Touring Victoria from Melbourne
As AME Info found out, you also do not need to compromise on your five-star travel standards. Australians like their creature comforts and luxury lifestyle too!
Indeed, there is a local Melbourne TV show every week-end reviewing luxury travel options and we noted a very nice looking Japanese themed resort and a spa retreat at Healesville that our four-day itinerary did not include.
We headed first out to Ballarat which is set on a hill overlooking the Victorian goldfields. The town dates from the discovery of gold 150 years ago and in 1970 a reconstruction of the former township on Sovereign Hill opened to the pubic. It has won many awards for its faithful portrayal of a Victorian goldrush town, right down to real horses and actors dressed in the clothes of the period.
Tourism Victoria recommended The Ansonia boutique hotel in Ballarat that was extensively refurbished a decade ago, and is well known for its Tozers restaurant whose chef produces delicious, imaginative food. From Ballarat we transferred to the Grampians and exchanged the verdant plains of Victorian sheep and cattle country for something closer to the highlands of Scotland.
Halls Gap is a village in a pass in this semi-mountainous national park, and the location of the five-star Marwood themed villas. There are only six villas but each has its own national identity, Jacuzzi, luxury bathroom, kitchen complete with washer-dryer and open fire place set in woodland.
Remarkably Marwood has its own executive chef and romantic restaurant, where if you are the only people dining the chef gives you his undivided attention. His fillet of kangaroo was tasty, perhaps second only to his steak-and-kidney pie. Breakfast was an equally individual experience. And the local Halls Gap winery is recommended.
After taking in the scenic splendour of the Grampian National Park we made our way to the coast and Port Campbell, and the start of the Great Ocean Road. We checked into the Southern Ocean Villas, 20 relatively new architect designed luxury self-catering villas. Actually they were more like town houses boasting, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a lounge and dining room, full kitchen and even the luxury of a separate utility room with washing machine and dryer.
The Great Ocean Road
For dinner that evening the Waves restaurant in Port Campbell proved a pleasant experience with freshly caught local ocean salmon an original dish. And the next morning we set out for one of the greatest drives in the world along the Great Ocean Road, with its stacks and formations carved into the sandstone.
For the first time on our tour we encountered other tourists, largely from mainland China. It is stunningly beautiful and comparable say to the Garden Route in South Africa or the Californian coastline.
However, for drivers used to busy roads in other parts of the world, then driving around Victoria is a complete joy. You often have the road completely to yourself for 20 minutes, and the other drivers are courteous and disciplined. The only drawback is driving on the left-hand side of the road which can take a little getting used to, but the experience is well worth the trouble.