Hotly debated as the cultural alternative to Sydney, Melbourne showcases an altogether different type of vibe, playing host to arts festivals and international sporting events throughout the year, and being home to trendy galleries, colourful laneways, hip beachside suburbs such as St Kilda, and an impressive array of food and wine hotspots, chic eateries and trendy shops.
Wildlife fans should head to nearby Phillip Island for the impossibly cute nightly penguin parade, while food and wine lovers will discover Victoria’s finest offerings, as well as some unspoilt, secluded beaches, on the Mornington Peninsula, just an hour’s drive from Melbourne and an ideal start or end to a Great Ocean Road self-drive vacation. Wine is also the draw card of the Yarra Valley, and the foodie heaven of Daylesford is home to fantastic restaurants, hotels and spas – as is Healesville, which as well as being renowned for its food, has an animal sanctuary where you can meet some of Australia’s most famous residents, including kangaroos and koalas.
The Great Ocean Road
Hugging the rugged south west coastline, the Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s greatest drives, with sweeping coastlines on one side and lush ancient rainforest on the other. Drive along the coast to seaside towns such as Torquay, Lorne and Apollo Bay where you’ll discover stunning surf beaches, and inland, you’ll find some of Australia's best rainforest scenery amongst the Otway Ranges. The road mostly tracks the coastline - stop off and follow the boardwalks to see iconic wave-sculpted rock formations like the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, which form part of the Shipwreck Coast (so-named because of its colourful maritime history).
Grampians National Park
The Grampians National Park is simply spectacular, and around its rugged mountains and gushing waterfalls, there is a superb choice of walking trails where you’ll be rewarded with some wildlife sightings and scenic lookouts. Halls Gap is the doorway to the Grampians and a great spot to base yourself, and circling the town is the Wonderland Forest Park, which is one of the most popular sections of the Grampians, thanks to its spectacular rock formations, deep canyons and panoramic viewpoints.