Who needs Europe? We’ve got Victoria

It could be Europe – but it's not. This is autumn in country Victoria.

It could be Europe – but it's not. This is autumn in country Victoria.

Everyone you bump into post-isolation seems to want to tell you where they should be right now. On a beach in the Cyclades. Languishing over a long lunch at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Walking the Camino. Taking in the Mediterranean coast from the deck of a gulet.

While those plans are stymied, there’s no reason we shouldn’t look in our own backyard for some gorgeous, if wintrier, alternatives.

Important: Australia’s post-coronavirus travel regulations vary by state. See up-to-date details here

Abroad: Hiking Italy’s Cinque Terre = At home: Walking the Surf Coast

I’m biased. I grew up walking these spectacular trails and beaches, and think this 44-kilometre walk along beaches and clifftops from just before Torquay to just after Aireys Inlet is the equal of anything I’ve tramped overseas.

You’ll pass world-famous surf spots, including Bells Beach, and local favourites like the spectacular Point Addis.

The trail is often deserted, has spectacular views and accommodation ranges from grand resorts to motels, excellent campgrounds and cosy Airbnbs.

It’s quite reasonable to build your daily stroll around fish and chips from a hatted chef at Anglesea’s Fish By Moonlite, or a lazy dinner or lunch with lighthouse views on the deck of Airey’s Inlet’s A La Grecque or pub.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee plans to offer a three-day walk guided by one of the area’s traditional owners later this year.

This Surf Coast walk has 12 trail heads, and is best done with car shuffles, though most accommodation will help you with luggage transfers or taxi contacts on request so you can walk it continuously with a day pack. And it’s a lot easier and less crowded than the Cinque Terre.

victoria travel wishlist 2020

The trail ahead: The Surf Coast walk, as seen from Aireys Inlet. Photo: Janne Apelgren

Also try: The 100-kilometre Great Ocean Walk from Apollo Bay.

Abroad: French villa in Provence = At home: luxury farm house in Musk

Dairy Flat Farm lodge is the latest project from the team behind Daylesford’s Lake House, and equally luxurious, with the bonus that you can book the whole swanky house for your tribe and have it to yourselves, all six beautifully-decorated suites with en suites.

Soak in the hot tub, light the fire pit, tootle around on the electric bikes, languish over a country breakfast, cook up a storm or book into the Lake House spa or restaurant.

Like Provence, the Daylesford-Macedon Ranges region has farmers’ markets, antiquing, wineries, walks, inviting villages to stroll and browse and great places to eat. Price: $3990 a night for 12 people.

Also try: Victoria has an abundance of extraordinary rental villas, especially in areas such as Trentham, Bright and the Mornington Peninsula.

Abroad: Cruising Croatia’s coast in a gulet = At home: exploring the Gippsland Lakes in a private yacht

Set loose on 400 square kilometres of safe, national park-fringed waters with sheltered moorings, and no tides or reefs to wrangle, you can watch passing pods of dolphins, drop into local villages such as Metung, Paynesville and Loch Sport to visit a farmers’ market or dine, and breathe the clean briney air of the southern hemisphere’s largest inland waterway, rocked to sleep in your berth beneath starry skies.

No boating licence required, 24-hour support supplied. From $1164 for three days for a Catalina 28 yacht that sleeps two-to-six with Riviera Nautic.

victoria wishlist travel 2020

Sailing the glorious Gippsland lakes. Photo: Riviera Nautic

Also try: Exploring Wilsons Promontory from the sea. Pennicott Wilderness Journeys’ ecotour in an amphibious boat takes visitors to the southernmost point of mainland Australia, passing the imposing granite monolith skull rock, white quartz sand beaches and a posse of fur seals.

In the words of a customer we know, designer and artist Trevor Flett, who was gifted their 2.5-hour cruise, it was “simply the best-ever experience in the world”.

Consider staying the night in one of Wilsons Promontory’s architect-designed cabins.

Abroad: Popping a cork in Italy’s Barolo and Barbaresco = At home: Wandering the north-east wine country

It’s got nebbiolo, castles, big Italian families, hazelnut groves and fine food, and is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, just like Piedmont.

But Victoria’s north-east wine country, and its neighbouring regions, are only 3.5 hours from Melbourne.

Ride from winery to winery on a bike trail, hike into the mountains, do a cellar door crawl of the King Valley, hunt for exotic treasures at Myrtleford’s Red Ramia Trading, visit Beechworth’s restaurants, craft breweries and honey shop. Don’t forget to bring an empty Esky.

victoria travel wishlist 2020

Bright, in north-eastern Victoria, certainly lives up to its name. Photo: Getty

Also try: Closer to Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula has great accommodation, wineries, restaurants and, a bonus, good beaches.

Abroad: A crawl of Michelin-starred restaurants around San Sebastian, Spain = At home: A hatted-restaurant road trip across Victoria

Years as a food writer taught me I don’t need to leave Australia to eat extraordinarily well in the country.

What’s more, some of Victoria’s finest restaurants have world-class accommodation on site to match, the basis for a splurge itinerary:

  1. Head north to historic and beautiful Beechworth where Michael Ryan’s Japanese-inflected menu at Provenance has elegant accommodation in old stables.
  2. Take rural roads on to the Lake House in Daylesford.
  3. Next stop the three-hat Brae in Birregurra, in the shadow of the Otways.
  4. Deep in the western district, on the edge of the Grampians, walk up an appetite for Wickens At the Royal Mail Hotel.
  5. Follow the coast back to Queenscliff, put your car on the ferry and finish your journey at Jackalope on the Mornington Peninsula.

Also try: Use The Age Good Food Guide as the basis for an itinerary built on less pricey, but still terrific places to eat that don’t have accommodation, including Ipsos, Lorne; Innocent Bystander, Healesville, or Midnight Starling, Kyneton.

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