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Overview

Wildlife and adventure touring route

Get into the driver's seat

301 km/187 miles, about 3.5 hours

Victoria's south east is an adventure waiting to happen. Walk through lush forests and plunging valleys, swim and scuba dive in local bays and beaches, explore coastal islands and race down ski slopes all through winter. See iconic native wildlife up close in animal sanctuaries and sail out in the blue waters of Port Phillip Bay to see dolphins and seals. So pack your walking shoes, your bathers and a spirit of adventure - and start exploring.

Destinations

Highlights

Melbourne

Wildlife and adventure touring route

One of Melbourne's many charms is the many gardens that are within walking distance of the city centre. The 90-acre Royal Botanic Gardens are adjacent to the Yarra River. The historic gardens are 160 years old and home to massive trees and 12,000 species of plants.

In Fitzroy Gardens, near Melbourne's historic Parliament House, see Cook's Cottage, which was transported from the Yorkshire village where explorer Captain James Cook was born. There is also a conservatory filled with indoor plant displays, a mini Tudor village and a tree carved by a local artist.

North of the city centre, Carlton Gardens surround the grand Royal Exhibition Buildings, which were erected for the Great Exhibition of 1880, and the Melbourne Museum is nearby.

Other green spaces include Birrarung Marr, located beside the Yarra River and home to the huge Federation Bells that were commissioned to celebrate the centenary of Australia's federation in 2001. Wander along the grassy, tree-shaded paths that follow the river, past popular public barbecue spots. Flagstaff Gardens on the west of the city were the first public gardens in Melbourne.

Leg one

Wildlife and adventure touring route

Melbourne to Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges

56 km/35 miles, about 1 hour

Healesville is the heart of Yarra Valley wine country, but it's better known for the Australian wildlife experience at Healesville Sanctuary. More than 200 species live here, including platypus, koalas, Tasmanian devils, lyrebirds, kangaroos, emus, wallabies, dingoes and echidnas. Visit the Australian Wildlife Health Centre and watch the activities of a real wildlife hospital.

Puffing Billy, in The Dandenongs, is Australia's oldest surviving steam railway. The magnificently preserved train follows a 25-kilometre track that winds through thick forests and ferns, with beautiful views of hills, valleys and villages. First-class travel and dining experiences make the trip even more fun, with lunch, Devonshire tea and dinner available.

Highlights

Highlights

Leg two

Wildlife and adventure touring route

Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges to Phillip Island

140 km/87 miles, about 1.5 hours

Start at the Chocolate Factory where you can make your own luscious chocolate. Next stop is at tiny Churchill Island, with its 1850s working farm, wetlands, gardens and historic buildings. Take in the island's spectacular scenery from the air from in the capable hands of Phillip Island Helicopters, then allow yourself to be bemused, bewildered and baffled by the dozens of activities at A Maze 'N Things. Across the road, the Koala Conservation Centre allows you to stroll along tree-top boardwalks to meet the locals.

Join in the action at the Grand Prix Circuit. Jump into a Go Kart on the replica Grand Prix circuit to test your skills on Australia's largest Grand Prix Slot Car track. The action is underwater at the Nobbies magnificent marine centre, where you can peer through a camera for a close-up view of the world's largest fur seal colony. Today's finale is the sight of little penguins emerging from the sea at the dusk Penguin Parade.

Overnight: Phillip Island.

Leg three

Wildlife and adventure touring route

Phillip Island to Mornington Peninsula

105 km/65 miles, about 1 hour

Experience the magic of swimming beside seals and dolphins. Moonraker Seal and Dolphin Swims or Polperro Dolphin Swims specialise in locating pods of dolphins and looking after the wildlife and their customers. Ask Bayplay Adventure about dolphin spotting in sea kayaks and snorkelling to see sea dragons.

Gunnamatta Trail Rides combine the best of bays and bush. Ride a horse along bushland tracks to an ocean beach, where you can canter through the shallows.

The latest arrivals at Moonlit Sanctuary are a pair of rare fluffy gliders. These tiny possums can soar 150 metres, turn 90 degrees in flight and are nocturnal. These creatures, and other threatened or endangered species, are highlights of Moonlit Sanctuary's lantern-lit evening tours.

Golfers will be pleasantly surprised with the quality of the peninsula's golf courses, which have been compared to those of Monterey, California and Fife, Scotland. Try the cliff-top Flinders Golf Club or Moonah Links, home to the 2003 and 2005 Australian Open.

When it's time to wind down, head to Peninsula Hot Springs to soak in the natural, thermal mineral waters. Sit in an indoor or an outdoor pool, and choose from a vast menu of spa treatments.

 

Highlights

Wildlife & zoos

Dolphins

Watch from the shore, or join an organised expedition to swim with or cruise alongside Port Phillip Bay's friendly bottlenose and common dolphins.