Victoria is a small state which offers great surfing beaches and beautiful mountain scenery with some serious Off Roading. A major tourist draw card is the Great Ocean Road with some superb sandstone formations, views and unbelievable cliff lines. Next on the list should be the Grampians National Park with its beautiful rock formations, lakes and water falls. Further north is the Murray River and the Murray Sunset National Park. This park is full of contrast and it includes sand dunes in the north pastures, and in the west the stunning Pink Lakes. Our favourite part of Victoria is the high Country (Australian Alps). In winter this is skiing country, for the rest of the year this is excellent off-road terrain with some very challenging tracks. (Not for overland trucks) This is Toyota, Nissan etc. country. You will find many early settlement reminders from the gold mining days, mining equipment and old cemeteries. There are many National Parks but the largest is the Alpine National Park which covers 3 or 4 areas all the way to the NSW border and driving there is great way to enjoy your stay off the beaten track. A must-see destination is the Man of Snowy River hut (Craig’s Hut) in the Mt Stirling area. This was built for the Man of Snowy River movie, was destroyed a few years ago in a bush fire but now rebuild. Other great areas are Snowy River National Park, Croajingolong National Park, Cape Conran National Park and Wilson Promontory National Park also known as “the Prom” which has great camping and beautiful beaches but be aware, it is a busy park. Last but not the least is Philip Island, not just known for the motor racing but also for the Penguins. Word of warning for our international overlanders. The outback, Australian deserts and to some degree our beaches are very different to the terrain you are used to in Europe, Africa or South America. If you are travelling remote ensure one person in the vehicle has first aid knowledge, make sure you have proper communication equipment. Min Satellite phone, UHF radio, and if possible HF radio (available for rental) let people know where you are going and call in to advise them you have arrived. Travel well within your capabilities and when crossing rivers in the North be aware of Crocodiles, same applies to those who like fishing, Freshwater Crocodiles are not as dangerous however they bite and do a lot of damage. The beaches of Australia have some very soft sand in particular when you have to drive above the high water mark. driving the beaches on a outgoing tide is what I recommend when turning on a beach always turn towards the water to avoid driving uphill and turning in soft sand. Tyre pressure very important in our land cruiser i have been down to 10 psi. My suggestion is start at 25 psi and go down in 5 psi lots as required and keep the speed down. Be aware of deep rutted tracks, bull dust, mud, soft sand on beaches and inland tracks, deep water crossings all combined in one day of driving can be a challenge and can break parts in your vehicle not to mention being stranded mid stream with a flooded engine. Be warned do not become one of those people who know it all Australia’s outback is unforgiving.
TOURS AND DESTINATIONS IN VICTORIA:
in 1985 our first introduction to Victoria was as member of the Yarra Valley 4WD club. This was the start of many trips into the Victorian country side
- Off Road in the High Country
This area is suited to both soft and hard 4WD, ranging from steep hill climbs, deep river crossings and driving with many great view points. The High country covers an area from just north of Melbourne to just south of the ACT (Australian Capital Territory). It includes Australia’s highest mountain Mt Kosciuszko (2228 meters) just across the border in NSW. (New South Wales) The best time to visit this area would be mid- December till March.
With so many destinations it is impossible to list all but here are some of the areas we enjoyed over the years. Craig’s Hut and Mt Stirling, ( famous for Craig’s Hut location and the movie Man of Snowy River) Davies Plain, The Crooked River, Howqua Plains and Mitchel trek, the cobbler Plains and the Razorback with its spectacular views, Butcher Country near the village of Licola, Wonnangatta Valley and the famous Zeka Spur track and the Widow Maker track (the name says it all) if it is still open, tracks around Swifts Creek and Dargo and Davies Plain area just south of the border with New South Wales and the ski village of Thredbo. Last but not the least Man of Snowy River country around the town of Mansfield and close to the Mt Buller Ski resort will also present you with great scenery and off roading both soft and hard. Lake Eildon just over 100Kilometres north of Melbourne is a busy weekend destination for Melbournians and a great water sport destination. On the bottom of Mount Hotham is the beautiful goldfield and historic country town of Bright, also worth a visit.
- Big and Little Desert Area & Murray Sunset National Park & Hattah Kulkyne National park
This area is accessible from NSW coming down from Broken Hill and Mungo National park, from Adelaide via Mildura or from Melbourne via the Grampians National Park. The area is a playground for soft off roaders and nature lovers. The Big Desert area offers very limited Off roading. This is inland Australia hence summers are hot despite Victoria being one of the cooler states.
The Little Desert area has great camp sites on the Wimmera River and soft 4WD. The Murray Sunset National Park has some great Pink Lakes. The Hattah Kulkyne National Park is pretty and has both bicycle and driving tracks. From here you could do a side trip to Eucha; in the mid 1850’s this was Australia’s busiest inland port. Today the port and a small portion of the wharf that is left, is the departure point of many paddle steamers. This area also features historic buildings and a museum. A cruise on an authentic paddle steamer is a must. Along the way you will pass Swan Hill which is a good stop for the wine lovers and a visit to the Swan Hill Pioneer settlement.
In short: great scenery, great camping and lots to see with changing landscapes and scenic lookouts overlooking the valley. Don’t forget to visit the gold area of Ararat, the scenic small town of St Arnaud and the volcano in Penshurst. Explore Wartook Valley, Mount Arapiles, Mackenzie Falls, secluded creeks great for camping, spectacular waterfalls and the Aboriginal rock art.
If you visit between middle of August and end of October, you will be greeted by the wild flowers transforming the area with lots of different colours. This is a must do destination for nature lovers. The area is ideal for soft off roaders and has a mix of asphalt and gravel roads. Some sections have loose rocks or ruts. Enjoy sandstone escarpments, deep gorges and lots of wildlife.
- Great Ocean Road and the Otway’s
Probably one of Australia’s most famous coastal roads, great scenery and easily accessible from all directions. When starting in Melbourne the route finishes in Port Fairy. On the way you will pass the surfing town Torquay and the 12 apostils. Lots of Lookouts on the way. The Great Ocean road starts at Torquay. This is also where the world-famous Bells Beach is located (host of the annual RIP CURL PRO) Between Anglesea and Lorne you find some of the best views.
Further West you find perfect views from the cliff tops, looking down at great beaches. Around 10 km south of Anglesea you could visit Otway National park visiting many of the tracks that cross the area and visit Erskirne Falls and the Otway Fly tree top walk. From here follow tracks back to Lorne. Stop at Port Campbell where you find the 12 Apostles. Keep an eye out for whales once you arrive at Logan’s Beach. (winter) Port Fairy is a small fishing village visit the old whalers’ cottages, the seal colony and the its lighthouse which has become a must do photo stop
- Melbourne and the Yarra Valley
If you like big cities Melbourne is for you. It feels like a European city (and so is the weather). If you are in Melbourne do a lap on the free city circle tram, visit the Queen Victoria Markets (and do your shopping here), go for dinner in Lygon street or dine at one the many restaurant along the Yarra River near the casino, visit Acland Street with great European bakeries and cake shops and if the weather is nice visit St Kilda beach.
Don’t miss the Sunday artist market in the suburb of Fitzroy. Leave Melbourne from the city and head east towards the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong ranges, until you arrive in Healesville. Here a must do stop is the Healesville Australian animal sanctuary. This pretty town is also the gateway to the wine region. This area has over 80 wineries and includes well known wineries such as DeBortoli; their wines are available all around the world. Other destinations worthwhile for a visit are the Rainforest gallery, Lake Mountain (ski area) and the Black Spur road between Healesville and Narbethong. If in Healesville in November do not miss the music festival.
- Philip Island
its most popular attraction is the Penguin Parade when the little penguins come onto the beach every evening. Philip Island has the world’s smallest penguins. This is a must do when travelling around Victoria. For those spending a little extra you will have the chance to see the penguins at eye level while viewing them from an underground tunnel. The island has not just great beaches but also consistent surfing beaches for those into surfing.
If visiting the island between April and May the chances are you will see many whales. Philip Island is also famous for its international motor and car racing events; the Motor GP is held in October. For the petrol heads book a hot lap with a professional racing car driver. Alternatively, book a guided tour around the circuit and get a look behind the scenes at running a professional GP.
- Wilson Promontory
Locals call this park Wilson Prom or the Prom. The park is the southern- most park on Australia’s mainland. As it is very close to Melbourne it is very busy over the weekends and during school holidays. It has stunning beaches and great coastal scenery, rainforest and lots of wildlife. It also has one of Australia’s oldest outdoor cinemas.
For the hikers it is a great walk up to the top of Mount Oberon. If you like walking follow the drift track (3KM) where you see some of the sand dunes, thick bushland and very nice views across to Corner Inlet. A word of warning: do not get lost in the sand dunes.
- Croajingolong National Park
The name is a tong twister. This park is named after the Aboriginal people in this area. Following the coast road from Melbourne this park is just about halfway between Melbourne and Sydney. Coming from Orbost, Bemm River is the first stop but along the coast you find a few more such as Thurra River, Wingan Point, Point Hicks, and Little Rame Head. In-between you will find many secluded camp spots and you can camp around Mallacoota lakes.
Do not forget the dunes at Thurra River and the Point Hicks Lighthouse. A superb area with white sandy beaches, rocky headlands, rainforest and huge eucalypts. In summer this area is ideal for swimming, boating, fishing, soft off roading and snorkelling near Point Hicks. The main towns in the area are Cann River and Mallacoota.