There’s always something beguiling in Victoria,
I’m visiting the Peninsula Hot Springs, the first natural geothermal mineral springs and day spa facility in the state. The rain has just stopped, and hence a mystical fog is now dancing in the air. The atmosphere feels serene, ethereal even, reminding me that this is no ordinary bath.
The cold weather naturally makes me long for some warmth. So without wasting more time, I step into the pool and let the heat washes over me. My body gradually relaxes. A pure zen. And just like all great places in the world, time seems to stand still here as I slowly disconnect with the outside world.
Peninsula Hot Springs is a popular refuge for Melburnians and understandably so. This blissful sanctuary boasts a variety of thermal pools including one in a cave and one on a hilltop with a spectacular 360-degree views in tow, a Turkish hammam, an ice cave, two saunas, and a wellness centre offering a myriad of treatments – there are a lot to explore, so be prepared to spend at least a few hours here.
Yet as wonderful as it, these hot springs are just one of the many fascinating places that one should visit when in Victoria. The state brims with richly varied landscapes that are best explored possibly by taking a car.
So here’s a list of some Victoria’s underrated, yet gorgeous regions that you could explore. Let’s rev up the engine and hit the road!
MORE IN MORNINGTON PENINSULA
Located just an hour away from the capital city, Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula is a locals’ go-to destination for a quick weekend getaway especially during summer time. Many come for the day spas, but with over 15 equally spectacular golf courses to choose from, the region is also dubbed as Australia’s number one golf destination. But that’s not all, combine enchanting gardens with idyllic European coastal living, Mornington Peninsula is certainly punching above its weight.
Witness the million-dollar view along this trail
At the town of Sorrento, a winding 1.5-kilometre walking trail affords casual strollers a short walk with a unique twist. The trail which starts at the end of Lentell Avenue goes through the backyards of some of the most gorgeous clifftop houses in the area, while revealing a vista of sparkling waters that seem to stretch on forever.
You may feel as if you are trespassing at some points, but rest assured that the trail is absolutely legal, and the off-limit areas are clearly marked. So stroll slowly and enjoy the soothing sounds of the crashing waves and the soaring seagulls. Trust me, it relaxes your soul. And while at it, you can also play pretend that you’re on a house hunt!
Soar into the sky with Arthurs Seat Eagle
Glide through the air in a comfortable gondola and see the stunning panoramic views unfold before you. The sparkling ocean and the lush greeneries of the Arthurs Seat State Park below create a mesmerising canvas that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. The journey takes around 15 minutes from the base station to the highest point of Mornington Peninsula, and vice versa.
Despite its size, Phillip Island has a lot to offer for everyone. It is best known for the Little Penguin parade and the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, but do not sleep on the fantastic beaches meant for serious surfing. The island is, in fact, holds Victoria’s first National Surfing Reserve.
The Nobbies Boardwalk, on the other hand, is a great place to get a sense of the dramatic coastline. And if you choose to drive on the island, pay attention to the roadsides as you may spot native wildlife species such as Cape Barren Geese and Swamp Wallabies.
A pinch-me moment with Phillip Island Helicopters
Buckle in, this is probably one of the best ways to see Phillip Island! As you soar high above the shimmering ocean, the world below transforms into a mesmerising sight, revealing pristine beaches and patches of verdant fields that seem almost too bewitching to be real – luckily, there are.
The scenic flights take around 8 to 25 minutes per trip depending on the chosen route. Be sure to also ask the pilot on locals’ favourite places – who knows, you might end up learning a few hidden spots not mentioned in any travel guides!
Meet the cute Little Penguins
To visit Phillip Island without seeing the famous icons of the island almost feels like a crime. Meet the Little Penguins, the smallest of the 18 penguin species and native to Australia. At dusk, get ready to swooned by these adorable creatures as they waddle to the shore after a tiring day (or weeks!) fishing in the Bass Strait and Port Phillip Bay.
Some may stop for a quick catch-up with fellow ‘colleagues’ on the beach, while the introverted ones may just head straight to their burrows – either way, the sight of them moving in comical sync is nothing short of joyful.
There are various ways of enjoying the parade, including from general viewing grandstands or in an underground viewing room. For something more personalised, visitors can also opt for the Eco Tour which includes an in-depth commentary by the guide.
A delicious trip to Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
Panny Letchumanan, owner of the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory, is quite possibly the Willy Wonka of Victoria. The chocolatier invites visitors to his delicious playland where he crafts handmade Belgian chocolates with more than 190 different varieties.
Upon arrival, visitors will notice that the air in the museum is thick with rich aroma of cocoa beans, while walls are laced with fascinating exhibits detailing fun facts about chocolate and its journey from a bitter bean to the sweet treat that we love today. There are also fun games where they can win chocolates to bring home.
Gippsland is known for its unspoiled natural wonders, making the two- to three-hour drive from the capital worthwhile. Besides, it boasts quintessential small towns filled with antiques stores and artisan grocers like those you see in Hallmark movies.
Majestic nature is on full display in The Prom
Nestled on the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, lies an awe-inspiring Wilsons Promontory National Park or also known as ‘The Prom’. It is home to diverse jaw-dropping landscapes, ranging from pristine beaches, fragrant eucalypt forests, to jagged rocky mountaintops that pierce the sky. Hence, it is no surprise that this jewel of wilderness is beloved by so many.
There are a wealth of scenic trails in this 50,000-hectare reserve which are all properly signposted. For instance, go on the Lilly Pilly Gully Nature Walk to spot kangaroos, wallabies and emus roaming in the wild. Beach lovers, on the other hand, should not miss the Squeaky Beach. The evenly-sized quartz grains of sand here emit squeaky sound when you walk on them!
So it doesn’t matter whether you are a seasoned hiker, a lover of great outdoors, or simply seeking a repose, the Prom is the perfect place to be.
Put on the boots and visit Caldermeade Farm & Café
Step onto Caldermeade Farm where the sweet smell of fresh hay and the sight of the healthy cows grazing lazily in the vast green pastures make a serene atmosphere. There is a tour with a knowledgeable guide on site for anyone interested in understanding the operations. And on some lucky days, visitors will even get to witness the birth of a calf. How cool is that?!
Before you leave, don’t forget to stop by the quaint café. The ice cream made from the farm’s fresh Jersey milk and pastries here are just too brilliant to pass on.
Admire the rustic charm of Inverloch Glamping Co
Escape to a serene world of farm-style glamping, where comfort and sustainability coexist in perfect harmony. The exquisite units here are thoughtfully decorated and offer a cosy stay. Besides, the site is just a stone’s throw away from the ocean’s calming presence.
Learn about cheese at Bassine Specialty Cheeses
There’s nothing quite like the indulgence of a cheese tasting experience, especially when there is an award-winning artisanal shop involved. The knowledgeable staff is always on site to guide you through various flavours and textures, from buttery camembert to sharp cheddar and everything in between. Take time to savour them all, and you’ll discover a newfound appreciation for the art of cheesemaking.
GEELONG AND THE BELLARINE
Located around one-hour drive from Melbourne, Geelong and the Bellarine invites visitors to slow down. Take time to experience life at the locals pace, and expect no shortage of world-renowned wines while doing so. After all, the region is known as the largest grape-growing area in Victoria. But if you do not drink, don’t worry. There are still plenty of other delicious offerings worth savouring like the freshest Australian Blue Mussels.
Take a stroll along the Geelong Waterfront
The waterfront could arguably be the heart of Geelong. This is where locals spend most of their evenings, walking the dogs, building sandcastles, or just picnicking by the beach on a good sunny day. But, they are not the only residents that you could meet; walk from the Limeburner’s Point to the Rippleside Park and you’ll bump into over 100 ‘quirky ambassadors’ of the city in the forms of bollards.
Designed by local artist Jan Mitchell, these bollards are made of old timbers and piles from a damaged pier. Each of them portrays a unique character that connects to the city’s heritage. You can consider downloading the Activate Geelong App to learn more about the stories behind these amazing artworks.
Then, head to The Mussel Boat for a quick lunch where fresh seafood and paella await. They are all cooked right on the boat so guests may enjoy them there and then.
Tee time at Curlewis Golf Club & The Range
A beautiful weather in Geelong calls for a round of tee time at some of the best courses in Victoria. One of them is Curlewis, ranked in the Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 for 2022–23.
First established in 1947, this 18-hole course features lush green fairways and not to mention varying degrees of elevation changes, making it ideal for every skill level. Never played golf before? Then the two-tier mini golf course can make a fun alternative too. Wrap up the game in the comfort of Claribeaux, an award-winning restaurant serving contemporary fusion fares. Oh by the way, there are also original pieces by Andy Warhol on display in the restaurant. Be sure to look for them!
Lunch at House of Jack Rabbit
Dining in the renowned Jack Rabbit is more than having a meal – it’s a definitive epicurean experience. The high volume of reservations here have already attested to the draw of their hearty food. So, do book early when possible. Expect an extensive menu honouring the finest local ingredients including the region’s specialty, Portarlington mussels, perfect for a beautiful day.
The House of Jack Rabbit is open 7 days a week for brunch and lunch; Fridays and Saturdays for dinner.
Tease your taste buds at Bellarine Smokehouse
The Bellarine Smokehouse has been around for three generations. It continues curing fishes the traditional hand-smoking way, which is by hanging them above a hardwood fire of local Bellarine ti-tree in a kiln. Owners, Jason and Sarah, also take pride on using only sustainably-sourced New Zealand Ōra King salmon, Tasmanian salmon, rainbow trout, barramundi and eel – all filleted by hand and gently smoked, resulting in delicate and smoky flavours.
FLYING TO VICTORIA WITH AIRASIA X
The long-haul low-cost airline AirAsia X offers non-stop flights from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, three times a week. Experience friendly warm service by the flight attendants as soon as you step on board. Come meal time, passengers will be spoilt for choices. Do try Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak if you haven’t – it is popular for a reason.
The economy seats for this flight are divided into two cabin sections: the normal economy and the Quiet Zone. I had the opportunity to experience the latter, and found it ideal for those who want to travel in peace. Yes, imagine no loud chats and crying babies. This cabin section also has softer lighting to help travellers in getting as much rest as possible. Besides, due to a slight price difference, some seats can be empty at times. So don’t be shy to ask the crew if you could stretch out or even lie across these empty seats.
For those with a bit of extra budget, on the other hand, may opt for a Premium Flatbed. Enjoy a comfortable seat that stretches out to 77” in full recline position, a complimentary 40kg baggage allowance, and personalised attention that will let travellers arrive at the destination feeling refreshed and absolutely ready to take on whatever adventures await.
TRAVEL CONFIDENTLY WITH TUNE PROTECT
Traveling can be a thrilling adventure, but it also comes with its fair share of uncertainties. Hence, having travel insurance has become an essential part of planning the trip. Consider getting insured with Tune Protect which offers coverage for medical expenses, quarantine allowances, and trip cancellation, so travellers can travel with peace of mind. Be prepared and don’t let unexpected mishaps ruin your vacation!
Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to Visit Victoria and AirAsia X for making our trip to the Victoria state a smooth journey.
Filed in: australia / Gippsland / Mornington Peninsula / Phillip Island / road trips / Victoria