Victoria’s Wine and Wildlife

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Wine and wildlife are a combo best enjoyed in Victoria, Australia.  This epic nine day road trip takes you from the bustling streets of Melbourne to the coast and country where vineyards are as easy to find as roaming wildlife. UK travellers frequent this route and rave about many of the unique Aussie experiences including Phillip Island’s famous Penguin Parade. Look out for the embedded tips in the itinerary. They’re sourced from British visitors just like you!

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Day 1: Melbourne Part One

Starting point

Immersing yourself in nature doesn’t have to wait until after you leave the city. See exactly why Victoria is called the Garden State with a morning trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens. Keep your eyes peeled for the more than 50 species of birds that call the gardens home including cockatoos and kookaburras. Then, take the insightful and compelling Aboriginal Heritage Walk to learn about indigenous life and traditions that long precede any of the city’s buildings.   Melbourne’s other parks and gardens are also home to a wide range of wildlife.

The Yarra River runs right through Melbourne and is one of the best places to stroll and enjoy the city.  Walking paths run along both sides of the river and connect you to the famous attractions, cafes and restaurants you don’t want to miss. Make your way to Southbank, where you can find a free bench along with some takeaway food and rest your feet while you people watch.

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Day 2: Melbourne Part Two

In the morning, make your way to the Melbourne Museum to learn about the fascinating history of the city. Learn about Victoria’s local Koorie culture in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre or see Phar Lap, Australia’s legendary racehorse, in the flesh.

For a deeper understanding of Melbourne’s melting-pot of cultures, add the Immigration Museum to your day. Here you can explore the real-life stories of people who have migrated to Victoria from all over the world.

If you simply can’t wait to get your first glimpse of the local wildlife, take an unforgettable tour just 40 minutes outside of Melbourne into the You Yangs with Echidna Walkabout.  You’ll accompany a local Wildlife Guide and explore natural bushland to meet wild koalas and kangaroos.

Day 3: Melbourne to Mornington Peninsula

Driving time: 1 hour

After a few days in the city, you’ll probably hear nature calling. Answer it with a short drive to the Mornington Peninsula. With its rugged wilderness, coastal views and hinterland gardens, it feels like a world away from Melbourne.

Get your bearings for the area with a walk up the 304-metre granite hill of Arthurs Seat, or take the new Arthurs Seat Eagle gondola to the top. Waiting at the top are views of Port Phillip Bay, the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas, with Melbourne’s skyline in the distance. Set off on one of the many short walking tracks through Arthurs Seat State Park.

Nestled in the Mornington Peninsula’s rolling green hinterlands and stunning beaches are more than 50 boutique cellar doors. Chat with local wine enthusiasts or take advantage of award-winning winery restaurants and casual eateries.

Rich with fine wine-growing soils, the peninsula is also renowned for its dining experiences. Follow up an afternoon of wine tasting with a meal to remember at one of the region’s celebrated restaurants, such as Ten Minutes By Tractor, Port Phillip Estate, Montalto or Paringa Estate.

Day 4: Mornington Peninsula

Get to know the locals on your second day in Mornington Peninsula. Bandicoots, wallabies and parrots all inhabit the coastal cliffs and wetlands of Mornington Peninsula National Park. For guaranteed sightings, visit Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park for close encounters with koalas, kangaroos and wombats.

If a marine experience is more to your liking, you’re in the right place. Here you can dive with dolphins, snorkel with sea dragons or take a cruise or kayaking tour to watch the watery antics from above.

To see dolphins at their playful best, join a dolphin-watching cruise, donning snorkels and wetsuits to dive in among the friendly mammals. The half-day tours are run by local operators between October to April, when sightings are more prevalent.

The Mornington Peninsula is also home to a different kind of surfing.  Swing across the canopy at  Enchanted Adventure Garden and Tree Surfing for a unique and thrilling experience.

Day 5: Mornington Peninsula to Phillip Island

Driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Leave one incredible region for another as you start the journey to Phillip Island. Home to little penguins, sleepy koalas and pristine beaches, the tiny island is an unforgettable stop on your journey.  Kick off the wildlife encounters with a trip to the Koala Conservation Centre. The Centre’s unique tree top boardwalks and close viewing areas allow visitors to come ‘face-to-face’ with koalas in their natural habitat and see how truly amazing these native mammals are.

At this point in the trip, you’ve already seen dolphins, koalas and kangaroos so why not take boat trip to see seals bathing in the sun?  Jump aboard a Wild Oceans EcoBoat Tour and head to Seal Rocks where Victoria’s largest fur seal colony is lounging while awaiting your visit.

When your boat returns from its trip, take a few hours to enjoy The Nobbies, a nature center at the western tip of Phillip Island.  Here you’ll encounter enchanting ocean views, a chiseled sea cave and an array of coastal birds.  Make sure to stop inside the Antarctic Journey, which will teach you all about the little birds you’ll encounter next.

End your day knowing you’re about to witness one of the most magical and adorable phenomenons on the planet. Each night at sunset, 1000’s of Little Penguins return from the sea after a day’s fishing.

Visitors can watch the Penguin Parade from viewing stands and boardwalks and enjoy interactive and educational displays in the visitor centre.

Day 6: Phillip Island to Wilsons Promontory

Driving time: 2 hours

With the journey of the Little Penguins forever in your thoughts, make your way to Wilsons Promontory. Affectionately known as ‘The Prom’, it is one of the state’s best loved parks – and with good reason. This 50,000 hectare reserve is threaded with a labyrinth of walking tracks that showcase all manner of magical realms sheltering abundant wildlife.

Kick off your time in ‘The Prom’ with a hike to the summit of Mount Oberon. The heart-pumping one-hour climb is well worth it to see the dramatic meeting of land and sea at the southernmost point of Australia’s mainland.

A stroll along Squeaky Beach is must, if not to just hear that very unique squeak beneath your feet. The rounded grains of quartz make a squeaking sound when you walk, giving this popular beach its name. Take a dip in the inviting turquoise waters or explore the large granite boulders which create a maze of passages.

If you’ve ever wanted to look up and see thousands of stars, Wilsons Prom is your place. Visitors are welcome at Promhills Cabins or pitch a tent and enjoy one of the quietest, serene evenings of your life.

Day 7: Wilsons Promontory to Walhalla

Driving Time: 3 hours

Because one region is never enough, it’s time to set out for the Yarra Valley. Home to more than 80 wineries, the region is renowned for producing Australia’s finest pinot noir and sparkling wine, along with a range of other cool-climate wines.

Enroute, take a detour for the pretty town of Walhalla. Once one of Australia’s richest towns and home to over 4000 gold seekers, this sleepy mountainside town is now frozen in time and is home to only 20 residents. Walk through the lovingly restored centre full of heritage buildings, try your hand at panning for gold, or take a tour of the surrounding area.

Day 8: Yarra Valley

The Yarra Valley is also known for its fresh produce including freshwater salmon, trout and caviar, organically grown fruit and vegetables and handmade cheeses and preserves. Start one of the many self-drive wine trails and fill your picnic hamper on the Yarra Valley Food Trail or at the many huge, fresh food markets. For serious wine lovers, take a behind-the-scenes tour and taste maturing wines from the barrel.

What pairs well with vino?  Australian animals. The Healesville Sanctuary, in the heart of the Yarra Valley, is world-renowned as the best place to see Aussie wildlife in their natural habitat. Koalas, kangaroos, wombats and more all await curious visitors.

Day 9: Yarra Valley to Melbourne

Driving Time: 1 hour

No trip to the Yarra Valley is complete until you make your way into a tiny basket, and start floating through the air. The hot-air balloon rises at dawn to provide amazing 360 views of the sprawling vines below. Around an hour later, the balloon slowly descends into a vineyard for a breakfast of sparkling wine and just-picked produce.

Leave the Yarra Valley with a good stash of wine and local produce and start the leisurely drive back to Melbourne. Leave plenty of time to explore the stunning Dandenong Ranges, home to towering forests, magical fern gullies and colourful native birds.

One of the best ways to take in the surrounding forest is aboard the Puffing Billy – an original steam locomotive and one of Victoria’s most unique attractions. The open-air carriages provide passengers with an up-close and personal view into the lush surroundings.

Cruise out to Mount Dandenong and spend a few quiet hours in the peaceful surrounds of William Ricketts Sanctuary. Located in a ferny glad, the sanctuary is home to more than 90 evocative sculptures, many of Aboriginal people, which lie half-hidden in the trees, rocks and undergrowth of the native forest.

Melbourne awaits just a short drive away from the sanctuary and the world’s friendliest city can’t wait for your return. This itinerary is just the beginning when it comes to exploring Victoria, Australia. For more travel suggestions, please head to our Visit Melbourne website!

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