Australia is full of contrasting experiences, from its cosmopolitan beaches to its Champagne-hued beaches and its wild Outback wilderness to its sweeping sun-soaked vineyards. The south-eastern state of Victoria seems to have a pinch of everything the country has to offer, with food, culture and shopping in plentiful supply. Having family in Melbourne has meant I’ve spent many Christmases visiting ‘Down Under’, so much so that Victoria’s capital has become my second home. Here’s my trio of highlights from my time exploring Victoria…
Of course, Australia is well known for its wine, with incredible vineyards found right across the country. Lying south of Melbourne is the boot-shaped Mornington Peninsula, which combines native bushland and charming beachside villages (complete with traditional beach huts) for a popular summer escape with Melburnians. Foodies will love this pretty corner of Victoria most, as it prides itself on its local produce, with paddock-to-plate dining a feature of the many boutique wineries you can find here. Montalto is one of my favourite vineyards, set among rolling hills, orchards, grapevines and olive groves for a stunning setting. Dining experiences, using produce from the kitchen garden, allow you to eat in front of these spectacular views, while guided tours help you learn more about the farm-to-fork philosophy.
You can visit the peninsula region on a guided day trip from Melbourne, or as your first stop on a self-drive adventure along the Great Ocean Road.
Street art culture
Melbourne is a city overflowing with a dynamic and creative spirit and nothing exemplifies that more than its wealth of a street art. A counter culture that has taken over the city like a giant open-air gallery, it’s impossible not wander down a graffiti-covered lane, even if it’s only by accident. Budding artists use Melbourne’s laneways like a live canvas portfolio, decorating them in vivid urban creations that are ever-changing. Some lanes I think you shouldn’t miss include Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane (named after the famous Australian rock band) and Caledonian Lane.
If you want to get a deeper understand for this vibrant arty quarter, I’d recommend a guided tour, which are often led by one of the local artists and also takes you into of the area’s quirkiest cafés and quaint Victorian arcades.
Shop ‘til you drop
If, like me, you love a spot of retail therapy, Melbourne has got your back. Chapel Street is the city’s premier shopping avenue, where cool cafés sit alongside high-end clothing labels and its bazaar is a treasure trove of trinkets and quirky finds – prepare to lose track of time here. The neighbourhood of Fitzroy is my pick if you like vintage items, while Chadstone Shopping Centre is your one-stop shop, with over 550 boutiques and brands – it’s no wonder it’s nicknamed Melbourne’s fashion capital! With shopping, dining and entertainment, it’s the perfect place for a shopaholic to treat themselves!