Regional Victoria's coolest and quirkiest small towns

Rainbow town Victoria

RACV Staff

Posted September 20, 2023

Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover or adventure and adrenalin junkie, these quaint, quirky, and captivating towns in regional Victoria are worth the drive.

Victoria might be known for its upmarket seaside towns, sprawling wine regions and luxurious spa country, but off the beaten track, there are some hidden gems in our midst. 

From a gorgeous gold-rush era village with a population of just 20 residents to an International Book Town or a visit to residents of a dormant volcano, Victoria's roads-less-travelled are punctuated with must-see spots worthy of any road trip.

It may be a quirky weekend away or a just a day trip away from the hustle and bustle. Either way, regional Victoria has something for everyone. Here's our guide to some of the most captivating and unique Victorian towns. 

Before you take off, pack your emergency car kit and check that you've updated your RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance.


All bibliophiles should bookmark this pretty little Goldfields town north of Ballarat.

Located just a 15 minute drive from the RACV Goldfields Resort, it’s home to so many bookshops that it’s been declared an 'International Book Town' – one of only 22 worldwide.

Along with the beloved Booktown Festival each year, Clunes regularly hosts free author talks on the third Sunday of every month.

If visiting on any other day, enjoy the peaceful rhythms of the well-read community, where some of the state’s best-preserved 19th-century buildings house cafes, bistros and, of course, bookshops.

Fish Creek

You can’t miss the fabulous Fish Creek Hotel. The looming art deco building topped with a huge, stunned mullet by Gippsland artist Colin Suggett has become a beacon to those travelling through the rolling countryside to Wilsons Promontory, or those tackling the Great Southern Rail Trail.

Go for a gallery hop around the “Arts capital of South Gippsland” – including the gallery/bookshop of adored children’s author and illustrator Alison Lester, and Celia Rosser’s eponymous gallery showing her intricate botanical drawings – before a lunch of fine Gippsland pub grub at the destination watering hole.


Along with having one of the most memorable names going round, Dookie is a scenic slice of the Goulburn Valley, with a progressive reputation and community feel.

Surrounded by springtime golden canola fields and the trio of hills Mount Major, Mount Saddleback and Gentle Annie, the town offers hidden gems including Dookie Emporium – a vintage treasure trove with a popular cafe – and laidback Tallis Wines in Dookie Hills, where vines thrive in red volcanic soil.

Stop in before a stay at the RACV Cobram Resort, which is just 25 minutes away.


Clunes is known for its fabulous love of books. Image: Visit Victoria.
There's no missing the grand Fish Creek Hotel. Image: Visit Victoria.
Stop for a vino in the town of Dookie. Image: Tallis Wines.

French Island

A French Island in Victoria? It's here, and accessible by ferry from Stony Point and Cowes in nearby Phillip Island. As one of many of the state's island paradises, the area is known for its magnificent national park, which is not only home to Victoria's most significant koala population, but also accommodates over 70 per cent of the island, with over 580 indigenous plants and 230 bird species calling it home. 

Once you've arrived, head on an island mountain bike ride, go on a scenic bird-watching trail, look out for seals and dolphins, visit the local winery, or simply have a relax on the white sandy beaches before heading back to the nearby RACV Inverloch Resort.


Nestled in the lush Otways, Forrest lures all kinds of travellers, from avid cyclists heading on mountain trails and adventurers searching for the elusive Otways panther, to rugged road trippers and gourmet foodies travelling inland from the Surf Coast.

The Forrest Mountain Bike Trails offer more than 65 kilometres of track winding through the Great Otway National Park, and local hiking trails lead to secluded waterfalls and ferny nooks. Nearby, kayakers paddle between ghostly gums while searching for platypus on haunting Lake Elizabeth. The ever-popular Forrest Brewing Company and eatery beckon when it’s time to refuel.


Not only does Maldon have the most intact heritage streetscape in Victoria, the charming village, less than two hours' drive north-west of Melbourne, also claims the title of Australia's First Notable Town, after being classified by the National Trust in 1966.

As well as having one of the best country pubs in Victoria, Maldon's 19th-century main street has been meticulously preserved since the gold rush days, with the local railway station (built in 1884), Grand Hotel (1888) and old post office (1870), among some of its beautifully maintained heritage buildings. 


Step back in time at Walhalla, a sleepy mountainside village at the edge of the Victorian Alps that might just be Victoria's ultimate ghost town.

After the discovery of Cohen's Reef in the 1860s - a 3km vein of gold running through Walhalla, which yielded more than 50 tonnes of gold – the town became one of Australia’s richest, with some 4000 gold-digging hopefuls calling it home.

These days, the charming village is home to just 20 residents, with the historic centre lovingly restored to its gold rush-era glory. The picturesque spot offers myriad biking and hiking trails but, if you like eerie experiences, take a ghost tour of the old cemetery on the hill.


Go koala spotting on French Island. Image: Visit Victoria.
Recharge at the quirky Forrest Brewery. Image: Supplied.
See Victoria's most intact heritage streetscape at Maldon. Image: Visit Victoria.
Head on a historical ghost tour in the eerie town of Walhalla. Image: Supplied.


There’s no pot of gold at the end of this Rainbow, but the small town on the southern fringe of Victoria’s Mallee is still a hidden gem known as the 'Gateway to the Mallee.'

The Mallee region is a destination in itself, as part of Victoria's great silo art trail and the tiny town of Patchewollock.

The colourfully named destination is situated at the edge of the Big Desert, and surrounded by desert lakes and vast Wimmera wilderness. It's also home to an impressive 23 murals depicting the life and history of the town’s pioneers.

If you want to go 'rainbow hunting', 16 of the murals are located on and around the main street (Federal Street), while the most recent installation is at the rear of the heritage-listed Yurunga Homestead, a beautiful Edwardian-era home built in 1909.


Get a taste of Victoria's earliest medicine at Chiltern, located in Victoria's north-east. The historic township and old gold-mining town is home to Dow's Pharmacy, which includes an original apothecary workshop replete with original fittings, as well as equipment, medicine, and other stock dating back more than 100 years.

The original chemist built it in 1859, and one of its early pharmacists was David McEwen, father of the 18th Australian prime minister, Sir John McEwen.

It makes a great stop just 15 minutes before entering the wineries of Rutherglen.


It might be known for its vibrant local pub, but Koroit, on the northern slopes of Victoria's dormant Tower Hill volcano, is also a history buff's treasure trove.

The charismatic rural town, located 15km inland from Warrnambool, describes itself as an 'Irish Village', and is hailed as one of Australia`s most complete examples of an early Irish settlement.

Nestled in a dormant volcano formed some 30,000 years ago, the wildlife haven was declared Victoria’s first National Park in 1892, and offers visitors an up-close-and-personal experience with some of Australia’s most iconic native birds and animals.


When it comes to reputations, being known as the town with the best ice cream in the state seems like a pretty enviable one. This Surf Coast hinterland hot spot, known for its cheese and dairy industry, has become a becoming a foodie's haven

The local Timboon Fine Ice Cream shop has been scooping hand-churned ice cream made using the freshest local ingredients - the milk comes from the neighbour’s farm and the cream from the local dairy - for more than 20 years. There's even a Saundae School for anyone who wants to learn more about the art of ice cream making.

Timboon is also home to an award-winning whisky distillery, which has been pouring fine spirits from its converted railway shed headquarters since 2008. 


Dow's Pharmacy offers a taste of early medicine. Image: National Trust.
Tower Hill State Reserve is nestled in a dormant volcano. Image: Visit Victoria.
Stop in for some delicious Timboon ice cream. Image: Supplied.
Go for a wander down Loch's pretty main street. Image: Visit Victoria.
Stick it out at Murtoa's historic Stick Shed. Image: Visit Victoria.


Just 25 minutes' drive from Horsham, roughly halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, you'll find Murtoa. The quaint country town is a gateway to many of the hidden treasures of the far west region of the Wimmera, including the must-do Silo Art Trail.

Established in 1876 around picturesque Lake Marma, the town is home to Heritage Listed sights including the Stick Shed, the only remaining emergency grain store built during World War Two, and Kurrajong Tree Avenue; the oldest native street planting in Victoria.


Step out of the city and into a fairytale with a trip to Loch, about 1.5 hours down the South Gippsland Hwy from Melbourne. The stunning town, set against the rolling emerald green hills of the Strzelecki Ranges, is studded with 20th century buildings that are now home to an array of bustling cafes, galleries, gin distilleries, antiques stores and artisan grocers.

For one of the best vantage points in town, don't miss the Cape Horn Lookout on the Loch-Wonthaggi Road.

Bonnie Doon

'We're going to Bonnie Doon!'

The picture-perfect lakeside resort destination, which was made famous in the 1997 Australian satire The Castle, is situated in north-east Victoria on the edge of Lake Eildon. 

Much of the original town of Bonnie Doon was flooded by the construction of the lake in the 1950s and, as such, the township was relocated, earning it the nickname of 'the town that moved.'

The small village is full of culture, with bushwalking, fishing, water skiing, 4WD, trail bike riding and horse riding among some of its more popular activities. Or, if you'd prefer to just relax, sit back and enjoy the serenity.