With one eighth of 2012 already in our wake, it makes you realise how important it is to put the handbrake on life now and again and look out the window at all the good stuff flashing by.
The towns and cities of regional Victoria are just the place to give it a go —less traffic, friendlier locals, fresher air, fresher food and experiences that remind said city slickers that life really is scrumptious if you just stop to enjoy it.
Ballarat (1.5 hours from Melbourne)
In 1851, news spread around the world that the richest alluvial goldfield in the world had been discovered in a town called Ballarat, in some country called Australia. As a result, people came from all over the globe to seek their fortune.
The gold has since run out, which may be a good thing, because it seems a shame to be in a rush when you have so many relaxing activities to enjoy.
You can visit the man-made Lake Wendouree and try fishing, bird watching, rowing and sailing. Or head to the Wildlife Park to pat a boa constrictor, have photos taken with a koala and check out lizards, turtles, crocs and more living in the reptile house.
While at the Ballarat aviation museum they have a fantastic collection of aircraft and engines from 1920s through to today.
Check into the Comfort Inn Bell Tower and make the most of their indoor pool, steam room and barbecue facilities.
Lakes Entrance (3 – 4 hours from Melbourne)
You could spend an entire holiday at Lakes Entrance in the horizontal position studying ninety miles of glorious white grains of sand and be perfectly happy. But before you answer “Sold!”, there’s plenty else do to if you are so inclined.
For example, you could take in the views along the Nowa Nowa bike and walking tracks, jump on a wine cruise from the Post Office Jetty Clock Tower or just float around in a rented paddle boat.
And when the beach does prove too powerful an aphrodisiac for your body and soul, you could head to patrolled beach, Lake Bunga, to play volleyball and beach cricket, or go fly a kite. While Cape Conran is the place you want to be for a surfing lesson.
Amongst the six acres of fun at Tambo Lodge you’ll find a bush kitchen with barbecues and all-weather dining, billiards, a tennis court and the all-important children’s playground.
Daylesford (1.5 hours from Melbourne)
Experience a few days of utter bush bliss in gorgeous Daylesford, the natural spring capital of Victoria.
After sampling some delicious local fare and wine, book yourself in for one of Mother Nature’s famous bubble baths and follow it up with a mud wrap treatment and relaxing massage.
This is the kind of place you’ll feel completely guilt-free about leaving the laptop at home and phone off while you explore the boutique stores and galleries, go for a horse trail ride and visit Trewhella Farm to pick mouthwatering Silvan berries, Marions, Boysens & Blueberries.
For a relaxing, romantic bed & breakfast escape you can’t go past the Blue Cliffs Retreat Hotel Daylesford. All villas have beautiful views, their own double spa baths, fireplaces and double saunas. A honeymooner favourite.
Bendigo (2 hours from Melbourne)
Bendigo (pictured) is a fabulous place to be any time of the year for simple holiday joys like long lazy lunches and events that the city hosts.
For a dash of glamour, you can catch the Grace Kelly exhibition showing 11 March to 17 June 2012 at the art gallery – and then contrast it with an experience in the scuffed boots of those who helped put the city on the map all those years ago.
At the Central Deborah Gold Mine there are various tour options that go underground through tunnels of varying difficulty. The Nine levels of Darkness tour heads 228m below the surface. You’ll actually get to work in overalls, operate a drill and set charges—yes, you will get dirty!
If you’re claustrophobic, you might prefer all the wonderful fresh air to be found aboard the Victorian Goldfields Railway classic steam train that travels between small local towns. You can even have a go at driving between morning and afternoon tea.
The Homestead Motor Inn & Apartments Bendigo has all you need at a great price – outdoor pool, spa and comfortable rooms with fully equipped kitchens.
Image: Robert Merkel