Gentedimontagna contributor Larkin Clark just returned from a few days in Victoria, a stunning state in southeast Australia.
VICTORIA, Australia — Having been born and raised in Northern California, I’m naturally drawn to places that share similar geographical features. Give me a cool city within close proximity of the ocean, majestic peaks and valleys, and wine country, and I’m a happy clam.
So I felt right at home on a recent trip to Victoria, a state in southeast Australia, which was kicking off its summer holidays during my December visit. Driving from Melbourne, the state capital, down to Phillip Island, the Mornington Peninsula, and out to Yarra Valley, it became clear why Aussies kill it on Instagram: It’s impossible to escape the country’s beauty. Within a couple hours’ drive of the city, I encountered breathtaking vineyards, design-forward restaurants and hotels, a sprawling coastline, and, yes, penguins and kangaroos.
Craving design with a side of wine? Head to Jackalope, an award-winning retreat on the Mornington Peninsula. About an hour drive south of Melbourne, it’s the perfect weekend getaway — but after a dip in the vineyard-facing infinity pool, cocktails in the art gallery-esque lobby, and a soak in the oversized bathtub (the centerpiece of each room), you’ll have a hard time convincing yourself to leave.
Strolling around The Nobbies, a rolling stretch of coastline on Phillip Island, reminded me a lot of California — with an extra dose of untamed beauty. The area is a must for nature lovers: You can ferry out to see fur seals by day, then hit Phillip Island Nature Park at sunset for the nightly penguin parade, when hundreds of the little guys make their way from the ocean onto land to shack up in their burrows. (No photography is allowed, but it’s worth braving the throngs of tourists for such a cool experience.)
When it comes to cuisine, Aussies don’t shy away from bold flavors, bright colors, and creative presentation. Lunch at The Cape Kitchen on Phillip Island is a visual and literal feast. This plate of of chili-saffron prawns was almost too pretty to eat.
If you’ve ever had a Peach Melba or Melba toast, you may know they were named after the famed Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba. Stop by her former estate, Coombe Yarra Valley, for wine tasting, a tour, and lunch. Obviously, you must order Peach Melba for dessert.
Recently named one of the world’s best public plazas, Melbourne’s Federation Square is a visual standout with bold fractal facades. Don’t miss the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia tucked inside — it’s the first major gallery devoted entirely to aboriginal and contemporary Australian art.
Melbourne is known for its coffee culture, so grab a cup and wander the city’s laneways — colorful side streets that are home to hip boutiques, restaurants, bars, and local street art. Hosier Lane is one of the most touristy, but we were happy to stumble across street artist Salad Bowl Art as he was starting a new piece on Union Lane.
With its chic, vibrant aesthetic and bustling, young energy, QT Melbourne immediately feels like a hot spot. But the design hotel is also an unexpectedly tranquil retreat in the heart of the city, with beds so comfy, you’ll wonder whether you can get one for your own home. (Good news: You can.)