I have been to Melbourne quite a few times – I love its restaurants and art and international culture, but as I had never set foot outside of the city I decided it was time to see what else Victoria has to offer.
In four days I experienced four amazing parts of the State, all just a short distance out of Melbourne City. The region lends itself well to self-drive tours with great itineraries available and in all cases we drove for no more than 90 minutes before stopping at great little places.
We headed straight east from the airport to the Yarra Valley, a beautiful area full of famous vineyards and historic hotels and even kangaroos grazing outside our accommodation! Some of the highlights of our tour, along with visits to Rochford Wines, Chateau Yering and Four Pillars Gin, included the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, and Healesville Sanctuary, a bushland haven for native Australian animals. Hot-air ballooning over the Yarra Valley is another must-do. Although it requires a very early start it is still so worth every cent.
Saw us heading 90 minutes south of the city to Phillip Island, preceded by a visit to Puffing Billy, a heritage narrow-gauge, steam-operated railway in the eastern suburb of Belgrave that travels through 24km of temperate rainforest and farmland. Phillip Island is popularly associated with motor sport, but there is so much more for everyone. The famous Penguins on Parade spectacle where the tiny birds come home to roost each night is a must-do. Even better is the Penguin VIP Tour experience in an elevated viewing tower and even more special is the rangerguided Ultimate Penguin Tour to a stunning secluded beach. Other highlights include Phillip Island Grand Prix Go-Karting, the range of family attractions at award-winning A Maze’N Things, the Nobbies Centre ecotourism destination at Point Grant, and helicopter rides. Tourists’ tummies are well looked after at Cape Kitchen at Newhaven, and at Rusty Water Brewery in Cowes which serves local brews and hearty dishes.
After a quick visit to Cape Woolamai beach and fauna reserve at the southeastern tip of Phillip Island, we were off to Mornington Peninsula to the west of Phillip Island, again only an easy 90-minute drive. Highlights of this area, famed for its fine wines were (naturally) Point Leo Estate, Tucks Ridge cellar door and Green Olive Farm. Lunch at Max’s at Red Hill Estate is a must-do (incredible food), followed by a swim at Peninsula Hot Springs. If you have any energy left over there are gondola rides with Arthurs Seat Eagle, treetop zip-lining, mazes and tube slides at Enchanted Adventure Garden, and Snorkel with Seadragons at Bayplay Adventure Tours.
On our last day we took the ferry from Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula to Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula, which is home to Jack Rabbit Vineyard and Restaurant. From there we headed to Little Creatures Brewery in Geelong and then off to the airport for the flight home. Victoria is such an amazing place, with so much to experience beyond Melbourne – well worth a short break away!