Go your own way
This summer, explore Victoria’s lesser-known regional towns and villages. These gems are a quick drive or just one town over from more-popular, bustling holiday spots. Slip your sunnies on to enjoy summer strolls, water sports, wineries and picturesque landscapes – soaked up at a relaxed holiday pace.
Go your own way this summer season.
Southern gateway to the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park, delightful Dunkeld is a town that surprises with its mix of stellar outdoor pursuits and fine dining options.
Lace up your hiking boots to tackle Mount Sturgeon (Wurgarri) and Mount Abrupt (Mud-Dadjug). Breathtaking panoramic views from the summits sweep across Dunkeld, the surrounding ranges and volcanic ranges – well worth the effort. Easier paths wend among waterways and trees in the Dunkeld Arboretum. Play a round of golf or follow the heritage trail around town.
Book for chef’s-hatted fine dining at acclaimed Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel or sophisticated à la carte at Parker Street Project, enjoying produce freshly picked from the organic kitchen garden.
Image: Dunkeld Arboretum
Mt Beauty, High Country
Tucked in at the foot of Mt Bogong in the Kiewa Valley, Mt Beauty is a picturesque hideaway for both energetic adventures and summer relaxation.
Foodies adore lazy sunny days visiting farm gates and wineries in the valley, while mountain bikers test their legs on cross-country and downhill tracks at Big Hill Mountain Bike Park. Leisurely cruising is easy for kids and pros alike on sealed tracks along the Kiewa River and Mount Beauty Pondage. Camping, swimming, fishing, hiking and horseback trekking adventures abound, and the views from
Tawonga Gap are seriously Insta snap-worthy.
Mt Beauty is a 35-minute drive from bustling Bright, where you can taste-test craft breweries, boutique wineries and top-notch eating spots.
Pack your bags for magical Metung, a relaxed village hub on the shores of the sparkling Gippsland Lakes.
Boating and watersports are an obvious draw here. Cruise the lakes under wide open skies on a Riviera Nautic yacht or practise your paddling or paddleboarding skills. Cast a fishing line at local spots or tee off for golf. For salt air and waves, pop over the sand bar to expansive Ninety Mile Beach.
Unwind in geothermal waters with sprawling lake views and book for private spa pampering at Metung Hot Springs. Get together for a pub meal at the local hotel, or jump in the car to popular Lakes Entrance, just 20 minutes away, for fish and chips by the sea.
Image: Metung Hot Springs
Venus Bay, Gippsland
Nestled between the gentle Tarwin River and the roaring Southern Ocean, petite Venus Bay is the ultimate out-of-the-way holiday base.
Cool off with your pick of patrolled surf beaches nearby, or head for sheltered family-friendy waters at Anderson Inlet – a long sand spit perfect for water play, swimming, kayaking, boating and fishing. Enjoy two-wheeler fun on the easy 5-kilometre cycle between Venus Bay and Tarwin Lower. Further south, there's a lighthouse to explore at Cape Liptrap, and historic lime kilns, caves and rock pools at Walkerville.
Popular Inverloch is a 25-minute drive around the inlet, where you can sign up for surf lessons, mooch around art galleries and shops, pop into a winery, and stock up your holiday-house pantry.
Image: Venus Bay
Portarlington, Bellarine Peninsula
Journey to this ideal summer wind-down spot by ferry, cruising across glittering Port Phillip Bay from Melbourne’s Docklands.
Portarlington’s gentle seaside vibe is ideal for doing as little as possible. Meander along the foreshore, spread your beach towel, and take a dip in the bay beach. Dine on freshly caught mussels and oysters – the town’s signature delicacy. Time your visit for the Portarlington Mussel Festival in January. Graze on sunset meals and cool beverages at top eateries including the historic Portarlington Grand Hotel, or day trip to nearby Geelong and Queenscliff for further explorations.
Tee off for golf or thrill your little ones with a miniature railway ride. Zip along the Esplanade path to St Leonards yacht club on a hired e-bike – the ride is easy on the legs and the bay vista's easy on the eyes.
Image: Pier Street, Portarlington
Wye River, Great Ocean Road
A tranquil neighbour 15 minutes from busy holiday spot Lorne, the hamlet of Wye River is set on an equally spectacular stretch of the Great Ocean Road. It's packed with overnight stays, from camp sites to luxury holiday homes with sensational clifftop sea views.
Spend your days swimming or surfing at the patrolled sandy beach or explore the rock pools and reefs at low tide – also great for fishing. Listen for cockies and kookaburras and watch for koalas. Fill up on coffee and holiday tucker at the Wye General Store or dine at acclaimed Wye Beach Hotel.
Head into Lorne for some top dining and shopping, explore Kennett River and Separation Creek just down the road, and lace up for hiking in the lush Otways, climbing to reach scenic elevated ocean lookouts.
Image: Wye River
Australia's first UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy, Bendigo is packed with experiences that are ideal for summer relaxation. Use the Gastronomy Guide to seek top-notch fine dining, wine bars and gastronomy trails. Tour the scenic countryside, and pop in for tastings at more than 80 cellar doors in the renowned Bendigo and Heathcote wine regions. Forage for fresh local produce at farm gates and markets.
Bendigo Art Gallery is one of the most significant regional galleries in the country – watch for the latest touring exhibition. Get out on two wheels along the O'Keefe Rail Trail, ride on a vintage talking tram, and stroll pretty Rosalind Park.
Smaller but popular Castlemaine is a 35-minute drive away for exemplary gigs at the Theatre Royal, Austrian Strudel, vintage markets and microbreweries.