There's more to Victorian driving holidays than just the Great Ocean Road, but it's a great place to start a family trip.
The Great Southern Route
No driving holiday in Victoria would be complete without travelling on the Great Ocean Road. The Australian National Heritage-listed road stretches from Torquay to Warrnambool and is dotted with attractions, from national parks and lookouts to nationally significant landmarks and legendary surf beaches.
An easy one hour drive from Melbourne through Werribee and Geelong, the Great Ocean Road begins at the seaside town of Torquay. A visit to Tiger Moth World is a great first stop where the entire family can enjoy the activities of the adventure park.
If you’re keen to hit the beach (and the surf), Bells Beach – one of Australia’s best known beaches – is a great place to stop for a swim before heading to Lorne for a lunch break.
The next stretch of road from Lorne to Apollo Bay is described as the most scenic part of the Great Ocean Road, and you can base yourself here for a few days to explore national parks, beaches and marine sanctuaries along the Great Ocean Walk. The walk stretches 104km from Apollo Bay to within sight of the 12 Apostles, and the full walk can take eight days. However, there are shorter walks that allow you to experience the magnificent natural beauty of this area.
Another option is to head north to the Otway Fly Treetop Walk, an hour-long rainforest track through the Great Otway National Park which allows you to get a bird’s eye-view of lush green forests and treetop canopies.
Back on the Great Ocean Road, as you head towards Warrnambool, you can take a moment to explore the history of the region known as the Shipwreck Coast, and admire the breathtaking beauty of the pristine sandy beaches. It’s also on this stretch of the drive that you’ll encounter the stunning 12 Apostles, large limestone cliffs that formed millions of years ago.
The Great Ocean Road ends near Warrnambool, but you can always continue heading through the Grampian mountain ranges towards Adelaide.
Melbourne to Sydney
Heading from Melbourne to Sydney along the coastal route you’ll encounter wildlife, pass through beautiful beaches, national parks and get a chance to enjoy a wide variety of activities.
If you are keen on getting a natural wildlife experience, Phillip Island and Wilsons Promontory National Park are great side-trips before heading on the Princes Highway towards Sydney. You’ll have the opportunity to see penguins, seals and koalas at Phillip Island, and choose to either bush walk at the island’s nature park or make a trip to Wilsons Promontory at the southernmost tip of the Australian mainland. There’s abundant wildlife to see, including kangaroos, emus, echidnas and birds, and the walking tracks offering amazing scenery.
As you head along the coast towards Sydney, between Sale and Lakes Entrance, you’ll encounter Gippsland Lakes, which offers plenty of water based activities including boating and fishing. The other major attraction of this region is Ninety Mile Beach, which separates the Gippsland Lakes from Bass Strait. You can choose to walk along the pristine sandy beach or go swimming and dolphin watching.
The town of Bairnsdale in between Sale and Lakes Entrance has a great fun park which offers kid-friendly activities like mini-golf, jumping castle and a playground amongst many others. Or, if you’d prefer to learn about the cultural history of the Gunai/Kurnai people of East Gippsland, you can take the Bataluk Cultural Trail to learn many aspects of their life.
The next stretch of road takes you past several national parks, including Croajingolong National Park, an UNESCO-recognised World Biosphere Reserve, where you can enjoy a range of activities including hiking, mountain biking, diving and snorkelling.
Before heading past the NSW border and along its beautiful south coast, Mallacoota offers another great side-trip where you can enjoy superb views from the top of Genoa Peak and watch wildlife like kangaroos and birds.
The Murray region
The Murray region offers a range of diverse experiences from seeing native wildlife, travelling on a houseboat, or having a trip on a paddle-steamer to learn about the Pioneer Settlement.
The Murray River starts near the town of Corryong at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, then snakes its way past the town of Rutherglen, which is famous for its wine, and Yarrawonga-Mulwala, where fishing enthusiasts can catch the famous ‘Murray Cod’.
You can stay overnight and have a round of golf at Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort, Australia’s largest public access golf course, or continue on towards the town of Echuca. The town has the largest fleet of paddle-steamers from the late 1800s, and you have the option of taking short lunch, dinner or afternoon tea cruises, or spending a night or two on one of them.
Hiring a houseboat is another great way to meander along with the great Murray River. You can moore to explore the magnificent landscape through forests, or enjoy water-based activities like waterskiing, canoeing and kayaking in the Echuca-Moama region.
If you enjoy camping and bird watching, Gunbower Island is an interesting side-trip you can take before heading to Swan Hill. It offers 160 different species of birds, along with other wildlife such as kangaroos, emus and possums.
At Swan Hill, you can experience a bygone era at the Pioneer Settlement and enjoy devonshire teas and horse cart rides.
Further along the journey of the Murray, a contrasting landscape of river bushland and a desert environment will be visible as you head towards Mildura. Hot-air ballooning and paddle-boating are some unique ways to explore the region, or you can travel to the natural landmarks of Perry Sandhills or Red Cliffs to see these stunning land formations.
The Murray River continues across the border through South Australia, where it finally meets the Southern Ocean at Goolwa.