When visiting Melbourne, you might find yourself entirely enchanted by this city. It’s full of life, delicious coffee, arts and culture. However, not everyone feels that unique “vibe” that got so many people fascinated by Melbourne. In this case, you might want to explore other parts of the state and learn more about how to visit Victoria.
Despite its small size, the state of Victoria delivers a spectacular diversity of landscapes from the Southern Ocean to the sandstone escarpments of the Grampians National Park. Along the way, you'll learn about Aboriginal culture, pan for gold, see wildlife and wilderness, enjoy local food and wine, and soak in some of Australia’s finest thermal mineral springs.
What to expect
- Enjoy one of the world's greatest coastal drives along the Great Ocean Road
- Discover Aboriginal culture amid the sandstone ridges of the Grampians National Park
- Immerse yourself in the 1850s gold rush era at Sovereign Hill living museum
Visit Victoria in 1 week
Day 1: Melbourne
Of course, one day in Melbourne won’t do much for you, and we highly recommend spending more time in this beloved destination. Soon we will publish some tips on things you could do while in Melbourne!
Check out Flinders St Station and Federation Square
Kick off your time in Melbourne by getting yourself acquainted with Flinders Street Station.
It’s the central transport hub of the city and an excellent place to base yourself on your first day if you get lost or need to meet someone in the town (locals tend to meet under the clocks that line the entrance).
The building itself is one of the oldest in the city and the prettiest, too. Most interesting is the presence of a decaying ballroom on the third floor that is only open to visitors on specific dates (such as Open House Melbourne, and even then, not every year the event is held).
Federation Square is across the road from Flinders Street Station and houses some lively bars and eating areas, outdoor entertainment screens from which the sports are usually projected and ACMI – the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
ACMI holds regular exhibitions based on art, culture and film, so be sure to check out their website before arriving to see if anything piques your interest!
Have a Poke Around the Laneways
Melbourne’s laneways are world-famous, primarily due to the urban art and graffiti splattered across their surfaces.
The best-known laneways for art are Hosier Lane (directly opposite Fed Square), Tattersalls Lane, Union Lane, and AC/DC Lane, which is named after the Australian rock band, which becomes evident when you see it for yourself. Hosier Lane is definitely worth not passing up.
For food, visit Degraves Street, Centre Place or Hardware Lane.
It’s well worth wandering around and seeing what you unearth. I ducked into a random, quiet laneway once to find a photography exhibition had been plastered on its walls, a very pleasing moment indeed.
You never know what’s going to turn up when you visit Melbourne! You may also want to consider stopping by Queen Victoria Market if you happen by the market is open on a day.
Tour the MCG
If you’re sporting mad, you shouldn’t miss an opportunity to check out the Melbourne Cricket Grounds, also known as “The MCG” or simply “The G” (the shorter, the better in Australia).
If sport is a religion, then the MCG is Melbourne’s cathedral. It’s the most prominent sports stadium in Australia and the tenth-largest in the world. As the name suggests, cricket is played on the grounds, but it becomes the home grounds of Aussie Rules in the wintertime, the main league of which is called the AFL.
It’s well worth catching a game if you visit Melbourne during the footy season, which runs from late March ‘til October. If not, you can still tour the grounds and learn a bit about Australia’s sporting history.
Visit the National Gallery of Victoria
A far step away from the sports is the National Gallery of Victoria, one of the loveliest art galleries in the country. It regularly features acclaimed international exhibitions, housing works by Escher, Van Gogh, Calver and Dior in recent times.
Entry to the permanent collection is free, and most exhibitions are fairly reasonably priced at under $30 AUD. It’s well worth spending a couple of hours wandering around this Melbourne museum. But make sure to get there early or visit on a weekday to avoid excessive crowds.
Check out the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanic Gardens
From the NGV, you can walk across St Kilda Road to have a look at the Shrine of Remembrance and the beautiful Botanic Gardens.
The Shrine pays homage to Australia’s fallen soldiers and is free to enter. You should climb to the top, where you’ll be rewarded with views of the city.
The Botanic Gardens are a short walk away from there. Entry is free, but you will have to pay if you want to do any tours or go punting on the garden’s lake.
I thoroughly recommend the Aboriginal Heritage Walk, where you’ll find a traditional smoking ceremony, drink lemon myrtle tea and learn about the plants, which are an integral part of Australia’s Indigenous culture.
You’ll find no better views of the city of Melbourne than the nearby Eureka Skydeck at Eureka Tower. Here there is an open-air viewing platform with the highest views in the Southern Hemisphere!
Grab Dinner at Chinatown
All this walking and sightseeing will have made you ravenous, so head back into the beating heart of the city to stroll around Chinatown on Bourke Street.
Melbourne’s Chinatown dates back to the 1850s, where the gold rush era brought an influx of Chinese migrants keen on making their fortunes in Australia.
Many stuck around, and Chinatown around Bourke Street is now one of the busiest parts of the city, with plenty of places to eat.
Nearby, the Bourke Street Mall is a hub of shopping activity and not to be missed on your Melbourne itinerary if you’re looking for a gift or two.
Day 2 and 3: Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous Australian Road Trip destinations. While some say that it’s a must-do when in Oz, others find it less remarkable in comparison to roads you see in New Zealand or Montenegro. You might also find this route very touristy. However, when you visit Victoria, we recommend doing Great Ocean Road no matter your previous experiences.
What to see along the Great Ocean Road?
Great Ocean Road offers a a variety of stops, and unfortunately, you can’t see them all in two days. You might want to spend longer on this ride, but you don’t have to. And remember, we are talking about the part of the Great Ocean Road west of Melbourne, since that’s the direction our suggested itinerary goes.
- Wildlife spotting along the Great Ocean Road, you will find lots of places for wildlife watching. Between June and September, you can see whales who migrate to the southern tip of Australia to give birth. While driving through the eucalyptus forests, you can spot plenty of koalas. There are also many different species of parrots in the region. And of course, look out for kangaroos, wallabies and other wildlife.
- Rainforest Walks – even though it’s supposedly an excellent OCEAN road, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the forest while you’re at it. Choose your own walk, it can be Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, Madsen’s Track Nature Walk or any other rainforest adventure.
- Lighthouses – there are several lighthouses located along Great Ocean Road. The two most prominent ones are Cape Otway Lightstation and Split Point Lighthouse. Get out there, take a walk, and if you can – visit them to learn about their history.
- Creat Otway National Park – one of our favourite places in that region. It contains various landscapes, myriad of bird, animal and plant species and is an excellent place for camping. Consider choosing it for your overnight stay.
- Twelve Apostles – probably the most famous stop along Great Ocean Road. To say that there were a lot of people is an understatement. Nevertheless, it’s a must-see and one of the end destinations for many road trips. These limestone formations shaped by water offer gorgeous views but don’t aim to find all 12 – only 8 of them are left.
- Loch Ard Gorge – another well-known spot for a beautiful view of the ocean and beach. It comes with a story of a ship that has wrecked at the shore and had only two survivors.
- Waterfalls – to be honest, we weren’t lucky enough to see any waterfalls on our route. Some of the ones we stopped for were almost dry due to the hot weather. And we didn’t make time to stop for others. But there are plenty of waterfalls along the Great Ocean Road: Erskine Falls, Hopetoun Falls, Triplet Falls, Carisbook Waterfall, Beauchamp Falls and more. Some of them require a detour, but if that’s what you’re hunting, go for it.
- Lookouts – there are so so many lookouts! You can probably stop every 10 minutes – Teddy’s lookout, Anglesea lookout, Cinema point lookout and more. There’s no need to stop every single time you see a sign, but make sure you do visit some of them.
- Shipwreck sites – one thing you need to know when you visit Victoria is that there are many shipwrecks along the coast if you’re into that stuff – awesome! You will find beaches with anchors or parts of ships together with some exciting information about what happened there.
Where to stay?
Depending on the transportation you use, there is a good choice of places to sleep along Great Ocean Road. Those who choose to go with a tour company will most likely have their accommodation arranged by the tour provider.
If you are driving a car, you might want to stop in one of the towns along the road. Many of them have hotels, hostels and inns available for travellers. Campgrounds and caravan parks also offer cabins and trailers to stay in. Those travelling in a van or a camper also can use local campgrounds. For that, we recommend the WikiCamps Australia app, which helped us a lot on the way. It will show you nearby campsites, trails, dump points and various points of interest. We stayed at Bimbi Park during the first night at Mortlake Caravan Park before we drove to Halls Gap.
Day 4 and 5: The Grampians and Halls Gap
The truth is: we only spent one day in Halls Gap, but we wish we spent more. First of all, it’s a significant change to looking at the beach for two days. And second, it’s stunning scenery!
The Grampians is a National Park that is full of stunning views, nature trails and wildlife. But what’s even more impressive is that it’s one of the places where you can learn a lot about Aboriginal culture. The Grampians are especially rich in Aboriginal rock art, and it’s a must-see for everyone who decides to visit Victoria.
During the first day, explore the National Park. The Grampians Peaks Trail is now open, and it takes three days if you have time for that. But you might choose to see different parts of the region. Head to Mount Sturgeon Walk, The Piccaninny or Mount Abrupt Walk. If you have any energy left, head to Halls Gap and hike from the city to Pinnacle via Wonderland Loop Hike. You can also leave it for the next day and choose to wander the city instead.
There are two main things we loved about Halls Gap town. First of all, there are plenty of kangaroos wandering around. Second, they sell delicious ice cream at Coolas Ice Creamery. All in all, it’s a cozy town and is worth a stop.
When you are done with The Grampians and Halls Gap, start driving towards Yarra Valley. But be aware that the drive might take longer than you plan since the path leads you through Melbourne.
Where to stay?
For the first night, we really recommend staying in Halls Gap. We weren’t fortunate enough to have enough time, but we wish we did. The next day, if you decide to drive in the evening, you can split your drive in two. When you visit Victoria, you should definitely stay in one of the cozy small towns, and it’s a perfect opportunity. We spent our evening and night in Clunes, but you might choose Ararat, some other town or stay close to one of the lakes on the way.
Day 6 and 7: Yarra Valley and back to Melbourne
One might ask: why spend two days in Yarra Valley? Isn’t it just a one-day wine tour? And it might be if that’s what you want. But Yarra Valley offers much more to a curious visitor, and here are some examples.
What to do in Yarra Valley?
- Visit Healesville Sanctuary. While we are not huge fans of animals in captivity, Healesville Sanctuary seems to be more than just a zoo. Their wildlife conservation program is extensive, they are trying to preserve many species that face extinction. In some cases, they put breeding programs in place to sustain endangered populations.
- Go on Black Spur Drive. Another stunning road in Victoria, it’s not as long as Great Ocean Road, but worth spending time on. Through the rain forest and the eucalyptus trees, it takes you from Healesville to Narbethong. And yes, it is a destination on its own.
- Hike/walk-in Yarra Ranges. If you read any of our previous articles, you know that we love hiking and trekking. This is why we were so sad we didn’t get to do it in Yarra Valley! You can find some ideas here and here.
- Enjoy adventures. Hot air balloons, horse riding, biking, and theme parks – Yarra region has plenty of options!
- Explore wineries. That’s probably the most obvious thing you can do when you visit Victoria and Australia in general.
So, the first reason why we recommend spending at least two days in Yarra Valley is to enjoy all of these activities. You cannot spend 1 hour in Healesville Sanctuary, especially if you want to learn something from one of the fantastic talks they give go their visitors. It will take you a while to do some walks or adventurous activities or to go on a 30-minute drive. Another reason we recommend two days is because those of you who are into wineries can’t drive back to Melbourne straight after that – we sure hope you’ll enjoy some wine on your tour!
Where to stay?
If you are visiting Yarra Valley during the weekend (including Friday), we recommend pre-booking your accommodation, even if you plan to stay on the campground. There are plenty of hostels, guest houses and hotels in Healesville and neighbouring cities, as well as a few caravan parks. Use the WikiCamps app to find your accommodation. If you can’t make it all the way to Melbourne during the last day, consider staying at the Crystal Brook Tourist Park.
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