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Buchan

Buchan

Victoria

Be enchanted by a honeycomb of spectacular limestone caves and rock formations at Buchan, nestled in a picturesque valley in East Gippsland. Originally named Bukan-Mungie, meaning 'the place of rocks with holes in them', the area was one of Victoria's earliest European settlements. Visitors can take a leisurely walk in the Caves Reserve admiring the native plants, animals and exotic trees. Parks Victoria hold guided tours of Royal Cave and Fairy Cave. Drive through the tall forests of the Snowy River National Park and see highlights such as the Little River Gorge - Victoria's deepest gorge - and Little River Falls, a 600 metre-high waterfall. Adventurous types can go white-water rafting down the Snowy River or four-wheel driving to the high country. Buchan is 350 kilometres from Melbourne along the M1 and Princess Highway.

Barwon Heads

Barwon Heads

Victoria

Nestled at the mouth of the Barwon River on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula, the quiet holiday hamlet of Barwon Heads is the ideal place to slow your pace for long, languid summers on the water. Stay a while in Barwon Heads and be greeted by quiet river beaches on your doorstep, a main shopping strip featuring quirky boutiques, cafes and produce stores, and a large hotel to accommodate locals and the summer influx of visitors. The wide and picturesque river estuary is used for many water-based activities year-round including swimming and fishing. Enjoy safe swimming along the sandy river foreshore at the river mouth and lively surf action over the Bluff at Thirteenth Beach. Over on the ocean beach, high hummocks shelter one of Australia's best links golf courses. Cross Victoria's longest wooden bridge (built 1927) to reach Ocean Grove, where you'll find a jaw-droppingly impressive sweep of beach. From the heads at Point Lonsdale, the unbroken stretch of sand reaches out to the mouth of the Barwon River many kilometres away and it is one Victoria's most popular ocean beaches for surfing and swimming. Barwon Heads is 95 kilometres south-west of Melbourne, or about 90 minutes' drive, on the Princes Highway and Barwon Heads Road.

Wonthaggi

Wonthaggi

Victoria

Built on the industry of 'black gold', these days Wonthaggi offers a glimpse into Victoria's mining past as well as a host of outdoor activities and sweeping coastal views. Wonthaggi was home to Victoria's only winnable underground black coal, used by the Victorian Government in response to the disastrous New South Wales coal strikes at the turn of the twentieth century. Although Wonthaggi's State Coal Mine has retired from duty, there's still plenty to see and do. The mine's above-ground heritage features are open to the public, with historic buildings, interpretive displays, a picnic area and kiosk. The heritage walk around the mine site reveals a town that was controlled by the mine whistle, which is still heard at noon every day. Wonthaggi is also the starting point for the amazing 16-kilometre Bass Coast Rail Trail, Victoria's only coastal rail trail. This trail is best known for the trestle bridge at Kilcunda, which has a surf beach as its backdrop. Keep your walking shoes on and explore the Wonthaggi Wetlands, the North School Wild Flowers Reserve, and the Old Rescue Station - all easy short walks with wheelchair access. Wonthaggi is home to a variety of shops, eateries, supermarkets and accommodation. The local cinema shows the latest movies and local clubs provide meals, gaming facilities, entertainment, live bands and shows. The beach at Cape Paterson is an inviting place to dive in a on a hot day. Wonthaggi is approximately 135 kilometres from Melbourne, or an hour and 40 minutes along the M1, the South Gippsland Highway and the Bass Highway.

Cable Tram at Portland

Portland

Victoria

Portland, located on south-west Victoria's Discovery Coast, is rich in rugged landscapes and marine life, colourful history, some of Victoria's finest surfing, sailing and fishing, and great local food and wine. Portland became Victoria's first permanent European settlement in 1834. Today it boasts more than 200 beautifully maintained heritage buildings and private residences, which can be viewed on the self-guided Historic Buildings Walk. For an insight into Portland's long seafaring history, visit the Maritime Discovery Centre. Portland's waterfront is alive with activity - see big ships from around the world come in to load up local produce and the local fishing fleet unload its catch. Take a ride on the foreshore cable tram and watch for whales during the winter months. Portland is an angler's paradise. From a boat or the beach the range of fish that can be hooked is extensive, including King George whiting, flathead, snapper, tuna and mulloway. Portland also has some of the best surf this side of Bells Beach. The choice spots are Bridgewater Bay, the Watertower, Blacknose, Crumpets, Yellow Rock, Whites Beach and Murrells. Cape Bridgewater features some of the highest coastal cliffs in Victoria overlooking the deep-blue waters of Bridgewater Bay and a large breeding colony of fur seals. Beginning and ending at the Portland Visitor Information Centre is the 250 kilometre Great South West Walk. Try one section or tackle the entire walk and see stunning forests, river gorges, capes and beaches along the way. Portland is 362 kilometres west of Melbourne. Travel by car via the Great Ocean Road, Princes or Henty highways.

Ballarat

Ballarat

Victoria

Take a trip to Ballarat in Victoria's Goldfields and discover rich history and heritage and a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Ballarat is Victoria's largest inland city and is famous as the site of the world's largest deposit of alluvial gold. The legacy of the gold rush is evident in the majestic architecture and wide tree-lined streets of the town. Admire the city's Victorian and Edwardian architecture, parks, gardens, statues and churches by following the visitor information centre's self-guided heritage walking trails. Pan for gold and watch the hustle and bustle of an 1850s gold mining settlement at Sovereign Hill. The 35-acre site includes shops, hotels, schools, a theatre, crafts, steam-driven machinery and two underground mines. Don't miss the dramatic Blood on the Southern Cross sound and light show, telling the story of the Eureka Rebellion. Visit the Gold Museum, located across the road from Sovereign Hill, and view the extensive and valuable collection of gold nuggets, alluvial gold deposits, gold ornaments and coins. Admire the magnificent collection of Australian art and the original Eureka flag at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Australia's oldest and largest regional gallery. Catch a show at Her Majesty's Theatre which originally opened in 1875. Wander through the Ballarat Botanical Gardens on the western side of Lake Wendouree, the oldest inland botanic gardens in regional Victoria. The Ballarat Begonia Festival is held in the gardens each March. Take the family to meet koalas and kangaroos at the Ballarat Wildlife Park and walk or cycle along the regional tracks and trails. Tempt your tastebuds with food and wine at laid-back cafés, fine restaurants, country pubs, and wineries. Ballarat is 110 kilometres west of Melbourne, just over an hour by car via the Western Highway.

Loch Sport

Loch Sport

Victoria

Tucked in between Gippsland's vast lakes, beaches and national parks, Victoria's Loch Sport boasts one of the most spectacular spots in Victoria. Situated east of Sale on a narrow spit of land between the sand dunes of Ninety Mile Beach and Lake Victoria, Loch Sport is home to some of the most beautiful bird life in Australia. The Lakes National Park is an ornithologist's delight, covering more than 2300 hectares of coastal flora and fauna. The national park features eucalypt and giant banksia woodland, with a spectacular show of wildflowers from August to November and one of the nation's best displays of native orchids. Enjoy a picnic and make use of the barbecue facilities in the park at Sperm Whale Head, and see the surrounding wildlife. Campsites are also available if the idea of pitching a tent and sleeping under the stars becomes too enticing. Cast a line in and hook bream, mullet, skip jack and flounder. River fishing yields some of the best bream in the area, or try ocean beach fishing for abundant open water fish. You can launch a boat at one of the many ramps along the foreshore. The shallow sandy beach of Lake Victoria at Loch Sport is favourite spot for swimming. Loch Sport is three hours from Melbourne along the M1 and the Princess Highway.

Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road

Victoria

The Great Ocean Road region hugs the contours of Victoria's rugged south west coast and offers one of Australia's greatest and most spectacular coastal drives with a glimpse of the famous 12 Apostles. Start your journey in Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula and discover beautiful beaches, great eateries, a fascinating heritage and an enormous range of recreational opportunities, from fishing and golfing to diving and surfing. Take in the colourful and lively ambience of bayside Geelong, Victoria's second largest city, or discover quaint Queenscliff's rich maritime history and heritage hotels. Follow the coast to the seaside resort towns of Torquay, Lorne and Apollo Bay for stunning beaches and water sports as well as incredible rainforest scenery in the nearby Otway Ranges. One of the most visited stretches of the Great Ocean Road is around Port Campbell. Buffeted by wild seas and fierce winds, Port Campbell's coastline has been sculpted over millions of years to form a series of striking rock stacks that rise majestically out of the Southern Ocean. Known as the 12 Apostles, they are one of the most spectacular natural attractions in Victoria. A helicopter ride to get a bird's eye view of these famous natural wonders is the ultimate Great Ocean Road experience. The Great Ocean Road is characterised by its rich maritime past. The historic towns of Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland give you a taste of seafaring village life, with their fishing wharves, preserved colonial buildings and maritime museums recounting the stories of ships that have foundered off the rugged shipwreck coast. The Great Ocean Road is a two-hour drive from the heart of Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road itself stretches for over 400 kilometres from Torquay to the South Australian border. Alternatively, take the inland route along the Princes Highway from Geelong to Warrnambool.

Werribee

Werribee

Victoria

Just over the West Gate Bridge from the Melbourne CBD lies the picture-postcard nineteenth century world of Werribee Park, perfumed with the fragrance of thousands of roses, where it is also possible to embark on a wildlife safari. Werribee Park dominates the easily-accessible precinct of Werribee, encompassing the Open Range Zoo, Werribee Park Mansion, Shadowfax Winery, and the State Rose Garden. The Chirnside family originally owned much of the Werribee Plains and built Werribee Park Mansion, the largest private residence in Victoria, in the late 1870s. The 12 hectares of park include beautifully kept gardens and a farmyard area complete with authentic blacksmith facilities. Garden-lovers will be in heaven as they take in the sights and smells of the State Rose Garden, which boasts more than 4,500 plants in its collection. The best time to view the roses is between November and May. The Werribee Park Sculpture Walk intersperses contemporary sculpture with the splendid flowers. For a truly wild experience, come face-to-face with giraffes, zebras, meerkats, wallabies, emus and other grassland animals from around the globe at Victoria's Open Range Zoo Follow one of the many scenic trails winding their way through the You Yangs Regional Park through beautiful terrain. Aboriginal rock wells can be found on Big Rock. Watch migratory wading birds at the Point Cook Coastal Park during the summer months. The Werribee Park Precinct is approximately 30 kilometres from Melbourne, or around half an hour via the Princes Highway.

Dargo

Dargo

Victoria

Enjoy a glimpse into one of Victoria's most remote communities, nestled in the foothills of the legendary Dargo High Plains in Gippsland. The tiny township of Dargo was established as a resting place and a supply town for miners on their way to the nearby Grant, Talbotville and Crooked River goldfields during the minor gold rush of the mid-1800s. These days Dargo has a population of approximately 150 and is an entry point for the Alpine National Park, Avon Wilderness Park and Mitchell River National Park. The wilderness around Dargo boasts first-rate 4WD touring, rafting, fishing and canoeing. The area is also an excellent destination for horse riding, bush walking and hiking. Four-wheel drive out to Wonnangatta Station, once Victoria's most remote cattle station. Dargo is known for its groves of century-old walnut trees that line the valley floor. Many high country cattlemen have homes in the stockbreeding and agricultural district. Dargo is around 320 kilometres from Melbourne CBD with a travel time of just under four hours.

Mount Hotham Ski Fields

Mount Hotham

Victoria

Victoria's Mount Hotham alpine resort doubles as Australia's 'powder capital' in the winter months and an outdoor adventure playground in the balmy temperatures of spring and summer. The fresh mountain air and 360-degree views from Mount Hotham are stunning in both summer and winter. Mount Hotham is the highest Victorian resort and regularly posts Victoria's highest annual snowfall. It is renowned for its double black diamond terrain. The village has a snowsports school, day-care centre, day spas, shopping, restaurants and nightlife. The huge range of activities includes kat skiing, sunset and grooming tours, dog sled adventures and mini-snowmobile rides for the kids. Life on the mountain has plenty of diversions in the off-season, too, with average summer temperatures of 25 degrees. Walk along cross-country ski trails, trek to Falls Creek, or take the iconic Mount Feathertop Razorback Walk along the crest of the razorback from Mount Hotham to Federation Hut. There are also opportunities for unforgettable horse riding experiences and trout fishing in crystal-clear waterways. Mountain bike along scenic downhill trails and coast back up on the chairlift, which operates over Christmas/New Year and again over Easter. Summer is celebrated on the mountain at the Cool Summer Festival in February and the end of the snow season is marked at the Hotham Spring Carnival at the beginning of September. The Audax Hotham Challenge and the Scody 3 Peaks Challenge are tests of endurance for some of the best road cyclists. When the snow disappears you can start touring, with spectacular views around every turn. Drive or cycle the 230-kilometre Bogong Alpine Way through Bright, Mount Beauty, Falls Creek and over Dinner Plain and Mount Hotham. Mount Hotham is around 380 kilometres from Melbourne and just over four hours by car along the Hume Highway and the Great Alpine Road.