Top five road trips in Victoria
As a place to go for a drive Victoria has all the boxes ticked.
1. The Black Spur
(Healesville to Narbethong)
The Black Spur section of the Maroondah Highway connecting Healesville to the Central Highlands isn’t long, but don’t think you can do it in the blink of an eye.
On its hairpin turns, you could well be stuck behind a logging truck or Eildon-bound caravan - but that’s to your advantage as the majesty of the mountain ash forest you’re enveloped in needs to be absorbed slowly and deeply.
The trees are among the highest flowering plants on Earth and are so tightly packed together that the sun barely penetrates through to the forest floor. The fern gullies are also spectacular. This stretch of road has virtually no places to pull in and admire these giants up close.
If you want to check out the forest, keep driving to Marysville then loop back via the Acheron Way to Mt Donna Buang (a sealed but very narrow road) or return to Healesville and drive up into Toolangi State Forest. Glory awaits at every turn.
Don’t miss Marysville. It has re-grown from the devastation of Black Saturday and the forest is slowly but surely doing the same.
2. Great Ocean Road
(Torquay to Peterborough)
The popularity of this unique stretch of Victorian coast shows no sign of diminishing. It’s almost as famous as Uluru or the Great Barrier Reef. That’s because the journey itself is the destination.
On one side, the Southern Ocean is spectacular not matter what season or time of day. On the other, you’re against sheer cliffs but only for as long as it takes to round a promontory and dip into holiday havens such as Lorne and Apollo Bay, or pull up at the beaches of Wye River, Skenes Creek or Princetown. Then there are the amazing rock formations and coves near Port Campbell. Try pulling away from the splendour of the coast now and then for the hidden treasures off the main road.
The region has the best waterfalls in Victoria, so seek out Beauchamp, Triplet or Hopetoun Falls (all near Beech Forest) or Carisbrook (near Apollo Bay). When then tide is right, walk out to old anchors embedded in the rocks at Wreck Beach. Try the great variety of cheese at Apostle Whey, near Princetown.
Don’t miss the unique stand of Californian redwood trees planted near Beech Forest in the 1930s - their size and colour are remarkable.
3. Great Alpine Road
(Wangaratta to Bairnsdale)
For most of the year only a fraction of the Great Alpine Road is used to visit the ski resorts of Mount Hotham and Falls Creek. The rest of the time, it’s the ultimate Victorian road trip that needs several days to do it justice.
Leaving the Gippsland Lakes behind, the road north from Bairnsdale is a steady climb with the bubbling Tambo River an almost constant presence on your right. Omeo is a well-preserved gold town and you’ll find other touchpoints of Victoria’s golden heritage as you approach Mount Hotham. Well-prepared hikers can follow the trail from Mt Hotham to Mount Feathertop.
The descent to the Ovens Valley is short but steep and winding but, if it’s autumn, you’ll be rewarded with the foliage colour in Bright. Don’t ignore the side trip up Mount Buffalo, with its array of wondrous rock formations, trails and panoramic views. The final stretch flows through classic eucalypt country to Wangaratta.
Don’t miss Milawa, the gourmet capital of the north-east, for its wine, cheese, honey and mustards.
4. South Gippsland Highway
(Lang Lang to Wilsons Promontory)
Gippsland is rarely less than captivating and the road to Wilsons Promontory starts along the prettiest section of national highway in the state. At first you roll through gentle green hills dotted with dairy cattle.
The major towns of Korumburra and Leongatha are easily negotiated and, if you haven’t brought your picnic lunch, the Koonwarra Store is renowned for food and wine or sample the lip-smacking Trulli Woodfire Pizza in Meeniyan.
Turn off the highway and head south through Fish Creek and Yanakie as the hills gradually give way to low coastal scrub. At every turn you’ll anticipate that first view of the haunting peaks of Wilsons Promontory, the southernmost point of the mainland and one of Victoria’s great natural icons.
Don’t miss Fish Creek, for its great array of art and craft outlets.
5. Calder Highway
(Bendigo to Mildura)
You don’t need to go to central Australia to see the outback. The Mallee is wide, flat and open - just not as red. Along the Calder Highway you’ll find unique traits in each community.
Inglewood has the intriguing eucalyptus museum, with a working distillery. Wedderburn’s old general store is a step back in time. At 148m above sea level (and just 43m above the surrounding town), Mount Wycheproof is the lowest official mountain in Australia.
Whether in daylight or when the stars are out, Lake Tyrrell, near Sea Lake, produces mesmerising reflections off its salty surface. Ouyen is the spiritual home of the vanilla slice. While driving between towns, count all the grain silos and enjoy the vastness of this fabulous part of Victoria.
Don’t miss The Bakehouse near the bridge in Bridgewater for the best jelly slice in the state.