It is hard to wrap your head around the fact that 90% of Victorian’s population live in cities and urban centres. Melbourne is of course the most populated place in this state, with the coastal strip around Port Phillip Bay coming in a strong second. Here you will find the city of Geelong, just an hours’ drive from Melbourne and popular with the weekend crowd thanks to the historic beachside atmosphere and culinary pleasures.
A little bit further away but still easily accessible by car, is Australia’s Great Ocean Road, a 240km coastal route that is famous for its eroding sandstone formations, shipwrecks, waterfalls and roadside koalas. The most famous rock formation is that of the 12 Apostles, but there are also noteworthy stops along the way such as the London Bridge, the Grotto and the Bay of Islands. If you are flying into the region just to see the Great Ocean Road without planning a stop in Melbourne, use Avalon Airport as your gateway.
Further inland, visit places like Ballarat and Bendigo to learn more about the mad gold rush in the 19th century that helped build Victoria to what it is today. The gold rush that emerged shortly after the foundation of Victoria as a separate state is unmatched anywhere in the world, and the cities that sprung up like mushrooms during that time have many interesting stories to tell – just look at the grandeur of the buildings that are lining the main streets of the city centres.
The Yarra Valley is just 90mins from Melbourne’s CBD and is one of the most successful wine growing regions in Australia. Combine a tour of the local vineyards with a visit to the Dandenong Ranges National Park and treat the kids to a ride on the famous Puffing Billy Railway. The area is perfect for visits to gardens, parks, and local farms.
Morning Peninsula and Phillip Island are geographically close to each other and offer two very different experiences, both in day-trip range to Melbourne. The first is a popular weekend destination for Melbourne residents, with many beach houses offering accommodation close to the sea in summer. The latter is famous for the cute fairy penguin parade which happens daily at sunset when the penguins come ashore in groups.
Climbers and hikers will venture further. The Grampians are a formidable mountain landscape with some spectacular peaks and stunning vistas. Local Aboriginal groups have strong ties with this region, and there are numerous rock art examples to be found here, making it one of the richest rock art sites in south-eastern Australia.
Lastly, up in the state’s far north you can experience rural living in Mildura and surrounds, which hugs the mighty Murray River in the most romantic and enchanting way. Or, in winter, head to the mountains for some skiing action on the slopes of Mount Buller.