Victoria is packed with destinations well-suited for those travelling in an RV, so we hit the road to see what the four regions of the Go Beyond Melbourne route had to offer. With seven days up our sleeve to pack in as much as possible, our travelling extravaganza uncovered a range of experiences within these regions.
Here’s a taste of what you can do in a week when you go beyond Melbourne… and it’s all just 90 minutes from the CBD.
THE GO BEYOND MELBOURNE ROUTE
The Go Beyond Melbourne (GBM) website is an excellent planning resource for the four regions: the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Phillip Island, Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula. While the website provides suggested itineraries to cover a variety of interests, it’s the site’s online trip planning tool that’s a standout.
The tool allowed us to personalise our itinerary, and the map displayed our selections while providing detailed directions and distances between things to help us navigate. Modifications were easy if changes were necessary, and everything could be printed if need be.
The aim of our GBM visit was to experience a good mix of what each of the four regions offered, and we kickstarted things off in the Yarra Valley.
Beginning our trip from the outskirts of Melbourne, we made a beeline up the highway to Yarra Glen. While any time of day is good for something sweet, a mid-morning arrival saw us pull into the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie. Having more than 250 decadent chocolate products to choose from and an abundance of free tastings, you could say our visit was a bit indulgent.
Other than sweets, it’s no secret the Yarra Valley produces some top-notch wines. And with 70 wineries around the valley, there’s plenty of choice. Rochford and DeBortoli wineries were on our radar this time around, with both wineries producing a range of reds and whites.
We timed our visits over a couple of days to coincide with lunch in their restaurants and bought a couple of bottles for the road. We also visited Coombe, which was once home to opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. The property is exceptionally beautiful, with stunning formal gardens through to exquisite wines and a restaurant. Guided tours of her house are also available.
But there’s far more to the Yarra Valley than food and wine. A Segway tour is a unique way to explore the vineyards of Rochford Winery, and a visit to the Healesville Sanctuary will have you getting up close to some iconic Australian wildlife. The sanctuary is also home to the Australian Wildlife Health Centre, so swing by to watch veterinary staff treat and care for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife.
For something special in the Yarra Valley, we took to the skies in a hot air balloon. It was smiles all around as we floated over the picture-perfect vineyards and farms of the valley below. And the smiles didn’t stop once we landed, as this is when the champagne flowed and hot breakfast followed. The valley has the complete gamut of accommodation, and we bunkered down at the Big 4 Yarra Valley Park Lane. The park is situated in a natural bush setting and has a bunch of facilities for those travelling in an RV.
With our time in the Yarra Valley coming to an end and now heading south through the Dandenong Ranges, it was ‘all aboard’ for a ride on the iconic Puffing Billy. For a few hours of fun for the young and young at heart, this century-old steam train is hard to beat. After setting out from Belgrave, the track wends its way over a spectacular trestle bridge, through forests, ending at Lakeside before doing the return journey.
When the island is renowned for its beaches, wildlife encounters, seaside villages and motor racing, it’s little wonder this gem is popular with tourists and those simply looking to escape the city. It’s also one place we’d had on our radar for years, so were very keen to add it to our GBM route to see what we could uncover.
The island’s compact size (26x9km) was easy to get around, using the Anchor Belle Holiday Park in Cowes as our base for a couple of nights. Eco-tourism is a hot activity on the island, so we started with a visit to the Antarctic Journey at Nobbies Centre to learn more about this virtual attraction.
But for a real-life encounter, we couldn’t pass up a visit to the Koala Conservation Centre and the Penguin Parade. Watching hundreds of Little Penguins from a distance while they make their dash up the beach ended up being one of our island highlights.
Besides wildlife experiences, the island’s Grand Prix circuit is world class. Jumping on a circuit tour is the best way to see behind the scenes of the racetrack, which also gives you access to many areas generally off limits. But if you’re a keen revhead, strap yourself in for a session on the go karts. The track is a replica of the Grand Prix circuit and loads of fun.
The island’s got your food needs covered as well, as there’s no shortage of restaurants and cafes serving a range of cuisines. And speaking from experience, chocoholics are also catered for, with the island having its own chocolate factory.
For another nature-based experience within a stone’s throw of Phillip Island, we added a tour of the lesser-known and neighbouring French Island into our itinerary. The island is largely national park and accessed by catamaran from Cowes. This tour was excellent and included transfers, and morning tea/lunch.
We’re glad we added this tour in as we learnt so much about this unspoilt island’s wildlife, history and natural beauty.
Dramatic coastal views, farmgate experiences, fun things to do, and the region’s history are all the things we looked for when planning our Mornington Peninsula stay. We knew it would be a lot to cover, but we were up for the challenge. For this visit, we based ourselves in the middle of the peninsula at the local shire’s foreshore campgrounds in Rosebud.
Heading out to Arthurs Seat, the gondola ride is one activity suitable for folk of all ages. The ride provides stunning views across Port Phillip Bay and towards Melbourne. Another activity that’s suited to the whole family is a visit to the Enchanted Adventure Garden. There’s plenty to do here, including treetop walks, slides, 3D mazes and zip-lining.
For something a little less strenuous, we included a visit to Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park. The park has a range of conservation programs in place for unique and endangered wildlife, which we were super keen to learn more about.
So if you’re working up an appetite from all that exercise and activity, there’s always a winery or two to visit. Wine lovers will be in their element, with over 200 vineyards in this region that produce a variety of cool climate wines.
A single vineyard Pinot Noir accompanied our lunch at Montalto, so we happily picked up a couple of extra bottles to pack into our RV. Another winery we included was Pt Leo Estate at Merricks. The estate is renowned for its wine and restaurant, but also for its modern outdoor sculptures.
Further down the peninsula, we lapped up the dramatic coastal scenery at Cape Schanck and visited the reserve’s 160-year-old lighthouse. Further around the peninsula, the Point Nepean National Park is home to the historical Quarantine Station, which dates back to 1852.
At the end of an action-packed day, it’s easy enough to slow your touring pace down with a visit to the Peninsula Hot Springs. With more than 50 baths of varying temperature, it was a blissful way to end our Mornington Peninsula stay.
A 45-minute ferry ride across Port Phillip Bay from Sorrento to Queenscliff Harbour is all it took to reach our final region. And with the motorhome unloaded shortly after docking, we were on our way before we knew it.
For our Bellarine Peninsula stay, we based ourselves at the Big 4 Beacon Resort at Queenscliff.
With our limited knowledge of the area, we joined a 90-minute heritage walking tour arranged by the visitor’s information centre to learn more. We were quick to learn that Queenscliff oozes history at every turn.
From its buildings and excellent museums, through to its landmarks, the village and surrounding peninsula is steeped in history. Down on the foreshore, Fort Queenscliff was built in 1860 and was just one of our peninsula highlights. Originally built to defend the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, today it’s an active Australian army base with public guided tours available.
Less than 4km from Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale has its own lighthouse tours, while numerous cafes overlooking the foreshore will keep the hunger pangs at bay. Those stunning coastal views are also an ideal opportunity to walk or cycle some of those calories off, or why not have some fun in the sun and hit the beach to swim or surf?
Venturing further up the peninsula, we were keen to visit the Narana Cultural Centre located at Charlemont. Our guide was a wealth of knowledge. He eagerly shared stories of local Aboriginal culture as we walked through the centre’s gardens. Here, we also learnt about local bush tucker and traditional medicines, and we appreciated our guide’s patience while teaching us how to throw a boomerang.
If we hadn’t squeezed enough out of our seven days touring along the Go Beyond Melbourne route by now, our last stop was Geelong’s Gaol Museum. Another place on our list for a while, our visit finally came to fruition.
Without giving too much away, let’s just say our night tour was interesting! Originally opening in 1853, the goal’s history spans nearly 140 years in some shape or form, before closing its doors in the 1990s to become a museum.
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS
We found the four regions of the Go Beyond Melbourne route well-suited for travelling with an RV, with our large RV’s size not posing any issues with parking or access. Our initial research on the Go Beyond Melbourne website made selecting attractions and destinations easy, but it was the trip planning tool that went a long way towards stress-free navigating.
This alone is worth its weight in gold. Yes, we crammed a lot into the seven days we were on the road, and you could easily spend a week or two in each of the regions. So you could say we’re treating our week-long sojourn as an excellent introduction and we can’t wait to go back.