VICTORIA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - There is plenty of magic in the world’s most liveable city – Melbourne – that charms with its dynamic and cosmopolitan vibe. But if you are looking for even more – go beyond Victoria’s coastal capital.
Loads of experiences await when you travel from the city to Yarra Valley, the Dandenong Ranges and onwards to Phillip Island and Geelong for some amazing regional dining. Then make your way to wineries of the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas.
More natural beauty is found at the beautiful Grampians National Park, with its dramatic natural oasis, walking trails, waterfalls and wildlife.
Check out the experiences we have put together for a truly magical journey away from the metropolis.
Some of Australia’s most famous vineyards are found in Yarra Valley. See for yourself, in a hot air balloon with Global Ballooning, drifting over rows of vines and lush farmlands. Stay on and visit the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary. Alternatively, you could take a horse ride and stay overnight in Chum Creek Hut. It is a rustic, renovated original cattleman’s hut.
About 30 minutes away is the fantastic Dandenong Ranges. Have tea in a charming teahouse in a mountain village and explore the National Rhododendron Gardens and William Ricketts Sanctuary with sculptures of Aboriginal people.
Spend the evening on the century-year old Puffing Billy steam train, with a classic Australian “dine and dance” en route at an historic packing shed.
After an evening at one of the Dandenong Ranges’ romantic bed and breakfasts, be first on the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk of 1,000 Steps in Ferntree Gully.
This is a “tasty” region, home to a diverse array of speciality providore stores with great seasonal produce and culinary delights. Fruits (pick some yourself at U-Pick trails at orchards), jams, condiments, meat, fish, cheese and chocolate, the list goes on.
For a breath of sea air, motor on to Phillip Island and its tiny sister, Churchill Island. Do not miss the Penguin Parade to see little penguins splash out of the sea every evening.
There are several perfect vantage points for sunrise over the ocean, which tradition demands is followed by breakfast at a cliffside cafe overlooking the sea. Next, pay a visit to the huge fur seal colony at Seal Rocks and the virtual Antarctic experience at The Nobbies. Top it off with a treetops walk at the Koala Conservation Centre and lunch on Churchill Island, where the working farm is still set in the 19th century.
It is the land of the Wine Food Farmgate trail, of cellar doors and produce farms, of chef’s hatted restaurants, diving with dolphins and swimming with seals, galleries and gardens and golf. Just an hour from Melbourne, the area blends coastal living with Aussie charm.
In the evenings, the Moonlit Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Park beckons, with its fascinating lantern-lit tours to meet nocturnal wildlife. Rare and endangered species emerge and nocturnal birds spread their wings while quolls, Tasmanian devils, pademelons and bettongs all forage for food.
How about some romance? Some evening star-gazing from a hilltop thermal mineral pool at Peninsula Hot Springs fits the bill.
Early the next morning, watch wild kangaroos feeding at Greens Bush. Then explore the Wine Food Farmgate trail, take a winery tour on horseback or an aquatic adventure before cruising across Port Phillip Bay at sunset with Searoad Ferries.
GEELONG AND THE BELLARINE
Get ready for surprises in Geelong by the sea. Once an industrial area, the city south-west of Melbourne now boasts reinvented warehouses and factories that are home to a new culture of outstanding regional restaurants, cool cafes and bars, craft breweries, art and design galleries.
Go for a stroll with the locals along the magnificent waterfront. The Baywalk Bollard Trail features more than 100 carved characters who have shaped Geelong’s history. There’s also a charming 1890s carousel, a band organ dating from 1890s Paris and a huge choice of cafes and restaurants.
Geelong’s Little Malop beckons with a variety of nightlife. Why not heed the call of the wild and head for the Slumber Safari at Werribee Open Range Zoo, where lions, giraffes, zebras, rhinos, hippos and gorillas reside.
The “to do” list is pretty long. There are 40 experiences just on the Bellarine Taste Trail, including spectacular ocean and bay beaches, seaside villages, land and sea adventures, golf courses, festivals and events.
Why not squeeze in another night or two?
This article is brought to you by Tourism Australia, Visit Victoria and Malaysia Airlines.
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