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Victoria: The Melbourne to Sydney Heritage Drive

Rural Victoria
Ned Kelly, Glenrowan
Echuca 3
Echuca 1
Alpine Valley 4
Bendigo 3
Sovereign Hill Ballarat
high Country 2

Victoria: The Melbourne to Sydney Heritage Drive

story by: Tom Ricketts

Take a journey of discovery between the two largest cities in Australia, Melbourne and Sydney. You’ll pass by vast country stations, red outback, mighty rivers, and lush forests; and have the opportunity to experience the unique culture and arts of the native Aboriginal peoples. Learn about Australia’s long history from its early days as a penal colony, to the gold rushes, and how it has become one of the world’s most liveable countries today.

Where else to start your journey but in the city of Melbourne, home to more people than the whole of New Zealand. The city is world renowned for its culture, arts scene, multiculturalism and sporting events. You’ll need a few days here at least to wander its lanes and alleyways full of boutique stores and shops that will have you spending up large on unique items. Gorge on excellent cuisine in the city’s incredibly diverse range of restaurants. Perhaps catch a play in the theatre district of attend one of the dozens of sporting events held at her massive stadiums each week. And in the evening, retire to a riverside cocktail bar, hit the casino, or find one of Melbourne’s hidden backstreet whiskey bars and wine lounges. Click here for more information on Melbourne.

From Melbourne, grab your rental car and head north into rural Australia. Once you emerge from Melbourne’s urban sprawl, the countryside quickly gives way to farms and large cattle stations. It’s not hard to see why Australia is known as the desert continent, and why Victoria is plagued with bush fires each year. The landscape is tinder dry, seemingly never doused with rain but instead only surviving on irrigation from nearby rivers.

The inland cities of Bendigo and Ballarat are some of the largest in the state and both have a similar history, these cities were born of gold. From the mid 1800’s, Victoria was the scene of one of the world’s richest gold rushes. In its day, Bendigo dwarfed Melbourne in the population stakes as prospectors flocked from around the world to Victoria. While the gold rush has passed, the region has thrived thanks to agriculture and a growing mining industry. But the cities haven’t forgotten their roots and many gold rush attractions exist including Sovereign Hill, and 1850’s mining village with an impressive sound and lightshow in the evenings. This evening perhaps stay in one the many stunning heritage buildings that line Bendigo’s city centre streets.

Heading north now, the country becomes even drier. But when you reach the border towns of Echuca and Moama you’ll find the lifeblood of the region, the mighty Murray River. The twin towns sit on either side of the Murray, which is also the state line meaning Echuca is in Victoria and Moama is in New South Wales. The towns grew to prominence in the late 1800’s as this portion of river is the closest it comes to Melbourne. Echuca was therefore an important inland port and hundreds of paddleboats called here to transfer and collect goods from Melbourne. At one stage it is thought the world’s largest river fleet was centred here. Many of the grand old steamers have been preserved, as well as the original wharf, and cruises along the river depart regularly. The town’s other charms, its wooden heritage cottages are a great place to stay for the night, or perhaps indulge in an overnight cruise on one of the historic paddleboats for something truly unique.

Before crossing into New South Wales, head east next to a region known as the Highlands, full of gorgeous historic towns, many of which have had their main streets and historic buildings preserved. The cooler and wetter climate means that many crops can be grown in the region, and the main streets are bustling with restaurants and cafes all offering fresh, locally grown produce. Lunch is best washed down with a glass or two of local wine from the region’s emerging vineyards. A highlight is the town of Glenrowan which was the scene of one of Australia’s most famous events, the last stand of Ned Kelly.

From the Highlands, head north through the border city of Albury-Wodonga, or take the longer route through to Kosciuszko National Park for the city of Canberra. Purposely built between Sydney and Melbourne in 1913, Canberra is the capital city of Australia. The learning continues here as the city is home to many national monuments and museums including the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery, the National Museum, and the National Library. The city’s wide, tree lined avenues mean it’s a breeze to get around, and the surrounding hills and lakes provide beautiful views and vistas throughout the city.

The final part of the journey takes you from Canberra to Australia’s largest city of Sydney. As one of the first places in Australia to be settled by Europeans, Sydney has a very long and fascinating history to discover. Home to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Sydney Opera House, as well as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and many other iconic attractions. Click here for more information on Sydney.


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