Victoria and Melbourne
Travel to Victoria to experience Australia in a microcosm. Though it may be the smallest of the mainland states, Victoria makes the most of its geography, packing snow-capped mountains, searing deserts, wineries, beaches, rainforests, and a world-class metropolitan center into its pint-sized borders.
With countless natural attractions including 32 national parks, first-rate international cuisine, and as host to major sporting, fashion and cultural events, Victoria has more than earned its reputation as a top global destination for tourists. There is something for everyone to be found in these parts. Known amongst foodies for its superb local produce, extensive wineries and award-winning restaurants, it is equally celebrated by ski bums as home to the best winter sports in the country.
Visitors rave about Melbourne, Victoria’s capital and Australia’s second largest city, from its coffee shops (Melburnians are fervently anti-Starbucks), restaurants and nightlife, to its distinctive style of fashion and music. A maze of hidden laneways, opulent bars, and off-the-beaten-track boutiques, the city is a cosmopolitan mecca.
Travel to Melbourne to soak up culture, hit the sporting grounds, taste mouthwatering food and wine, indulge in posh nightlife venues, or simply to wander the parks and leafy boulevards for hours on end. Set around the shores of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne is home to a culturally diverse community of over three million residents, with sizeable Italian and Greek populations. Host to regular international regattas such as Sail Melbourne, Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay is one of the world’s great yachting waterways.
Outside the urban sprawl of Melbourne, it is only a quick trip to Yarra Valley wine country, or to the Milawa Gourmet Region in the King Valley to sample delicious cheeses, mustards and honey. Victoria is also home to Torquay, the official surf capital of Australia, and The Great Ocean Road, one of the most scenic and renowned drives in the Southern Hemisphere. It is from here that the legendary limestone rock formations, The Twelve Apostles, can be viewed. There are some good beaches nearby and even better ones at Westernport Bay, Ninety Mile Beach (in the Gippsland Lakes area) and along the Bellarine Peninsula near Geelong.
Wildlife is on display at the Phillip Island Nature Reserve, almost 90 miles outside of Melbourne, for those who wish to see birds, koalas, fairy/littlest penguins and fur seals (large colonies of which can be observed at the Seal Rocks Sea Life Center) in their natural habitats, while The Port Campbell National Park, southwest of Melbourne, contains some of the most striking coastline in Victoria.
In the east of the State is Gippsland Lakes, a lush fertile region dotted with lakes and parkland. The west is arid, with expanses of open space for grazing sheep. Towards the center are the Grampian Mountains, famous for wild flowers, birdlife and offering some of the world’s finest rock climbing. Victoria is also home to Brambuk, a cultural center exhibiting the arts, crafts and historical records of the Western Aboriginal people.
Australians are notoriously huge sports enthusiasts, and Australian Rules Football is one of the country’s favorite pastimes. Often called ‘Footy,’ or ‘Aussie Rules,’ this high impact combo of football and rugby traces its origins to Victoria. Football season runs from March to September, culminating in the Australian Football League Grand Final, held annually at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This arena also plays host to the highest standard of international and national cricket matches, and is ranked amongst cricket’s most sacred grounds.
Also of note, the 2-mile long Melbourne Cup is the highlight of Australia’s racing year. This prestigious horse race offers the highest prizes in the southern hemisphere. Held on the first Tuesday in November, the day is declared a public holiday in Melbourne, with the entire city coming out to celebrate.
Visitors to Victoria have many choices when it comes to lodging. Luxury hotels in Melbourne are first rate, especially Crown Towers, Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, and The Langham Melbourne. Other centrally located options include Crowne Plaza Melbourne, The Swanson Hotel Melbourne Grand Mercure, Novotel Melbourne St. Kilda and Ibis Hotel Melbourne.