We had three weeks off over the Christmas period of 2018/19 and decided to head back to Victoria to explore some areas we hadn’t yet visited.
We had a rough idea of where the trip was going to take us but only locked in sites in Bendigo and Ballarat before leaving. The rest of the places we stayed we worked out while we were on the road.
Selina’s parents joined us for the first two weeks and we had an extra week of holidays after they made their journey home.
With Bendigo awaiting, we had two days of driving ahead of us. The first day we clocked up around 600kms of highway driving and had a quick overnight stop at a free camp at Wantabadgery. This little dot on the map is between Gundagai and Wagga Wagga and is around 20kms off the Hume Highway. Sandy Beach Reserve is a large grassy area on the Murrumbidgee River in New South Wales. For more details about this campground click here.
We left Wantabadgery and set off in the direction of Bendigo with around 450kms to travel. As we had diverted off the Hume Highway yesterday for our overnight stay, we continued to head south west through country Victoria to Shepparton and then onto Marong.
We stayed four nights at Big 4 Bendigo Marong Holiday Park in Marong. Marong is a small town 15 minutes west of Bendigo so a great base to explore the Bendigo area.
Click here for more information and pictures on this caravan park.
DAY 3 – 5
Bendigo is Victoria’s fourth largest city and such a beautiful place to explore. Full of history from the gold rush days with gorgeous old historic buildings lining the streets.
Bendigo has some great attractions to visit and the ones we went to were all very family friendly!
The Visitor Information Centre was very helpful and provided us with information and brochures on attractions in the area.
There are package deals available for some of the attractions and will save you money if you are going to visit more than one.
Bendigo Pottery was established in 1858 and is Australia’s oldest working pottery. Inside you can watch potters at work, wander through the Antiques and Collectables Centre and Museum, buy some tableware at the Pottery Shop or have a bite to eat at the onsite Cafe.
Our kids also had a fantastic hands on experience on the pottery wheel (adults can do this too). For $20 each they were able to make three items. You can have any of them fired in the kiln at an additional cost and we chose to have one of their masterpieces done and they then post it once this process has been completed.
Here’s a video of their lesson.
VINTAGE TALKING TRAM TOUR
The Talking Tram takes you on a journey through the streets of Bendigo and tells stories of the town’s past.
You can get on and off the tram at any of the six stops to explore more of what Bendigo has to offer.
CENTRAL DEBORAH GOLD MINE
The mine has several tours available and we booked the Mine Experience Tour. This was a 75 minute informative tour that takes you 61 metres underground.
There is also an outdoor museum with old buildings and equipment that was used when the mine was operational to wander through.
JOSS HOUSE TEMPLE
The JOSS HOUSE TEMPLE is a Chinese place of worship and was opened in 1871.
Inside you can discover all about the Chinese beliefs and the story behind their search for gold in the area.
WOW!!!! If you are travelling through Bendigo you have to check this place out!
48 years worth of work has gone into making this fascinating, quirky and mind boggling experience!
There are over 180 interactive buttons, levers and things to push and pull!!
$20 per family for a self guided tour and you can stay as long as you wish…
Fun for all ages!
Here’s a clip of what’s inside!
Today we said goodbye to Bendigo and set off towards Ballarat. We only had a short two hours to travel and we had booked into a caravan park just west of Ballarat called Lake Learmonth.
This is a great little park – you can read our review and see more pictures here.
DAY 7 – 9
EXPLORING BALLARAT & SURROUNDS
Ballarat is 110kms north west of Melbourne and in terms of population is Australia’s third largest inland city.
Gold was discovered in Ballarat in the early 1850’s and you can still see the evidence of this era with the bold buildings that line the streets of this historic town.
HISTORIC BUILDING WALKING TOUR
There is a brochure you can pick up from the Visitor Information Centre “Ballarat’s Historic Streetscapes Walking Tour” and you can wander the streets on a self guided tour to explore the grand architecture from years past.
OUTER GOLD FIELDS
We day tripped further into the gold fields north west of Ballarat. These small towns preserve the history of the gold rush era and are a delight to explore.
Below is the two hour loop we drove.
SOVEREIGN HILL is Ballarat’s most popular attraction and was top of our list when we visited.
Sovereign Hill re-creates the gold rush era and takes you on a journey back in time with its fascinating outdoor museum.
Costumed ladies, gents and kids wander the streets and each demonstration provides interesting information about Ballarat’s history.
There are many activities on offer; mine tours, coach rides, gold panning, magic shows and pantomimes in the theatre.
Demonstrations are on throughout the day and include blacksmiths, a $180,000 gold pour!!!!, wheelwrighting, sweet making, musket firing and more.
An indoor gold museum opposite is also included in the price.
You can easily fill in a day wandering around Sovereign Hill, there is plenty to see and do. Opening hours are 10am-5pm and we were there for the duration however it is an easy day of walking.
Great day out, we highly recommend a visit!
▶️ If you go to the tourist info centre and grab a LET’S GO KIDS magazine you will find a 10% off voucher!!
Our plans changed a little due to the weather. With temps climbing to the mid 30’s and due to reach 44 in Swan Hill by the end of the week, we decided to head south instead, in the direction of Mt Gambier in South Australia. The Silo Art Trail will have to wait until another trip!
So we left Ballarat and set off towards Dartmoor to a free camp we had found on WikiCamps.
Dartmoor is 30 minutes east of Mt Gambier and we based ourselves here for three nights. Fort O’Hare Campground is a great free camp with plenty of space and access to the river for swimming in the warmer months.
On the way to the campground you will see some spectacular tree carvings. The carvings commemorate the lives of 60 servicemen and nurses from the Dartmoor area that served in WWI.
There are also some more recent additions… a fairytale character tree and many animal carvings line the road.
DAY 11 – 12
Mt Gambier in South Australia has some stunning free attractions to visit! We thoroughly enjoyed our time in this town and highly recommend you put it on your list of places to see.
Once a limestone cave, the sinkhole was formed when the roof of the cave collapsed.
The sinkhole was made into a garden back in 1886 and is a free attraction open from dawn to dusk.
A beautiful place to visit and wander through!
BLUE LAKE & VALLEY LAKE
The incredible crater lakes are a must see!!
The summer months are the best time to visit to see the amazing blue colour! Apparently outside these months the lake turns a grey colour.
LITTLE BLUE LAKE
The local hidden swimming hole out of town, a bit like Blue Lake’s younger brother…
MOUNT SCHANK VOLCANO CRATER
A 900 metre return walk with 1038 stairs to this amazing view!!
DAY 13 – 15
In an attempt to continue to escape the hot weather we continued further south to stay on the coast at Portland for a few days.
We day tripped around the area to Cape Bridgewater, Cape Nelson, Yambuk and over to Port Fairy.
This stretch of coast is very pretty with lots of lookouts to view the mighty southern ocean!!
CAPE NELSON LIGHTHOUSE
The Petrified Forest is located at Cape Bridgewater.
The name Petrified Forest comes from an early theory that sand engulfed an ancient forest of coastal trees…
However, this strange looking rock forest is actually a collection of hollow tubes of sandstone eroded by millions of years of rainfall!
Most stand between one and three metres high.
Yambuk is a small township 40 minutes to the east of Portland and we went for a drive to find the giant slide!!
Mt Kosciusko was in the plans for this trip however the weather wasn’t looking great for the days we intended to be there so we decided to head towards the Myrtleford-Bright-Mt Beauty area instead!
We left Portland and with 600kms to cover to get to Myrtleford we needed a quick overnight stop along the way. We found a free camp on WikiCamps that was only 8kms off the main road at Whroo (pronounced Roo).
GREENS CAMPGROUND WHROO HISTORIC AREA turned out to be an awesome bush camping area – check out more info here.
This area is also a Historic Gold Mining Site and there are many areas to explore.
▶️ Balaclava Mine
▶️ Puddling Machine
▶️ Old Lewis Homstead Site
Very interesting and worth a look if you are staying!
Here’s some more info on the Historic Area for those interested… https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/…/Park-note-Whroo-Historic-Reser…
After our great overnight stop we were on our way further east towards Myrtleford.
We had a quick stop in Glenrowan and brushed up on our Ned Kelly history and the kids had a picture with the big statue.
A quick 40 minutes in the car and we arrived at Myrtleford.
We found Myrtleford to be a great spot to base ourselves to explore the surrounding areas and it was about the cheapest caravan park in the area. Bright and Beechworth are only a short 30 minutes away and Mount Beauty and Mount Buffalo around an hour away.
We had a fantastic 5 night stay at Arderns Caravan Park and we cannot recommend this place highly enough. Such a peaceful location and the owners are extremely helpful and welcoming.
DAY 18 – 21
Our next 4 days were taken up with exploring this beautiful area – walking, hiking, cycling, playing, swimming and eating… we loved our time here!
Myrtleford is the first of the bigger towns in this region you come to if driving from Melbourne and is rich in agriculture with vineyards, nuts, berries and beef aplenty.
HISTORIC LOG TOBACCO KILN
Myrtleford is known for its tobacco drying kilns and you can see many of these as you drive through the town.
This log kiln was built in 1957 and relocated to Myrtleford Rortary Park in 2000.
The Ovens River runs through Myrtleford and is a great spot for a swim on a hot day. The bottom is quite rocky so kids may want some aqua shoes on so it doesn’t hurt their feet.
We spent a full day in Beechworth exploring this fabulous town.
Beechworth is an old gold mining town and famous for its connections with bushranger, Ned Kelly!
Plenty of things to keep you busy for the day… there is so much history to discover!
▶️ In the old Victoria Bank building which was built in 1862 (now Beechworth Gold) you can still see the original gold vault that was used in the gold rush days.
▶️ Historic & Cultural Precinct
A $40 family pass gave us access to all of the historic buildings in the area; Burke Memorial Museum, Ned Kelly Vault, Beechworth Historic Courthouse, Telegraph Station and many more… the pass is valid for 7 days.
▶️ Old Beechworth Gaol
This is a guided tour (11am & 1pm) and runs for just over 1hr. Our guide was fantastic and very informative!! Highly recommend a visit. A family pass cost us $40.
▶️ Beechworth Sweet Co. has every lolly you can every dream of!!
▶️ A visit to the Beechworth Bakery and Le Blanche Ice Creamery also come highly recommended.
Bright is a pretty town to visit and has a very family friendly vibe.
The Ovens River weaves its way through town and they have a fantastic and very popular river area to enjoy! There is a beautiful large parkland, a great shaded playground, a FREE water splash park for the kiddies and ample room to cool off in the river. There are even a couple of lifeguards on duty at the slide and diving board!!
Bright is a very popular spot for cycling and mountain bike riding with many paths to explore and the Bright Mystic Mountain Bike Park has loads of tracks for all levels.
There are many shops to wander into and cafes all around.
The kids had a great time splashing around in the water park and river and we finished off our visit with a lovely lunch at the River Deck Cafe!
When driving from Bright to Mount Beauty make sure you stop at Sullivans Lookout. You get a spectacular view of the township and the surrounding mountains, including Victoria’s highest mountain, Mt Bogong, in the background.
There’s a great little park at the Mount Beauty Pondage for the kids to have a play too!
On the way back to Myrtleford we stopped in to explore two local swimming holes – Mermaid Beach and Rockpool.
Mount Buffalo is around 300kms north of Melbourne and an hour from where we were staying at Myrtleford.
There are over 90kms of walking tracks to explore. We did The Horn Track and Rollasons Falls Track.
THE HORN TRACK
1km return / 30 mins
The Horn is the highest point of Mt Buffalo at 1723m and provides beautiful 360’ views of the surrounding Alps.
ROLLASONS FALLS TRACK
3km return including Upper and Lower Falls / 1hr
A steep walk down to a beautiful view of the falls.
After five fabulous days exploring the area it was time to start making the trek home.
We had a quick travel break at Holbrook where the HMAS Otway Submarine sits. Plenty of parking, playground, toilets and cafe… and you can climb on the huge submarine!!!
We found another ripper free camp for our final night of this trip!
It was only a short 7kms off the Hume Highway in Belanglo State Forest and we had it all to ourselves!! Check out more info here!
There was another campground 4kms away “DALY’S CLEARING” which has pit toilets and plenty of space too.
👀 If you like a bit of geocaching, there’s a few to find in the area! Never heard of geocaching? Have a read of this!
Another trip done and dusted and some more lines added to our map!
We did 4400kms over 23 days and explored so many amazing places!!!
We averaged $39 per night on campsite fees (family of 4) which was great for peak season. This was a mix of van parks and free camps.
Our trip changed a little from the original plans due to the weather but that’s the beauty of travelling in Australia… there is so much to explore so a change in itinerary just leads to something else amazing to see!
Check out more of our TRIP PLANS here!