Victorians are proud of their dynamic cultural life, from refined galleries like the National Gallery of Victoria and the Bendigo Art Gallery to the street art on the walls of Melbourne’s Hosier Lane.
There’s also museums like the Brambuk Cultural Centre in the Grampians and the Melbourne Museum in the capital, a stack of theatres like the Atheneum and the Regent Theatre, plus an array of live music venues across Melbourne, such as the Corner Hotel in Richmond and the Espy in St Kilda.
Want to know just how obsessed Melburnians are with their coffee? Utter the phrase: “I reckon Sydney’s cafes are better than Melbourne’s” then brace yourself for a 20-minute diatribe correcting you, insisting that the moody laneways of the Victorian capital brew the best beans anywhere on Earth.
If there’s one thing Victorians love more than coffee, it’s Australian rules football. Join the masses at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for a game of AFL during winter to witness the fanaticism first hand. Australians’ sporting capital also hosts the Australian Open tennis each January, a Formula One Grand Prix in March, and the country’s biggest cricket crowds at the MCG over summer.
The state’s culinary scene doesn’t begin and end with coffee. Two Victorian restaurants—Attica in Ripponlea and Brae in Birregurra—have been named on the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Melbourne’s micro-breweries produce some of the country’s top craft brews, and the Yarra Valley is one of Australia’s finest wine-growing regions.
As if being Australia’s capital of art, culture, coffee, food and sport wasn’t enough, the Victorian capital is also the country’s main shopping hub, with visitors flocking to Melbourne for a spot of retail therapy. Go window shopping in the historic Block Arcade and Royal Arcade in the CBD for a particularly elegant experience.
The Great Ocean Road is the country’s most iconic touring route, hugging 243 kilometres of stunning coastline between Torquay and Warrnambool west of Melbourne. Schedule stops at the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge rock formations, the lush Great Otway National Park, and the string of untouched beaches lining the Southern Ocean.
Rural Victoria was a hive of activity during the Gold Rush era of the mid-19th century—both with fossickers wanting to find a fortune, and bushrangers preferring to rob one. Today, the state is dotted with interesting historical sites where you can step back in time. Visit Glenrowan in High Country to learn about outlaw Australian folk hero Ned Kelly, as well as Ballarat, described as the birthplace of Australian democracy after the Eureka Stockade battle of 1854.
Victoria has a much cooler climate than Australia’s northern states, which means it looks extra green compared to the rest of the country. Leafy national parks like Wilsons Promontory, the Grampians, Mount Buffalo and the Yarra Ranges supply some of the best bushwalking terrain anywhere in the country.
All that bushland and coastline provides home to a rich diversity of native fauna. Head to the Great Ocean Road for koalas and echidnas, Tower Hill for emus and a stack of other animals, Phillip Island and St Kilda for little penguins, Wilsons Prom for fur seals and wombats, and Sorrento for dolphins. Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo, Moonlit Sanctuary and Werribee Open Range Zoo are also worth a visit.
Victoria might lack a tropical climate but there’s no shortage of scenic strips of sand. Melbourne’s city beaches can’t match Sydney’s but Brighton and St Kilda have their own charm, Bells Beach and Cape Woolamai are world-class surf breaks, and the windswept beaches along the Mornington Peninsula and the Great Ocean Road stretch for miles.
The plus side of that cooler weather? Victoria houses most of the very small number of places you can find snow in Australia. Falls Creek, Mount Hotham, Mount Buller, Mount Baw Baw and Dinner Plain are a few of the snowfields where you can hit the powder and enjoy a getaway in a cosy alpine resort.