Melbourne and beyond: Discover Victoria, Australia

Victoria’s capital Melbourne may be the headline destination for many travellers, but this Australian state is packed with culture, adventure and wildlife in every corner…

Team Wanderlust
09 June 2023
Promoted by
Travel Bag Victoria

Australia is a colossal country, but you don’t need to cover epic distances to maximise a trip. The spectacular state of Victoria offers a whole host of iconic Aussie experiences – world-class urban thrills, glorious coastal scenery, breathtaking wildlife and rampant mountains – within one manageable destination. Magnificent Melbourne provides the headline draw, but the city also acts as the gateway to a region of ancient indigenous culture, dramatic landscapes and unforgettable outdoor adventure. Even the furthest reaches of the state are within driving range of the city, and the state as a whole packs in a dizzying amount of diversity. It’s lucky, then, that tour operator Travelbag knows Victoria like the back of its hand…

Capital gains

The Melbourne skyline from South Melbourne

Often described as Australia’s culture capital, Melbourne is a bona fide world city. Curved handsomely around Port Phillip Bay, it’s a place where sport, music, coffee, fashion, food, parkland, architecture and art combine to winning effect: commuters stroll down tree-lined boulevards, shoppers browse lively street markets and drinkers throng hip laneway bars. Big-name events are a common occurrence – think Grand Slam tennis tournaments, Formula One Grand Prix races or the world’s largest standalone comedy festival – and it features regularly in lists of the planet’s most liveable cities.

So what to see and do? Visit Australia’s oldest art gallery, the venerable National Gallery of Victoria; dig into the city’s colourful past at the Melbourne Museum; wander the Royal Botanic Gardens; or head to Federation Square, the symbolic heart of the city, where giant video screens and historical pubs stand side by side. Suburbs like Fitzroy and South Yarra are packed with creative places to eat and drink, while the winding Yarra River is similarly lined with upscale bars and restaurants. Elsewhere, take the tram out to seaside St Kilda or visit the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground. Whatever your choice, you’ll find it easy to fall for Victoria’s blockbuster capital.

Wild corners

Boardwalks weave through the bushland of Wilson’s Promontory

Radiating out from Melbourne in a rumpled spread of mountains, wineries, beaches and nature reserves, Victoria is a microcosm of everything that makes Australia iconic. The state is far from tiny – it’s roughly the size of the entire UK – but it neatly encapsulates the rugged drama and boundless horizons of the great antipodean outdoors. The vast sandstone peaks of The Grampians rise up in the west, the Victorian Alps spear into the sky in the east, and the pink salt lakes of Murray Sunset National Park sprawl across the northern parts of the map.

For many visitors, however, the coast is the highlight. The Great Ocean Road, a 240km stretch of bays, cliffs and beaches, likely needs no introduction, but no less appealing is the bushwalking wonderland of Wilsons Promontory – ‘The Prom’ to locals – where a wooded headland stretches into the Tasman Sea. Here you’ll find wombats, wallabies and all manner of other classic Aussie wildlife, and this theme continues in the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, where koalas, kangaroos and emus populate the remains of a dormant volcano. There’s room too for whales, often spotted off the coast, and Little Penguins, which can be seen in their waddling hundreds at Phillip Island.

Experience indigenous culture

A guided tour is a great way to explore the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape

Victoria has spent the merest fraction of its existence under its current name. For more than sixty thousand years, the region has played home to one of the world’s most ancient cultures, and a trip here today is a chance to immerse yourself in Aboriginal beliefs, traditions and experiences. The state’s Indigenous culture is very much a living, evolving thing, still blazing bright in the modern world, which in turn allows visitors to learn more about an often misunderstood way of life – paired, of course, with a deep connection to the land.

In southwest Victoria, the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape is the only World Heritage property in Australia to be recognised by UNESCO exclusively for its Aboriginal cultural values – here, for example, the history of kooyang (eel) farming stretches back some 6,000 years. Elsewhere in the state, you’ll find dedicated heritage walks, traditional art galleries, age-old rock art sites, in-depth cultural centres, and Aboriginal-run tours. Almost every corner of the map, from the cities to the mountaintops, has rich layers of Indigenous history, and to learn more about them is to see the destination with fresh eyes.

Adventures of every kind

One of Victoria’s best walks is a hike along the Grampians Peaks Trail (Tourism Australia)

When a single destination boasts ski slopes, surf beaches, forest wilderness and even desert, it should come as little surprise that it also offers endless scope for adventure. Adrenaline-hungry travellers will be well served in Victoria – take your pick from the likes of skydiving over St Kilda Beach, swimming alongside dolphins in Port Phillip Bay, or jetboating under the granite cliffs of Cape Woolamai – but there are also endless options for more traditional outdoor thrills. The Victorian Alps are snow-cloaked in winter and threaded with walking trails in summer, drawing snowboarders and hikers in numbers, and the bushwalking options continue across the state.

Challenging long-distance hikes include the world-class 160km Grampians Peaks Trail, while those looking to factor in a dash of luxury can consider the three-night Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk. Wilsons Promontory, meanwhile, has a number of superb day walks. Campers, climbers and cyclists will all find no shortage of possibilities – The Great Victorian Rail Trail is a lovely 98km bike ride along a former train line north of Melbourne – and if you prefer the idea of something spectacular but slow-paced, then a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over the city might be just the ticket.

Go on a road trip

The Great Ocean Road snakes through lush rainforest in parts

Few destinations lend themselves so well to road-tripping as Victoria. Topping most travellers’ lists is the Great Ocean Road, the iconic journey along the coastline west of Melbourne. The road itself was built by returning soldiers after World War One – it’s dedicated to their fallen comrades – and now provides the basis for a world-famous drive which can be done in a day or split over several, with stops in traditional coastal towns along the way. The scenery you’ll pass, not least the sandstone stacks of the Twelve Apostles, very much matches the hype.

The drive is, however, just one of many epic road-trip itineraries. The Great Southern Touring Route extends the Great Ocean Road into a long scenic loop that also takes in The Grampians and the quaint Daylesford countryside, while The Great Alpine Road is a 340km adventure that leads along some of Australia’s highest sealed roads. The South Gippsland Highway, which leads out to Wilsons Prom, offers another stretch of glorious countryside driving, and the Calder Highway from Bendigo to Mildura is a 400km route showcasing a very different side to the state, in this case the eucalypt-dotted flatlands of the Mallee.

Make it happen

When it comes to local expertise, Travelbag is emphatically the real deal. They have taken home no less than nine awards – seven gold and two silver – at the British Travel Awards, including being named the best large holiday company to Australia. They know Victoria, and the country as whole, inside out, making them the number one choice for planning your trip Down Under. And don’t just take our word for it: close to 6,500 Trustpilot review scores have given Travelbag an average rating of 4.8/5.

Ready to start exploring Victoria? Call one of Travelbag’s travel specialists to book your Aussie adventure. Visit travelbag.co.uk or call 0203 6429 773 today.

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