Our Victoria Travel Guide will help you plan a visit to a state that offers much more than its size would suggest. From a quick weekend visit to Melbourne to weeks exploring regional Victoria, we have lots of ideas to keep you busy.
Victoria and NSW have a healthy competition with the rivalry stretching from sport to which city serves the best coffee or has the most rain. We are not going to take sides other than to say as Sydneysiders we love visiting Melbourne and think both cities and states have plenty to offer.
Why Visit Victoria
Compact and packed with plenty to see and do Victoria has something to offer all times of travellers. The short travel times between regions make road trips a perfect way to explore the state.
Some of the highlights are of this small but spectacular state are:
- a stunning coastline, more than 1800km to explore
- diverse landscapes from snow-capped mountains to gorgeous rainforests
- the famous Great Ocean Road
- a vibrant bar and coffee culture
To help you decide which parts to visit here is a quick rundown of the travel regions that make up Victoria.
The Regions of Victoria
Victoria is divided into 12 tourism regions, and unlike some of the larger states, you can cover quite a few on day trips using the capital Melbourne as a base.
- Melbourne – Art, culture, sport and events
- Daylesford and Macedon Ranges – Hepburn Springs and spa country
- Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges – Healesville Sanctuary
- Mornington Peninsula – Melbourne’s best beaches
- Phillip Island – Penguin Parade and Phillip Island
- Geelong and Bellarine region –
- Great Ocean Road – 12 Apostles and the Shipwreck Coast
- The Goldfields – Bendigo and Ballarat
- The Grampians – Waterfalls and wildlife
- The High Country – Ski fields and cycling
- Gippsland – 90 Mile Beach and Wilson’s Promontory
- The Murray – Australia’s longest river
Australia’s second-biggest city and the unofficial sporting and cultural capital of the country, Melbourne has been named the most liveable city in the world six times! With hundreds of small bars and just as many world-class restaurants added to lots of natural beauty, there is much to love here.
Top 5 things to do on your first visit to Melbourne:
- Stroll the laneways discovering small bars and cafes
- Check out some of the cities best street art
- Tour the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Australian Museum of Sport
- Ride the tram to St Kilda Beach and eat cake
- Do some shopping – it’s the best in the country
Local Tip: Check out the Walks 101 Bar Tour on the first day you arrive for a week’s worth of places to visit!
With 244 km of track and more than 450 trams, Melbourne is home to the most extensive tram system outside of Europe and the 4th largest in the world.
We have written about our favourite areas to stay in Melbourne that you might find helpful for your planning.
Daylesford and Macedon Ranges
Spa country, only 108km from North West Melbourne, Daylesford is perfect for a romantic getaway or a fun girls weekend of indulgence. The area is a paradise in autumn.
Top places to visit in Daylesford:
- Hepburn Springs
- Lake Daylesford – Do the ‘Peace Mile’ Walk
- Wombat Hill Botanic Garden
- Visit Trentham Falls – one of the biggest in Victoria
- Alfred Nichols Gardens – stunning any time of year but especially in autumn.
Local tip: If you visit on a Sunday set aside some time to visit the weekly Daylesford Market it’s on from 8.30-3pm.
Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges
Only one hour from Melbourne the Yarra Valley has over 90 cellar doors to visit and a cool climate perfect for a foodie escape. Once you have eaten your fill, there are some great walking tracks to burn off some of the calories.
Top things to do in the Yarra and Dandenongs:
- Bushwalking – the 1000 Steps Track is popular and not as challenging as it sounds.
- Visit the town of Emerald and famous the Puffing Billy steam train
- Take in the view from Skyhigh Mt Dandenong
- Explore William Ricketts Sanctuary – a stunning Sculpture Park
Local tip: Pop into Habituel for great coffee and delicious pastries.
Related: Check out our guide on the walking trails near Melbourne
The Mornington Peninsula is a popular holiday spot for Melbourians with both bay and ocean-facing beaches and a growing wine scene in the hinterland.
The top 3 sites along the peninsula are:
- Sorrento and Portsea beaches
- Point Nepean National Park
- Cape Schanck – a perfect sunset location
- Millionaires Walk – See how the lucky locals live in Sorrento
- Arthurs Seat – for the best views over the area
Local tip: If you missed the beach boxes in Brighton, don’t worry, you will find them scattered right along this coast.
Most people head to Phillip Island to see the fairy penguins who walk up the beach every night, but the island offers more. The island hosts the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix each October.
The main attractions on Phillip Island include:
- Penguin Parade
- Koala Conservation Centre
- Churchhill Island
Local tip: If you don’t have a car, consider booking a tour because it’s a huge pain to get here by public transport!
Geelong and Bellarine region
Just one hour from Melbourne and home to the states second airport Geelong has emerged as a popular area in its own right. With lots of family attractions and the Bellarine Food Trail will keep your tastebuds satisfied.
Popular things to do near Geelong include:
- Take a walk in You Yangs National Park
- Visit the Eastern Beach
- Check out the Geelong Bollards – reclaimed timber pier pylons turned into art
- Learn about the local First Nations people at the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre
- Meet the animals at Werribee Zoo
Local tip: If you are in town overnight check out Alma for dinner and order the croquettes and the fennel salad!
Great Ocean Road
This is one spot in Victoria that likely needs no introduction, the best-known road trip in Australia and one we highly recommend. Listed on the National Heritage register but surprisingly not yet a UNESCO World Heritage site
Things you must see on the Great Ocean Road:
- Kennett River Park – meet the local koalas
- Apollo Bay
- Cape Otway Lighthouse
- Port Campbell National Park – home of the Twelve Apostles
Check out our two-day itinerary for visiting the Great Ocean Road.
It was the activity in the goldfields in the 1850s that gave Melbourne; it’s grand buildings and bought the state a large number of new residents from around the world.
Don’t miss these towns:
- Bendigo – ride the talking tram.
- Ballarat – home of the living history site Sovereign Hill
- Castlemaine – a small town with plenty of art and architecture.
- Maldon – awarded the ‘most intact heritage streetscape’ by the National Trust.
- Dunolly – the home of the 69 kilogram ‘Welcome Stranger’ gold nugget
Local tip: Head to Hydrant Food Hall in Ballarat and order Hydrant 3.0 for breakfast – you won’t be disappointed!
Perhaps best known as a bushwalking and rock climbing paradise the Grampians, known as Gariwerd by local First Nations people, also offer strong links with indigenous culture and art.
Key towns in the Grampians region:
- Ararat – a former gold mining town turned food and wine region
- Halls Gap – the central town on the Grampians region and a great base
- Stawell –
Local tip: Gariwerd (Grampians) region has a rich First Nationa history. Be sure to visit Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre to learn more.
The High Country
Mountains, rivers, lakes and small country towns the high country is an adventure-lovers paradise. Skiing, horseriding, cycling and hiking are all high on the agenda here. However, you can just as easily spend your days in here wandering cute villages and strolling pretty country streets.
Popular spots in the High Country include:
- Bright – a gateway town to the snowfields and popular for summer and winter adventure sports
- Beechworth – a well preserved historic centre and links to both Ned Kelly and Bourke of Bourke and Wills fame.
- Rutherglen – another of Victoria’s wine districts
- Lake Eildon – for water sports, fishing and hiking
- Mount Hotham and Falls Creek – National Alpine Museum of Australia
Local tip: Be sure to drop into the Beechworth Bakery for a pie!
From the outskirts of Melbourne to the NSW border Gippsland is a diverse region with vast areas of wilderness and plenty of small towns to explore. Outside of summer holiday periods the region can be perfect for quiet escapes with lots of places to for your own patch of paradise without the crowds.
Things to see in and around Gippsland:
- Street art in Yarram –
- Wilsons Promontory –
- 90 Mile Beach – or 151km beach if you prefer
- Lakes Entrance – Buy some fresh fish and throw it on the barbie
- Cape Conran – meet the local bandicoots, wombats and potoroos
Local tip: Be sure to make a trip to the lookout at Mount Oberon for the best views over Squeaky Beach
In the 1800s the Mighty Murray River, the longest in Australia, was a bustling place with boats taking goods and guests to its far reaches. If you have ever dreamt of spending the night on a houseboat or a paddle steamer, this is the perfect spot for you!
Key stops you should try to visit along the Murray River include:
- Echuca – view or ride on the largest fleet of paddle steamers in the world.
- Swan Hill – history lovers will enjoy the Pioneer Settlement town.
- Mildura – the biggest city in the region and one of the gateways to Mungo National Park in NSW
- Cactus Country – home to 10,000 cacti and succulents
- Wodonga/Albury – these border towns are home to a thriving arts scene and some great indigenous attractions
Local tip: If you find yourself near Corowa drop into Corowa Whisky & Chocolate you won’t regret it!
When is the best time To Visit Victoria
The best time to visit Melbourne is in Spring (Sept-Nov) and Autumn (March to May). Crowds over the summer are high with several key events and Australia’s long summer school holiday period.
It gets pretty cold across the state over the winter, but it’s the perfect time to enjoy a break by the fire in Daylesford or the Yarra regions and of course, ski season in the high country.
If you want to swim at Victoria’s beaches, then visit in February or March. Find out more weather and temperature details on the Bureau of Meteorology.
Key Events In Victoria
The biggest event of the year might be Melbourne Cup, but the AFL Grand Final and Melbourne Grand Prix are also huge.
- January – Australia Open in Melbourne
- March – International Comedy Festival
- August – Melbourne International Film Festival
- August – Melbourne Writer’s Festival
- October – Australian Moto Grand Prix
- October – Three Peaks Festival – Dunkeld
- November – Melbourne Cup (first Tuesday in November)
- November – Melbourne Fringe Festival
Victoria Public Holidays – 2020-2021
Long weekends see prices rise and availability drop so book in advance for the best deals. Rates are particularly high for sporting events. Most attractions only close on Christmas day and perhaps Anzac Day or Good Friday, but please check individual places before you visit.
Victoria Public School Terms – 2020-2021
If you don’t have children avoiding these dates will save you money, and you will find the museums a lot less crowded.
How To Get To Victoria
Unless you are planning on a driving holiday the best option is to fly to Melbourne, buses and trains cost almost the same as flights and take eight times as long to get there.
Drive – Melbourne is a 9 or 10-hour drive from Sydney along the inland road and more like 13 hours of driving time along the coast road. It is best to tackle the coast route over a couple of days.
The drive from Adelaide takes about 8 hours, 12 hours if you travel via the coast and Great Ocean Road. From elsewhere flying is your best option.
Bus – Buses from Sydney take 12 hours. The bus from Adelaide takes 10-11 hours. Check Murrays and Greyhounds
website for the best prices.
Train – The train service from Sydney takes 11 hours. There are two services per day, an overnight and a day train. The cheapest place to book your ticket is directly on their website. From Adelaide, it’s a 10.5 hr trip. All trains terminate at Spencer Street Station.
Fly – There are regular flights from most states, the Sydney to Melbourne route is the busiest in Australia. Because of this, flights particularly expensive at the beginning and end of the day. The Skybus from Tullamarine takes about 20 minutes; return tickets are slightly cheaper than singles.
International Airports in Victoria
- Melbourne Tullamarine – Flights from all continents
- Avalon – Flights from Kuala Lumpur and Bali
Domestic Airports in Victoria
- Melbourne – (MEL) Tullamarine – daily flights from all Australian states.
- Melbourne – (AVV) Avalon – This airport is in Geelong and services budget airlines. Flights from Sydney, Adelaide and the Gold Coast land here. It can be a good choice for a Great Ocean Road trip as this puts you right at the beginning of the road.
How To Get Around Victoria
Melbourne has an excellent regional train network, VLine, that will get you to many of the regions listed above. Domestic air travel is not necessary for this small state.
To access public transport, you will need to download the Myki app or buy a rechargeable card on arrival in Melbourne. Myki is used on Melbourne’s trains, trams and buses and VLine services to most places within a few hours of the city. Buses in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour and the Latrobe Valley also use Myki.
If you have not driven in Australia before, I suggest you read our tips for driving in the land Downunder. Also, be sure to read up on “hook turns” so there are no ugly incidents with trams you may encounter.
- Melbourne to Port Campbell – 4hrs 30 via the coast
- Melbourne to Phillip Island – 1 hr 44m
- Melbourne to Ballarat – 1hr 30m
- Melbourne to Wilson’s Promontory – 3hrs
- Melbourne to Mount Hotham – 4hrs 30m
Rideshare – Rideshare services are legal and regulated in Melbourne, you will find both Uber and Ola have the most coverage. Didi also operates in Melbourne.