Hugging the tip of the Australian east coast, Victoria is Australia's second-smallest state — roughly the size of the British Isles. Packed into such a compact area is a wealth of diverse regions and attractions, from national parks and forests teeming with wildlife to wineries, lakes and mountains offering skiing, climbing and hiking. Victoria offers an amazing array of experiences — from the urban chic of Toorak to the sunburnt landscape of the Goldfields, the awe-inspiring architecture of the marine landscapes along the Great Ocean Road to the thrill of alpine skiing, Victoria has it all.
Renowned for its sense of style and elegance, Victoria boasts glamorous festivals and events, outback experiences that will take you on a trip back in time, a lively passion for eating and drinking, and everything you could ever wish for in the arts. Great vestiges of nineteenth-century architecture, built following the discovery of gold, are heady reminders of a prosperous age, while beautifully tended parks and gardens present a therapeutic respite from the pace of a busy life.
Melbourne and shopping go together like gumboots and rainy days. While choice is a big attraction, the joy of shopping in the city is also about atmosphere. The web of narrow streets, beckoning laneways, wide boulevards and lovely old arcades make shopping a sensorial delight.
Wander any city lane and you'll uncover some of Melbourne's best-kept secrets - its funky bars and eateries. Melbourne is also gifted with an abundance of leafy parks and gardens. Fitzroy Gardens boasts a flower-filled conservatory, a 150-year-old avenue of magnificent elms, a miniature Tudor village and a fairy tree. You can also visit the famous Cook's Cottage.
Within an easy drive of Melbourne, the Macedon Ranges and Yarra Valley feature some of the most beautiful surroundings you'll ever have the opportunity to visit.
The Macedon Ranges features over 70 natural mineral springs where you can revive and indulge in a luxurious spa. Myriad artisans and craftspeople are on show in impressive galleries, museums and antique stores.
Natural attractions include Hanging Rock, featuring exotic rock formations such as the Black Hole of Calcutta and the Cathedral. Also not to be missed are Mount Macedon's heritage gardens and the extinct volcano of Mt Franklin. At Wombat State Forest you can find the state's highest single drop waterfall - Trentham Falls, formed some five million years ago by molten lava rapidly cooling as it flowed along the old Coliban River valley.
Immerse yourself in the Yarra Valley and discover a timeless sanctuary in this place of beauty. Explore village galleries and shops, visit the remarkable Montsalvat Artists Colony, walk or cycle the renowned Heidelberg School Artists Trail.
The Yarra Valley is also home to Victoria's earliest vineyards and recognised as one of the world's great wine growing regions. Today the Yarra Valley is home to over 55 wineries, including the iconic Domaine Chandon, De Bortoli and Coldstream Hills.
This region is also richly endowed with some of the most beautiful natural countryside in Victoria. See towering trees, verdant valleys pristine rivers and beautiful snow covered mountains. The Dandenong Ranges National Park offers over 300 kilometres of walking tracks, through lush fern-filled gullies and misty mountain ash forests, to magical places such as Sherbrooke Forest, Dongalla Homestead, and the Thousand Steps. Cathedral Ranges State Park features a spectacular 7 kilometre ridge of sharply upturned rock.
Victoria's Beaches, Bays and Peninsulas are synonymous with fun and relaxation, and feature beguiling beaches, fine food and wine, chic beachfront towns and a variety of family attractions.
Water-based activities abound. Walk wild windswept ocean beaches or ride a bike along kilometres of beachfront paths, dive a nineteenth-century shipwreck or explore colourful corals. Play a round of golf at world-class courses, or do some aerial sightseeing in a hot air balloon or seaplane.
Explore the best of nature at Mornington Peninsula National Park which features rugged coastal scenery, pounding surf beaches, historic military fortifications and spectacular views. French Island National Park is Victoria's koala capital, or you can wander along rugged basalt cliffs at Cape Schanck. The underwater world of Port Phillip Bay includes over 60 nineteenth century shipwrecks and four sunken submarines from World War One.
The Great Ocean Road hugs the contours of Victoria's rugged south west coast, taking visitors on one of Australia's greatest and most spectacular coastal drives. From Torquay/Bellbrae to Nelson, almost 300 kilometres to the west, the road snakes past cliffs, scenic lookouts, waterfalls, rainforests and sunken ships.
Pounded by wild seas and fierce winds, the coastlines of the Port Campbell National Park and Bay of Islands Coastal Park have been sculpted over millions of years to become one of the most breathtakingly beautiful natural areas in the world. Wander the boardwalks and paths at the Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, Bay of Islands and Loch Ard Gorge.
Follow the Shipwreck Trail, a highlight of which is Loch Ard Gorge, where you can discover the history of the Loch Ard, wrecked in 1878. Much of the region's maritime history is recounted in detail at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool, a re-created seaport village typical of the late 1800's which comes to life during the day with blacksmiths, banks, rope makers, glass-blowers, lead lighters and a school - all plying their respective wares.
Beautifully preserved historic buildings capture the region's colourful past at towns such as Portland and Port Fairy. Charming National Trust-classified homes, modest cottages and stately buildings are everywhere you look.
Victoria's inland playground, Goulburn Murray Waters borders New South Wales in Victoria's northeast and is flanked by the Goulburn, Murray and Broken rivers, and home to the lakes of Nagambie, Kerang and Mulwala. The region is a paradise for water sport enthusiasts. Lake Mulwala is a favourite water sport destination, where you can soar into the skies towed by a parasailing boat, waterski, try wake boarding or match skills with trout and Murray cod.
Away from the water, Goulburn Murray Waters has myriad other activities such as golfing or sampling flavoursome local produce and distinctive regional wine. A good way to start your visit to the region is on a paddle steamer.
The twin towns of Yarrawonga-Mulwala, separated by the Murray River, boast a large and beautiful man-made lake ideal for a leisurely cruise, some skiing or fishing. Home to some of the country's best golf courses, Goulburn Murray Waters is a golfer's paradise.
Occupying Victoria's far eastern corner, take the time to delight in the enchanting and unspoilt natural world that is Victoria's Lakes and Wilderness region. From deep gorges and rugged mountains to sandy beaches and pounding surf, it offers a diverse landscape, from unspoilt beaches to towering gums and mountain ranges.
Outdoor activities are just the start of the area's appeal. You can also dine al fresco at a lakeside restaurant or pub, have a family picnic by the river, or take a stroll through the waterfront villages of Paynesville, Metung or Lakes Entrance, known widely as the seafood capital of Victoria and where the region's lakes system meets the sea.
The region's jewel in the crown is Croajingolong National Park. Recognised by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve, it has more than 1,000 kilometres of pristine coastline and hinterland, offering activities and experiences like bushwalking, surfing or spotting various species of bird and plant-life.
Lakes Entrance is the heart of the Gippsland Lakes, lying where the Gippsland Lakes meet the Southern Ocean. Australia's finest stretch of pristine sands, the Ninety Mile Beach, lies in the foreground, while a short drive away is the Alpine National Park.
The Snowy River, the key feature of Snowy River National Park, offers visitors white-water rafting and canoeing in rugged gorges. This river is renowned from Banjo Patterson's poem The Man from Snowy River.
Striking contrasts dominate the landscape of Mildura and Murray Outback. Bordered by New South Wales and South Australia in the far northwest corner of Victoria, the region is characterised by lush, irrigated orchards and vineyards set against the arid red soil and shifting sand dunes of the surrounding desert. Mildura, on the banks of the Murray River, is the region's largest city, renowned for its multicultural population, fresh local produce and an array of wineries.
Visit historic Swan Hill and discover a rich colonial past. The Pioneer Settlement near the centre of town is famous the nation over as a superbly recreated port town of the paddlesteamer era.
There is no place more magical, mysterious and beautiful than World Heritage listed Mungo National Park, where the remains of the earliest known humans to inhabit the Australian continent have been found. These have recently been re-dated at more than 60,000 years old.
The Wine and High Country in north-east Victoria is a special place with scenic alpine landscapes, historic towns and legends of cattlemen and bushrangers to explore.
During winter the region is home to Victoria's best and most accessible snowfields, such as Mount Buller, Mount Hotham and Falls Creek. And when the snow disappears the high country is popular for a host of outdoor activities, from four-wheel driving, mountain biking and horse riding to hiking on the high plains. Discover Victoria's highest peaks, historic cattlemen's huts, summer wildflowers and the snow gum woodlands of the Bogong High Plains.
Some of Australia's most endearing and notorious legends have come from Wine and High Country. Australian bush poet A.B. ‘Banjo' Paterson wrote his famous work The Man From Snowy River here, and bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang roamed the high country foothills. The Kelly legend lives on in fascinating attractions and displays in historic townships like Beechworth and Glenrowan.
Located on the beautiful Ovens River and nestled in the valley below Mount Buffalo, the township of Bright is one of Victoria's most attractive tourist destinations. Each year in autumn, the deciduous trees in the town and surrounding countryside put on a breathtaking display of colour.
With such a huge variety of landscapes, Victoria can't fail to impress. So what are you waiting for? There is a great selection of both exchange and rental resorts awaiting your discovery.