the town of Horsham, a favourite with author Mark Twain.
Further east, the national park opens up to fields and fields of farmlands and gold, with Bendigo and Ballarat being the two major cities in this region famous for gold rushes and rebellions. To learn more about the golden city of Bendigo, click on its link
• Visit the Grampians National Park for an amazing display of flora, fauna, Aboriginal rock art, walking trails, and rock-climbing sites. Especially take a look at the wildflowers – about twenty species exist in the park that do not exist anywhere else.
• Head to the town of Ballarat for examples of fantastic Victorian-era buildings, and in early March, head here for the 100+ year-old Begonia Festival.
• View artwork from significant Australian artists, as well as rotating contemporary exhibits, at the Horsham Art Gallery.
• Take a hot-air balloon flight from Bendigo, getting a full birds-eye view of the environs around town. Hey, on a good day you might be able to see as far away as Melbourne!
• Go back in time and head to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, a re-creation of a 1860s mining town, complete with actors, gold panning, tours of recreated gold mines, and gold pours.
Not far from Melbourne are two great places to spend the day. First, there’s the Yarra Valley, a premier wine region in Victoria and a fantastic place for walking and cycling. From Healesville, the main town in the Valley, you’ll be able not only to try some of Victoria’s best products, you’ll also be able to see some fantastic species at the ever-popular sanctuary.
A little bit further north and you’ll stumble upon the absolutely beautiful Dandenong Ranges, with their patchwork of exotic and native species, complete with a heritage tourist train. The combination of the two of them will definitely keep you entertained for several days.
• Enjoy the great outdoors and sample some of the best wines Victoria has to offer by heading north from Melbourne, to the Yarra Valley.
• Bushwalk through the Dandenong Ranges, taking note of all the flora and fauna around you; especially head towards the large ash trees that make up the Sherwood Forest.
• End the day at the Dangenongs by taking a ride on Puffing Billy, a train that snakes around and through the range, and enjoy the scenery as it moves past.
• Visit the Healesville Sanctuary, where you’ll be able to see a myriad of different species, including ones that were affected by the wildfires of Black Saturday in 2009.
• In February, attend the Grape Grazing Festival which celebrates the beginning of the wine harvest season.
There’s no question that Gippsland doesn’t receive the attention that it deserves, often being passed up for other destinations in the state. That doesn’t mean you should go ahead and make the same mistake. Gippsland is located on the southeast coast of Victoria, and is full with national parks, lakes, uncrowded beaches, and some fantastic wildlife. Wilsons Promontory National Park, located in Gippsland is one of the most popular national parks in all of Australia, located on the coastline about three hours away from Melbourne.
The border between Victoria and New South Wales is often centred on the Murray River, an important lifeline for Australians and the third-largest navigable river in the world. Paddle steamer cruises go up and down the Murray, from wharfs in the fruit-picking base of Mildura, the paddle steamer capital of Echuca, and the old-time town of Chiltern among others.
Each major settlement has formed a symbiotic relationship with a town on the other side of the river, such as the towns of Wodonga and Albury in New South Wales. Further inland from the river, towns such as Wangaratta thrive on being modern towns surrounded by snowfields, and you’ll also get some great lure out of the locals.
• Head out for a steamer cruise from either Mildura or Echuca to see the Murray River up close and personal. Book a lunch or dinner cruise for an extra treat.
• Visit the Pioneer Settlement in Swan Hill, a great re-creation of a port town way back when. With old-time shops, schools, churches, and vintage car rides, you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time.
• In the town of Rutherglen, take advantage of the many wineries in the area and go for a wine tasting tour.
• Winter sports are big at Mt Buller, with its extensive lift network, cross-country trails, and terrain parks for snowboarders.
• During early November, head to Wangaratta for the Wangaratta Jazz Festival, which attracts jazz music fans from all over the world.
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