Victoria, discover the best ways to holiday here this year…
Explore Melbourne’s hidden gems, Vic
Melbourne is a compelling city, filled with nooks and crannies that many locals don’t even know about. If you want to get below the surface of the city on your next weekend away, book a tour that suits your interests and curiosities and hit the streets.
Saddle up for the Real Melbourne Bike Tour hosted by Murray Johnson, a local journalist and photographer, exploring the attractions of the city’s backstreets, from markets to shops to cafes to multicultural neighbourhoods.
The city’s street art scene has become an attraction in its own right; this Melbourne Street Tour is conducted by street artists themselves who give an insight into the styles and themes, and explain why Melbourne has become one of the street art capitals of the world.
Selling its experiences as ‘more fun than a walking tour, classier than a bar crawl’, Drinking History Tours’ roster includes the Boozy History & Hidden Bars Tour and Fitzroy: Slumtown to Hipsterville Bar Tour, exploring the dark history, street art and hidden bars of the city’s oldest suburb.
This three-hour Hidden Secrets walking tour through Melbourne’s celebrated laneways and arcades offers up indie designers and retailers, quirky cafes, interesting architecture, street art and local history.
Take a shot of Dutch courage at one of the city’s bars and then head into the night on a Lantern Ghost Tour, exploring the city’s chequered, sometimes macabre, history through tales of opium dens and body snatchers.
Go on tour in Bendigo, Vic
A rich history has bequeathed Bendigo a legacy of grand buildings, historic gardens, avenues and charming homes – making it a delight to explore – but it’s also a goldmine in terms of exceptional local produce. Wineries, craft brewers and boutique food producers abound, and there’s a gin dispensary, too.
What better way to delve deeper into this city than on tour with a local or two to discover the hidden delights from those who love and know the place best?
The freshly minted street art tours led by passionate artist and community organiser Nacho Station are the perfect way to discover the art that abounds. Beginning at Get Naked Espresso Bar, prepare to uncover a world of artistry around town and create some street art of your own. Alternatively, explore the Bendigo Art Gallery with a volunteer guide who’ll divulge the back stories of their favourite pieces.
Discover Bendigo’s culinary treasures on a Food Fossicking Tour with a constantly changing mix of producers. The tour starts at Mister Grimsby Coffee, for a local pastry and special siphon coffee brew. At The Good Loaf bakery, it’s all about using the best local ingredients to produce outstanding sourdoughs.
Decadence is next at Indulge Chocolates where chocolatier Hayley Tibbett will demonstrate how to temper and mould her Belgian couverture chocolates. Next, join chef Gina Triolo from Hoo-gah Cafe to make ricotta gnocchi from scratch. Finally, fill up at the Visitor Centre, sampling local wines and epicurean goods.
Bendigo’s Vintage Talking Tram is a perfect way to get acquainted with the town’s past. As you sit on polished timber seats in original carriages, the recorded commentary points out heritage buildings and landmarks.
The 1860s Sandhurst Gaol, now houses the Ulumbarra Theatre. Knowledgeable volunteers will lead you through the gaol’s austere corridors, bringing stories of past residents to life.
Those into dark and dank will relish an underground tour of Central Deborah Gold Mine, which delivered nearly a tonne of gold during its 15 years of operation until 1954.
There’s plenty more to explore if time allows, including picking veggies from Peppergreen Farm; meeting the dragon at Golden Dragon Museum; dining at Malayan Orchid, El Gordo and Masons of Bendigo; local fare to-go at Bendigo Wholefoods; and spend the night at The Residence of Mackenzie Quarters.
Catch the ferry to Geelong, Vic
Hitch a ride from Melbourne to Geelong on a boat with barista-made coffee, no less: this new 1.5-hour journey with Port Phillip Ferries across Port Phillip Bay and skirting the Bellarine Peninsula will deliver you straight to the heart of Geelong’s dynamic wining and dining scene.
On the waterfront itself, just minutes from the ferry berth at the 19th-century carousel, you’ll find Melbourne hospitality royalty steeped in Geelong heritage in the shape of The Beach House; a cool, breezy 120-seater cafe and takeaway kiosk right on the beach.
A few blocks back from Geelong Waterfront you’ll find creative artery Little Malop Street, packed with all manner of hip places to eat and drink. Seek out European-style bar and deli food at The Continental, the old-world charm of wine bar and store Geelong Cellar Door and new-kid-on-the-block restaurant The Arborist Geelong.
Tour the Mornington Peninsula’s hinterland, Vic
The food and wine spoils of Victoria’s geographically blessed Mornington Peninsula are well known. Not sure where to start? Pocket-sized wine region Red Hill, whose microclimate creates optimum conditions for cold-climate wines, might just be the ticket.
An hour’s drive south of Melbourne, this hinterland seems sleepy on the surface, but packs a punch. You’ll find boutique wineries with on-site fine-dining restaurants: plan a show-stopping lunch at Ten Minutes by Tractor, Montalto or Polperro Winery (which also offers luxury accommodation by way of four vineyard villas and the newly renovated Polperro Farmhouse).
Then there’s a suite of firsts: Mornington Peninsula’s original craft brewery, Red Hill Brewery, is here alongside its first artisanal distillery, Bass & Flinders, and cider making biodynamic pioneers, Mock. Also in the area are a few innovative wildcards: the brutalist landmark Port Phillip Estate, Pt Leo Estate with its on-site sculpture park, and the famously ostentatious Jackalope Hotel and its restaurants Doot Doot Doot and Rare Hare.
And there’s plenty more to explore besides: tuck into a platter at Red Hill Cheese, stop in for all-day tapas and a farm tour at Green Olive, pick strawberries at Sunny Ridge, eat pizza in a converted packing shed at The Epicurean Red Hill and drop in at Merricks General Wine Store, which hosts a program of events that showcase fine art, wine and food.
Camp out in the Grampians, Vic
Victoria’s Grampians National Park (also known by its Indigenous name of Gariwerd), is 10,000 hectares of stunning sandstone mountains, bushwalks, magnificent lookouts, gushing waterfalls and wildlife. And, an easy three-hour car trip drive from Melbourne, it makes for a wholesome family adventure in the mountains.
Head for Halls Gap, the charming village in the heart of the park that’s a quick trip from everything, and make Halls Gap Zoo your first stop. Follow your visit swiftly by a scoop or two at Coolas Ice Creamery. Go horse riding in the foothills of the mountains with Grampians Horse Riding, suitable for all abilities (and kids over 10), take the short walk to spectacular MacKenzie Falls, and set yourself down on the soft sandy beach of tranquil Lake Fyans for a day spent swimming and sailing.
There are plenty of family-friendly accommodation options to choose from but Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park has it all: a bush camping experience, surrounded by mountain views and native wildlife, with the boon of resort-style conveniences and facilities.
Revisit Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill, Vic
Since 1970, Sovereign Hill has been telling the tale of life as it was in 1850s Ballarat, during the greatest shallow alluvial gold rush the world has ever seen: this icon of Aussie tourism and venerable living museum turns 50 in November.
Expect exciting developments to help celebrate that build on the success of the cutting-edge immersive theatre experience, Aura, that was launched last year. Suitable for families, this light and sound show unfolds through hundreds of projections that follow the story of gold from its very beginnings, incorporating the Wadawurrung creation story, right up until the current day.
Set on 25 hectares of an original mining site, Sovereign Hill is a true goldfields town complete with shops, hotels, a theatre, schools, factories and underground mines to explore. Stay on site at the Sovereign Hill Hotel for the whole package.
Stay in style in Daylesford, Vic
Designer Lynda Gardener is a passionate advocate for the allures of the Victorian town of Daylesford and its surrounds. Her three stylish holidays escapes in the area – The White House, The Estate Trentham and Room + Board – serve as delightful bases for exploring the sights of the region. Here, she shares her favourite things to do and places to visit on a short break.
Why should people consider visiting the Daylesford area? It’s such a short drive from Melbourne and has so many great places to stay, and visit – great cafes and markets. Hepburn Springs and the surrounding towns are all less than an hour away, It’s a special place.
What are your favourite things to do in the area? Walking around Lake Daylesford; visiting the second-hand market every Sunday morning at the original train station; having breakfast and wandering the main street; visiting Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens; and going for long meandering drives to the surrounding towns.
Summer versus winter – what does each have to offer? Winter is all about sitting around the fireplace, resting and reading, staying warm, going for slow walks around Daylesford Lake and eating in. Summer is for swimming in the lake, taking drives, enjoying walks and doing anything outdoor; Lavandula Farm is a perfect place to sit outside and eat lavender scones.
What are your favourite places to shop locally? Manteau Noir is my favourite followed by Harry and Me; Found antiques is also a wonderful place. The entire main street has wonderful shopping including Bromley & Co and one-off stores.
What would your ideal weekend in Daylesford include? My ideal weekend is all about laying low and just enjoying my home: lazing around with my partner and taking time to be with friends who make their way here from Melbourne. It’s all about enjoying time out.
Tour the towns of the Great Alpine Road, Vic
The Great Alpine Road winds its way through 339 kilometres of Victoria’s High Country, passing through some of the most picturesque villages the state has to offer, and some of its foodie hotspots. So hit the road with an empty Esky and an appetite and see where you end up (but don’t miss these highlights).
If cheese and wine are your thing, you’re in for a treat in Milawa. Check out Brown Brothers for its award-winning wines (choose to stop off at the cellar door or enjoy a long lunch at Patricia’s Table), stock up at Milawa Mustards and indulge in a tasting at Milawa Cheese Factory (before browsing the gallery, quaint cellar door and other businesses contained in this century-old former butter factory).
A detour to the village of Beechworth is non-negotiable, if not for its historic honey granite buildings built on gold-rush wealth and steeped in Ned Kelly legend, but for its booming food and wine scene. This is the home of destination, two-hatted restaurant Provenance and its on-site accommodation that overlooks a quiet courtyard. Beechworth is made for browsing, and its collection of designer boutiques, homewares stores and eclectic emporiums provide just the excuse.
Set on the Ovens River, the alpine town of Bright is all about outdoor pursuits and scenic beauty, and where you’ll find farm gates and cellar doors down quiet country roads. Stop at small-batch roastery Sixpence Coffee or Ginger Baker cafe and wine bar. The nearby towns and villages of Porepunkah, Wandiligong and Harrietville offer similar wholesome activities and serve as gateways to Alpine and Mt Buffalo national parks.
A 15-minute drive from Mt Hotham at an elevation of 1570 metres lies Dinner Plain. Wander the streets and set out on surrounding bush walks, take a soak at the Japanese-inspired Onsen Retreat + Spa and sip a Powder Pale Ale at Blizzard, Australia’s highest-altitude brewery.
A small rural village in East Gippsland, near the end of the Great Alpine Road, 24 kilometres from Bairnsdale, Bruthen has plenty of spirit and character, as evidenced in the blues and arts festival it hosts annually. There’s a small but quality gallery dedicated to the work of local artists, a couple of cute junk shops including Bruthen Bizarre; and the Bullant Brewery, which aims to pair the best on-site brewed beer with the best regionally sourced food. From here, continue on a tour of East Gippsland.
Road trip through East Gippsland, Vic
The eastern end of the Great Alpine Road marks a good spot to start a leisurely meander through the towns and villages of Victoria’s East Gippsland, strung like pearls along the Sydney–Melbourne coastal drive.
Begin in the city of Bairnsdale, with its interesting history and architecture (including the Romanesque-style church, St Mary’s), and eateries championing local produce including The Loft and Northern Ground. It’s also the gateway to the tranquil Gippsland Lakes system and its laid-back lakeside towns of Lakes Entrance, Metung and Paynesville. While away some hours engaging in your choice of therapeutic waterside pursuit: from boating and fishing, to swimming, canoeing and kayaking.
Cross over into Snowy River Country, which spans from forest to sea. Don’t miss Sailors Grave Brewing in Orbost. Just 15 minutes from here in the pretty little town of Marlo, legendary pub Marlo Hotel provides accommodation and some of the best sunsets going.
From here, you can also take a day or two to explore the Snowy River Country Trail, a 285-kilometre drive through the region’s natural and heritage attractions including the Buchan Caves Reserve. Be sure to have a drink at the world’s first-ever crowd-funded pub: the historic Buchan Caves Hotel was rebuilt after it was destroyed by a 2014 bushfire, with the support from not only the local community but well-wishers from as far away as the UK and USA.
Made up of coast, rivers and hinterland, Croajingolong National Park follows the far-eastern coastline of Victoria for 100 kilometres. At its heart lies the blissful village of Mallacoota, surrounded by wilderness and set on a beautiful lake known as the Mallacoota Inlet.
Check into Karbeethong Lodge, a guest house that’s been in business since the 1920s. A boutique offering today, it stylishly retains its old-school charm and boasts the same eternal water views from the verandah that inspired Banjo Paterson when he stayed once upon a time. Upstream from here, Gipsy Point Lodge is another idyllic spot: a restaurant and retreat on the junction of two rivers with rooms and self-contained cottages.