Next time you’re planning a trip from the southeastern corner of South Australia across the border through South-West Victoria, why not take the alternative inland route? You’ll discover the magic of small towns, marvel at rolling green pastures and discover hidden country gems without the crowds.
Mount Gambier in South Australia is a hop, skip and a jump from Victoria and serves as the perfect starting point of a South-West Victorian road trip. Drive 50 minutes across the border and you’ll arrive at Casterton, a vibrant town on the banks of the Glenelg River.
High above Casterton’s city centre, you’ll find Mickle Lookout. It offers magnificent views straight down the main street and provides a prime photo opportunity. You can drive to the top or opt to walk if you want to stretch your legs.
Once you’ve taken in the views, head down to the main street for a bite to eat. This cafe oozes old school charm and offers an array of quality dine in or takeaway options. It’s a beautiful spot where you’ll find the locals relishing in the sunshine on the outdoor tables. Afterwards, pop into the clothing boutique next door.
Known as the birthplace of the Kelpie working dog, a trip to Casterton is never complete without a visit to the Australian Kelpie Centre. The state-of-the-art facility includes an interpretative display showcasing the history of the Kelpie and the story of Victoria’s first inland European settlement, as well as a walking trail. You’ll leave with a new appreciation for a truly Australian dog, a richer knowledge of Casterton plus a new plush Kelpie toy (or stubby holder).
Heywood is a small country town that packs a punch. Boasting a rich history and surrounded by beautiful Australian bush, it’s a place to discover Victorian history and unwind in nature.
A must-see is the Heywood Water Tower, an Indigenous war memorial mural recognising the sacrifices made by Gunditjmara servicemen and women. Internationally-acclaimed street artist Adnate was commissioned as the lead for the project with assistance from local Indigenous artist, Levi Geebung. It’s worth putting Heywood on your pit stop list to take in all the rich history while marvelling at the incredible paintwork.
Loved by the locals, this charming bakery is the perfect spot for the busy traveller looking for a hearty meal. Boasting a full range of traditional bakery foods as well as meals to eat in or take away. If you’re craving a mouth-watering country meat pie to tackle, this is it.
A short drive from Heywood, you’ll discover the rich cultural heritage of Budj Bim and the natural wonders of this ancient, volcanic landscape. Budj Bim National Park is home to a tranquil crater lake, lava canals and caves in a lush bushland setting.
To make the most of your experience consider booking a Gunditjmara guided cultural tour in advance and allowing at least a half day at Budj Bim National Park.
On the shores of Tae Rak (Lake Condah), you’ll find one of the oldest and most extensive aquaculture sites in the world. The Tae Rak Aquaculture Centre houses a kooyang (eel) holding tank and processing facility, as well as a gallery, retail space and bush tucker cafe. Learn all about the history of Tae Rak, from how it got its name to the meaning behind the beautiful architecture and the stories told by the markings on the interior walls. Oh, and don’t forget to ask the tour guides how eels reproduce… you can thank us later!
This 2-3 kilometre walking trail follows a picturesque and serene track around the crate-lake’s edge. Along the way you’ll encounter some geological wonders including lava blisters, laval tunnels and a natural bridge. Keep your eye out for birds and furry koalas as well. There might be a few overgrown spots where some mild bush-bashing is required, but it’s all part of the fun!
Located next to Budj Bim National Park, you’ll find a family-owned and operated winery. Say hello to the resident emus and squeal at the tiny, insanely cute lambs while enjoying a tipple of wine or a botanical-infused gin. Keep an eye out for when their accommodation launches soon – idyllic quaint cottages set at the foot of the vineyard with rustic interiors, a crackling open fire, and nothing but the sounds of wildlife to keep you company. Oh, and order the cheese platter… trust us.
On your way out of Budj Bim, be sure to make a stop at Macarthur. It’s a lovely small town with all the country charm and character you’d expect. In recent times, it has become a major contributor to Australia’s renewable energy with the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere. The town lies on the edge of a vast lava flow that occurred 30,000 years ago.
Located at the corner of High Street and Hecklefield Street, the Macarthur Memorial Rose Garden features 150 roses, each with an individual plaque commemorating a soldier who fought for Australia. Each plant and the corresponding plaque was donated by the family or friends of the individual soldier. There’s also something very special about the general store, with its relaxed atmosphere and old-charm aesthetic.
Discover Victoria’s largest dormant volcano in Tower Hill, a short 40 minute drive from Macarthur. Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve sits in a large volcanic crater and is one of Victoria’s most fascinating and significant geological formations.
You think you’re fit until you embark on the steep climb to the top – but trust us, it’s worth it for the view at the top. 360 panoramic views of the wetlands and native flora and fauna, and the satisfaction that the walk back to the car is all downhill! You’ll be sure to hit those 10,000 steps. Keep an eye out for any wandering echidnas along the way – sometimes they like to greet you on the path. Take in the rustle of the wind through the trees, the dappled sunlight through the shadows, and the beautiful deep blue ripples upon the water’s surface.
Don’t forget to take a stroll along the Wetlands Walk before you leave, and expect to greet a few emus and plenty of koalas along the way. It’s a beautiful walk that goes for about 20 minutes and has you completely immersed in nature, leaving you feeling calm, refreshed and appreciative of our amazing wildlife.
Once you’ve marvelled at the volcanic wonders of Tower Hill, it’s time to decide on your final road trip destination. You’ll find Warrnambool a 12 minute drive away or if you’d like to go further, Geelong is 2 hours and 20 minutes further while Melbourne is about 3 hours. There are so many hidden gems throughout South-West Victoria just waiting to be discovered!
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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.