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Great Ocean Road

Visit verdant Victoria

From Australia's sporting capital to the ultimate coastal road trip: The best ways to explore Melbourne and verdant Victoria's wineries, wildlife-filled national parks and stunning coastal drives

Victoria is home to Melbourne, one of Australia's coolest cities, where a labyrinth of laneways, boutique shops and art galleries invite you to explore.

The capital of this south-eastern state is also surrounded by wineries, wildlife-filled national parks and stunning coastal drives. It's easy to understand why so many visitors flock here and how Victoria has become host to so many sporting and cultural events.

Start your visit in vibrant Melbourne, where you can spend a few days exploring this hugely cultural and sporting city. Hire a car and head to nearby wine regions such as the Yarra Valley or the Mornington Peninsula to sample award-winning wines and perhaps stay the night.

Or head out to one of the many national parks or nature reserves before cruising along the Great Ocean Road and witnessing the rugged coastline and infamous 12 Apostles that rise from the ocean.

Here are some of the best ways to explore the city and beyond.

Melbourne is regarded as one of Australia's coolest cities

Feel the buzz of the city
Consistently identified among the most liveable cities in the world, Melbourne is a cultural delight. It's a place where art galleries and amazing museums rub shoulders with street art-adorned laneways, and independent fashion boutiques sit alongside hole-in-the-wall coffee shops and some of the country's most exciting restaurants.

Grab a bike and explore on two wheels, winding through the streets and arcades and discover Melbourne's wealth of street art such as in famous ACDC Lane or Hosier Lane. Stroll along the Yarra River or head out to the suburbs of Collingwood, Brunswick, Northcote and Fitzroy, transformed by creatives and liberally sprinkled with great bars and eateries.

Fly high above the skyline for a new perspective - Melbourne is one of the only cities you can fly over in a hot air balloon - and delve into the rich Aboriginal culture that permeates the city.

Discover Melbourne's Aboriginal culture at Koorie Heritage Trust, located in the city's cultural heart on the banks of the Yarra River.

Or join an Aboriginal guide at the Royal Botanic Gardens to identify significant native plants and their uses before heading to Aboriginal-owned Mabu Mabu restaurant for authentic flavours in a modern setting.

Get an adrenaline rush
Melbourne is Australia's sporting capital and home to a diverse mix of sporting fans, with the Australian Open, and Formula 1 Grand Prix, for example, held here annually, while the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) has hosted both the T20 cricket and The Ashes.

Add to that the FIFA Women's World Cup, heading Down Under in 2023 to be hosted between Australia and New Zealand. Melbourne will host clashes between Australia and Canada, Germany and Morocco and Jamaica and Brazil. Catch one of the matches, then head to the Australian Sports Museum to soak up more sporting history.

Sport is woven into Melbourne's social fabric, and it's one of the best places in the world to catch a game of Aussie rules football, cricket, tennis, and motorsports, to name a few. Victoria is also set to host the Commonwealth Games 2026. In a world first, the opening ceremony will be at the MCG in Melbourne, but the games will be held in regional Victoria, namely Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and in Gippsland.

The stunning Wilsons Promontory National Park

Head out on the open road

With its wealth of national parks such as Wilsons Promontory, The Grampians or the Otway National Parks, abundant wildlife and stunning coastline, it's easy to see why Victoria is renowned for its road trips. Whether you have one day or several, there are amazing touring routes to explore from Melbourne.

Start with one of the world's most famous drives. The Great Ocean Road which follows the spectacular coastline along clifftops, through rainforests and past surf beaches from Torquay to Allansford and via the famous rock formation of the 12 Apostles. It can be completed in three days from Melbourne, but more time will mean longer stops to discover for example the wild koalas, kangaroos and emus along this route or see the migrating whales.

Alternatively, head east on the Melbourne to Sydney Coastal Drive to discover beautiful Wilsons Promontory National Park, the Gippsland Lakes where you can find the newly opened Metung Hot Springs plus plenty of untouched nature and wildlife. Allow at least seven days for this journey to see the best of the area. Head inland along the Great Alpine Road for mountain scenery or north to see the Murray River.

There are plenty of shorter trips from Melbourne as well. Sample wine at the vineyards of the Yarra Valley, less than an hour from Melbourne, or enjoy the cute Penguin Parade on Phillip Island.

Melbourne sits on Port Phillip Bay and it's easy to plot a driving tour that also takes in the Mornington Peninsula, discovering historic towns and beautiful beaches on the way.

In one day, you can escape the city completely and unwind in the cool forests of the Dandenong Ranges. Witness the spectacular rhododendrons bloom in spring, or marvel at the golden colours of the old trees in the Alfred Nicholas Gardens in autumn.

Spot wild koalas in the trees in the Otway National Park

Get to know the locals

Victoria is roughly the size of the UK and is home to about 30 per cent of Australia's wildlife, making it a wonderful place to see the iconic species such as kangaroos and koalas in the wild.

Phillip Island is a two-hour drive from Melbourne and home to the largest Little Penguin colony in the world. Head to the famous Penguin Parade in the evening to see them waddle ashore or take a boat trip to get up close to Australian fur seals, spotting seabirds along the way.

Spot wild koalas in the trees in the Otway National Park along the Great Ocean Road or glide across Lake Elizabeth for a chance to see platypus.

In the Grampians National Park you can see some of Australia's other famous residents, such as kangaroos, wallabies and emus, while the Wilsons Promontory National Park is a great place to spot wombats in the wild.

Sample some of Victoria's award-winning wineries

From epic road trips and iconic wildlife to sports-mad culture and hipster neighbourhoods, Victoria is the perfect mix of buzzing city and outdoor adventures. Soak up the city then head to local wine regions, national parks and drive that beautiful coastline.

First published in the Daily Mail - February 2023

More articles below...

For more inspiration, read what travel writers have to say...

Thrills of the Great Ocean Road

Francesca Wickers on Australia's most fabulous coastal adventure

Magical Melbourne

James Litston tours Melbourne in 48hrs

Sparkling Australia

James Litston relishes Victoria's King Valley

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