Victoria offers a wealth of fabulous short break destinations, and post pandemic, Victorians have a new incentive to get out and explore their own backyard. The Victorian Government’s Regional Travel Voucher Scheme is offering households a $200 voucher towards the cost of accommodation, tourist attractions and tours in regional Victoria. To be eligible, a household must spend a minimum of $400 and stay at least two nights. The initiative is proving hugely popular, with the first allocation of vouchers snapped up in a few hours. Final vouchers will be released on 30th March.
If you’ve been lucky enough to scoop a voucher, it’s time to start planning your short break. Here are five suggested destinations, all of which can be done for around $400 for two people including two nights’ accommodation and activities. For more inspo, head to choicehotels.com and browse the full range of accommodation options across Victoria. Book direct for a Lowest Price Guarantee!
The queen of Victoria’s Goldfields region, Bendigo is situated just under two hours’ drive north of Melbourne. It’s perfect for a short break at any time of the year, surprisingly affordable, and will suit history lovers, foodies and culture vultures. Bendigo Art Gallery houses an expansive collection of Australian art and entry is free for the general collection. The gallery also hosts world-class touring events, and from late March to early July, the Mary Quant exhibition ($25pp) – showcasing the swinging London fashion of the sixties designer – is sure to be another big hit.
Spend some time admiring the city’s splendid gold rush-era architecture (pick up a free walking tour map from the Visitor Information Centre) and exploring tranquil Rosalind Park. Experience the harsh life of a gold miner on a guided underground tour of the Central Deborah Gold Mine ($32pp), then board one of Bendigo’s famous Vintage Talking Trams for a hop on hop off tour of the key tourist sites ($10pp).
Horsham is located roughly 3.5 hours’ drive north-west of Melbourne and is the main town of the Wimmera. It’s a great base for doing the increasingly popular Silo Art Trail, which links several country towns and features large scale murals painted on grain silos. The Rupanyup silo by Julia Volchkova is around 30 minutes’ drive from Horsham, and from there, there are sites roughly every thirty minutes until you reach Patchewollock. Doing the trail is free of charge. The only cost will be your petrol and lunch (and there’s no shortage of classic country pubs along the way where you can get a good value counter meal).
Horsham is also the northern gateway to the wonders of the Grampians National Park, which offers plenty of ways to fill your second day. There are ample hiking opportunities and the chance to discover age-old Aboriginal rock art. Consider splashing out on a wine tour with Grampians Wine Tours (from $80pp) or explore the region on a trike tour with Grampians Trike Tours (from $30pp). Both depart from Halls Gap.
Where to stay: Comfort Inn Capital Horsham is contemporary in style and features an award-winning on-site eatery – Capital Bistro. Comfort Inn May Park is located on the northern edge of the CBD, within walking distance of cafes and restaurants.
3. Apollo Bay
Roughly 2.5 hours’ drive from Melbourne, beautiful Apollo Bay needs little introduction. Nestled between the rugged coast of the famous Great Ocean Road and the lush forests of the Great Otway National Park, this is a popular spot, but it can be done on a budget. Weather permitting, start by hitting the beach (free!), or learn to hang ten with a surfing lesson with Apollo Bay Surf and Kayak ($70pp). They also offer a guided sea kayak tour to visit a nearby colony of fur seals ($85pp).
You’ve seen the coast up close, now get to know the lush Otways. Otway Fly Treetop Adventures offers amazing views of the forest canopy from the elevated Rainforest and Treetop Walk ($25pp), and you can upgrade your ticket to include a thrilling zipline tour.
Where to stay: Comfort Inn The International is located right opposite the beach and offers beautifully presented and generously sized rooms. Walk to shops, cafes and restaurants and make use of the complimentary Wi-Fi.
Related: Top 5 Regional Towns in Victoria
4. Swan Hill
Basking on the banks of the iconic Murray River, history buffs will be in their element in Swan Hill, located just under four hours’ drive north-west of Melbourne. Step back in time at the Pioneer Settlement – the town’s premier attraction. This outdoor museum recreates life for the region’s early European settlers. Purchase a 3-in-1 multi-pass ($74pp) to enjoy a day at the museum, a cruise on the Murray paddle steamer PS Pyap, and entry to the night time laser light spectacular Heartbeat of the Murray, which takes place at the Pioneer Settlement.
Nearby Lake Boga served as an important maintenance base for the famed Catalina flying boats of World War II. See a restored Catalina PBY5 and various other historical exhibits at the Flying Boat Museum ($10pp). Wrap up your weekend on the Murray with a stroll along the 4.5-kilometre Riverwalk or a picnic in Riverside Park.
Where to stay: Comfort Inn Campbell offers a range of room types and is just a ten-minute walk from the Pioneer Settlement. Neighbouring Comfort Inn Lady Augusta offers spa rooms and executive suites, and guests enjoy complimentary parking and Wi-Fi.
5. Lakes Entrance
The idyllic coastal town of Lakes Entrance, four hours’ drive east from Melbourne, is the gateway to the pristine waterways of the Gippsland Lakes and famous Ninety Mile Beach. Switch over to relaxation mode and head out to explore. The Entrance Walk will take you along the edge of Lake Cunningham to the actual Entrance, and you may spot seals and dolphins cavorting near the shoreline. For a different take on the town’s foreshore, join a guided tour on two wheels with Lakes Entrance Segway ($89pp). It’s easy! Anyone can master it.
This is the Lakes, so you have to do a cruise. And there are lots of options. Lonsdale Eco Cruises ($60pp) offers a daily departure that takes in all the key sights, and a delicious Devonshire tea is included. Landlubbers may prefer to head inland to explore the ancient under world at the Buchan Caves. See stalactites, stalagmites, and other limestone formations on a guided tour ($23.40pp).
Where to stay: Comfort Inn and Suites Emmanuel offers lakefront vistas and has a seasonal outdoor pool and spa, BBQ facilities and a kids’ play area.
About the writer
Louise Reynolds is a Melbourne-based freelance travel writer. Louise made up her mind at the age of about four that she would one day travel the world – and has so far visited around 30 countries spread across five continents. Her favourite way to explore the world is on foot and her boots have taken her walking on famous trails in Europe, South America and New Zealand.