Tourism in Victoria is dominated by the Great Ocean Road
. A famous coastal thoroughfare built by returned World War I servicemen, it winds around the rugged coastline and takes in the Twelve Apostles, a series of rock stacks rising up from the Southern Ocean. Trouble is that some six million visitors take to this stretch every year, leading to huge traffic jams, pollution and littering – with little money being left in the hands of the people actually living in the area. “The negative effects of tourism are visible at the Twelve Apostles as the traffic and rubbish is an issue,” says Brett Neagle, from our Aussie walking holidays specialist Auswalk. “It doesn't really impact anywhere else as Victoria’s parks are massive, and the Alps is over a million hectares and under-visited. Tourism Australia does a really bad job at selling anything that doesn't relate to a few boring icons like Uluru and of course the beach, the benefit being there's no crowds anywhere outside the city.”
Shift your focus from the Great Ocean Road and opt for wilderness walking and stays in remote towns and villages. You’ll find wonderful examples of community-based tourism wrapped up in stunning countryside and coastline.
Better, then, to focus on Victoria's other highlights. Melbourne is the obvious answer, and it’s fantastic to see a vibrant Australian city in action, but Victoria is also big on wilderness, with vast national parks to explore, home to endemic birds and animals. Several have been hit hard by the catastrophic 2019-2020 bushfire season, with some forced to close fully or partially to the public, including Alpine National Park and several parks and reserves in East Gippsland. You can still have a wonderful holiday here, though, with plenty of walking trails and self drive routes still open. They take you between country inns and B&Bs, where you’ll experience genuine Aussie hospitality while supporting small businesses in the process – your custom is much needed in what is a difficult time for the Australian tourist industry.
It’s also worth making time to learn about Indigenous history, culture and spirituality while you’re here. Victoria has lagged behind the Northern Territory and Queensland when it comes to promoting its Aboriginal heritage but there’s much to see, including Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape, which in 2019 became the first site in Australia to achieve UNESCO World Heritage Status for Aboriginal cultural significance, thanks to its complex system of aquaculture.