It's time to get out and about: set your sights to the south and find freedom with a coastal Victorian escape.
Port Fairy, Great Ocean Road
Image: Port Fairy, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
Take a windswept wander along expansive beaches, through pristine rainforest canopy and follow paths atop rugged sea cliffs. Keep an eye out for Southern Right whales and dolphins making their way along the coast. Swim, surf, fish or stroll on the pier, and follow historic village trails.
Beachside accommodation is part of the fun. Wake to misty winter mornings or the pale golden light in your cosy accommodation by the sea. Set the fireplace going, late in the afternoon, and put your feet up, or draw a warm bath and take a soak, with amazing ocean views.
Cook up a meal with local produce and open the day's wine finds – or pop out to the local eatery. Some of the smallest villages host big names in hospitality. Expect local ingredients, fresh seafood and warm welcomes. Stay close and go further on your coastal winter escape.
Meander the Shipwreck Coast to historic 19th-century fishing village Port Fairy, where wild nature is at its best.
In winter look out for Southern Right whales breaching right off the coast and at nearby Logans Beach in Warrnambool. Spot seals, birds, koalas, emus and plenty more wildlife on a visit to Tower Hill Reserve, a tour to Lady Julia Percy Island or on an exhilarating beach walk all the way to Warrnambool's Thunder Point. Make it a relaxed afternoon following an art trail or historic walking tour around the village. At night, draw up for a cosy meal – sample the season menu at Merrijig Kitchen – and bed down in boutique accommodation for an easy breezy escape.
283 kilometres (3.5 hours) out of Melbourne (inland route)
Make a quick getaway from Melbourne to the seaside village of San Remo, gateway to Phillip Island.
Take time out on the island's pristine beaches: head south for Southern Ocean surf and north for gentle Port Phillip bay waters. Walk along the pretty sands and dig sand castles with the kids. Look out for a pelican or two. Explore dramatic blowholes and rock formations, and take your board for a surf – the waves are outstanding here. There's angling to be done, cycling trails to free-wheel and tasty seafood to be savoured. At night the famed parade of adorable waddling penguins is guaranteed to steal your heart.
Follow the curving Mornington Peninsula to Sorrento, where creature comforts fit snugly with waterside adventures.
Dine along the waterfront, sleep in historic hotels, tee off on the golf course and browse designer boutiques. The pier is your launching pad for afternoon fishing or a whale-watching tour out on the water. Hop on the ferry over to historic Queenscliff to explore the Bellarine Peninsula. This picturesque stretch of coast between Sorrento and neighbouring Portsea has inspired numerous artists – discover which sights have been captured on canvas on a stunning bay beach walk, then relax with a soak at the renowned hot springs a short distance from the village.
Shake off the working week with a visit to wee Inverloch, Gippsland's perfect hub for a nature escape.
Step out for a dose of salty Southern Ocean air on beaches and boardwalks, through marshlands and atop coastal cliffs, or pedal along magnificent rail trails. You're bound to spot plenty of birds and wildlife while you're out exploring. Water lovers can swim, surf or wakeboard, and pretty Anderson Inlet provides sheltered family fun beside turquoise waters. It's easy to add a side trip to world-famous Wilsons Promontory 75 minutes away, or simply stay put and savour the magnificent Bass Strait views from luxe coastal accommodation.
Nestled along the dramatic Great Ocean Road, Lorne combines the best of seaside relaxing, rainforest explorations and gourmet grazing.
Head down to the white-sand beach for a quick dip or stroll along the pier to meet the locals. Hike easy or more challenging trails through the Otway National Park, exploring lush fern undergrowth and ancient forest canopy, waterfalls and coastal lookout points. The bustling village has a bunch of enticing options for wining and dining next to the sea: enjoy Med-style tapas with a view at MoVida. Just down the road, Wye River is worth a coffee stop or a holiday house stay with a dreamy ocean outlook.