In its principal city – Melbourne – you’ll find magnificent Victorian architecture, charming colonial-style houses with tin roofs and a covered market that comes alive with food stalls, live entertainers and people out enjoying themselves.
The banks of the Yarra seem to be hosting a party every Saturday night, whilst the nearby Mornington Peninsular and Yarra Valley have dedicated themselves to supplying the wine for the celebrations. A short drive will take you into the heart of Victoria’s wine country for vineyard tours, cookery and wine appreciation classes and even hot air balloon rides.
You can really go to town in Melbourne. It may be Australia’s second largest city but it is first for diverse culture, sophisticated nightlife and a charming mixture of Victorian architecture, wide boulevards and narrow, twisting lanes – the happy result of a disagreement between the city’s two original town planners. You can wander around town, jumping on trams, trains and even horse-drawn carriages exploring as you go. Strolling along either bank of the Yarra River will take you to restaurants, bars, displays of street theatre and even a casino, but more revealing city tours include ‘Hidden Secrets’ which takes you through the history of the alleyways, and ‘Melbourne After Dark’ which is like being shown around by a local and includes dinner in a recommended restaurant.
Stay: Two nights in the Lyall Hotel in South Yarra.
Today you can collect your hire car and head for the hills and the inviting sandy beaches of the Mornington Peninsula. With more than 50 wineries opening their cellar doors in the Peninsular, the region is fast becoming famous for its boutique vineyards and modern takes on classic styles. You’ll be invited to join private tours taking in wineries, naturally, but also cheese makers, olive pressers, artisan bakers and mussel farmers – in the company of a leading chef. Your tour will culminate in a hands-on cookery class and wine tasting session.
Stay: Two nights at the Woodman Estate Country House.
The Yarra Vallley
Just half an hour’s drive from the sophisticated highlights of Melbourne lies the Yarra Valley, which is Victoria’s answer to the Barossa wine region. With fewer visitors you can explore at leisure and let your palate discover a wide range of subtle, cool climate wines created by any number of boutique wineries. Stay overnight and experience a hot air balloon ride as day breaks – not to be missed – followed by a personal vineyard tour.
Stay: One night in the heritage-listed Chateau Yering, situated near the Yarra River.