The grape escape: driving Victoria’s wine country and beyond

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There is nothing tastier than a trip on Victoria’s South East Touring Route. Delicious restaurants, world-class wineries, caught-this-morning seafood and the freshest local produce await those who make this short journey.

Choices are good. The South East Touring Route, has many of them. The Yarra Valley, Phillip Island, Dandenong Ranges and the Mornington Peninsula are all within an hour’s drive of Melbourne and if you have time to take this route, you don’t have to exclude any of these flavourful destinations.

Credit: Peninsula Hot Springs

Peninsula Hot Springs

Mornington Peninsula

With all the wine and wildlife of this route, you’ll have some unwinding to do. The Peninsula Hot Springs on the Mornington Peninsula are further down the road where vitamin-rich mineral waters steam from geothermal heat. If you’re making the journey with a significant other, there’s no more romantic experience, than arriving early in the evening and indulging in the springs when they are illuminated with lantern light.

Mornington Peninsula Dolphins

When daylight hits, it’s time to swim with dolphins. At Sorrento, Polperro Dolphin Swims will brings you out into the waters of Port Phillip Bay where playful bottlenose dolphins swim amongst visitors.

A turn around the bay will bring you back to the bustle of Melbourne but the adventurous traveller can extended the route by hopping on a ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff and motoring towards the spectacular Great Ocean Road.

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Penguin Walk Phillip Island

Phillip Island

Next up is a two hour drive to Australia’s wildlife mecca of Phillip Island. Tiny penguins, sleepy koalas and sunbathing fur seals are just a few of the islands natural residents. Beyond the car, the island can be viewed via helicopter tour, or hop a Wild Oceans EcoBoat that delivers visitors to Australia’s largest fur seal colony, Seal Rocks.

Seal Rocks

Further along the coast, the quaint town of Cowes is home to Harry’s on the Esplanade where the fish and chips are must. You want want to leave the island until you see the main show. The Penguin Parade on the western tip of the island: is simply unforgettable. Watch the island’s colony of penguins emerge from the ocean at night and stroll past onlookers on the beach.

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Roger Federer on the Puffing Billy

Dandenong Ranges

What goes well with all of this Victoria wine? Incredible mountain views. The Dandenong ranges are low lying mountains with lush rainforest gullies that are accessible with a half hour’s drive from wine country. UK visitors are especially attracted to the historic mountain railway, The Puffing Billy. Even Roger Federer took this famous ride on his last trip to Melbourne.

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Healesville Sanctuary

Exploring the Yarra Valley

The next day, explore the most unique of Australia’s wildlife at the Healesville Sanctuary. Koalas, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, emus, pygmy-possums, lyrebirds, parrots, echidnas and other indigenous critters are all awaiting your arrival.Ballooning over the Yarra Valley
If you want a bird’s eye view of native birds hop in a hot air balloon that rises over the Yarra Valley. Of course, this is Victoria so there will be champaigne in the balloon basket. Once you’re back on the ground stop for lunch in a winery on your way to the Dandenongs. There are hundreds vineyards to choose from!

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Punt Road Winery

Yarra Valley Vineyards

Just an hour’s drive from Melbourne lies Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort & Spa, where life just doesn’t get any better. Enjoy a long leisurely lunch, wine tour and warm-stone massage or perhaps a relaxing facial in the luxurious spa. There’s no rules on how many vineyards you can visit in a day so pay a trip to Punt Road Winery – and order one of the vineyards renowned pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon. If three wineries in a day is doable (you know it is) a short stop at the dazzling TarraWarra, allows you to sip wine and scope out the vineyard’s onsite art museum.
Wining and dining is known to induce sleepiness so why not slumber in style at the Chateau Yering hotel? This renovated Victorian mansion also houses the fine Eleonore’s Restaurant, which features Yarra Valley wines in its expertly curated cellar.

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