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Best places to visit in Victoria for culture, relaxation and adventure

Adventure to the best places in Victoria from world-class cities to the nature spots that will blow you away.

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two tourists looking at the 12 apostles on the great ocean road, Australia, at sunset

Without a doubt, Melbourne is one of the biggest drawcards for visitors to Victoria. It's got incredible coffee, art and atmosphere.

But if you've been before or are wondering where else can you go in Victoria, landmarks such as the Great Ocean Road, the Yarra Valley, Mount Buller and the Grampians should be on your travel itinerary.

And then some.

Best places to visit in Victoria (and why)

1. Melbourne

Melbourne offers an eclectic cultural mix that's visible through its food and fashion scenes. Its laneways are filled with street art, rooftop bars an amazing coffee culture. Relaxing gardens and trendy neighbourhoods dominate the city and world-famous beaches are on its doorstep.

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2. Great Ocean Road

This world-famous coastal drive stretches 243 kilometres from Torquay to Allansford and is dotted with natural attractions such as the Twelve Apostles and Apollo Bay. The road is the world’s longest war memorial, dedicated to soldiers who died during WWI and built by those who survived.

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3. The Grampians

Grampians National Park is a stunning nature reserve known for its sandstone mountains and wildlife. Trails lead to incredible waterfalls and jaw-dropping lookouts. Between all this nature you can stop at cellar doors or explore Aboriginal art.

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4. Phillip Island

Phillip Island lies off the coast of Victoria and is a popular day trip from Melbourne. The island is famous for its fairy penguins which visitors gather on Summerland Beach to watch as they march back home in the evenings.

At the Nobbies you can spot fur seals and there is a race track on the island for those with a need for speed.

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5. Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula is where you go to kick back and relax at the spas or hot springs. When you're not soaking, roam through the steets ducking into cafés and galleries or spend the day at the beach or sampling local wine.

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6. Ballarat

Known for its gold mining history, Ballarat is popular with families and history fiends. Its main attraction is Sovereign Hill which is an open air museum replica of an 1850s gold mining town. On top of this, the region is emerging as a foodie and wine destination.

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7. Yarra Valley

The Yarra Valley is a region with scenic rolling hills covered in vineyards. It’s a popular day trip from Melbourne and is celebrated for its wineries, chocolate shops and breweries. After a long day wining and dining, you can tuck into easy outdoor adventures and spas.

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8. Mount Buller

Being a 3.5-hour drive from Melbourne, this snow resort offers some of the best alpine adventures in Australia during winter. In summer, you can explore the many hiking and bike trails.

Between all of this adventure, the town offers relaxing breaks in the form of spas.

  • Best for: Snow, active travellers, relaxing holidays, nature.
  • How to get there: Mount Buller is a 3.5-hour drive from Melbourne.
  • Top things to see and do: Hit the slopes or go dog sledding in winter and explore the trails by walking, biking or horseback in summer.
  • How long do I need? 1-3 days.

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9. Healesville

Healesville sits in the heart of the Yarra Valley and is where you can find talented artists in galleries, stroll in and out of charming boutiques and enjoy relaxing meals in local pubs and cafés. The town is best known for Healesville Sanctuary which is where you can interact with native animals.

  • Best for: Art, handicrafts, food and drinks, wildlife.
  • How to get there: Healesville is a 90-minute drive from Melbourne with day tours also an option.
  • Top things to see and do: Visit Healesville Sanctuary, ride the Puffing Billy which runs from Melbourne to Healesville and catch a glassblowing demonstration.
  • How long do I need? 1-2 days.

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10. Dandenong Ranges

Just outside Melbourne lies the low-range mountains called the Dandenong Ranges. This area is popular for its walking tracks, small towns and famous Puffing Billy Steam Train. It's in the Dandenong Ranges where you'll be surrounded by greenery as you experience nature and relaxing villages.

  • Best for: Nature, relaxing holidays.
  • How to get there: Drive 70 minutes from Melbourne or catch the Puffing Billy steam train all the way in.
  • Top things to see and do: Ride the Puffing Billy, get a bird's eye view on a seaplane ride, dine at the mountaintop SkyHigh Mount Dandenong and walk the Kokoda Trail.
  • How long do I need? 1-2 days.

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Best beaches in Victoria

This southern state has beaches by the buckets full to bask on in the summer months and wander down in the winter.

  • Betka Beach, Quarry Beach and Secret Beach, Mallacoota: Home to Victoria's warmest winter waters, Mallacoota is a bit of a hidden gem. Its beaches almost tumble over one another and serve up soft sand, spectacular sunsets and rock exploration.
  • Ninety Mile Beach, Gippsland: The sand stays underfoot for a generous 90 miles (144km) along this incredible stretch of coastline. Activities are plenty with fishing, swimming, snorkelling, hiking and dolphin spotting all popular options.
  • Refuge Cove, Wilsons Promontory: Secluded is one way to describe Refuge Cove. It sits on the eastern coast of Wilsons Promontory and is dotted with quiet sheltered beaches you'll likely have all to yourself.
  • Point King Beach, Portsea: Regarded by Australian Traveller as one of the best secret beaches in Victoria, we're inclined to agree. Point King is nestled between Sorrento and Portsea and shares this stretch of coast with the million-dollar mansions of the rich and famous.
  • Half Moon Bay, Black Rock: Skip the over touristic beaches of St Kilda and Brighton and discover Half Moon Bay instead. It shares the same stretch of coastline as the aforementioned but is less crowded. Its dramatic cliff face makes for exceptionally picturesque coastal walking, and the beach itself has soft sand and romantic sunset views.
  • Sorrento Back Beach, Mornington Peninsula: Popular with the locals, particularly over summer, Sorrento is for the beachgoers who love to relax, work on their tans and go for a quick dip. Its waters are shallow and some of its rockpools are deep enough to dip in.
  • Shelley Beach, Brighton: Made famous by its colourful bathing boxes, Brighton is one of the most accessible beaches from Melbourne. Though heavily touristic, it makes the cut as one of the best beaches in the state as the beach is wide and inviting and the water is friendly for all ages.
  • Lorne Beach, Lorne: You'd be a fool to skip out on Lorne when driving along the Great Ocean Road. This coastal town has loads of atmosphere and the beach is spacious, kid-friendly and has excellent waves for surfing. If you have time, walk up to Teddy's Lookout for that Insta-worthy shot.
  • Squeaky Beach, Wilsons Promontory: Granite boulders abound and specks of quartz fill the sand, causing it to squeak underneath your feet. But don't let that dissuade you – the sand is still soft and the exploration enjoyable. On one side you have turquoise waters while on the other are cliffs, scrub and colourful rocks. This one is an experience not to be missed.

Best surf beaches in Victoria

  • Bells Beach, Torquay: One of the most famous beaches along the Great Ocean Road, Bells Beach is praised for its idyllic surfing conditions. It hosts the Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition annually and is home to a slew of surfing schools.
  • Bridgewater Bay, Portland: This hidden gem has breaks and waves for budding surfers looking for soft swells to pros seeking the ultimate challenge. Its beaches include Bridgewater Bay, The Hole, Quarry Gates and Murrells which are best for beginners, and Blacks Beach, Whites Beach, Yellow Rock and Crumpets for experienced surfers.
  • Thirteenth Beach, Barwon Heads: Owing its name to its proximity to the 13th hole of The Barwon Heads Golf Club, golf isn't the only sport you can tuck into in the area. It's also popular for its surfing pursuits with conditions to suit everyone from beginners to experienced surfers.
  • Portsea Surf Beach, Mornington Peninsula: They don't call this a surf beach for nothing. This immense stretch of sand is arguably the best spot for surfing on the Mornington Peninsula. It's also popular for swimming and fishing.
  • Woolamai Surf Beach, Phillip Island: You won't find too many swimmers or sunbakers at this surfing hotspot. Here, it's all surfers on their boards catching waves to the backdrop of a pink granite beach.

Where to go gold panning in Victoria

Looking to strike it rich? First off, you'll need to purchase a Miner's Right permit while prospecting alone. Otherwise you can join an organised group to pan for gold.

If you're panning for fun, Soverign Hill in Ballarat lets you experience gold panning in its museum setting.

These are a few popular prospecting areas in the state for serious prospectors:

  • Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park
  • Greater Bendigo National Park
  • Bendigo Regional Park
  • Heathcote-Graytown National Park
  • Kara Kara National Park
  • Kooyoora State Park
  • Paddys Ranges State Park
  • Wychitella Nature Conservation Area
  • Eldorado, Reedy Creek
  • Steiglitz Historic Park
  • Beechworth Historic Park
  • Reef Hills State Park
  • Endfield State Park
  • Greater Bendigo National Park
  • Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park

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