Australia's Great Southern Touring Route in the southern state of Victoria turns the romance of the road trip into a grand love affair. Starting in fashionable Melbourne, follow the Great Ocean Road past miles upon miles of spectacular coastal scenery. Here, roads are carved right into imposing escarpments, their stern cliff faces a stunning contrast to the glittering waters and soft white sands below. Along the way, you’ll make stops at ancient rainforests, cragged mountain ranges that hide Aboriginal rock art and vineyards that are making an international name for themselves. This tailor-made self-drive then finishes back in Melbourne. However, if you have time, why not extend your stay and head to South Australia's capital Adelaide? Its wide streets, verdant surrounds and pulsating arts scene are a gateway to some of Australia's finest wine regions.
Days 1-2: UK
Depart the UK to fly to Australia and begin your tailor-made self-drive, arriving in Melbourne on day three.
Day 3: Melbourne
Whether a culture buff, sports nut, foodie or fashion lover, you'll find your niche in Melbourne; Australia's second city impresses with everything from great sporting events to a charming café culture. And, founded by free-settlers in 1835, it's got the past to back it up. The gold rush of the 1850s brought about a historic boom, best evidenced today in Melbourne's laneways. Lose yourself among these twisting streets, discovering world-class art galleries, hip bars and award-winning restaurants around every corner. On your arrival, you'll collect your hire car and make your way to your hotel.
Days 4-5: Mornington Peninsula
Strike out of Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsula. Long popular with Australian visitors, its fertile hills and lavender farms spill down to a series of sheltered beaches. Back inland, you'll find green contours shared by superb golf courses and vineyards.
Stay: Flinders Hotel – Quarters (Superior)
Days 6-7: Apollo Bay
Today, after a scenic ferry over the Port Phillip Bay, you'll embark on one of the world's most scenic drives – the 283km Great Ocean Road. Watch as giant cliffs frame golden sweeps of sands as you choose between a range of intriguing stops. Visit the koalas at Kennett River or get a taste of Aussie surf culture at Torquay, home to the world's largest beach and surf culture museum. You'll then arrive at Apollo Bay where you'll have a day to spend exploring the Great Otway National Park. This is one of Australia's most evocative rainforest parks, filled with giant tree ferns, ancient plant life, narrow valleys and spectacular waterfalls.
Day 8: Port Fairy
Continuing along the Great Ocean Road, you'll soon reach Port Campbell for the best views of the iconic Twelve Apostles. These giant rock stacks rise majestically from the ocean, as emblematic of Australia as Uluru or the Sydney Opera House. Consider taking a short scenic flight to get fully appreciate the sheer scale of this natural wonder. Continuing west, you'll arrive at Warrnambool for the chance to spot southern right whales right from the beach. These mighty, migratory cetaceans can be spotted between June and October. You'll then overnight in Port Fairy. One of the state's oldest harbours, it features more than 50 National Trust buildings and a historic wharf where early risers can watch fishermen unloading the daily catch.
Stay: Oscars Waterfront (Superior)
Days 9-10: Dunkeld
Turning away from the coast, you'll today head inland to Dunkeld, a town hidden among the Grampian Mountains. These sandstone giants offer superb bushwalking opportunities, bringing hikers among a world of Aboriginal rock art, kangaroos, koalas and wedge-tailed eagles. However, they're at their most enchanting from August to October when wild flowers speckle their slopes in vibrant swathes of colour. You'll spend two nights at the Royal Mail Hotel, a historic property whose award-winning rooms host spectacular views over the ranges.
Days 11-12: Melbourne to UK
Wind your way back to Melbourne via the undulating Ararat Hills, Beaufort's gold-rush-era architecture and the gourmet delights of Ballarat. You'll then board your overnight flight home, arriving on day 12.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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