Highlights of Victoria

GOLD Fever!

G’day!

Let me tell you about a place that’s a lot of FUN for little kids AND big kids …

It’s a place where you can literally step back in time and appreciate what was once the region’s “gold era”.

Welcome to Sovereign Hill … an open air museum located in a suburb of Ballarat (approximately 105km WNW of Melbourne).

Main Street at Sovereign Hill

The hub of Sovereign Hill, Main Street

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

HISTORY
The concept of building Sovereign Hill was initially put forward in Ballarat in the 1960s. The idea was to preserve the historic buildings and reconstruct the diggings that made this provincial city flourish. Consequently, the first ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851 is what has been recreated at Sovereign Hill.

And so on Sunday, 29 November 1970, Sovereign Hill as we know it today, was officially opened.

The town of Ballarat is also significant for the Welcome Nugget (not to be confused with the Welcome Stranger which is the largest nugget ever found in 1869 further north of Ballarat near a town called Dunolly). The Welcome Nugget is the world’s second largest gold nugget, weighing in at 69kgs and containing 99% pure gold unearthed in the Red Hill mine in 1858. At the time of discovery, the Welcome Nugget was worth approximately 10, 050 pounds but it is now worth over US$3M in gold (or even more as a specimen).

Welcome Nugget Replica

Replica of the Welcome Nugget, the world’s second largest gold nugget found in Ballarat, Victoria Australia

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

To find out all about the discovery of the Welcome Nugget, you can actually take the self-guided tour of the Red Hill mine which has been recreated at Sovereign Hill.

Gold Panning

Try your luck at panning for gold at Red Hill Gully diggings, Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

TODAY
Sovereign Hill is Ballarat’s most famous attraction and also one of Victoria’s most popular. The experience here is completely immersive, interactive and put simply, so much fun! The main attraction is the gold diggings which feature a winding creek where you can pan for real gold (and keep it)! But what really brings all this to life are the costumed staff and volunteers going about their daily routine of working in a fully operational replica township and who are more than happy to pose for a photo with you making for an extra memorable visit.

Gold Museum

Gold Museum at Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Gold Museum, located on the same site as Sovereign Hill, is also worth a visit. The museum displays an impressive exhibition of gold and extends Sovereign Hill’s story of Ballarat. The building itself is quite striking with its glass façade that lets the sun in to shine on the gold collections.

There are plenty of exciting attractions to visit in this region and Sovereign Hill in Ballarat is just one of them. To find out more about this area, here are a couple of links (including one where you can join our day tour if you’re not up to driving there yourself):
•    http://visitballarat.com.au/things-to-do.aspx
•    http://www.grayline.com.au/australia-sightseeing/melbourne-day-tours/sovereign-hill-tours

Always welcome any comments you may have!

Explore Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula

Traditional and colourful bathing boxes are an icon of the region.

Mornington Peninsula is a favourite among locals and it’s easy to understand why. With such diversity in offerings such as pristine beaches, picturesque wineries, boutique shopping, coastal walks, health and wellness pampering, gourmet eateries, intimate galleries, marine activities, history and heritage, family activities and fantastic variety of tours.
It’s such a lovely region to visit year round but of course being on a peninsula, it is especially busy during the warmer months. There are numerous beaches to check out from the calm waters of the front beach in Sorrento to the wave crashing, great surf conditions of Rye Ocean Beach.

T'Gallant Winery

Picturesque vineyard of T’Gallant Winery on the Mornington Peninsula.

When it comes to nature trails, two spots come to mind worth doing … Millionaire’s Walk in Sorrento. An easy 1.5km return cliff top walk with stunning ocean vistas, you’ll walk past some of the most magnificent properties of which many have their own private jetties with gorgeously built boat houses! Located at the very tip of the peninsula, Point Nepean National Park is most significant for its role in shaping the early settlement, quarantine and defence of the state of Victoria. Here you can explore historic Quarantine Station, military forts and tunnels or just enjoy the spectacular coastal environment.

Peninsula Hot Springs

Peninsula Hot Springs – first natural hot springs and day spa centre in Victoria.

For some luxe pampering, a favourite place is Peninsula Hot Springs. This was the first natural hot springs and day spa centre in the state. There are two bathing facilities to cater for everyone, Bath House and Spa Dreaming Centre. The Bath House has over 20 bathing experiences from cold plunge pools, reflexology walk, massaging thermal mineral showers and Turkish steam bath to name a few. The Spa Dreaming Centre is more exclusive for guests 16 years and older. The emphasis here is on tranquil spaces, private pools and spa treatments to revitalise body, mind and spirit.

Golf enthusiasts are well catered for with numerous world class courses to tee off. Here are a few to look into; Moonah Links Golf Course, Eagle Ridge Golf Course, Dunes Golf Course and St Andrews Beach Golf Club.

The easiest way to get to the peninsula from Melbourne CBD is to self-drive (suggest the scenic way along the bay) or join an organised day tour (so you won’t have to worry about navigating the roads). Whichever you choose, you’ll not be disappointed spending the day in this stunning region.

Have you visited Mornington Peninsula? If so, what were the highlights for you?

Romantic Ideas in and around Melbourne

Zios Restaurant

Valentine’s Day dining at Zio’s Restaurant

Hang on; Valentine’s Day is this Friday!?  For those not romantically inclined, this popular day for celebrating love can seem to creep up way too soon after Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  With limited time to sort something out or for those who need ideas for next time, here are some suggestions on what to do together on Valentine’s Day in Australia’s city of love: Melbourne.

Melbourne is bursting at the seams with new food and drink hangouts amongst old favourites.  Enjoy afternoon cocktails at Naked in the Sky; the rooftop bar is very popular due to its massive range of infused vodkas and fancy cocktails, trendy atmosphere and spectacular unspoilt views of the city.  Afterwards there are plenty of eateries along Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, for something not too fancy but still absolutely delicious, try the oriental delights at Rice Queen. However, Valentine’s Day is a day to spoil your loved one somewhere small, intimate, quiet, special and has exceptional food and wine.  You then can’t go past Zio’s Restaurant in East Melbourne, set in a small terraced building; Zio’s has a range of food to cater for all tastes in the perfect setting for a romantic dinner, if it’s cold there’s even a few wooden fireplaces.  There’s no better way to spoil the one you love than to get them Zio’s famous chocolate soufflé for dessert, it’s heavenly.

Valentine’s Day luckily falls on a Friday, so why not spread the romance over the rest of the weekend!  If the weather is nice, Melbourne is scattered with many parks and gardens to explore. The Cranbourne Botanic Gardens, around an hour out of the city is a huge park showcasing Australia’s large variety of beautiful native plants; the park is perfect as a lunch spot and a walk.  Your traditionally romantic English-style gardens such as the Fitzroy Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens provide stunning settings for picnics, there are plenty of paths to walk around and the lush green grass is perfect to lie on for a bit of relaxation.

Melbourne is only a few hours’ drive to the rolling green pastures of the Yarra Valley, an area synonymous with romance.  A day in the Yarra Valley region can easily be done by car and at your own pace.  To impress your loved one on Valentine’s Day you can’t go past tasting fine wines at the Dominique Portet cellar door set in a romantic French style building. The Yarra Valley Dairy cannot be missed for their award winning marinated fetta, perhaps take a cheese platter and sit out on their deck taking in the serene views of the valley.  A few hours can also easily be spent at Hedgend Maze, hidden down a dirt track; this delightful hedge maze is great fun. You are given a list of clues and you need to match the clues with various objects you find in the maze to be able to solve the mystery.  There’s also mini golf, Frisbee golf or relax in the beautifully manicured gardens with an ice cream.

Chinese New Year in Melbourne

Building the Dockland’s Dragon ready for it’s launch!

After an intense sporting period in Melbourne with the MCG playing host to the Boxing Day Test of Australia versus England and the Australian Tennis Open which was played out to large crowds things have returned to a steady summer buzz.

Chinese New Year celebrations took place on many of the streets of Melbourne over the weekend but if you missed out then you can still catch the ‘Docklands Dragon’, a 100m long illuminated Chinese dragon in Melbourne’s Docklands starting today until the Sunday 16th February. In conjunction with this there is also nightly entertainment between 6.30 – 7.30pm including Chinese music and dance, street theatre and stalls. More details can be found on the Destination Docklands website.

If the heat of thecity is too much then why not head down to the Mornington Peninsula located about 1 hour out of Melbourne. It’s a great place to explore stunning bay side beaches, excellent farm gate experiences, a wide selection of boutique wineries or to indulge in a hot springs experience at Peninsula Hot Springs or make the most of summer with some strawberry picking at Sunnyridge Strawberry Farm.

Exploring the Yarra Valley Wine Region

Experience the best of the Yarra Valley with a tour of this popular wine region. The Giant Steps winery, located outside Melbourne, likes to do things differently. For a start, it’s not just about the wine: there’s also tea, coffee and pastries to savour on site. Then there are the cheeses, beers from as far afield as Spain and even handmade chocolates for sale. It all lacks pretension, which owner Phil Sexton says is exactly their aim.

The Yarra’s biggest wine producer, De Bortoli, operates a similar business model. The casual dining experience offered at their Locale restaurant contrasts with the formality of the setting.

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Gray Line’s Great Ocean Road Day Tour for Cruise Passengers

A visitor from Sweden once asked an Australian tourism website if he could walk from Perth to Sydney. Maybe, he suggested, he could follow the railroad tracks? Certainly, the website responded, it’s only three thousand miles, just be sure to take plenty of water. And they meant a lot of water – according to Google, the most direct route from Perth to Sydney would take 745 hours to walk, or 31 days non-stop, including a well-deserved break on a ferry across the Spencer Gulf.

Visitors and Australians alike are routinely taken aback by the vastness of Australia. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in a country whose smallest state is roughly the size of Ireland, and whose largest cattle station is roughly the size of Belgium. The question for travellers is often how to maximise their time in Australia, and cover as much distance as comfortably as they can.

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Victorian Holiday Gems

There are many good reasons to choose a Victorian holiday. Victoria is a favourite destination of international and domestic visitors and it is a state that is as beautiful as it is diverse and charming.

Gems of Victoria: Melbourne tours, Great Ocean Road tours… the list goes on

When in Victoria, visitors have an extensive choice of tours that enable them to see some of the gems — the best features of the state. No visit to Victoria is complete without spending time in its ‘crown jewel’ or capital city, Melbourne, and a Melbourne tour is by far the best way to gain insight and learn fascinating information about this historic, culturally rich and dynamic global city.

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Short Guide to Lorne, Victoria

Lorne is one of Victoria’s most beautiful and loved seaside towns. A definite inclusion on every Great Ocean Road tour, Lorne is popular all year round and offers something for everyone — no matter what they desire from a holiday or day trip.

Location

The location of Lorne, some 140 kilometres from Melbourne, puts it in easy reach of Victoria’s capital city. Many visitors who undertake Melbourne tours are inspired to explore the state further and Lorne and the Great Ocean Road feature heavily as destinations of choice with tourists from all over the world.

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A History of the Loch Ard Shipwreck

The Loch Ard is arguably Victoria’s best known shipwreck and remains a source of fascination for many travellers who take a Great Ocean Road tour. This ship, which sailed between 1873 and 1878, has an interesting history and, today, many people love to relive and learn about the final voyage of the Loch Ard.

What is known about the final voyage of the Loch Ard?

On March 2, 1878, the Loch Ard departed England destined for Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne. The ship was under the command of 29-year-old Captain Gibbs and was full to its capacity of 17 passengers, 37 crew and cargo when it collided with a rocky reef close to Mutton Bird Island, near Port Campbell. Tragically, only two of the people on board survived the accident: one of the ship’s apprentices named Tom Pearce and a young female passenger named Eva Carmichael.

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How to See the Best of Victoria

Victoria is a state of incredible beauty and plenty of activity. In Victoria, modern architecture and innovation is juxtaposed with its classic and historic counterparts and diversity is celebrated in so many ways. Of course, Melbourne is a vibrant and dynamic city and is a must see on the itinerary of any visitor to Victoria, but there are many other fabulous parts of the state which are well worth a visit.

It is quite likely that you will have a limited amount of time when you visit Victoria. In spite of this, it is almost certain that you will want to make the most of your time and see the very best that Victoria has to offer. How can this be achieved?

Join tours:

Organised tours are the very best way to see different parts of Victoria and really engage with what you are seeing and experiencing. It is only on an organised tour that you can be guaranteed to see the absolute highlights and be provided with interesting and credible information that enables you to better appreciate the amazing sights that confront you.

So, what are some of the best day tours that will give you a taste of the best of the state of Victoria?

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