Valentine’s Day is upon us: a time of year to appreciate that special someone in your life, or yourself. It’s also a time when many of us think about romantic weekend getaways. Whether you want to escape the city, or are just after a change of scenery, Victoria offers a variety of stunning landscapes for you to while away your weekend all year round.
While Victoria is perhaps best-known for several stunning, hallmark destinations — think the Mornington Peninsula, the Yarra Valley and the Grampians — there are many more lesser-known, but equally stunning, locales dotted all throughout the state. To spark some inspiration we’ve compiled a list of 5 of our favourite Victorian weekend getaways, to those places that are a little less touristy, and lot more romantic.
Stretching across the eastern corner of the state, Gippsland is a significant winery and agricultural region of Victoria. Gippsland stretches from around 100km away from Melbourne, all the way to the NSW border so there are plenty of options depending on how far you are willing to travel.
Considering how expansive Gippsland is, we can’t discuss every option, but we can offer a recommendation. Gippsland is dotted with hamlets and villages, and Mirboo North is one such place. Nestled in the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges, Mirboo North is around a 2-hour drive from Melbourne virtually straight down the freeway. An easy drive over to the South Gippsland coast, or further inland to the Latrobe Valley, Mirboo North provides an ideal base for exploring all that Central, South and West Gippsland have to offer.
The Accommodation: Maple Ridge Cottages
These 4 romantic cottages are nestled on 5 acres of rolling hills just to the west of the Mirboo North township, offering a secluded getaway that’s still within touch of civilisation. There are 4 cottages available, housing between 2 and 6 guests, meaning you have the option for a double date weekend away, or just a bit of extra space. Each cottage features full amenities including large corner spa baths and romantic wood fireplaces to keep you cosy during the cooler months. Start your morning by saying hello to the resident farm animals, and collecting some fresh eggs for your breakfast, and end the day by watching the sunset over the hills from your private veranda.
The Activity: Tarra Bulga National Park
Tarra Bulga is a true hidden gem of Victoria’s state parks. 1-hour’s drive from the Mirboo North township, Tarra Bulga has been conserved in its natural form since 1903 and is jointly managed between Parks Victoria and the Gunaikurnai people, for whom this place holds significance as Country. Featuring an array of maintained walking trails for all levels of physical fitness, this National Park is perfect for a casual romantic stroll, to a serious hike. Picturesque waterfalls, lush fern gullies and giant Mountain Ash trees make this destination one of the most Instagram-worthy you’ll visit.
Food & Drink: Grand Ridge Brewery
Grand Ridge Brewery is a local award-winning brewery specialising in craft beers and ciders. Located in the historic old butter factory in the township of Mirboo North, this local brewery is renowned for creating a delicious array of beverages, all made with no added preservatives or chemicals. Their Twister Sister pear and apple ciders are made from Gippsland-grown fruit and are perfect over ice on a hot summer day. The Winter Warmer Stout is perfect for cooler nights, with a heavier texture and light vanilla flavour. Stop by the restaurant for a delicious meal made from fresh, local produce and paired back with the selection of beers or local wines.
2) Bass Coast
Phillip Island is one of Melbourne’s favourite weekend destinations, yet if you take the turn off just before the bridge off the Bass Highway, you’ll be taken down to the stunning Bass Coast. Traditional lands of the Bunurong people, the Bass Coast is home to the meticulously preserved Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park (formerly the Bunurong Marine Park), which provides a view for the pasture-fed cattle and sheep that graze along the coastline.
As with Gippsland, the Bass Coast is an extensive region, and although Phillip Island and Kilcunda are well-known tourist hotspots, we prefer the peace and tranquillity further down the coast. For total seclusion with the modern comforts, we can’t go past Venus Bay as a base.
The Accommodation: Venus Bay Eco Retreat
This off-the-grid luxury accommodation offers a stunning combination of lavish ease. Backing onto the Cape Liptrap Coastal Park, you’ll find yourselves nestled within the endemic ti-tree forest replete with local birdlife and furry neighbours in the form of Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Swamp Wallabies. This cottage is fitted with a kitchenette, outdoor grill, lounge space, generous bathtub with views across the tree tops and a loft bedroom with queen bed, making it the perfect accommodation for a romantic getaway.
The Activity: Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park
Stretching from the edge of Inverloch, across to San Remo on Phillip Island, the Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park is a magnificent stretch of tidal ecosystem. Featuring multiple secluded beaches, the Park offers an array of activities for people or all ages. Check out the rock pools at Flat Rocks, right at the Eastern end of the Park, and scour the beach for shells. Otherwise observe the stunning geological forms of Eagles Nest, and observe the micro-ecosystems in the pools of water surrounding it. For a picturesque, white sandy beach that looks like it’s in Queensland, you can’t go past The Oaks. Right towards Cape Paterson, The Oaks is a picturesque beach with beautiful walk through local shrubbery to access it. Perfect for relaxing on the beach and wading through the shallows, be cautious if you are looking to swim as the beach features a drop-off and the currents along the Bass Straight can be deadly.
Food & Drink: Harman Wines
Harman Wines is 7km inland from the coast, and was established in 2008 with plantings continuing across the 7-acre estate to maximise on the clay loam and maritime characteristics of the region. The winery is exceptionally productive, producing a full spectrum of varietals from sparkling through to rich reds. Sustainability is at the core of this small family-run operation’s ethos, with rainwater being harvested to use for watering, and a worm farm creating natural fertilisers. A kitchen garden provides season produce that features on the small, but carefully curated, à la carte menu across the year.
3) The Victorian Pyrenees
The Pyrenees in France are globally renowned for their spectacular landscapes, luxurious resorts and powdering ski slopes, yet there is also a Pyrenees just 2-hours’ drive from Melbourne. Unlike the French version, these Pyrenees are not dotted with snow-capped mountains, but rather feature one of Victoria’s premium wine regions. Wineries cascade along a variety of altitudes, leading to a plethora of different wine styles. Heavy, sand-based soil is accented with the natural limestone of the region to assist in the formation of delicious Mediterranean cool-climate styled wines. Nestle into this volcanic landscape for a dreamy weekend away.
The Accommodation: Mount Cole Cottages
Nestled in the foothills of Mount Cole, these two self-sustained cottages offer the perfect retreat to unwind and relax in. These two, two-bedroom cottages are both powered entirely by solar panels, and feature ample living space and facilities, with outdoor BBQs included. The original cottage is a quintessential fairy-tale pine structure with cosy wood fireplace to create ambience and keep you warm in winter. The second cottage, Kookaburra Cottage, was constructed in 2017 and is a certified eco-cottage. More modern in feel, this cottage is settled in a small gully and is surrounded by local birdlife. Both cottages offer ample privacy, and the perfect base to wander around the property’s bushland, and venture further beyond into the great Pyrenees Region.
The Activity: Art Trax Gallery, Beaufort
Located in the historic township of Beaufort, the Art Trax Gallery is housed in the refurbished former railway station. The space is run by the Pyrenees Art Council, and hosts workshop spaces for local artists, while also featuring their work in the formal gallery spaces. Entry is just $2, which goes towards maintaining the vibrant local art culture, and ensuring an everchanging exhibition calendar across the year. Many of the works are for sale, so stop by and purchase an original souvenir while supporting the local culture.
Food & Drink: Blue Pyrenees Estate
One of the first cool climate wineries established in the Pyrenees region, Blue Pyrenees is an icon of the region and of the local food and viniculture scenes. At this vineyard, grapevines dominate an array of different altitudes and soil compositions, from the dense soil on the valley floor, up to the loamy sands of the foothills. Featuring an extensive range of tipples from classic Chardonnay/Pinot Noir sparkling, through to delicate Pinot Noir/Merlot blend Rosé, there is a drink available for every palette. Blue Pyrenees have also begun venturing into the Pet Nat market, ideal for those with sulphite intolerances. Time your visit for lunch at the cellar café, which features an ever-changing menu highlighting seasonal produce from the surrounding region.
4) Western Port Bay, Mornington Peninsula
The Port Phillip Bay side of the Mornington Peninsula is well known and loved, yet there is also a whole other side of rambling coastline along the western side. Overlooking Phillip Island and French Island, the western side of the Mornington Peninsula is less built-up and glitzy than its eastern sister. A quieter energy pervades this side of the Peninsula, making it perfect for a lowkey romantic getaway. We love the tranquil township of Flinders as a base for everything from adventures along the rugged coastline, to indulging in a local drop at one of the many vineyards.
Accommodation: Flinders Bed & Breakfast
Located on the edge of the Flinders township, this quaint bed & breakfast feels miles away from society. Surrounded by a native garden, this self-contained one-bedroom cottage is tucked away amongst nature with birdlife resplendent. A north-facing veranda infuses the cottage with ample natural light, and ensures that you can enjoy a beautiful meal in the sun day-round. A hamper of gourmet, locally-sourced provisions is also available on request, so that you can enjoy the best of the Peninsula while relaxing next to the serene creek that runs through the property.
Activity: Sourdough Baking Workshop
The Flinders Sourdough Bakery is located in the lovingly restored historic bakery of Flinders. Using the original wood-fired 1940s-built Scotch Brick ovens, these artisanal bakers create classic sourdough loaves and other wonderful baked creations. A focus on sourcing organic ingredients means that each loaf is made with premium, freshly milled flours, grains and fruit. Instead of just picking up a loaf, why not attend their sourdough masterclass? Not only will you get to take home your own freshly-baked loaf of organic sourdough, but you’ll get a full walkthrough of the overall process, including how to make and maintain your own starter (which you can also buy from them!). Additionally, these workshops include bottomless and a delicious lunch! Held on Sundays at 10am and 2pm, you can book in for this unique activity here.
Food & Drink: Ten Minutes by Tractor
Ten Minutes by Tractor is a family-owned vineyard located between Flinders and Red Hill South. It is aptly named because of the 10-minute tractor ride between the multiple varietal vineyards. Showcasing the very best of the Peninsula’s cool maritime climate, plenty of space is devoted to crafting beautiful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vintages. However, production extends beyond these to include crisp white varietals, rosé and sparkling. Book into their restaurant and indulge in the modern Australian menu, incorporating the best local produce and changing with the seasons. Ask the sommelier to pair wines back to your food for the ultimate experience. If the weather is nice, opt to sit on the terrace and overlook the acres of grapevines.
5) Great Ocean Road Hinterland
The Great Ocean Road is one of Victoria’s crowning tourist attractions, yet just beyond the coast is the beautiful hinterland of the Western district. An easy drive from Melbourne, this is a perfect hideaway spot to spend a loved-up weekend together, or just to escape for some self-reflection. Nestled in amongst the towering eucalypts and lush ferns of the Great Otway National Park is the small town of Forrest. Replete with artisanal eateries, and a plethora of walking and mountain biking trails, this rural hamlet is an idyllic central base amidst the trees.
Accommodation: Barramunga Cabins
Situated just 5-kilometres away from Forrest are the Barramunga Cabins. Assimilating with the rich temperate rainforest around them, these enchanting wooden cabins become at one with the landscape. A woodfire heightens the romance of these cosy cottages, and provides the perfect ambience for a night in. Enjoy breakfast on the covered veranda with the local birdlife as your company. Wander the bush tracks marked out on the property during the day and night, as once the sun sets the local glow worm population lights up for the night. Echidna, Koalas and the Otway Carnivorous Snail also frequent the property throughout the day.
Summer Activity: Blueberry Picking
If you’ve ever tried some of the most delicious blueberries in a large container with a big yellow label, you’ve probably had an Otway Blueberry. These berries only grow throughout the warmer months, but are resplendent when in season. When in the area, you are welcome to drop by the farm to pick your own fresh berries. No bookings are necessary, but you are asked to bring your own containers to reduce the farm’s plastic waste. At just $16 per kilogram under 5 kilos, and $13 per kilogram over 5 kilos there’s no reason not to indulge in these antioxidant-packed berries!
Winter Activity: Fungi Tour
Throughout the Australian wild mushroom season (from March to September), Fungi Oz runs tours throughout the Otway Ranges identifying various forms of native fungi. They’re so confident, that if you don’t find 10 different species of fungi, the tour is free. Your tour will teach you how to identify different species of fungi — both lethal and non-lethal — while also giving you photography tips so that you can post the perfect, whimsical Instagram pics.
Food & Drink: Forrest Brewing Company
Located on the main road of Forrest, this family-run microbrewery creates preservative free, vegan seasonal brews. Visiting the brewery, you can get a behind the scenes look at the 600 litre brewhouse and how these artisanal blends are created. From quintessentially dry hoppy brews, to strawberry sours there is something for hardened beer lovers and novices alike. Unsure of what you’ll like? Simply collect the Lockdown Box, featuring a mix of all brews currently available. Based in the old general store, this local brewery has developed a modest alongside its brewing operations. Focusing on local, seasonal produce, the menu changes regularly but is always designed to pair back with the array of beers available.
Now go forth on your next adventure, and remember that although Valentine’s Day provides the perfect excuse for a romantic weekend away, there’s no reason not to indulge and escape to regional Victoria throughout the year.