Proving that good things really do come in small packages, Australia’s smallest mainland state is the most densely populated in the country and home to some of the world’s great natural wonders. Stretching from the glorious Mornington Peninsula coastline to the iconic Murray River, Victoria is an enviable location providing the very best in urban living and country terrain.
Seventy-five percent of all Victorians call the state’s capital city Melbourne, home. The place often dubbed the ‘world’s most liveable city’ is an urban paradise of shopping, dining and entertainment. Well-regarded for its rich culture and diversity, this heterogeneous city of artists, professionals and all that come in between has carved a unique identity for itself as a diverse and cultural hub of local and international residents. Home to the largest Greek community outside of Athens, Melbourne embraces its international neighbours and celebrates the many different cultures that reside in the city.
Perhaps this is most obvious in the rich variety of food that is served up daily in Melbourne. From the Italian flavour of Lygon Street to the Orientally imbued Chinatown, Melbourne is a melting pot of creativity and sophistication. The National Gallery of Victoria (or NGV International) with its ever-changing exhibitions is immense, while the Ian Potter Centre (or NGV Australia), dedicated exclusively to Australian art, is right across the street in Federation Square. Between them, the two venues boast ever-changing exhibitions, as well as a permanent collection of Aboriginal art, Chinese pottery and high fashion couture available to view throughout the year, though the NGV International is closed on Tuesdays and the NGV Australia on Mondays.Head further into the city and you will find the buzzing theatre district where musicals are king and Melbourne’s live entertainment scene is brimming with talent.
If food is on your agenda, then one of Melbourne’s fine dining restaurants is sure to whet your appetite. From the spectacular Chinese cuisine of Flower Drum, where there is currently a three-month waiting list (so book early!), to the authentic Spanish fare at MoVida, Melbourne foodies come together each year to celebrate their taste buds in the Food and Wine festival, a degustation event like no other.
Fashion and shopping are Melburnians’ other great loves, evident in the mammoth shopping precincts and number of local designers emerging onto the global market. Collins Street is the CBD’s home of high trends, with Gucci, Armani and Tiffany and Co all residing in the popular ‘Paris End’. The Heritage-listed GPO complex is another favourite of locals and visitors alike, housing the finest local designers and quirky little boutiques that cater for the most exclusive of clients.
As the first European settlement site in Victoria, the Mornington Peninsula is the home of Australia’s largest antique centre and has ties to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte through the 1840-built homestead, Briars. Located in Mount Martha, Briars takes the name of the pavilion where Bonaparte stayed for the first few weeks of his captivity on the British colony of Saint Helena. His purveyor there was William Balcombe, who was later offered post in Australia. At the homestead, a descendant of Balcombe’s, Dame Mabel Brookes then became the custodian of a collection of Napoleon relics, which includes locks of the emperor’s hair and his death mask.
To be able to call yourself a true Victorian, however, experiencing a trip along the Great Ocean Road is a must. Beginning in surf city Torquay, the Great Ocean Road winds through to Apollo Bay, heading further inland to the incredible Otway Ranges, where you can take a treetop walk through the gargantuan rainforests or literally fly through the air on the Otway Fly Zip Line Tour, which gives you a bird’s-eye view of the impressive natural beauty of the region.
If you continue along the Great Ocean Road, you will come to the aptly named Shipwreck Coast and view one of the great natural wonders of the world, the Twelve Apostles. Victoria is a romantic state rich in cuisine, spectacular beauty, natural waterfalls and glorious beaches. Named after the British Queen, Victoria, the state is truly regal and exceptional. There isn’t a corner or a town that doesn’t have a thriving arts scene, delectable produce or fine wine. When it comes to Australia, Victoria really does reign supreme.
Words: Heather Bloom