Melbourne is a vibrant, multicultural city, but there is a lot more to Victoria than its bustling capital. If you’re road-tripping your way around Victoria, you’ll be rewarded with stunning landscapes, historic towns, and abundant wildlife.
During winter, when the temperature drops, it’s the perfect time to head to the ski fields of the Victorian High Country. When the weather is warmer and the sun is shining, head to the coast.
It’s easy to drive around Victoria, but V/Line operates regional train and coach services throughout the state. While the state is compact, the distances in Victoria can be deceptive, particularly in the High Country where you’ll need to drive slowly along windy roads.
Traveling through Gippsland is one of the highlights of southeast Victoria. Wilsons Promontory (known as “The Prom”) is one of the state’s best-loved national parks, with turquoise waters, white sand beaches, sand dunes and temperate rainforests. The hiking here is spectacular, and there are more than 49 mi (80km) of walking tracks. If you have the time, consider walking 11.8 mi (19km) from Telegraph Saddle to the lighthouse – the southernmost occupied point of mainland Australia. Along the way, you’ll see eastern grey kangaroos, swamp wallabies, emus, wombats, and fairy-wrens.
The natural beauty of Gippsland is on full show in Croajingolong National Park, one of 12 World Biosphere Reserves in Australia. Koalas hide in the gum trees along the path of the Double Creek Nature Walk, and kangaroos graze near the banks of the Mallacoota Inlet.
The High Country in northeast Victoria is where you’ll find the state’s highest mountains, snowfields, vineyards, and a colorful history. You can find out more about bushrangers (outlaws who lived in the bush and were widespread in this area in the 1850s), in the town of Glenrowan. Visit the Ned Kelly Museum and Homestead, and follow the interpretive displays to find out more about Australia’s most famous bushranger.
For natural beauty in the fall, head to the towns of Bright and Myrtleford, when the tree leaves turn red, amber and orange. As the weather cools, keen snowboarders and skiers migrate to Mount Buller, Mount Buffalo, Mount Hotham, and Falls Creek. And once the snow melts, bushwalkers, horse riders, and cyclists come out in force. Most of the trails throughout the High Country are shared among walkers, runners and riders, and the most popular paths are the 1.9 mi (3.1 km) Family Trail starting at the clocktower in the Mt Buller village square, the 2.4 mi (4 km) Mt Timbertop walk located on Howqua Track just past Merrijig, and the 2.7 mi (4.5 km) Packhorse Heritage Trail starting from Falls Creek village.
Victoria has numerous regional restaurants punching above their weight, and the food scene here demands attention. In Geelong, the intimate 28-seat restaurant Igni is a standout; its menu is an ode to fire and hyper-local produce. Brae, the first Australian restaurant named in the 2018 World’s Best Restaurants List, is 50 minutes inland from Geelong, but the detour is worth it.
Further along the iconic road, the 86 mile (140km) loop of the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail starts in Port Campbell and takes in providers selling gourmet cheese, ice cream, whiskey, olives, chocolate, snails, strawberries, wine, beer, and fudge.
The High Country is also one of the state’s popular wine regions, with great wineries including Feathertop and Gapsted. In May each year, the High Country Harvest Festival celebrates local food, wine and craft beer.
Start at Hanging Rock in central Victoria and explore the Hanging Rock Discovery Centre for an insight into how Indigenous Australians used the area for more than 26,000 years, the geology of the unusual volcanic formation, and the background to Joan Lindsay’s famous book, Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Continue to the gold rush town of Bendigo for a taste of the thriving arts scene and gilded history, and beyond to Echuca, on the banks of the Murray River. Here, the whistles of paddle steamers fill the air as you cruise down the river, passing ancient river gums and imagining what the area was like in the 1800s when this was one of Victoria’s busiest stretches of water for trading wool from nearby sheep stations.
The Grampians, or Gariwerd, as they were traditionally known, has been central to the dreaming of Aboriginal people for more than 30,000 years. It’s home to more than 80% of Victoria’s rock art sites, and other ancient indigenous artifacts such as stones for tool making and oven.
From Melbourne, take the Western Highway to Halls Gap, traveling through Beaufort. On your way, stop off at Michael Unwin and Mt Langi Ghiran vineyards to sample some of the state’s finest shiraz. The Brambuk Center in Halls Gap is a great place to learn about the significance of the Grampians for Indigenous people, where Aboriginal guides offer tours to rock art sites.
There are a number of spectacular waterfalls in the Grampians National Park, including the constantly flowing 115ft (35m) high MacKenzie Falls. Swimming is not allowed, so locals head to the deep, cool pools of Fish Falls from the Zumsteins picnic area. If you’re feeling energetic and sure-footed, one of the best walks in the park is the Pinnacle, a 3.4-mile (5.5km) round trip from the Wonderland carpark that has spectacular views of the eastern Grampians.
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