Prepare yourself to take the road less travelled as we introduce you to some of Victoria’s hidden-gem road trips.
The Great Ocean Road, Mornington Peninsula, Grampians National Park – Victoria is full of hot-shot road trips that get plenty of love.
But what about the lesser-known spots that are as equally enticing? Turns out, you can embark on a number of road trips that even plenty of Victorians have never heard of.
Here are 10 hidden-gem road trips to discover on your next driving holiday.
1. See the Silo Art of Western Victoria
Silo art trails have been popping up around Australia as the hot new way to see the countryside and get a culture fix at the same time. This particular one, located in Victoria’s west, is considered the largest outdoor gallery in Australia – stretching over 200 kilometres and linking six small country towns.
In 2016, Canberra artist Guido van Helten painted an anonymous, multi-generational quartet of female and male farmers across four 1939-built GrainCorp silos. With that action, he transformed the spirit of the Wimmera Mallee region, linking Brim with the neighbouring towns of Lascelles, Patchewollock, Rosebery, Rupanyup and Sheep Hill to create the Silo Art Trail.
These days, visitors can tackle the self-guided journey by car. Stop to enjoy the allures of each region, as well as marvelling at the area’s ancient Indigenous roots and its history as one of Australia’s most important grain-growing regions.
Don’t miss: See the silos from above on a scenic flight with Grampians Helicopters. Learn about the faces and places painted by the locally born and raised pilot.
Guido van Helten’s incredible silo art is attracting visitors
2. A detour to Otway
The Great Ocean Road is firmly at the top of most of the best Victorian road trip lists. However, one of the lesser-known towns among the many that populate this route is Otway. Hidden among its delicious produce, waterfalls and hinterland is Cape Otway National Park – a place that’s worth getting in the car for.
Inside you’ll find a rugged coastline, rock formations, beaches, ferny forests and hopefully, Australia’s largest remaining marsupial carnivore, the tiger quoll. The forests, woodlands and coastline of the Otway Ranges are one of the last remaining habitats for this special creature that is on the brink of extinction. Keep your eyes peeled.
Don’t miss: Hopetoun Falls. There’s a platform 20 metres from the car park where you can view the waterfall from the top.
Otway Rainforest, has some of the tallest eucalyptus trees in the world
3. Phillip Island to French Island
Find passionate producers, nature-based experiences and those famous surf breaks – could Phillip Island be the ultimate seaside getaway? Yes. Particularly because it comes with access to Victoria’s largest coastal island: French Island.
One-hundred-odd people live on this slice of island paradise. Approximately 70 per cent of its 170 square kilometres has been declared a national park and the remainder is privately-owned freehold land, including some of the most exclusive real estate in Victoria. It sits just north of Phillip Island in Western Port and is connected by daily ferries from Stony Point.
Don’t miss: Thanks to its seclusion, French Island has remained relatively untouched over the years. And the flora and fauna have thrived as a result: find almost 300 species of birds, over 100 types of bush orchids, the endangered long-nosed potoroo, and koalas are free from the chlamydia disease that’s ravaged the population on the mainland.
Stairway to heaven on French Island
4. The other Goldfields town
Bendigo’s reputation isn’t as notorious as Ballarat’s, but the other Goldfields town at the heart of Central Victoria (and one-time richest city in the world) has been drawing people from across the globe ever since the 1850s gold rush.
The city now pays homage to a wealth of a different kind as a cultural and foodie hotspot. Wineries, craft brewers and boutique food producers abound (in 2019 Bendigo was designated as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy) all set among the legacy of grand buildings, historic gardens, avenues and charming homes.
Don’t miss: The Bendigo Art Gallery. It’s considered one of the country’s best regional galleries and has carved a niche for itself with blockbuster fashion and design exhibitions including Marilyn Monroe and Marimekko: Design Icon 1951-2018.
Wineries, craft brewers and boutique food producers abound in Bendigo. (Credit Christine Aldred)
5. The Bellarine Taste Trail
The wide, sun-drenched landscape that stretches along the Bellarine Peninsula is one of the country’s most fertile food bowls, with local producers offering up everything from olives to cool-climate wines.
If you’re feeling peckish, chart a course along the Bellarine Taste Trail to discover a secret gem of a road trip ready to be savoured. There are some seriously decadent foodie institutions which embrace the farm-to-fork philosophy within easy reach from the town’s centre.
White Fisheries sells Port Phillip Bay fish sold on the same day it’s caught. Find Lonsdale Tomato Farm and their authentic farmgate store down an unassuming country road. Igni was named the 2017 Regional Restaurant of the Year in the Gourmet Traveller’s national restaurant awards and the fire-driven degustation menu is truly jaw-dropping. Wattle Grove Honey produces pure Australian honey and beeswax products from their own beehives. Find more here.
Don’t miss: A stay at Campbell Point House. For those who have long dreamt of staying in an elegant, 20-million dollar luxury accommodation, this is the only way to do it.
Campbell Point House in all it’s glory
6. Lake Mountain
Lake Mountain is Melbourne’s closest and most affordable Alpine Resort. It has 30 kilometres of trails and is the third most visited cross-country site in the world. It’s around two hours’ scenic drive from Melbourne.
The spot caters to ‘snowplay’ – cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, etc. There is no downhill skiing or snowboarding. When the snow melts and the crowds swap snow boots for board shorts and bikinis, you’ll find rolling green mountains, itching to be hiked and biked.
Don’t miss: The nearby town of Marysville has been experiencing a marvellous rebirth after the tragic Black Saturday bushfires of 2009. The 20-kilometre drive down from Lake Mountain is one of the most picturesque alpine drives in Australia and full of adventure: the town’s surrounds are a paradise for hikers, foodies and market shoppers.
Lake Mountain is Melbourne’s closest and most affordable Alpine Resort
7. Budj Bim National Park
Budj Bim National Park isn’t a place known to most Victorians, but it very well should be. Budj Bim is a Gunditjmara name for Mount Eccles, the long-dormant volcano which once spewed lava up to 50 kilometres toward the sea. It dramatically altered the waterways and wetlands which have remained untouched some 30,000 to 39,000 years later.
Lake Surprise – which has formed in the crater of Mount Eccles – offers a scenic location and playground for an ample dose of recreation. There are spots for camping, walking, mountain biking and 4WDing, plus opportunities for fishing and birdwatching.
The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape has been formally recognised on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is the only Australian World Heritage property listed exclusively for its Aboriginal cultural values. It also features the earliest living example of aquaculture in the world, with a history of eel farming dating back over 6,000 years.
Don’t miss: Budj Bim Tours has been showcasing the important history of the Gunditjmara people since 1999. Take a tour and see remnants of a settled lifestyle that features circular stone dwellings and the remains of Australia’s first and largest freshwater stone aquaculture system.
Budj Bim Cultural Landscape’s cultural tours offer visitors an opportunity to form deeper connections to Country and the history and culture of Budj Bim, no matter what time frame they are working with. Whether you’ve only got a couple of hours or a whole weekend, there’s a tour to suit everybody.
Budj Bim is the source of the Tyrendarra lava flow which extends over 50 kilometres to the southwest
8. Pink Lakes of Murray Sunset National Park
Pink Lakes live on the edge of Murray Sunset National Park – a location which is often referred to as Victoria’s own outback. It is pristine, untouched and in a fast-paced world it offers a chance to get back to nature.
Thanks to the Pink Lakes’ combination of salt-loving algae and high salinity levels the pink hue of the water changes by the hour, depending on the cloud conditions above. Generally you’ll find that on cloudy days the pinks are at their most striking, and at other times they are more of a fairy-floss hue.
The flora and fauna are varied and abundant at the Pink Lakes. Look out for the red kangaroos, the Murray Lily flower, and if you’re a bird watcher make sure to pack your guide book as there are loads of colourful and elusive species to discover. For bushwalkers, the area offers some beautiful walks, particularly in spring when the wildflowers are in bloom. There are easy walks around Lake Hardy and Lake Becking as well as the longer Kline nature trail.
Don’t miss: Murray Sunset National Park is considered a stargazing haven. Make a night of it and book a campsite to enjoy the evening spectacle.
Pink Lakes live on the edge of Murray Sunset National Park. (Credit: Visit Victoria)
9. The Macedon Ranges
While not as unknown as some of the others on this list, the Macedon Ranges do provide one point of bizarre difference not found anywhere else. Straw’s Lane – or Anti-Gravity Hill – is the optical illusion landmark found in few places around the world.
The phenomenon is the southernmost Gravity Hill in the world. A place where cars appear to roll upwards, contradicting the laws of gravity. Where the horizon is either obstructed or curved, and the false horizon makes judging the gradient of a slope difficult. As your eyes adjust your perception of the landscape is altered.
Videos online showcase the anti-gravity magic of Straws Lane. To see it for yourself, visit Straw’s Lane just south of the intersection at Romsey Road.
Don’t miss: Time your journey with a visit to Woodend, famous for its unusual volcanic rock formation (better known as the perpetually spooky Hanging Rock). Pack a picnic to recreate the setting of Joan Lindsay’s novel and Peter Weir’s iconic film.
Time your journey with a visit to Woodend
10. Black Spur Drive
The ghostly, peaceful driving experience through the tall, slender galleries of Mountain Ash along the Black Spur Drive is unforgettable.
Beginning at Healesville in the south and ending at Narbethong in the north, the snaking and steep Black Spur drive cuts through the lush rainforest landscapes of the Yarra Ranges. It links the Yarra Valley with the mountain areas around Marysville and is famous for its 27-kilometre twists of towering trees and spectacular valley views.
At the base of the Black Spur you’ll find Fernshaw picnic area with rest facilities. A little further on, Dom Dom in Marysville State Forest has a few basic amenities, too.
Don’t miss: Prior to beginning your Spur adventure, make a beeline for the local wildlife at Healesville Sanctuary. Forget everything you know about zoos – this bushland oasis specialises in native Australian animals, with a longstanding history of breeding programs and preservation.
Moody escarpments of Black Spur