Tourists sometimes bypass Victoria for the more famous iconic Australian attractions. Beside the Great Ocean Road and the capital of Melbourne, there is so much more to see!
I have a confession… Victoria is my home state so I may be a little biased. I have a very dear love of the wild desert beauty which has, for the most part, been untouched by the hand of man. Today I am sharing some little known natural attractions which are often overlooked, but totally worth checking out!
Victoria is an incredibly diverse state, painfully beautiful, rugged and wild. It’s flora and fauna are unique and fascinating, and well worth your time to explore. A large part of the southern state is desert, dotted with lake systems, caves, artesian springs and ancient mountains.
The east of Victoria is also home to the Victorian Alps and -believe it or not- receives a decent amount of snow annually.
So without further ado, here are 5 awesome natural attractions in Victoria, Australia that most tourists miss out on.
The Mallee region is located in northwestern Victoria and spreads into South Australia. It takes in both the murray-darling basin and the riverina districts. The largest town in the area is the inland city of Mildura, which sits on the banks of the majestic Murray river in the far northwest. Mildura is best known for it’s iconic old paddle steamers and towering river red gums which line the banks of the river. The Mallee is some of Mother Natures finest work, a vision of low-lying red sand dunes scattered with stunted ‘Mallee scrub’. The beauty of this area is hard to describe and must be seen (or perhaps felt) for yourself to appreciate it’s true magnificence. Spectacular sunrises and breathtaking pastel sunsets over the harsh landscape have inspired photographers, poets and dreamers alike.
A song from my childhood, written by Australian legend (and Mallee local) John Williamson sums it up perfectly:
‘Tortured red gums unashamed
Sun burnt country wisely named
Chisel-ploughed and wire-claimed
But never never, never tamed..’
Murray-Sunset National Park, between Mildura and Ouyen (Oh-yen), is one of the few remaining semi-arid regions in the world where the environment is relatively untouched. With its wide open landscapes, breathtaking sunsets and starry nights, it’s vastness and isolation takes more than a day to explore. This is a great park for four wheel driving, bushwalking and camping. Be sure to check out the pink lakes in late summer and pretty wildflowers in spring.
The Dandenong Ranges or ‘Dandenongs’ are located 35km east of Melbourne. Much of the ranges fall within the boundary of the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
Well known for their spectacular Mountain Ash trees (the tallest flowering tree in the world) and lush fern gullies, the Dandenongs are great for scenic bushwalking. The cool mountains offer spectacular panoramic views and are home to crystal clear streams, waterfalls and creeks. There are an extensive network of walking trails that allow you to access many amazing secret spots. The ranges experience light to moderate snow falls a few times most years, frequently between late winter and late spring. Despite it’s cool damp climate, the ranges are highly prone to bushfires and sadly, one such deadly fire in 1983 haunts Australians’ to this day.
One highlight of the Dandenong Ranges is the 3km ‘1000 steps Kokoda walk’. The steps represent the ‘Golden Staircase’, a name given by Australian soldiers to the 2000 steps cut by Australian Army Engineers into the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea, during World War II. Plaques along the track honour Australian soldiers who lost their lives in the Kokoda campaign.
Victorias ‘High Country’ offers some of the most spectacular natural scenery of any alpine area on earth. The Great Alpine Road, the highest altitude road in Victoria, passes through the heart of the Alps and reveals incredible panoramic views as far as the eye can see. Take a scenic day trip loop from Bright to Mount Beauty, Falls Creek, Omeo and over Dinner Plain to Mount Hotham.
Victoria has loads of well developed resorts for skiing, snowboarding and cross-country hiking. These include Mount Hotham, Dinner Plain, Falls Creek, Mount Buller, Mount Baw Baw, Lake Mountain Mount St Gwinear, Mount Stirling, Mount Bogong, Mount Feathertop, Mount Buffalo and Mount Howitt.
If hiking is your thing, Victoria’s high country is sensory bliss! Breath deeply the fresh eucalypt forests and cool mountain air. The silence is broken only by the odd birdsong or alpine wind whispering (sometimes roaring) through the trees. Wildlife is plentiful thanks to the sanctuary of the alpine national parks. While hiking you are almost guaranteed to spot wombats, echidnas and wallabies, and an array of other native animals.The unique rainbow stripes of Australia’s snow gum almost glow against the blanched landscape, and wildflowers grow abundantly during spring and summer.
Dotted through the mountains are various rustic cattlemens’ huts. Primitive in style and loaded with character, these small slab and tin huts have provided shelter from foul weather for cattlemen, skiers and hikers for decades. They typically have a huge open fireplace at one end and bunks at the other. They are free to use for short term accommodation on a first-come-first served basis.
Hepburn shire in southern central Victoria is home to the largest concentration of mineral springs in Australia, and is locally known as ‘Spa Country’. Visitors can stay in one of several upmarket retreats and luxuriate in the springs which are famous for their health giving properties and natural minerals.
The Mineral Springs Reserve at the northern end of town is home to the iconic Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa. It offers an extensive network of bush walking tracks with BBQ facilities. The park has a collection of mineral springs, some flowing continuously, and others operated with a hand pump. Visitors are able to freely bottle their own bubbling mineral water from the springs.
The twin towns of Hepburn Springs and Daylesford are located in the wombat state forest between the former volcanoes of Mt Franklin and Wombat Hill in the Macedon ranges. The area showcases some incredibly breathtaking natural scenery and is a delightful spot to explore and relax.
Grampians National Park, or ‘The Grampians’, is located approximately 260km northwest of Melbourne. Rising abruptly from the surrounding Western Plains, the Grampians is a series of incredibly beautiful rugged sandstone mountain ranges and forests rich in wildlife. One of Victoria’s most popular holiday destinations, the Grampians are a great escape for camping, climbing, scenic drives, bushwalks and being in nature in general. This is another spectacular national park, uniquely different from the others mentioned above and just as interesting. A network of walking tracks throughout the park allows you to explore cascading waterfalls, brilliant spring wildflower displays and panoramic views.
Drive to Reeds and Boroka lookouts for breathtaking views or hike from Zumsteins picnic ground to the terraced base of magnificent Fish Falls. The area has a rich Aboriginal heritage and a number of important rock art sites.
*The popular Great Southern Touring Route passes through the Grampians region. This self-drive tour takes in some of Victoria’s most spectacular scenery, following the Great Ocean Road, past the Shipwreck Coast and winding up into the Grampians before continuing on to Ballarat.
I hope you enjoyed this guide to 5 awesome natural attractions in Victoria, and are inspired to visit this incredibly diverse and ancient corner of the world. There are so many more places to explore in Victoria that I haven’t even mentioned here, but it’s ‘on the list’ for future blog posts!
Have you visited Victoria? What else would you add to this list? As always we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time, happy travels!