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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Regional Victoria- Places to visit & fun things to do

Reading Time: 6 minutes 

Unchecked travel to regional Victoria might not be possible right now, but new government support means businesses will be ready to welcome visitors when it is safe to do so.

The Victorian Government in early June announced a new round of travel vouchers as part of a package of support to boost tourism recovery right across regional Victoria.

80,000 regional travel vouchers valued at $200 each will help operators affected by the current restrictions recover strongly.

 

Embracing the tip of Australia’s east coast, Victoria is Australia’s second-smallest state, in size almost same as the British Isles. Something impressive awaits there at every turn, from historic sites and settlements to sweeping coastlines, pristine beaches, wineries, lakes, snowy mountains and national parks teeming with native wildlife. Many attractions from this distinctive ensemble can be explored as day trips from Victoria’s thriving capital city Melbourne.

 

Bendigo

Located two hours away from Melbourne by rail and road, Bendigo – one of the top four townships of regional Victoria – came into prominence in 1851 with the discovery of gold in the region. Within months the sleepy settlement was flooded with diggers from all over the world. It thrived to such an extent that soon it became home to over 5000 mining companies, three mining stock exchanges, several banks and a fine array of grand architecture, most of which still exist to awestruck visitors.

Bendigo landmark
Bendigo landmark. Source: Sandip Hor

Visiting Bendigo means getting immersed in its rich heritage with authentic experiences. This includes riding on a vintage tram operating since 1890, exploring the old Central Deborah Gold Mine which stopped digging in 1954. It is now open to the public to showcase how a real mine looks like. Another must-visit is Bendigo Pottery, Australia’s oldest working pottery.

How about spending the night at the century-old hotel? Shamrock Hotel was visited by Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1983 during their royal tour.

Today Bendigo is renowned for its fusion of classic with contemporary, strong art and cultural affinity, and boutique food scene. All of these in combination have made the city Australia’s first UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.

A new addition to Bendigo is a large Buddhist stupa, said to be the first of its kind in the western world

 

Ballarat

Only an hour from Melbourne by rail or road, Ballarat is the state’s largest inland settlement that also blossomed after a Gold Rush which began at the same time as in Bendigo. While mining stopped in Bendigo in 1954 despite claims of strong deposits still underground, digging continues here under the town’s beautiful cityscape filled with imposing architecture and spacious parks and gardens lining broad avenues. Its main thoroughfare Lydiard Street is recognised as one of the nation’s most intact Victoria streetscape, often used as a period setup for films and television.

Ballarat Victorian streetscape
Ballarat Victorian streetscape. Source: Sandip Hor

FBiWhile visitors are drawn by its rich heritage, the destination’s main attraction is Sovereign Hill which showcases the Ballarat of the early years of the Gold Rush.

Sovereign Hill Ballarat
Sovereign Hill Ballarat. Source: Sandip Hor

Other notable attractions include the Gold Museum, Kryal Castle and the Wildlife Park – a passionate creation of wildlife enthusiast Greg Parker and an ideal family joint to get close to Aussie native animals and some endangered species like the Sumatran Tiger and a Komodo Dragon.

 

Phillip Island

Just 90 minutes from Melbourne, Phillip Island is well known for its Penguin Parade – a truly unique phenomenon that captures the hearts of everyone, young and old. It is the magical experience of watching hundreds of little penguins waddling from the sea at sunset and then toddling to their respective homes – their collective braying and trilling heard from a distance away.

Phillip Island Penguins
Phillip Island Penguins. Source: Sandip Hor

Besides penguins, there is another key sea animal attraction in this 26km x 9km island. It’s a colony of countless fur seals. They can be seen by taking a cruise from Cowes, the island’s main hub, to Seal Rocks where thousands of them are playing in the waves or resting on the rocky shores.

There are also opportunities to spot other native species like koalas dozing on the eucalyptus or wallabies grazing at dusk.

The island boasts of a rugged coastline, idyllic beaches, tiny villages and breathtaking scenery which can be best enjoyed by taking a chopper ride with Phillip Island Helicopters.

 

Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges

Less than an hour from Melbourne, the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges famous for their natural setting, vineyards and numerous cellars doors, offer quality local food and wine, breath taking scenery, romantic hideaways and indulgent adventures which includes a hot air balloon ride over the rolling valleys at dawn. Offered by Global Ballooning, this gliding adventure is safe and a bucket list item for many.

Ballooning over Yarra Valley
Ballooning over Yarra Valley. Source: Sandip Hor

While in the valley, it’s worth visiting the former home and surrounding estate of famous operatic soprano Dame Nellie Melba and the contemporary Tarra Warra Museum of Art.

Another major lure from this region is the serene ride on the Puffing Billy Steam Railway rattling on the original mountain track over the hills, across the iconic timber trestle bridges, down the valley and into the forest.

Puffing Billy Steam Railway
Puffing Billy Steam Railway. Source: Sandip Hor

 

Sow and Piglets

This cluster of limestone towers that dramatically rises from the rolling waters of the Southern Ocean, at a coastal location almost 275km southwest of Melbourne, is a natural wonder. At one time there were twelve of them called ‘Sow and Piglets’, then renamed in 1922 as ‘Twelve Apostles’.

Currently there are less than twelve, a few swallowed by the sea, but whatever remains stands as an awe-inspiring panorama. It is the sheer scale and the setting of the offshore mounds that mesmerise visitors. You may have seen countless photos, but nothing matches the joy of experiencing the geological record of millions of years with your own eyes.

This awesome exhibition is the highlight of a journey along the Great Ocean Road, one of the world’s greatest scenic drives.

The Victorian Government in early June announced a new round of travel vouchers as part of a package of support to boost tourism recovery right across regional Victoria.

80,000 regional travel vouchers valued at $200 each will help operators affected by the current restrictions recover strongly.

 

TRAVEL NOTEBOOK

 

Getting There

While V/Line offers train connection from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station to Ballarat and Bendigo, all the locations are easily reachable by road

 Stay

Good accommodation is available at all sites if an overnight stay is opted, though all are easily accessible as day trips from Melbourne where there are plenty of hotels to suit budget and taste.

Recommended Eateries

Wine Bank on View (Bendigo), a top class wine bar and dining venue.

Lola Provisional Hotel (Ballarat) for European inspired meals

Pino’s Trattoria (Phillip Island) for casual dining

Tarra Warra Restaurant (Yarra Glen) for an invigorating menu

Farmer’s Daughter (Melbourne) the city’s newest heartthrob

Daughter-in-Law (Melbourne) for Indian food with a contemporary twist.

More info Check www.visitvictoria.com.au

 

READ ALSO: A winter holiday at the magical Mount Baw Baw, Victoria


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Sandip Hor
Writing is a passion for this culturally enthused and historically minded globe trotting freelancer

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