The Garden State
The state of Victoria lies in the southeast of the continent and includes none of the typical Australian interior territory - the arid, hot, inhospitable outback. Its varied landscape is very similar to that of Europe. In the Australian spring large areas of the state are like one large flowering garden, entitling Victoria to call itself the Garden State.
In addition to its great scenic attractions Victoria has preserved many historic 19th C. buildings and towns.
The coastal regions of Victoria are divided into two sections. While the southeast coast - particularly on Ninety Mile Beach - has flat beaches suitable for all kinds of water sports, the southwest coast is fringed by rugged cliffs. Half way along the coast, at the north end of Port Phillip Bay, is the Metropolitan Area of Melbourne, extending into the interior for some 100km. On the north and west Melbourne is bordered by the goldfields which extend from the hinterland of the southwest coast to the Murray River in the north, the boundary between Victoria and New South Wales. Extending in a broad swathe to the borders of Western Australia is the Western District, with the magnificent scenery of the southwest coast, forest-covered hills and a fertile hinterland of wide plains - wheat fields and grazing land. To the north, this belt of fertile land merges gradually into dry scrub.
To the east of Melbourne, extending along the southeast coast to the boundary with New South Wales, is the territory known as Gippsland. Inland from the long beaches is beautiful hill country, with forests, grassland and numerous lakes, forming the largest system of inland waters in Australia. To the northeast Victoria extends into the Australian Alps, a region still largely unspoiled, to the north of which are the rich fruit-growing areas in the Goulburn and Ovens valleys.
Victoria's main tourist attractions, in addition to the capital, Melbourne, and the towns associated with the gold rush and the shipping trade on the Murray River, are its numerous national parks. There are, too, the holiday attractions of the coasts, the lakes and the rivers with their endless scope for water sports.
The coast of Victoria has a total length of 1200km. In addition to safe bathing beaches beyond the Ninety Mile Beach and in Port Phillip Bay there are many impressive stretches of surf-lashed coast, particularly towards the west, fringed by mighty cliffs. Victoria has many natural lakes (e.g. Lake Hindmarsh near Warracknabeal in the northwest and many volcanic crater lakes in the southwest) as well as numerous man-made lakes, some quite small, others of vast size, in attractive settings, which have been created since the early 20th C. by the construction of dams.
One of the state's principal attractions is Melbourne with its museums and parks, and also as a base for interesting day trips. In winter Mount Buller, Mount Buffalo and the Bogong range, lying within easy reach of the city, are popular winter sports areas, and in summer they are magnificent walking and camping country.
The tourist attractions of the southeast are the Latrobe valley with its lush green meadowland and above all the Gippsland Lakes, with a climate which is mild even in winter, and Wilsons Promontory, Victoria's best known national park. The favorite holiday places in the Gippsland Lakes area are Paynesville, Metung, Lakes Entrance and Lake Wellington, Lake Victoria, Lake King and Lake Reeve, just inland from Ninety Mile Beach. Other resorts on the coast of Victoria with facilities for water sports are, from the west, Inverloch (in Venus Bay), the sheltered Anderson Inlet and Walkerville in Waratah Bay. Then follows the coast of Wilsons Promotory, the most southerly point on the Australian continent, with caves, beaches and islands (some stretches of coast being accessible only from the sea). Further east are Port Welshpool and Port Albert, with historic old buildings. To the east of Lakes Entrance is Lake Tyers, which is quieter than the Gippsland Lakes. To the east of Gippsland there are Marlo, at the mouth of the Brodribb River, Bemm River, in Sydenham Inlet, Cape Conran, Tamboon Inlet, at the mouth of the Cann River, and Mallacoota Inlet at the eastern end of Victoria.
In the northeast of Victoria is the mountain world of the Victorian Alps, with beautiful national parks which offer excellent skiing in winter and plenty of good walking in summer. In this part of the state, too, are the Kelly Country (Glenrowan, Benella, Beechworth), scene of the exploits of the bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang, and the fruit-growing Goulburn and Ovens valleys.
The Western District breeds the best cattle and sheep in Australia. The merino wool produced here is of the highest quality, and the main center of the wool trade is Hamilton, the 'wool capital of the world'. The wealth of the cattle and sheep farmers was reflected in their elegant mansions and large estates. The lush flat grazing land in the center of the Western District gives place in the east to the district of volcanic crater lakes round Camperdown, where there is ample scope for water sports and fishing. To the north the Grampians rise out of the gently undulating landscape.
The wild southwest coast from Anglesea to Nelson, near the boundary with South Australia, offers fascinating views, seen from the Great Ocean Road. Most of the places along this stretch of coast attract visitors for the scenery rather than boating enthusiasts. Port Campbell itself has a small natural harbor enclosed by cliffs and reefs. Apollo Bay is the only refuge for small craft between Queenscliff and Port Fairy. Anglesea, Torquay, Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove, near Geelong, have good surfing beaches and are also suitable for boating. The only sheltered harbors with facilities for water sports on the rugged west coast are Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland, the only deep-water harbor between Melbourne and Adelaide.
The goldfields, with Ballarat, Bendigo and Castlemaine as their chief towns, lie northwest of Melbourne. The old buildings, museums and reconstructions in the gold-mining towns present a vivid picture of their past.
To the north of the Western District is the Wimmera, Victoria's wheat belt. To the southeast of this area are the Grampians, an impressive mountain region with plenty of scope for interesting excursions.
The northern boundary of Victoria is formed by the Murray River, which begins as a clear mountain stream and grows into a massive expanse of water (Lake Hume, Lake Mulwala), with a rich flora and fauna, historic old towns such as Echuca, Swan Hill and Mildura and productive irrigated agriculture.
There are seven main winter sports areas in Victoria, all easily reached from Melbourne: Mount Donna Buang (95km), Lake Mountain (109km), Mount Baw Baw (177km), Mount Buller (241km), Mount Buffalo (331km), Mount Hotham (367km) and Falls Creek (379km). The short skiing season usually lasts from June to the beginning of October; prices are high.