Settlement in Victoria first began in 1803, because of fears that the French would send ships to the southern part of the continent. The settlement, which was established by a group of soldiers and convicts, was quickly abandoned, and in 1835, Melbourne was established by settlers from Tasmania
Victoria flourished in the middle of the 19th century, when gold mines were discovered and the state became Australia’s center of trade for many years.
Most of Australia’s agricultural land is in Victoria, because of the mild climate, fertile ground, and the many rivers crossing it. The area contains spectacular parks, famous surfing beaches, ski resorts, and impressive rain forests. Major industries include automobile industry, textiles, food processing, agriculture, and, of course, tourism.
Melbourne is Victoria’s capital; you can read about it in the cities category. Melbourne is known for its lovely parks and gardens from the Victorian era, and especially for its cultural blend (of residents from more than 140 countries), which creates a varied, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Tasmanian settlers originally bought the land on which Melbourne stands today from an Aborigine family for flour, tools, and clothes. The city experienced an upswing during the 19th century because of the gold rush, and became Australia’s financial center for a long time. Today, Melbourne is a world-renowned center of interest for sports and culture. Its calendar features the Australian Open Tennis Championship, the Formula One Racing Car Grand Prix and many international festivals. Melbourne’s area is huge (1700 km2), and most of it is covered by private homes with gardens and large parks.
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road runs along the southern coast of Australia and is one of the most beautiful roads on earth. Its length is 250 km, and it starts at the Trecky surf resort, 90 km from Melbourne. The road was built in 1930 in memory of soldiers who fell in WWI; it passes by magnificent cliffs and lonely beaches.
Main attractions include the resort towns of Loren, Apollo Bay, and picturesque Port Fairy. Otway National Park offers hiking paths through rain forests, rivers, and amazing waterfalls. Campbell National Park, on the western side of the road, is located in an area famous for its rocks jutting out of the ocean, the most famous ones being called “Twelve Apostles.” These are some of Australia’s best-known symbols in the world: gigantic rocks in the sea, next to coastal cliffs, rising up to height of 45 m. They were formed 20 million years ago when nature’s forces “polished” Port Campbell’s cliffs. An observation platform and well-maintained walking path assist the average traveler to take in this natural marvel. For those who’d like to get a really good view, there is a helicopter flight over the coastline. We suggest arriving at sunrise or sunset for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most beaches in the area are not suited for swimming because of high waves and dangerous water conditions. Gibson Steps beach, next to Princetown, is considered one of Australia’s most famous sand beaches; however, you may only look out at the ocean from there, not take a swim. Nevertheless, the view is lovely and includes rocks and huge boulders.
Mt. Dandenong, which rises up to a height of 633 m, is situated all of 35 km from Melbourne. It is covered with splendid evergreen forests. The roads leading to it are narrow, with many cyclists using them on weekends. Because of its relative proximity, it is a favorite with locals for daytrips or a short ride on Sundays. However, if you have time available, many people recommend spending several days in the nature reserve in order to enjoy everything the place can offer. The most famous forest on the reserve is called Sherbrooke Forest. Here you can find hiking paths, some of which lead to lookouts on brooks, crevices, green landscapes, and spectacular valleys; this is doubtlessly a nice form of exercise before sitting down under a tree for a picnic. There are also souvenir and original art shops and good places for eating a light meal. We cannot speak of the reserve without mentioning the steam locomotive “Puffing Bill” which runs between Belgrave and Gembrook, through forests, past quiet little towns, through a beautiful landscape, and over small bridges— it’s a pleasant experience for both kids and adults.
Philip Island is 120 km southeast of Melbourne and is connected to the mainland by a bridge coming from St. Remo. It is famous mainly for its excellent surfing beaches, and the penguin parade that leaves the ocean every evening towards the beach. There is also a bicycle course on the island which hosts one of the world contests for street races (in October).
The penguin parade is the most famous in the world and one of Australia’s big attractions. Every evening at sundown, the smallest penguins on earth come out of the water towards the beach and waddle up the sand dunes. Observers do not disturb the penguins but watch them from observation platforms and special sidewalks. There is an information center where you can find out everything about the life of these birds, along with a coffee shop and a souvenir shop which offers the world’s largest selection of penguin items, including toys, clothing, and souvenirs. You can have your picture taken, and, before the procession, you can take a walk and have a look at what’s behind the stage of this show.
Besides penguins, you can also watch koala bears in their natural environment. You may join one of the organized tours offered, where you will meet koalas face-to-face on special hiking paths. During the tours, you can also watch birds and other animals, and enjoy the splendid view.
South of Melbourne (a one-hour drive) lies Mornington peninsula, a popular vacation spot mainly during the summer season (December to March). At its tip, a ferry takes you to the other side of Port Phillip Bay, to the town of Geelong.
A drive along the waterfront can certainly help you get a feel of Mornington’s atmosphere: trendy restaurants, coffee shops, and manors on high cliffs. Mornington is a focal point of attraction for many vacationers who want to forget about everyday worries on its beaches and in its green landscapes. You can find local markets, craft and souvenir shops, art galleries, historical gardens, and antique shops. Whether you like to dive, go on a boat ride, fish or snorkel – this is your place! There are a variety of accommodations, ranging from intimate hotels, cottages, and bed-and-breakfast hotels to European-style pensions.
The Victorian Alps
This area is 250 km north east of Melbourne, and attracts primarily ski fans during winter, but is also fantastic for rafting, mountain climbing, and fishing. The highest mountain is Mt. Bogong, which rises to a height of 1984 m, while the biggest ski resort is on Mt. Buller, with a height of 1600 m.
Grampian National Park
This is a nature reserve just a 3-hour drive northwest of Melbourne. Its area is 100 km2 and features rich vegetation (one third of all plant species in Victoria). Its information center is open every day and located in the Hole’s Gap area, a town at the eastern entrance of the park. The region is mostly mountainous (1000 m), and includes waterfalls and splendid observation points.
Gippsland and Wilson Promontory
The southeastern region is one of the most popular areas among Australians because of its great views and its relative closeness to the capital (174 km). There are short hiking paths, as well as routes that take three days. The park offers more than 10 camping areas and several cottages and apartments.