You can’t choose your family – but you can choose the ideal family holiday location! Big family escapes are the stuff that nostalgic childhood memories are made of, but it can be hard to find a spot that appeals to everyone. Luckily, regional Victoria is blessed with fine food, gorgeous landscapes and quirky kids’ activities – and these six towns have it all. No matter your age or your interests, you’ll find something to love in these pockets of the state.
On the eastern side of the peninsula, Flinders is quieter than western neighbours like Rye and Dromana while still offering easy access to the Mornington Peninsula’s array of spectacular beaches, from surf waves at Point Leo to the calm waters of Safety Beach.
Adults and kids alike will love the area’s produce, with cheese at Main Ridge Dairy wine at Nazaaray Estate Winery and sweet treats at the Mornington Peninsula Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. Local produce means exceptional paddock-to-plate restaurants, breweries and wineries – be sure to make a reservation at local favourites like Montalto, the Epicurean or Moke Dining. For a break from all the eating, tackle the 6km Bushrangers Bay Walking Track, finishing at the iconic Cape Schanck Lighthouse, or play a round at Rye’s Dunes Gold Links.
There are plenty more kid-friendly activities in the form of berry-picking, the Arthur’s Seat gondola, a high-ropes course at the Enchanted Adventure Gardens or a flick at the Dromana Drive-In. While the more mature can enjoy antiquing at Tyabb Packing House Antiques or an indulgent soak at the Peninsula Hot Springs.
The ultimate in child-pleasing adventures, a safari across 200 hectares of Werribee’s Open-Range Zoo, can be found just 30 minutes out of Melbourne. Kids will love riding in the painted safari trucks as much as they’ll love spotting the rhinos, antelopes, giraffes and zebras roaming the plains. For more mechanically minded kids, the RAAF Museum is just 15 minutes away in Point Cook and has a large collection of retired Air Force aircraft.
For lower octane activities, nearby Werribee Mansion, a magnificent 1870 stately home, is the perfect place for a scenic picnic or a spot of high tea, and there’s even a highly regarded day spa for some decadent me-time – if you can rope in a babysitter.
The Bellarine Peninsula is home to a collection of good eats and fine drinking establishments, with plenty of options nearby. Notable family-friendly outings include tasting paddles at the Little Creatures Brewery, local produce platters at McGlashan’s Estate and a cellar door featuring llama-petting at Basils Farm.
Not far from the Great Alpine Road, picturesque goldrush town Beechworth is packed with attractions, both historic and culinary. Known for its association with Ned Kelly, there’s plenty of thrills for kids and history buffs with a Kelly-themed walking tour taking in buildings and artefacts from the bushranger’s life. There are also chills on offer, with ghost tours of Mayday Hills, a former ‘lunatic asylum’.
On the earthly plane, the Beechworth Bakery and the Beechworth Sweet Co are welcome stops for sweet tooths in the family, while more refined palates have renowned eateries and local produce to try. Billson’s Brewery serves both. Book ahead to taste a fusion of regional produce and Japanese flavours at chef-hatted Provenance, or cycle between vineyards on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail to work for your supper.
A popular walk from Beechworth is the 6km trail to the spectacular Woolshed Falls. This area was once the centre of gold-panning in the area – who knows, you may stumble across a treasure of your own.
Kids can encounter a range of native animals from Tasmanian devils to platypi at the sanctuary and thrill to the birds of prey show. For Tank Engine fans, Yarra Valley Railway runs heritage train carriages on a scenic journey from Healesville Station to TarraWarra Estate. Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery is just 15 minutes away, and sugar-highs can be walked off on the easy trails at Badger Weir and Maroondah Reservoir.
When the kids are tuckered out, adults can enjoy a pleasing concentration of tasting rooms in the centre of town. In addition to Innocent Bystander, visitors can try a tipple or two at Matilda Bay Brewery, Giant Steps, Graceburn Wine Room and Four Pillars Gin Distillery.
But it’s not all booze – get a culture hit at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, pick up fresh produce at the community markets or take the iconic Black Spur scenic drive to Marysville.
Perfectly situated on one of Australia’s most iconic coastal routes, charming Apollo Bay is quieter than towns closer to Melbourne such as Lorne and Anglesea and has the advantage of a long stretch of beautiful beach and proximity to the incredible Great Otway National Park.
Kids can while away hours on the white sand of the front beach, conveniently close to fish and chip shops and the award-winning Dooley’s Ice Cream. When the heat gets too much, head to the towering trees and lush rainforest of the Great Otway National Park, where you’ll find amazing views from the Cape Otway Lighthouse, glow worms twinkling in Melba Gully, treetop walks or ziplining at the Otway Fly and calm waters to kayak on at Lake Elizabeth.
Adults can enjoy tastings at the Apollo Bay Gin Distillery and the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse, take a scenic helicopter flight, or the ambitious can attempt a section of the Great Ocean Walk, which runs from Apollo Bay along the coast to the Twelve Apostles.
On the edge of the gorgeous Gippsland Lakes, tiny Metung is an upmarket waterfront village perfect for activity-loving families – whether that’s swimming, boating, fishing, water-skiing or canoeing. Sandy lake beaches are perfect for kids, with calm waters gradually increasing in depth, and there are myriad boat charters, cruises and canoe hire operators.
There’s also plenty to do on land, with several easy walking tracks close to town. Stroll along the Boardwalk around Bancroft Bay, passing Legend Rock – a meteorite with great cultural significance to the Indigenous Gunaikurnai people, spot sea eagles on the Boxes Creek walking trail, or venture a little further afield – with nine national parks in East Gippsland, it’s easy to find a trail to suit any ability.
Head inland and you’ll find a cluster of wineries and breweries. Enjoy excellent views with your tasting at Lightfoot & Sons or sip a hyperlocal ale at microbrewery Red Bluff Brewers. Book ahead to try the seasonal menu at SARDINE, Gippsland’s first chef-hatted restaurant, just half an hour down the road in Paynesville.
Images courtesy of Visit Victoria.
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