1. PHILLIP ISLAND NATURE PARKS
Watch Little Penguins waddle home from the ocean after a day’s fishing during the nightly Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, 1.5 hours’ drive south of Melbourne. The island is home to the largest Little Penguin colony in the world, with families able to view the spectacle, at sunset each evening, from tiered viewing platforms overlooking Summerland Beach.
You can also wander treetop boardwalks to view koalas up close in their natural habitat and see wallabies, echidnas and bats and various birdlife at the Koala Conservation Reserve. Antarctic Journey is another great place to learn stories of conservation and climate resilience. A joint venture between the Nature Parks and WWF-Australia, it is located at the Nobbies Centre, just five minutes’ from the Penguin Parade. Take a virtual journey through the Southern Ocean to Antarctica with interactive and immersive experiences. ‘Feel the freeze’ as you enter the Antarctic Chill Zone before viewing your thermal image and comparing it to that of an Emperor penguin. Check out sustainable seafood options and learn about the creatures that live in the deep blue. The Sound Lab and Research Station offers an insight into the sights and sounds of Antarctic wildlife with animal calls, microscopes and fascinating specimens. With the remarkable Antarctic landscape as the backdrop, the unique wildlife, ongoing research activities, and the critically important conservation values of this remote continent will come alive before your eyes, via cutting-edge augmented reality technology that puts you right in the heart of the action.
You can also explore the range of coastal, wetland, mangrove and woodland habitats on Phillip Island by walking or cycling to visit nature reserves. From the Nobbies boardwalk, just outside the centre, you can see Seal Rocks off the coast, which is home to around 30,000 Australian fur seals. Sometimes, you can even spot Little Penguins popping their heads out of their burrows beside the boardwalk.
Churchill Island, which is connected to Phillip Island by a bridge, also has a range of walking and cycling trails, as well as daily farming activities around the Heritage Farm, such as milking cows, sheep shearing and seeing working dogs in action. The island, also known as Moonar’mia, has a thriving population of nocturnal Eastern Barred Bandicoots, which are classified as extinct on the mainland.
Best of all, every visit supports conservation efforts to help protect nature and wildlife on the island.
2. GREAT OCEAN ROAD
See the towering 12 Apostles rock formations on a road trip along Victoria’s iconic Great Ocean Road, which stretches for more than 240km along the south-eastern coast of Australia between Torquay and Allansford, near Warrnambool. Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I, the road is the world’s largest war memorial. It travels via Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo Bay, and Port Campbell, and meanders along the coast near Geelong. Feast on magnificent views and local produce along the way, go bushwalking, surfing or mountain biking, or take the cultural route and visit museums, galleries and heritage attractions.
3. LAKES ENTRANCE, GIPPSLAND
With Australia’s largest inland network of waterways, Lakes Entrance has long been a popular Gippsland holiday spot, especially for young families. Located on the edge of Ninety Mile Beach, where the Gippsland Lakes meet the Southern Ocean, you can explore the lakes in a kayak, join a boat cruise or hire a paddleboat. Choose from a wide range of camping spots that surround the calm waterways and line the beach. Lakes Entrance is also known for its seafood, thanks to the large number of fishing trawlers operating in the area. Catch your own fish or savour the catches from shops around town.
4. SOVEREIGN HILL, BALLARAT
This open-air museum in Ballarat depicts the first ten years after the discovery of gold there in 1851, with more than 60 historically recreated buildings and costumed staff and volunteers, eager to answer questions and pose for photos. Main Street is a loose reconstruction of Main Street, Ballarat East, which was once the settlement’s central thoroughfare. You’ll also find machinery, carriages and antiques from the era on display.
5. INTERAXCITY CHILDREN’S MUSEUM, MELBOURNE
Kids can take on any role they like at this children’s museum in the inner Melbourne suburb of Malvern, from a chef in the restaurant to a construction worker on a building site or a doctor at the medical centre. There are also always openings at the local florist, cars to be repaired at the mechanic shop, and even the opportunity to be a pilot. They can interact with the hands-on exhibits or complete tasks based on their developmental abilities, which have been designed in conjunction with early childhood educators, to encourage them to learn through play, imagination and discovery.
6. MELBOURNE STAR OBSERVATION WHEEL
Climb aboard the Southern Hemisphere’s only giant observation wheel in Melbourne’s waterfront precinct, Docklands, and witness the constantly changing scene of the busy port, bustling streets and bright lights of the city below. There are 21 fully enclosed cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows, giving you an unparalleled, 360-degree view of the city to Port Phillip, Mount Macedon and the Dandenong Ranges. Audio commentary provides a brief introduction to the history and significance of the landmarks below, with a spectacular LED display transforming the wheel into a giant, glittering kaleidoscope of colour, with more than five million different combinations that can be synchronised with music.
7. OTWAY FLY TREETOP ADVENTURES
Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Otway Ranges from a 25m-high elevated walkway, or fly from tree to tree on a zipline tour, at Otway Fly Treetop Adventures. Around 20 minutes’ drive from the Great Ocean Road, near Triplet Falls, you can also discover a whimsical neighbourhood of fairy homes and their inhabitants, snuggled within a nook in the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures trail, or follow the dragon’s footsteps to find the prehistoric creature guarding her treasure and precious eggs in her nest.
8. SCIENCEWORKS, MELBOURNE
This Spotswood science museum is bursting with things to challenge curious minds of all ages. You can stroll among the gigantic machines that once kept the city running, enjoy electrifying theatre in the Lightning Room, let your little ones roam safely in enclosed spaces, wander through immersive exhibitions and drop into deep space in the Melbourne Planetarium.
9. STAY IN A TINY HOUSE
For a holiday with a difference, why not book a stay in a tiny house? In2theWild Tiny Holidays has more than 20 houses to choose from, in secluded locations, within three hours’ drive of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. They range from farms and wineries to remote bush locations, where you can partake in activities such as horse riding, hiking, fruit picking and farm tours, as well as swimming at nearby swimming holes and waterholes and visiting local pubs and bakeries.