Hanging Rock is a hidden geological gem, located around 45 minutes north west of the Melbourne CBD. Popular with the locals, its one of those fabulous spots that you'll be lucky enough to visit if you know someone 'in the know' but would otherwise go missed. Never mind, because now you're in the know and can add this spectacular location to your 'to do' list when visiting Melbourne!
It's a little off the beaten track, so you'll need a car to visit Hanging Rock. You'll cruise along City Link for a portion of the ride, which is a toll road, so make sure to organise this with your rental company or buy a pass / make sure the car has an eTag if you're borrowing a car as there are no toll booths along the way.
At over 6 million years old, this magnificent rock formation has seen a lot in its time and is a prominent Aboriginal site in the area. For those keen on geology, you will appreciate being able to see and climb this rare volcanic structure, known as a 'mameleon' or more commonly a 'volcanic plug'. In fact, it is one of the best examples of this kind of natural structure in the whole world.
At only 45 minutes from the CBD, on the Tullamarine and Calder Freeways, it makes a stop on a bigger adventure to the Macedon and Spa Country region of Victoria or a great way to spend part of a day. It is also only around 25 minutes away from the Melbourne Airport, so may make a great pit stop if you've got part of a day free before flying out.
The state of Victoria is split up into many regions, with the Otways being just one. Situated around 2 hours to the west of Melbourne, and encompassing parts of the famed Great Ocean Road, the Otways are a diverse and spectacular destination filled with many wonderful natural attractions.
If you head a little inland from all of the tourists at the 12 apostles, you'll be rewarded with a spectacular sub tropical microclimate that is home to soaring gums and spectacular waterfalls. It is popular with those who love to hike as well as those who enjoy a leisurely stroll and if you really want to experience the diversity of the forest, all the way from forest floor, to the upper canopy, then the Otway Fly is for you!
Located in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, around 1 hour's drive from the Melbourne CBD, lies Puffing Billy, one of Australia's best preserved and most loved steam railways. Featuring a range of locomotives, including the rare wood fuelled Climax steam engine, this scenic railway meanders its way from Belgrave to Gembrook, with a multitude of stops in between.
With soaring trestle bridges and open carts (yes you can hang your legs out!), Puffing Billy has long been a favourite day trip for Melbourne families and tourists alike. It's leisurely pace allows you to fully experience the beautiful sub tropical rainforest that this area is known for and if you are lucky you may even spot a kookaburra or a wombat on the way.
Whether you are visiting for a few days or just for the weekend, Melbourne is a diverse city that offers something for everyone. Whilst we love Melbourne in the Summer, it is hard for us to look past the other seasons, particularly Autumn, which for many, offers more comfortable weather for exploring than the heat that can be experienced over the summer months.
No matter what time of year you come, or what you come to see, finding a well located hotel with great amenities, food and transport options is essential. For us, this was met and exceeded by the Holiday Inn on Flinders, and allowed us to have a fabulous Melbourne getaway.
When it comes to finding a tour, whether that be in your own city or afar, there are a few ways you can go about it. In the past I've searched online myself and booked a tour 'hoping' that it would be good and cover everything that I wanted to see and experience.
Whilst I've often had great experiences, I've also been let down by companies like Expedia, particularly the time in Gibraltar, where my tour was cancelled at 9pm the night prior and it cost me hundreds of Euros to rearrange a private tour so I wouldn't miss out.
Aside from the extreme, sometimes I've found the tours a little underwhelming and with little recourse other than leaving a negative comment online, it left a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
That being said, when it came to undertaking a laneway tour of the Melbourne CBD, I decided to leave it to the experts. With access to hundreds of top level tours available around the world, I knew that I would be in good hands when Freedom Road Travel took care of our booking. Unlike the impersonal service you get online, the experienced consultant at Freedom Road Travel arranged a luxury tour with tour provider Abercrombie and Kent that managed to teach a local Melbournian quite a bit more about her home town.
Often visited in a loop from Alice Springs, alongside Uluru and Kata Tjuta, King's Canyon is one of Australia's most spectacular natural landmarks. Unlike the cavernous swimming holes found in places such as Karinjini National Park in the Pilbara, King's Canyon is a site best explored by foot and air.
Located in the Watarrka National Park, it is easily accessibly with a 2WD and can be explored independently or with a group. We did the 'rim walk' which is the most popular and spectacular option. At a grade 4 walk, you will need to be fit, as your first challenge is a steep climb known locally as 'heart attack hill'. Don't worry, we lived to tell the tale and even had a 70 year old woman in our group who powered ahead of many of us younger folk.
Unlike most countries in the world, Aussies drive on the left. Unlike the UK, which is full of tricky round abouts, most large intersections in Australia operate using a traffic light system, which can make it a little less confusing.
When driving in Australia, you do need to ensure that you are correctly licensed and that you are aware of the road rules. Some basic rules are you need to stay under 0.05 blood alcohol, 0.00 if you are a new driver and on P plates (the first 3 years of driving) and to be aware of the speed limit. There are a lot of police and road traffic cameras on Australian roads, so don't be alarmed if you are pulled over for a random breath test. Speeding fines are issued for any speed over 3kmh (1.9mph) over the marked speed limit, so it is essential that you don't speed, or it can add up very quickly!
Australia has great roads and freeways that connect its cities and there are many interesting places to stop on the way. On popular routes (don't expect it in the outback!) you'll regularly find rest stops with petrol and take away stops to refuel your car and yourself. There are also many interesting towns to visit along the way, giving you an 'authentic' Australian experience.
Located around 1 hour east of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is Victoria's premiere cool climate wine region. Best known for its sparkling wine, chardonnay, shiraz and pinot noir, the Yarra Valley has long been a popular day trip for Melburnians and visitors alike.
With over 160 wineries and 300 vineyards, there is no shortage of choice and many wineries offer fantastic food to boot. Whilst there are many smaller vineyards in the valley, you'll certainly recognise the name Moët, with Moët & Chandon's 'Domain Chandon' winery being one of the most popular places to stop.
Like many of us who do not explore our local area nearly enough, I am guilty of growing up on the outskirts of the Yarra Valley, and even having a sister who lives in the Valley, but not going on a wine tasting day. When we were invited on a day trip with Wine Bus Winery tours, we jumped at the opportunity to better explore the Valley's wine culture and we weren't disappointed.
The Most Liveable City in the World
Whilst the results of this survey are geared towards living in a city, surely being liveable also makes it visitable. With a big focus on free and cost effective events, Melbourne comes alive over the summer months and buzzes with positive vibes. Summer runs from December to February in Australia, with the warm weather continuing well into March.
As a multicultural city, we love welcoming new people from around the world and you will find that locals are friendly and willing to help you or have a chat. Daylight savings means that there's plenty of daylight to enjoy and the outdoor lifestyle is perfect for the warm weather.
If that's not convincing enough, we've put together a compelling list of reasons that you need to visit Melbourne in the summer.
5 Reasons Summer in Melbourne is Unmissable
Darwin is the northern most capital city of Australia and is situated in the Northern Territory. It is a gateway to areas of interest such as Kakadu and Litchfield National parks as well as Arnhem Land.
It is most easily reached by air and is both a domestic and international port. Alternatively you can drive, catch an interstate bus or take The Ghan from Adelaide or Alice Springs.
I'll let you in on a little secret. Most Australian's don't holiday here (they don't know what they're missing out on!), favouring Asia or the East Coast, so tourism wise its relatively quiet and bordering on remote if you head out to the right parts of the national parks. Sounds perfect huh?!