South East touring triangle

South East
touring triangle

There are plenty of sights in the immediate area around
Melbourne and those with just a few days to spare can still
take in plenty of Victoria’s attractions on this three-day loop out
from the city – from vineyards to towering forests and secluded
surfing beaches to wildlife in bush walks, dolphin
swims to steam trains.
On day one, head northeast from Melbourne into the Yarra Valley. This is wine country and you’ll find plenty of vineyards offering tours and tastings in the area. Try De Bortoli Winery for cool climate whites and a cheese shop selling local and international cheeses, or visit Rochford Winery for more cellar door tastings or even a segway tour through the vines!

Head further west and just south of the town of Healesville on Badger Creek Road you’ll find Healesville Sanctuary. This internationally renowned wildlife haven is home to more than 200 different species of animal and birdlife, all living in a natural bush setting. You’ll see kangaroos and koalas here but don’t miss the native platypus – these are fiendishly difficult to see in the wild.

Head south to the Dandenong Ranges national park next, where a blue haze emanates from the forests of gum trees.

There are many easy bush walks here and spectacular views back to Melbourne from the SkyHigh observatory at the top of the ridge. There are also several enticing gardens and parks in the area and if you’re here between September and November a visit to the National Rhododendron Garden should not be missed for its riot of colour.

Just south of the ranges is the Puffing Billy steam train station at Belgrave where you can join the century-old steam train on its journey east to Lakeside and Gembrook. There’s no better way to explore the forests and fern gullies of this area – making the perfect end to your first day’s touring.

On day two head further south to Phillip Island, a small but attraction-packed island which is joined to the mainland by a bridge. Make your first stop here the Chocolate Factory where you can make your own chocolate and stock up on snacks for the day ahead.

South East touring triangle. Illustration by Lisa Joanes

From here it’s a short drive to the Koala Conservation Centre where two treetop boardwalks lead through the eucalypts to take you up close to these popular Aussie critters. You can find out everything you ever wanted to know about koalas at the interactive visitor centre, while the walking tracks through the bush are a good place to spot wallabies, echidnas and numerous varieties of birdlife.

More wildlife can be seen offshore, where Seal Rocks are home to Australia’s largest fur seal colony. Get amongst it on a two-hour Wildlife Coast Cruise, departing from Cowes, and look out also for dolphins and seabirds. Spend the night on the island and take in its main attraction: the heartwarming Penguin Parade. This daily spectacle sees thousands of Little Penguins emerge from the sea and cross the beach to reach their burrows – there really is nothing quite like it and visitors of all ages are sure to be charmed by these diminutive seabirds.

On day three depart Phillip Island for the Mornington Peninsula. This Mediterranean-like boot-shaped peninsula is home to colourful beach huts and historic houses, vineyards with welcoming cellar doors and a gloriously picturesque coastline. Start your exploration at Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens where you can lose the morning in Australia’s largest hedge maze. Once you’ve made your escape, wander through the flowering lavender gardens and be sure to complete the world’s first circular rose maze before you leave.

A short drive away is Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, the ideal place to stop for lunch. You can pick your own fresh berries or indulge in everything from chocolate-dipped strawberries to farm-made strawberry ice cream in the café. After a healthy lunch, join Moonraker Dolphin Swims for a trip out into Port Phillip Bay to snorkel with the resident bottlenose dolphins and see yet more fur seals.

Finish the day, and your tour, at Peninsula Hot Springs. This is Australia’s only natural thermal spa and features mineral-rich thermal pools across two separate facilities: the family-friendly Bath House with its hilltop pool, Turkish steam pool and sauna, and the Spa Dreaming Centre where private bathing and a full range of spa treatments are available.

Return to Melbourne in the evening or extend your stay by spending an extra night relaxing in one of the sleepy fishing villages.

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