As Australians we are well known for our wanderlust. Our desire to travel overseas to far off lands for adventure, to explore or to meet up with friends and loved ones. This year is looking very different of course. With no hope of international travel until a safe vaccine arrives, and even interstate travel somewhat limited, it’s time to look for a joyful, restful escape in our own backyard. Regional Victoria is calling, and we are being lured by all there is on offer.
REGIONAL SPA RETREATS:
To truly transport yourself to a place of relaxation, recuperation and rejuvenation, a regional spa retreat is the answer. Some are well known for their first class body treatments, others for their mineral pools and some for their prized locations and accommodation facilities.
CLOSE TO HOME:
Peninsula Hot Springs
The facilities at Peninsula Hot Springs have developed and expanded considerably since opening in 2005. Now offering so much more than a steam and a soak, this spa’s landscaped mineral pools offer a holistic experience. Their body treatments in particular are beyond compare, and the new hammam is a destination in itself.
From December luxury glamping will be added to its services to provide a true escape.You can soak in the mineral pools under the stars before retreating to one of 10 ultra-luxe glamping tents with thermally heated polished-concrete floors, a private deck and a luxurious king-sized bed - with equally luxurious bed linen. Included in your stay is round-the-clock bathing (yes, (24/7 bathing), so after hopping between dozens of geothermal pools – at any time of day or night – all you need to do is slip on your robe and stroll back over the bridge to your glamp station. (Night owl visitors who aren’t glamping will also be able to book in for a session from 11pm onwards). Glamping packages start at $650 a night for two people.
Image: Peninsula Hot Springs
One Spa at RACV Cape Schanck Resort
There's a dizzying array of options and treatments here. But the jewel in the crown is the Hammam bathing space area– an elegant, contemporary take on the traditional Turkish bath.
A LITTLE FURTHER AFIELD:
Image: Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa
In the heart of ‘spa country’, Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa is an indulgent experience, from the herbal tea served in a room that housed the original 1895 mineral spa, to massages, steam rooms, salt-therapy pools and private pure-mineral-water baths. There’s an outdoor hammam coming soon too.
You'll find this stunning hotel on a rugged hilltop about 90 minutes from Melbourne.
Arriving in front of the historic Mayday Hills property feels like you’ve accidentally driven onto the set of The Great Gatsby.
HIGH COUNTRY WINE EXPERIENCES:
“It’s such a terrific area,” says Sarah Pilgrim, from Tourism North East. “It’s that combination of the beautiful natural landscape, and the historic towns and villages. There’s so much to do, see, eat and drink.” Here are Sarah’s four essential wine-led experiences in the region:
Image: Tourism North East
All Saints Estate Luxury ImmersionAll Saints is Rutherglen winemaking royalty with a 156-year history encapsulated in its National Trust-listed castle-like property. And the All Saints Estate Luxury Immersion is suitably lavish.
- Two nights accommodation in the beautiful French provincial-style tower apartment at Mount Ophir Estate
- Luxury transfers in a 1973 Rolls Royce Corniche
- A welcome bottle of wine
The All Saints Estate Luxury Immersion package costs $2900 for two people for two nights.
allsaintswine.com.au/experiences/luxury-winery-escape Best of Alpine Valleys EscapeThe Best of Alpine Valleys Escape is a fabulous way to spend a couple of days learn about and enjoy the local winemakers and their creations across the foothills of Mount Buffalo. Winemakers here use the area’s cooler weather and varying geography to focus on alternative varieties such as fiano, vermentino and tempranillo.
- Luxury group accommodation at The Kilnhouses in the shadow of Mount Buffalo
- A private wine tasting with winemakers from Mayford Wines and Billy Button Wines
- A matched gin dinner, tour and tasting at Reed & Co Distillery in Bright
- A wine hamper with local product
- Vouchers for Billy Button Wines cellar door
The Best of Alpine Valleys Escape package costs $3900 for two nights for six people.
,alpinevalleygetaways.com.auBroken River Valley Behind the Wine TourAn off-the-beaten-track as wine tour in Victoria’s High Country where you can enjoy single-estate, alternative wines like malbec, tempranillo, verdelho and granite-country shiraz.
- Visit Saffron Gramophone Wines, Baddaginnie Run, Swanpool Creek Wines and Kooyonga Creek Winery
- Tastings and vineyard inspections at each
- A stop along the way for lunch (lunch is an additional $12–$25)
The Behind the Wine tour is $120 per person.
northeastvictoriawinerytours.com.au/behind-the-wine.html Dal Zotto Cento Passi (100 footsteps) ExperienceThis experience invites guests join the Dal Zotto family as they guide you around their property in cento passi (100 footsteps).
- Enjoy a glass of prosecco along the way with Otto, Michael or Christian Dal Zotto
- Have Elena Dal Zotto take you through her garden to see how essential fresh seasonal produce is brought to life
- Finish up at the in-house Trattoria with a feast of four dishes by chef Nikki Kennedy, featuring produce to complement the wines – prosecco, barbera and nebbiolo and a seasonal fourth wine to match.
The Dal Zotto Cento Passi (100 footsteps) Experience costs $150pp for groups of 4–8.
Image: Weekend Notes
Werribee’s rugged river gorge is situated an hour out of the city towards Ballarat. The wide variety of walks take you down steep bluffs into the 200-metre-deep gorge. You can head across Werribee River and along cliff faces, with options for rock climbing.
Lerderderg State Park
This state park is just over an hour’s drive north-west of Melbourne. A leisurely option is to park your car at Mackenzie’s Flat and walk the well-marked riverside track to Grahams Dam where you'll find a wonderful swimming hole. Depending on how you feel (or how high the river is) you can then continue upstream into more gorgy territory. Keep your eyes peeled for stone relics from the gold-mining era.
1000 Steps, Dandenong Ranges
The Dandenong Ranges are visible from just about anywhere in Melbourne, and perfect for day hikes. A great place to escape the heat and get some shade, the ranges offer walking options for all levels of fitness. If you’re out to burn some calories, the 1000 Steps is a scenic challenge. Originally made from the trunks of tree ferns, the 1000 steps pay tribute to the Golden Staircase, cut by Australian soldiers on the Kokoda Track.
Dights Falls, Yarra River
This easy walk starts at Kanes Bridge and is a pleasant meander through Melbourne’s history, taking in a former asylum, the site of the Deep Rock Swimming Club and the Koori Garden - a gathering site for the local Wurundjeri people.
Pound Bend River Walk, Warrandyte State Park
We're so lucky in Melbourne that you don’t need to travel very far north-east to find yourself in the rural fringe. While swimming in the Yarra River near the city is not recommended, the river’s upper reaches offer safe and secluded swimming holes, as well beautiful bushwalks. The three-and-a-half-kilometre walk takes you alongside the river, from the picnic area at Pound Bend in Warrandyte through a historic tunnel, constructed to divert the river during the gold-mining days in the late 19th century.
CAMPING BY THE WATER
Spots by secluded ridges, idyllic coastal stretches and highland lakes are waiting for you. Lakes. Rivers. Beaches. Pitch your tent by any of these, and relax in nature.
Sealers Cove Hike-in Campsite, Wilson’s Promontory National ParkWilson’s Prom is packed with campers every summer but the golden sand and turquoise water of Sealers Cove are only accessible by boat or by foot. The ten-kilometre hike in leads to stunning views of the idyllic cove from Windy Saddle, before the descent into the campsite by the beach at the southern end of the inlet. The ground includes toilet facilities but you’ll need your own drinking water. Only $13.60 per person per night (maximum two nights) booked via the Tidal River Visitor Centre.
Sheepyard Flat, Howqua HillsSheepyard Flat is a pretty camping spot in open woodland by the Howqua River, just outside of Mansfield, surrounded by a forest of Peppermint and Manna Gum. Fly-fishing aficionados can expect trout, perch and Murray cod and for non-anglers there are nearby swimming holes and scenic walks. The site offers waterless toilets and non-drinking water, and you can light a fire. Camping is free and on a first-come, first-served basis.
Blanket Bay, Great Otway National ParkBlanket Bay is one of the most popular coastal camping spots in Victoria, right on the beach with plenty of swimming and fishing, open fire-pits, hikes and walking tracks and panoramic views of the Southern Ocean. There’s no power or drinking water, and only non-flush toilets - $29.80 per person, per night.
Aire River, Great Otway National ParkThere are campsites on both the east and west banks of the Aire River. There are more toilets, picnic tables, fireplaces and hot plates than a lot of campgrounds. Once there, there’s kayaking and fishing and the beach is just a short walk from the campground. The cost is $29.80 per person, per night.
Johanna Beach Hike-in Campsites, Great Ocean Road, Great Otway National ParkThe regular campsites at Johanna Beach are a fine choice for camping, but for an added element of challenge and isolation it’s worth considering the hike-in only section - there are only eight tent sites at the hike-in campground. The site is situated atop a ridge with sweeping views of the Southern coastline. With just a single untreated rainwater tank amenities are scarce so preparation is important. The cost is $29.80 per person, per night.
Fraser Camping Area, Lake Eildon National ParkThe Fraser Camping Area is a year-round favourite for families with three campgrounds: Lakeside, Candlebark and Devil Cove. Each site offers different views of Lake Eildon and its surrounding forests, and they all have hot showers, flushing toilets and free gas barbeques. Lake Eildon is enormous and is ideal for those into water-sports and fishing. The cost is $53.20 per person, per night.
Bear Gully Campground, Cape Liptrap Coastal ParkThe Bear Gully Campground is so close to the water you’ll fall asleep to the sound of lapping waves. Pitch your tent near the tall banksias and start exploring the rocky outcrops and beaches of Waratah Bay. Although swimming near the campground isn’t recommended, it’s just a ten-minute drive to the stunning nearby Walkerville South Beach. The cost is $29.80 per person, per night.
Barmah Lakes Camping Area, Barmah National ParkBarmah National Park, right on the border of New South Wales, forms part of the world’s largest river red gum forest. The free campground sits at the convergence of Broken Creek, the Murray River and Lake Barmah – with lots of opportunity for swimming and fishing. There are ample walking and cycling tracks around the lake, and there's good phone reception and well-kept toilets.
So whilst our wings are clipped in terms of overseas travel, now is the perfect time to explore our own backyard and support businesses in regional Victoria.
Victoria images: The Urban List