But first a more gentle drive. You’ll take your hire car along the beautiful Mornington Peninsular to sample impeccable beaches and swim with dolphins. Apollo Bay, along the Great Ocean Road, is the spot for kayaking with seals, whilst Port Fairy welcomes you to a huge seal colony and a community of artists. The Grampians National Park, meanwhile, has wildlife that includes kangaroos, possums, koalas, owls and emus.
The first step of a really prize holiday is flying business class from London to Melbourne, half a world away. Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia, and is recognised as its capital of culture, arts, style and cuisine. Even the architecture is different; it includes charming suburbs with streets lined with Victorian period houses, whilst the centre of town is a mixture of narrow streets and wide boulevards – the result of two early town planners being unable to agree on the city’s original layout.
Their failure is Melbourne’s success; the intimate streets complement the grand thoroughfares perfectly. And the Yarra River adds yet another dimension, with restaurants, bars, displays of street theatre and a huge casino lining its banks. Around the bay are charming areas like St Kilda and South Yarra whilst a 30 minute drive beyond the city will take you to the Yarra Valley.
This trip is a must for lovers of wine and food; it begins with a hot air balloon flight over the wineries, followed by a personal vineyard tour, a tasting in a private barrel room and an unforgettable lunch.
Stay: Two nights in the Lyall Hotel in South Yarra.
Now it’s time to pick up your hire car and drive off along the eastern shore of Port Phillip Bay and the Mornington Peninsula. Expect irresistible sandy beaches offering sailing, surfing, fishing and swimming with dolphins, not to mention over 50 wineries with open cellar doors. Outdoor activities include golf and scenic walks past dunes, cliffs and lighthouses.
A touch of culture is provided by a number of fine historic homes and formal gardens, artists’ studios, galleries and craft markets in charming little towns like Red Hill and Mornington.
Stay: Two nights at the Woodman Estate Country House.
Point the car along the Great Ocean Road and prepare to stop often. The scenery is magnificent and the photographic opportunities just too eye-widening to resist. In Apollo Bay itself you can lounge on a stunning beach, swim in clear water, surf, ride horses along the water’s edge or go kayaking amongst friendly local seals. Not to mention browsing round the local shops and indulging your taste for wonderful fresh seafood.
Stay: One night at Beacon Point Ocean View Villas.
Drive on to Port Fairy and you’ll find yourself…well, not exactly in fairyland, but in a dreamy old fishing village with tiny streets of 19th century houses, grand old Norfolk pines, quaint boarding houses and traditional inns.
You’ll be staying in a four star hotel overlooking the picturesque waterfront, so you’ll have plenty of chance to go deep sea fishing, whale watching in season or embarking on a four hour cruise to Lady Percy Island to visit one of Southern Australia’s largest seal colonies. If, that is, you’re not too busy cruising around the shops, bazaars, artists’ studios, museums and galleries of the town.
Stay: Two nights at Oscars Waterfront Boutique Hotel.
Your next destination is the Grampians National Park. This enthralling region includes horizon-wide landscapes comprising majestic mountains rising out of steep-sided valleys, gorges with crashing waterfalls and truly ancient Aboriginal rock art sites.
If you love nature you’ll be enchanted by the diversity of wildflowers and birds – over 200 different species – as well as kangaroos and emus. Bushwalking and rock climbing are popular here, whilst nature walks and nocturnal expeditions will show you owls, possums and koalas.
Stay: Two nights at Boroka Downs
Meander back to Melbourne for the climax of your prize-winning trip. You’ll return to the Lyall Hotel in fashionable South Yarra, just 10 minutes from the centre of town and a destination in its own right. On your first evening back you’ll have dinner at Attica, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in this city of fine dining.
You’ll have a day to explore – take the tram or a horse-drawn carriage for sightseeing in style – before the really high octane event of your trip. On your final full day in Australia you’ll have VIP tickets to the Formula One Grand Prix; giving you access to a private suite above the team garages and the pit lane walk.
You’ll have a pamper lounge at your disposal and you’ll watch the action from a rooftop viewing deck and a lounge serving lunch, champagne and wine.
Stay: Three nights at The Lyall.
Melbourne – London
Time to say goodbye to the ‘lucky country’. You’ll fly home in business class from Melbourne Airport, arriving in London the following day.