Victoria might be the smallest state on mainland Australia, but it manages to cram a lot of great destinations into its 238,000sqkm (91,892sqmi). From the peak of Mount Buller to the depths of Port Phillip Bay and the largest city in the state, Melbourne, these are the best places to visit in Victoria.
The capital city of Victoria is also the Australian capital of food, culture, shopping and sport. Melbourne is the first port of call for many visitors to the state, and what an introduction it provides. Join the masses at a game of footy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, sip on speciality coffee in one of the moody inner-city laneways, grab a table at one of the world-renowned eateries and shop until you drop in one of the quaint Victorian-era arcades.
After spending a few days in Melbourne, many international travellers make a beeline two hours down the road to Phillip Island for one reason only: penguins. People fill the viewing platform at the Penguin Parade to catch a glimpse of the adorable little penguins scampering across the sand at Summerland Beach. However, there’s more to Phillip Island. Petrolheads will enjoy the Phillip Island Circuit, and surfers will love the breaks at Cape Woolamai and Berrys Beach.
This town marks the official start of the Great Ocean Road, but don’t be too quick to jump behind the wheel and cruise along the most scenic touring route in Australia. Torquay is one of the premier surfing destinations in the country. It’s the birthplace of Rip Curl and Quiksilver, the home of the Australian National Surfing Museum and the venue of the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach every Easter.
At the other end of the Great Ocean Road is a charming village that’s almost as pretty as the 240km (149mi) of coastal scenery you’ve just cruised past. Port Fairy itself looks like a postcard, with little stone cottages and quiet wharves shaded by towering Norfolk pine trees. There’s also the birdlife on Griffiths Island, the whales cruising along the coast, the miles of untouched coastline and the famous links golf course.
Victoria is home to most of the ski fields in Australia, including Mount Hotham, Falls Creek, Mount Baw Baw and Dinner Plain, but Mount Buller is perhaps the pick of the bunch. It’s only a three-hour drive northeast of Melbourne and boasts the largest lift network in the state, with 20 lifts covering more than 300ha (741 acres) of skiing and snowboarding terrain criss-crossed by more than 80 runs.
This town’s origins in the Gold Rush era are obvious, thanks to the mid-19th-century architecture and beautifully preserved streetscapes. A large inland city only 90 minutes from Melbourne, Ballarat boomed in the 1850s thanks to the discovery of gold. Step through that history at the immersive Sovereign Hill open-air museum and the Eureka Stockade Memorial Park, the site of a rebellion that’s considered the birthplace of Australian democracy.
The whole of the Mornington Peninsula – from the top of the Peninsula Hot Springs to the tip of Sorrento Pier – is one of the most beautiful corners of Victoria, and Portsea is a great base for exploring the area. Go snorkelling in Port Phillip Bay, catch a wave at Portsea Surf Beach or lace up your walking shoes for a bushwalk through the Mornington Peninsula National Park before kicking back with a pint at the famous Portsea Hotel overlooking the water.
This eastern chunk of the state is a vast expanse of outdoor experiences, be it camping in the remote Croajingolong National Park, wandering along Ninety Mile Beach or bushwalking through the picturesque dairy-farm country. Gippsland’s biggest drawcard is Wilsons Promontory, a craggy coastal national park representing the southernmost point on the Australian mainland.
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