From dreamy to delicious, here's our pick of the state's best country getaways.
FOR A WINE WEEKEND
Yarra Valley: Whether you're a fan of crisp chardonnays or love pinot noirs with structured acidity, Yarra Valley promises an exciting escape for wine connoisseurs. Located about one hour east of Melbourne, it's home to more than 80 wineries, with TarraWarra Estate, De Bortoli, Yering Station, Oakridge and Domaine Chandon widely considered to be some of the best producers. Epicurean Food and Wine Tours offers an excellent seven-hour excursion, with pit-stops at some of the above wineries and a gourmet lunch at one of them.
Hepburn Springs and Daylesford: There are more than 140 natural mineral springs in and around these twin towns, about 90 minutes north-west of Melbourne. Rich in minerals, such as magnesium, calcium and silica, these waters are believed to cure ailments like acne and arthritis. No wonder Australians have been heading there for more than a century to take the waters. Of late, however, they have been checking into Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, too, where they can indulge in spa treatments between dips in mineral-rich water.
The Grampians: If NSW has the Blue Mountains, Victoria has the Grampians - a stunning national park with steep mountains, scenic drives, heartracing hikes and rocky outcrops with glorious views. And if that's not enough, the region also boasts a thriving wine scene. Sign up for an exhilarating tour with Experience the Grampians, which will take you to some of the best attractions, including the town of Halls Gap, where kangaroos freely roam around on streets and in parks. And if you're in the mood to splurge, book one of the gorgeous rooms - with equally gorgeous views - at Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld.
FOR FAMILY FUN
Phillip Island: The Penguin Parade on this island - just two hours south of Melbourne - is world renowned. Who can after all resist the sight of the world's largest colony of little penguins coming out of the ocean after sunset and waddling back to their burrows. But there's more to Phillip Island than the nightly procession. Visit Koala Conservation Reserve for close encounters with the world's cutest marsupials or discover a world of illusions, puzzles, mazes and mini golf at A Maze'N Things.
FOR A GOURMET BREAK
Mornington Peninsula: Just one-hour drive south of Melbourne, this picture-perfect nook of Victoria is renowned for so many things - from exquisite pinot noirs to world-class hotels (we're looking at your Jackalope). But perhaps the most important hat the peninsula wears is that of a gourmet getaway. Kick off the feast at Laura at Pt Leo Estate where you can dine on culinary director Josep Espuga's delicious mod Oz, or head to Doot Doot Doot at Jackalope, where the ceiling installation - made of 10,000 incandescent globes - is as unforgettable as the food on the table. Audrey's at InterContinental Sorrento, Montalto and Ten Minutes by Tractor are some other places to put on your list.
Ballarat: Whether you end up at Sovereign Hill, which re-creates the Gold Rush era with a life-sized town that looks just like the settlements of the 1850s, or at the Art Gallery of Ballarat (Australia's oldest regional gallery), just about every stone in Ballarat is steeped in history. And there's no need to forego the past when it's time to sleep: just check into Hotel Vera, housed in a 19th-century mansion in the heart of the town.
FOR COASTAL WONDERS
Great Ocean Road: Surfing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, horse-riding ... is there any end to the adventures you can enjoy on this bucket-list strip, which stretches for 240 kilometres along the southern coast of Victoria, from Torquay in the east to Allansford in the west. And that is before you count activities such as scenic flights that offer spellbinding views of the 12 Apostles. Set aside a week, jump into the driver's seat and fill your eyes with wonder as you pass one impossibly beautiful beach after another.
In the mood for Melbourne?
Looking for a big-city adventure in the Victorian capital? Check out Meriton Suites, which has just opened in the heart of the CBD with 298 rooms and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. A heated indoor pool open 24/7, a swank spa and a state-of-the-art gym further add to the appeal.
If, however, you like your digs to be more on the boutique side, check out the recently opened Motley Hotel in Richmond, with just 80 keys. Three of those rooms have one-of-a-kind interiors. Make yourself at home in the Tiger Room, where Camilla bedsheets, a "starlit" ceiling and walls with bold tiger stripes vie for your attention; or take in the psychedelic wallpapers and linen in Mary's Room; or enjoy the vivid bursts of colour in the Textured Room.
Whichever room you pick, don't forget to book tickets to the immersive audio-visual BBC Earth Experience (until January 28) at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, with narration by David Attenborough. And when hunger pangs strike, make a beeline for one of the city's most popular haunts, Queen Victoria Market, where the brand-new Queen's Food Hall, with a number of stellar eating and drinking establishments, is about to be unveiled in November.
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