Be­yond the city

Go be­yond Mel­bourne to un­earth more of the splen­dours that Vic­to­ria has to of­fer.

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THERE’S plenty of magic in the world’s most live­able city – Mel­bourne – that charms with its dy­namic and cos­mopoli­tan vibe. But if you’re look­ing for even more – go be­yond Vic­to­ria’s coastal cap­i­tal.

Loads of ex­pe­ri­ences await when you travel from the city to Yarra Val­ley, Dan­de­nong Ranges and on­wards to Philip Is­land and Gee­long for some amaz­ing re­gional din­ing. Then make your way to winer­ies of the Morn­ing­ton and Bel­lar­ine Penin­su­las.

More nat­u­ral beauty is found at the beau­ti­ful Grampians Na­tional Park, with its dra­matic nat­u­ral oa­sis, walk­ing trails, wa­ter­falls and wildlife.

Check out the ex­pe­ri­ences that we’ve put to­gether for a truly mag­i­cal jour­ney away from the me­trop­o­lis.

Yarra Val­ley and Dan­de­nong Ranges

Some of Aus­tralia’s most fa­mous vine­yards are found in Yarra Val­ley. See for your­self, in a hot air bal­loon with Global Bal­loon­ing, drifting over rows of vines and lush farm­lands. Stay on and visit the Healesville Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary. Al­ter­na­tively, you could take a horse ride and stay overnight in Chum Creek Hut. It’s a rus­tic, ren­o­vated orig­i­nal cat­tle­man’s hut.

About 30 min­utes away, it’s the fan­tas­tic Dan­de­nong Ranges. Have tea in a charm­ing tea­house in a moun­tain vil­lage and ex­plore the Na­tional Rhodo­den­dron Gar­dens and Wil­liam Rick­etts Sanc­tu­ary with sculp­tures of Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

Spend the evening on the cen­tury-year old Puff­ing Billy steam train, with a clas­sic Aus­tralian “dine and dance” en route at an his­toric pack­ing shed.

Af­ter an evening at one of Dan­de­nong Ranges’ ro­man­tic B&Bs, be first on the Kokoda Track Memo­rial Walk of 1000 Steps in Fern­tree Gully.

This is a “tasty” re­gion, home to a di­verse ar­ray of spe­cial­ity provi­dore stores with great sea­sonal pro­duce and culi­nary de­lights. Fruits (pick some your­self at U-Pick trails at or­chards), jams, condi­ments, meat, fish, cheese, choco­late, the list goes on.

Phillip Is­land

For a breath of sea air, mo­tor on to Phillip Is­land and its tiny sis­ter, Churchill Is­land. Don’t miss the Pen­guin Pa­rade to see lit­tle pen­guins splash out of the sea ev­ery evening.

There are sev­eral per­fect van­tage points for sun­rise over the ocean, which tra­di­tion de­mands is fol­lowed by break­fast at a cliff­side café over­look­ing the sea. Next, pay a visit to the huge fur seal colony at Seal Rocks and the vir­tual Antarc­tic ex­pe­ri­ence at The Nob­bies. Top it off with a tree­tops walk at the Koala Con­ser­va­tion Cen­tre and lunch on Churchill Is­land where the work­ing farm is still set in the 19th cen­tury.

Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula

It’s the land of the Wine Food Far­m­gate trail, of cel­lar doors and pro­duce farms, of chef’s hat­ted restau­rants, div­ing with dol­phins and swim­ming with seals, galleries and gar­dens and golf. Just an hour from Mel­bourne, the area blends coastal liv­ing with Aussie charm.

In the evenings, the Moon­lit Sanc­tu­ary and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Park beck­ons, with its fas­ci­nat­ing lantern-lit tours to meet noc­tur­nal wildlife. Rare and en­dan­gered species emerge, noc­tur­nal birds spread their wings while quolls, Tas­ma­nian devils, pademel­ons and bet­tongs all for­age for food.

How about some ro­mance? Some evening star gaz­ing from a hill­top ther­mal min­eral pool at Penin­sula Hot Springs fits the bill.

Early morn­ing, watch wild kan­ga­roos feed­ing at Greens Bush. Then ex­plore the Wine Food Far­m­gate trail, take a win­ery tour on horse­back or an aquatic ad­ven­ture be­fore cruis­ing across Port Phillip Bay at sun­set with Searoad Fer­ries.

Gee­long and The Bel­lar­ine

Get ready for sur­prises in Gee­long by the sea. Once an in­dus­trial area, the city south­west of Mel­bourne now boasts rein­vented ware­houses and fac­to­ries that are home to a new cul­ture of out­stand­ing re­gional restau­rants, cool cafes and bars, craft brew­eries, art and de­sign galleries.

Go for a stroll with the lo­cals along the mag­nif­i­cent wa­ter­front. The Bay­walk Bol­lard Trail fea­tures over 100 carved char­ac­ters who have shaped Gee­long’s his­tory. There’s also a charm­ing 1890s carousel and a band or­gan dat­ing from 1890s Paris, and a huge choice of cafes and restau­rants.

Gee­long’s Lit­tle Malop beck­ons with a va­ri­ety of nightlife. Why not heed the call of the wild and head for the Slum­ber Sa­fari at Wer­ribee Open Range Zoo where lions, gi­raffes, ze­bras, rhi­nos, hip­pos and gorillas re­side.

The “to do” list is pretty long. There are 40 ex­pe­ri­ences just on the Bel­lar­ine Taste Trail, in­clud­ing spec­tac­u­lar ocean and bay beaches, sea­side vil­lages, land and sea ad­ven­tures, golf cour­ses, fes­ti­vals and events.

Why not squeeze in an­other night or two?

This ar­ti­cle is brought to you by Tourism Aus­tralia, Visit Vic­to­ria and Malaysia Air­lines. Malaysia Air­lines flies twice daily from Kuala Lumpur to Mel­bourne.

There’s no shortage of nat­u­ral beauty when you’re in Vic­to­ria. — Photos: Tourism Aus­tralia

The in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned Pen­guin Pa­rade should be top of your list, be­cause there’s some­thing very heart-warm­ing about watch­ing lit­tle pen­guins splash out of the sea ev­ery evening and wad­dle faith­fully off to their sand bur­rows.

Once an in­dus­trial city, Gee­long has shrugged off its past to re­veal rein­vented ware­houses and fac­to­ries that are now home to out­stand­ing re­gional restau­rants.

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