Classic road trip series: Explore Central Victoria

The state is dotted with historic country cities and towns, and you never have to travel too far to see something amazing. Here we bring you some Central Victoria road trip ideas. Start your journey with a couple of days in cosmopolitan Melbourne, then hit the open road!


Melbourne has been ranked the world’s most liveable city by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) several times, and is best known for its street art, cafes, museums and galleries, sporting calendar and live music. There is so much to see and do here, so give yourself at least two full days to explore. Must-sees include the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne Museum and Melbourne Zoo. The city is also famous for its dining scene, with many restaurants located on famous Lygon Street.

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Ride Melbourne’s City Circle tram. Image: Bigstock

Traralgon (160 kilometres)

From Melbourne, set your GPS for the stunning Latrobe Valley region, but take a coastal detour to tick off some incredible natural landscapes. Phillip Island is the penguin capital of Australia! Visitors watch on every night of the year as the resident little blue penguins leave the ocean at sunset after a day of fishing and waddle their way across the beach to their burrows for the night.

Further east, Victoria’s most popular national park is Wilsons Promontory. Affectionately known as ‘The Prom’, this is one of the best places in the country to spot wombats in the wild. Birdlife is also abundant it the park, and there are plenty of walks that will introduce you to the region and its inhabitants.

Heading north towards Traralgon, make sure you don’t miss seeing another great national park – Tarra Bulga. There are fabulous walks to suit every level of fitness. The Corrigan suspension bridge and Cyathea Falls walks offer a great taste of the region. If you’re lucky, you might also spot some of the beautiful lyrebirds who live in the park.

Related: Top 5 Regional Towns in Victoria

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Phillip Island
Phillip Island Penguin Parade. Image: Destination Phillip Island

Lakes Entrance (157 kilometres)

Continue heading east through the lush green countryside and into the Gippsland region. Your destination is gorgeous Lakes Entrance – a piece of coastal paradise that’s popular with stressed Melburnians looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Swimming, surfing, boating on the lakes, fishing and bird watching are all possible ways to spend your time. Alternatively, just relax and immerse yourself in the extraordinary natural beauty of the region.

Related: Relaxing Road Trips: Melbourne to Lakes Entrance

Need a place to stay?

Comfort Inn & Suites Emmanuel boasts a lakefront position in the heart of Lakes Entrance. The hotel is also within easy walking distance of cafes and restaurants and makes the perfect base for exploring everything the Lakes region has to offer.

Soak up the coastal vibe in Lakes Entrance. Image: Josie Withers

Wangaratta (309 kilometres)

Head north, skirting around the High Country, and make your way towards food and wine hub Wangaratta in the north-east corner of the state. The picturesque town of Bright is located roughly half way and will make a great lunch stop.

Travel on to Beechworth, home to several historical sites relating to the life and misadventures of Australia’s most infamous outlaw – Ned Kelly. Visit the court house in which he was sentenced, and learn more about his life at the Ned Kelly Vault Museum. Beechworth also offers no end of delicious delights to sample. If you want to work off those excess treats, head for nearby Mount Pilot National Park. The summit of Mount Pilot is a 300 metre climb from the car park, and the Woolshed Falls make a great spot to stop and relax.

Wangaratta is just a short drive from Beechworth, and here you’ll discover gorgeous period architecture, amazing Italian cuisine, yet more stories of bushrangers, and the Milawa Gourmet Region and wineries of the King Valley within easy reach.

Need a place to stay?

Quality Hotel Wangaratta Gateway features a range of stylish and sophisticated room types, along with a popular in-house restaurant and bar.

Aussie towns bucket list 2020
Foodies will love the Milawa Gourmet Region outside Wangaratta. Image: Visit Victoria

Shepparton (100 kilometres)

Like Wangaratta, Shepparton offers easy access to a range of gourmet food experiences. Drop by the Fryers Street Food Store for a broad taste of everything that makes the region a foodie’s delight. You’ll also want to snap selfies with some of the city’s famous herd of 90 multi-coloured cow sculptures. To learn more about the history of Shepparton, spend a couple of hours browsing the artefacts on display at the Heritage Centre Museum.

As a bit of a side trip, head north-east to the Murray River town of Echuca. It found fame in the 1980s television mini-series All The Rivers Run, and you can get in character on board a heritage paddle steamer. The boat that starred as the Philadelphia on the show is still working the river today. Sit on the bow and enjoy a relaxing journey on this iconic waterway.

Go Further: Top things to do in Swan Hill: Activities and attractions

Need a place to stay?

Overlooking Victoria Lake, Shepparton’s Quality Hotel Parklake is the largest hotel in town and features modern room styles and plenty of amenities.

best Bush Christmas
Shepparton’s Moooving Art cows. Image: Alamy

Bendigo (120 kilometres)

And finally, cruise south-west through the rural countryside to the gold rush town of Bendigo. Its exquisite Victorian-era architecture was literally built on the wealth extracted from the goldfields in the 1850s and 60s. Bendigo is a destination with something to offer everyone. Kids can learn about the night sky and experiment with science at the Discovery Science and Technology Centre. History buffs will love riding the Vintage Talking Trams or head below ground at the Central Deborah Gold Mine. Culture vultures can explore the epic collection at the Bendigo Art Gallery, or get in touch with their own artistic side at Bendigo Pottery.

From Bendigo, it’s a two-hour drive back to Melbourne.

Need a place to stay?

Quality Inn Colonial is conveniently located on the approach into town from Melbourne, while the fabulously contemporary Quality Hotel Lakeside sits opposite glorious Lake Weeroona.

Bendigo Historic Post Office
Bendigo Historic Post Office. Image: Bendigo Tourism

About the writers

Jade Johnston is based in Melbourne Australia and loves to explore the city and the rest of Australia when she is not traipsing around the world with her husband and a toddler. She records all her adventures on her blog,, where she provides inspirational stories, destination guides, budget guides, and top travel tips.

Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.


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