The state of Victoria is best known for Melbourne, the seven-time “World’s Most Liveable City” according to the Economist. But the road beyond Melbourne deserves as much attention as this justifiably popular city. There are few places that better accommodate the freedom of a road trip, where you can stop off on a quiet stretch of coastal highway and gaze out upon rocky sentinels in the surf or opt for an impromptu hike with kangaroos as your companions along the way. With Air Canada getting you there, a self-drive through Victoria is an ideal way to explore one of Australia’s most attractive states.
With Air Canada, you can easily get to Melbourne for an unforgettable trip through Australia. Enjoy year-round, non-stop service from Vancouver with smooth connections from cities throughout Canada. Get the ultimate in inflight comfort by choosing from three classes of service and arrive feeling refreshed and ready for your adventures. There’s never been a better time to explore Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road with Air Canada and Goway.
What is there to see in and around Melbourne?
The Laneways and Arcades of Melbourne
A Victoria self-drive tour with Air Canada begins in Melbourne, a city celebrated the world over. But what is it about this city with a famous gold-flaked past that makes it so appealing? In short: the culture.
Melburnians have an enthusiasm for their city that’s contagious and that makes everything about being in the city so enjoyable, whether an ordinary interaction like grabbing a flat white at a laneway cafe or a more raucous time in a club in bohemian Fitzroy. Of course, there are also historical landmarks and famous sights to see in addition to the cultural experiences.
Start your journey with a city sightseeing tour, which gets you acquainted with the city history and offers an overview of its many pleasures. Begin at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and continue to Fitzroy Gardens before enjoying a guided tour of some of the city’s most famous laneways and arcades to see the assortment of trendy bars and cafes tucked behind historic buildings and avenues. Cap off your city tour with a visit to the Queen Victoria Market to do a bit of quick shopping at the largest marketplace in the Southern Hemisphere.
Penguin Parade on Phillip Island
For the second half of your first full day in Melbourne, you’ll head just outside the city to witness one of the state’s most popular attractions: the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. This wildlife display is one of the cutest things you’ll ever see and will warm your heart like no other encounter. Phillip Island, a small island to the southeast of Melbourne, is home to the pint-sized Little Penguins, who spend their days fishing in the Southern Ocean only to return to the island each evening in what’s come to be known as the Penguin Parade.
Spend the late afternoon journeying to Phillip Island, stopping off at the Warook Homestead and the Koala Conservation Centre along the way to hand-feed kangaroos and koalas and enjoy an afternoon tea. You’ll arrive on Phillip Island at sundown, in time to witness these adorable Little Penguins waddle ashore in the thousands to return to their sandy burrows. You can watch from the viewing area on the beach or head to the underground viewing area, which gives you a perfect sightline of the miniature parade.
Wineries of the Yarra Valley
If you’re a wine lover, you’ll love the next day of your travels through Victoria. You’ll journey east of Melbourne into the Yarra Valley, one of the country’s most celebrated wine regions. The valley’s cool climate makes it ideal for growing grapes, specifically Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as sparkling wine varietals. During your day in the Yarra Valley, you’ll visit four premium wineries, including Domaine Chandon, which creates the most popular sparkling wine in the state. After enjoying a sampling of wines and several tasting plates of local foods, return to Melbourne for another day at leisure.
Since you’ve already gotten the lay of the land, you can follow your fancy on your final day in Melbourne. Head up to the 88th floor of Eureka Skydeck for incredible views of the city, or go on a museum crawl to experience the innovative artworks and cultivated classics in the city’s many museums and art galleries, from the National Gallery of Victoria to the Melbourne Museum and the Australian Music Vault at the Arts Centre Melbourne. No time in Melbourne is complete without at least one night in the famous laneway bars and cafes.
What are the highlights on a self-drive through Victoria?
The Great Ocean Road
After exploring Melbourne and some of the surrounding highlights, you’ll begin your self-drive across Victoria. Pick up your rental car and journey out of the city, skirting the Bellarine Peninsula on route to Geelong and Torquay and the beginning of the Great Ocean Road. The Bellarine Peninsula is home to a gorgeous stretch of family-friendly beaches, wineries, and seaside villages to the southwest of Melbourne. You may want to dawdle on your journey, taking in a winery or two or stopping off for a quick dip before continuing towards the Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road between Torquay and Allansford is one of the top five coastal drives in the world. So if there’s one stretch of road in Australia that you ought to drive, this is it. Stop off along your journey and gaze out over the Southern Ocean, seeing landmarks seemingly every few kilometres.
The Great Ocean Road is technically the world’s largest war memorial, built between 1919 and 1932 as a dedication to the soldiers that died during World War I. But it’s primarily a showcase of the many natural wonders along the coastline. First stop is the seaside town of Apollo Bay, where you’ll enjoy the crescent-shaped beach and the rolling Otway hills leading to the southwest.
Great Otway National Park and the Twelve Apostles
The next day, drive further south and hug the coastline as you venture into Great Otway National Park, home to one of the oldest and most beautiful forests in the country. Located just off Cape Otway at the southernmost dip in the road, the park is home to waterfalls, walking trails, and a significant koala population. Make sure to stop off for a hike through the forest and to stroll along the coastal cliffs. You may spot migrating whales and dolphins in the waters off the coast depending on when you visit.
Of course, the chief attraction of a journey along the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles, a stunning collection of limestone sentinels off the coast of Port Campbell National Park. Spend at least an hour strolling along the coastline, admiring the stone outcrops from the top of the cliffs or the beach at the bottom of Gibson Steps, before continuing to the fishing village of Port Fairy to spend the night. Before you get there, though, you may want to make time to see Loch Ard Gorge and the London Arch, two more stunning stone formations mere minutes from the Twelve Apostles.
Rugged Mountain Ranges of the Grampians
After enjoying Port Fairy’s 19th-century Victorian charm for the night, continue your self-drive northward on route to Grampians National Park. If you love hiking, you’re going to love the Grampians, rugged mountain ranges with boisterous displays of wildflowers, wildlife, and some of the oldest Indigenous rock art sites in the country. If you head to Billimina Shelter, Gulgurn Manja Shelter, and Manja Shelter, you’ll find rock art sites that date back tens of thousands of years, bearing proof of the staggeringly old civilizations of Indigenous Australia.
The park is also home to some of the nation’s best hiking trails. Stretch your legs on the open earth and head through the mountainous forests of the Grampians, discovering hidden valleys and waterfalls along the way. The region is also home to some of Australia’s leading winemakers, including Best’s Great Western and Grampians Estate, so consider stopping off at a few wineries before ending the day just outside the national park in Dunkeld.
Victoria’s Gold Mining Past in Sovereign Hill
On the final stretch of your self-drive through Victoria, you’ll explore the state’s mining history. During the 19th century, Victoria was in the midst of a gold rush that transformed Melbourne into the wealthiest city in the world. The city of Ballarat was at the heart of that gold rush. The open-air museum of Sovereign Hill recreates Ballarat from the 1850s, letting you discover how life was lived during this transformative time period. It’s a fascinating way to end your journey across Victoria.
After a night in Ballarat, you’ll drive back to Melbourne for your return journey back home with Air Canada. Of course, you can always extend your stay and explore some of Australia’s many other attractions. It’s a country that’s filled to the brim with attractions. Make the most of your time here and savour the many natural and cultural highlights of Victoria.
Feeling inspired? Book a trip to Melbourne with Goway and Air Canada and opt for a self-drive through Victoria. Experience the best in inflight comfort on your way to this ultimate journey, and back.
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