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Victoria

Photo by Lee Mylne

Victoria destinations

Around Victoria

Daylesford and Macedon Ranges

Gippsland

Grampians

Great Ocean Road

High Country

Melbourne

Mornington Peninsula

Victoria

Melbourne may be the heart of this small, diverse and somewhat rugged state, but it’s definitely worth getting beyond the city to explore the goldfields, wineries, ski fields and national parks that make Victoria so interesting.

Easily reached from Melbourne are the delightful country regions of “Spa Country”, centred on Daylesford and the healing springs that surround this pretty town, and the wine country of the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula.

History buffs will love Ballarat and Bendigo, the goldfield towns where the wealth of the 1850s is still evident in its magnificent buildings.  Ballarat, Victoria’s largest inland city, is also the birthplace of Australian democracy.

On Phillip Island, diminutive Fairy Penguins take a nightly waddle up the beach to the delight of throngs of onlookers, while by day their territory is home to seal colonies.

The Great Ocean Road—which clings to the coast from Torquay through Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell, Peterborough, and Warrnambool—is one of the world’s most spectacular drives. The scenery along the 106km  route includes huge cliffs, ocean vistas, beaches, rainforests, and the incredible rock formations known as The Twelve Apostles. The best way to travel the Great Ocean Road is to drive, stopping wherever you fancy.

Some travellers will find themselves heading inland to the mountains (perhaps for skiing or bushwalking at Mount Hotham or Falls Creek), or exploring the wilderness of the Snowy River National Park. Others will head to the rugged Grampians National Park, and through deserts and red sand dunes to the fruit bowl of Mildura.

The Murray River, which separates Victoria from New South Wales, has been its lifeblood, providing irrigation for vast tracts of semidesert land. At Echuca and Mildura, you can take a paddle-steamer cruise on the Murray.

Victoria has 35 national parks, encompassing every terrain, from rainforest and mountain ranges to sun-baked Outback desert and a coast where waves crash dramatically onto rugged sandstone outcroppings. It’s a fantastic place for bushwalking and getting into the great outdoors.

Whichever itinerary you choose, you’re sure to find dramatic scenery and friendly locals.


When To Go

Every time of year is a good one to visit Victoria. This is a state with a distinct four seasons, offering beaches in summer, gorgeous autumn and spring colours, and even snowfields for the ski bunnies among us.

Whatever the weather or the season, there is always something you can do because this is a state with plenty of art galleries, theatres, cinemas, museums and other indoor activities. So if it’s cold or wet, or both, you can still stay warm and dry and entertained.

Summer is ideal for hitting the beaches around Melbourne, or taking a road trip along one of the world’s great drives, the Great Ocean Road. It’s also perfect for exploring the vineyards of the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, or doing some fabulous bushwalks.

In winter, you can even hit the Victorian ski-fields at Mount Hotham or Falls Creek, or just rug up in front of a fire just about anywhere at all.

How Much Time To Spend

Allow a week – or more – to see Melbourne and just one other part of Victoria. For a small state, it’s got a lot to offer and you could easily spend a couple of weeks here without covering everything. Melbourne alone is really worth a couple of weeks! But you can see the highlights of Melbourne, and one other region easily in a week.

Events and Holidays

Victoria has two public holidays not shared by the rest of Australia (except perhaps in spirit!).

Grand Final Friday – the Friday before the Australian Football League Grand Final – was declared a public holiday for the whole of Victoria in 2015. This public holiday does not impose any restrictions on shop trading, but it’s likely that most will close as the public goes crazy for the finals teams. In 2015, the public holiday fell on Friday, October 2.

The other iconic public holiday in Victoria is Melbourne Cup Day, the first Tuesday in November, to celebrate Australia’s most famous horse race. They don’t call it “the race that stops a nation” for nothing. The race is run at 3.20pm but no work gets done from about 11am as even those working stop for Melbourne Cup lunches and betting around the country.

Other public holidays, celebrated nationally, are:

New Year’s Day (January 1)
Australia Day (January 26)
Easter (March/April)
ANZAC Day (April 25)
Queen’s Birthday (June 8)
Christmas Day (December 25)
Boxing Day (December 26)

Time Zone

To check the local time in Victoria, click here.

Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) covers Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, and Tasmania. Central Standard Time (CST) is used in the Northern Territory and South Australia, and Western Standard Time (WST) is the standard in Western Australia. When it’s noon in New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania, it’s 11:30am in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and 10am in Western Australia.

All states except Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia observe Daylight Saving Time (DST) during spring and summer. At 2AM on the first Sunday in October clocks are advanced one hour. On the first Sunday in April at 2AM, clocks shift back one hour to standard time. However, not all states switch over to daylight saving on the same day or in the same week, so it pays to check if you are travelling at these times.

What To Pack and Wear

Make sure that you include something warm, as well as a raincoat and/or umbrella, in your luggage – even if you are visiting Victoria in summer.  While parts of the state can get very hot in summer, the weather is notoriously unpredictable and can get quite cool and windy.

Melbourne is a sophisticated city, so if you’re planning to hit the fancy restaurants or nightspots, make sure you have something that’s at very least smart casual.  Melbourne people tend to favour black clothing, and in the Victorian winter you can bring out your warmest woollies, scarves, boots and gloves.

For those national parks and hiking trails, pack your walking boots and any other gear you might need.

What it Costs

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in $AU.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $21-70 per person
$$$ => Tickets $71 per person

Sleep
$ => Rooms less than $200 for a double
$$ => Rooms $201-300 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $301 for a double

Eat
$ => $1-$35 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $36-$80 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $81 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)

Shop
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $21-$50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $51 per person

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.

 Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping, and the major companies like Hertz, Budget, Avis and Europcar all operate around Australia, alongside smaller local companies that are worth investigating.

There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.

Ride-sharing company Uber is relatively new to Australia and is currently under scrutiny by state governments where it operates.  It currently operates in Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula and Geelong in Victoria, as well as in Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Rides are ordered through a smart phone app, it’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to Australia goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical —Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.

Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Standard medical and travel insurance is advisable for travel to Australia. Divers including the Great Barrier Reef or other Australian diving destinations should also ensure they have the appropriate insurance.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).

If you have pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.

For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.

Transportation

Victoria’s capital, Melbourne, is famous for its trams which are by far the easiest and most fun way to get around in the city.

From Melbourne, it is easy to get to Victoria’s 11 other regions, by car, train or bus.

By car
This is probably the best way of getting around Victoria, and seeing as much as you can. Many attractions are reachable from Melbourne on a day trip, and some of Australia’s best road trips are in Victoria – including the Great Ocean Road, rated as one of the world’s best scenic drives. Remember, Australians drive on the left hand side of the road!

By train
V/Lineservices operate from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Railway Station connecting the state capital with other destinations around Victoria.

By Bus
Greyhound Australia coaches leave from Melbourne’s Transit Centre on Franklin St., two blocks north of Southern Cross station on Spencer Street. V/Line buses,which travel all over Victoria, depart from the Spencer Street Coach Terminal.

Getting There

Melbourne is the main gateway to Victoria, no matter what mode of transport you use to get here. From there, it is easy to visit Victoria’s other regions and plenty of options for how to travel.

By plane
Major airlines fly into Melbourne Airport, which has domestic and international terminals in the same spot. Avalon Airport, about 55km (a 50-minute drive) from Melbourne’s city centre, and 20km from the regional city of Geelong, also provides domestic flights to other parts of Australia.

By car
Victoria is bordered by New South Wales to the north and South Australia to the west. It’s a good 10 to 12 hour drive (with a couple of rest breaks) from Sydney to Melbourne along the Hume Highway, with the benefit of seeing a lot of the countryside. Another route is the coastal Princes Highway, but for that you should allow at least two days.

By train
Interstate trains arrive at Melbourne’s Southern Cross Railway Station (sometimes also called Spencer Street Station for its location and former name) in the heart of the city. The XPT takes around 11 hours from Sydney to Melbourne. V/Line services also connect Melbourne with other destinations in Victoria and other capital cities.

By Bus
Several bus companies connect Melbourne with other capitals and regional areas of Victoria. Greyhound Australia is the biggest. Coaches serve Melbourne’s Transit Centre on Franklin St., two blocks north of Southern Cross station on Spencer Street. V/Line buses,which travel all over Victoria, depart from the Spencer Street Coach Terminal.

Getting Around

From Melbourne, it is easy to get to Victoria’s 11 other regions, by car, train or bus.

By car
This is probably the best way of getting around Victoria, and seeing as much as you can. Many attractions are reachable from Melbourne on a day trip, and some of Australia’s best roadtrips are in Victoria – including the Great Ocean Road, rated as one of the world’s best scenic drives. Remember, Australians drive on the left hand side of the road!

By train
V/Lineservices operate from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Railway Station connecting the state capital with other destinations around Victoria.

By Bus
Greyhound Australia coaches leave from Melbourne’s Transit Centre on Franklin St., two blocks north of Southern Cross station on Spencer Street. V/Line buses,which travel all over Victoria, depart from the Spencer Street Coach Terminal.

Transportation Hubs

V/Line train services operate from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Railway Station (also sometimes called Spencer Street Station, for its location) connecting the state capital with other destinations around Victoria.

Greyhound Australia coaches leave from Melbourne’s Transit Centre on Franklin St., two blocks north of Southern Cross station on Spencer Street. V/Line buses,which travel all over Victoria, depart from the Spencer Street Coach Terminal.