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Easy access to nature in Victoria

October 20, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

It’s easy to get out and enjoy the great outdoors in Victoria, with many beautiful and diverse regions just a short drive from Melbourne. See wildlife up close on a guided tour, chance upon kangaroos on a walk through the bush, or simply soak up the scenery while teeing off on one of the many world-class golf courses.

Mornington Peninsula
Just under an hours’ drive south of Melbourne, the relaxed atmosphere of the Mornington Peninsula feels a world away from the city. With gentle sandy bays and crashing surf beaches backed by rugged cliffs, it is the perfect setting for outdoor exploration.

Visitors can tackle all or part of the 100km Mornington Peninsula Walk, which takes in secluded beaches, clifftop lookouts, forests and grasslands and includes several tracks where birdlife, kangaroos and wallabies can often be spotted.

More wildlife can be seen at Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park, this time up close in a natural bushland setting. Children will love being able to hold koalas, feed kangaroos and wallabies and see rare species such as quolls and Tasmanian Devils. Water-based creatures can also be seen on the, with several companies running dolphin-swim tours in Port Phillip Bay. Most tours operate from October to April, when sightings are more frequent.

Peninsula Stand Up Paddle, or PSUP, offers a fun and unusual way to get out on the water, offering lessons, tours and hire of stand-up paddleboards all around the peninsula. These oversized boards are much easier to use than surfboards and are more accessible to all age groups, making it the perfect family activity.

For visitors who prefer to stay dry, the golf courses of the Mornington Peninsula are renowned, with 19 courses within a 30km radius – eight of them ranked in Australia’s Top 50. Native trees, fresh sea breezes, stunningcoastal views and naturally beautiful landscaping make this an experience not to be missed.

Yarra Valley & The Dandenong Ranges
Just an hour east of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges region boasts vineyards, wineries, bushland walking trails and some of Victoria’s best cultivated gardens.

While beautiful all year round, the National Rhododendron Gardens in the Dandenongs is a riot of colour in Spring, when the thousands of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and daffodils are in bloom. Nearby, the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens boast stunning terraces of ferns, deciduous trees and small waterfalls while the William Ricketts Sanctuary features clay sculptures of Aboriginal figures discreetly set among rocks, fern trees and Mountain Ash.

The Dandenongs is also a great place for bushwalks in some truly spectacular settings, including the Sherbrooke Falls Trail, Dandenong Ranges National Park and the challenging climb of the 1000 Steps. Or explore the treetops at Trees Adventure, where visitors can swing, leap, climb and fly through eight hectares of forest on a thrilling two-hour course close to the famous Puffing Billy heritage railway.

The nearby Yarra Valley has a landscape of rolling hills, bushland and terraced vineyards, the perfectsetting for taking a thrilling sunrise hot air balloon flight. Golfers can tee off at one of the valley’s many golf courses, while families will enjoy Healesville Sanctuary, a distinctly Australian bushland zoowhere koalas, kangaroos, wombats, emus, dingoes, birds of prey and platypus are on show.

Have a picnic or go for a bushwalk at the magnificent Badger Weir, part of Yarra Ranges National Park. From the picnic area, forest walks pass through ancient fern gullies, cross clear mountain streams and meander amongst mighty Mountain Ash and manna gum, with many native birds easily spotted.

Or enjoy more manicured greenery at Alowyn Gardens in Yarra Glen, where a formal parterre garden, 100-metre-long wisteria-covered archway, edible garden and birch forest have been beautifully cultivated over four acres.

Phillip Island
Just 90 minutes’ drive from Melbourne, tiny Phillip Island packs an enormous number of outdoor attractions into one small package. From the world-famous little penguins who waddle to their nests in their thousands each night, to the koalas snuggled in the trees at the Koala Conservation Centre, it is impossible for visitors to leave Phillip Island without seeing one of their favourite Australian animals.

Tens of thousands of Australian fur seals also call the waters around Phillip Island home, and from October to December their numbers swell as the breeding season takes place. Wildlife Coast Cruises offers tours to Seal Rocks to see these creatures up close, as well as a variety of seabirds and even dolphins.

Cape Woolamai is also well worth a visit, with its magnificent pink granite headland, walking tracks, surf beach and bird nesting sites. From October to April the Cape is a magical place, as thousands of short-tailed shearwaters (mutton birds) return to their nests at dusk after a day of fishing. The birds fly 8,000 kilometres from the Alaskan Aleutian Islands to Phillip Island every year.

Great Ocean Road
One of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road is the ideal place to embrace nature, both big and small. From the immense rocky outcrops of the iconic Twelve Apostles to tiny wildflowers on coastal walking tracks, the region is alive with outdoor wonders.

Visitors can learn to surf on a stunning ocean beach, see koalas in the treetops at Cape Otway or go mountain biking on lush forest trails.

At the start of the road, the 44km Surf Coast Walk is an easy hop-on, hop-off coastal trail that links several quaint villages and is bursting with wildflowers in Spring. The walk starts just north of Torquay, around 75 minutes from Melbourne, with an easy stretch of track that for thousands of years was a campsite for Wautharong Aborigines.

For more of a challenge, hit the 100km Great Ocean Walk, a more rugged experience that begins at Apollo Bay. Or take a stroll through lush forest to one of the region’s many waterfalls. There are 10 magnificentwaterfalls within a 10km radius of the coastal village of Lorne, which are often at their best in Spring.

A little further down the road, Otway Fly Treetop Adventures gives visitors the thrill of walking through the forest canopy on the longest and tallest walkway of its type in the world. Or try the 2.5-hour Zipline Eco-Tour, a fully guided experience that includes six zip-line “flights”, eight cloud stations and two suspension bridge crossings.

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