7 of Victoria’s most underrated travel destinations and hidden places

A person walking through the Petrified Forest in Portland, Victoria


Posted March 08, 2024

There’s more to explore in Victoria than you might think. Plan your next holiday around one of these less-touristed, underrated and hidden Victorian destinations.

Victoria has plenty of popular tourist destinations. The Great Ocean Road. Ballarat. Bendigo. Phillip Island. Mornington Peninsula. And, of course, Melbourne.  

Detour off the beaten path on a day trip or longer road trip, however, and you’ll find plenty of lesser-known locations that present unique travel experiences without the crowds.

A person taking a photo of a koala in a tree on French Island, Victoria

French Island is an almost untouched pocket of wilderness not far from Melbourne. Photo: Visit Victoria.

Victoria’s most underrated travel destinations, towns and hidden places

French Island 

Phillip Island might be Victoria’s best-known island, but it’s by no means the only island you can visit. French Island is located in Western Port Bay and is a haven for travellers looking for wildlife and outdoor adventures. 

There are no sealed roads on French Island, and the only cars you’ll see belong to the small number of permanent residents. There are however several scenic walking tracks (try the West Coast Walking track to the Pinnacles or stroll along Fairhaven Beach) as well as more than 500 species of native birds to spot. 

Amongst all the windswept nature and wildlife, you’ll also find a winery which is open for visitors during summer. Don’t want to explore the island solo? You can also book a tour departing from the mainland covering all the main attractions. Limited accommodation, including camping, is available on the island though ferries to the island can be caught from either Phillip Island (near RACV Inverloch Resort) or Stony Point (close to RACV Cape Schanck Resort).  

Fun fact: There are more koalas on French Island than permanent residents.  


Tourism’s big hitters in the Victorian Goldfields might be Bendigo and Ballarat, but Clunes is worth visiting too – especially if you love books. This ex-goldmining town is now known as one of only 15 internationally recognised ‘Booktowns’ in the entire world, and is home to the largest collection of books in regional Australia.

Every year (visit the website for exact dates) Clunes brings dozens of booksellers to the small town offering new, secondhand and rare books for sale, in addition to hosting numerous literary events. Famous authors also often visit during this time, and in recent years Clunes Booktown festival has also started celebrating storytelling in all its forms, including film, music, theatre and the visual arts.

You might also get a sense of déjà vu walking around Clunes – the town was used as a filming location for both Mad Max (1979) and Ned Kelly (2002).  

Fun fact: In 1850, Clunes became the first location in Victoria to register a gold discovery. 


People browsing books at outdoor stalls during the Clunes Booktown Festival

The Goldfields town of Clunes is renowned for its annual celebration of books and storytelling. Photo: Visit Victoria.


For those who prefer rivers to oceans, Cobram is a great destination. Located right on the Murray, the land here has been cultivated to produce everything from olives to strawberries to wine, not to mention a healthy patch of premium golf courses. 

Cobam is a great location for family holidays, especially for those with a penchant for caravanning. The town is well positioned to explore some of the region’s best tourist attractions like Cactus Country, Murray Paddlesteamers and Byramine Homestead, while also offering opportunities to relax at the local river beaches.

Fun fact: Thompsons Beach in Cobram is said to be the biggest inland beach in the southern hemisphere.  

Port Fairy

The Great Ocean Road officially ends at Warrnambool, but it’s worth continuing on to Port Fairy if you can. The annual Port Fairy Folk Festival is the biggest drawcard for the town, with around 40,000 punters flocking to the region every March for the music event.  

There’s still plenty to explore in and around Port Fairy outside of the festival, however, and considerably fewer tourists as well. This is Victoria’s volcano country, with extinct volcanoes like Tower Hill and Budj Bim (which is also a UNESCO World Heritage listed Gunditjmara aquaculture site) easy drives from Port Fairy. Guided tours are available at Budj Bim too, including the Kooyang Yana full day walk and the Tungatt Mirring half day tour.  

Drive an hour further west to Portland and you can discover the strange Martian landscape of the Petrified Forest as well as trek part of the Great South West Walk (spot the sizeable seal colony from the top of the cliffs).  

Within Port Fairy itself there are beaches, galleries and boutiques to explore, plus nearby wineries and breweries to imbibe at. Pea Soup and South Beach is the town’s more gentle beach, while East Beach features more rips and is more suited to surfers (always stay between the flags no matter where you’re swimming).  

Fun fact: Port Fairy forms part of the Great Ocean Road’s ‘Whale Trail’ with sightings of southern right, humpback and blue whales possible from May to September.


A couple walking near a lighthouse in Port Fairy, Victoria

Port Fairy is perfectly positioned as a base to explore some of best sites in Victoria's west. Photo: Visit Victoria.

The Otways hinterlands

The Otways Rainforest is renowned for its beauty, but there are some very tasty reasons to detour through some of the small towns that dot the foothills of the region as well.

From pick-your-own berries at Gentle Annie’s and Pennyroyal Raspberry Farm to the haute cuisine of Brae and the famous handmade pies at The Store in Dean’s Marsh, there’s a surprising number of gourmet treats to discover in this region of Victoria. For a drink, try Blake’s Estate, Otway Estate or Forrest Brewing Company.  

Keen gardeners or families might also enjoy a visit to Yan Yan Gurt West, a fifth-generation sheep farm that welcomes visitors to learn about how their regenerative practices are protecting the landscape. Or travel just a bit further afield to experience the majesty of the Otway Fly Treetop Walk.  

Fun fact: Brae has been named as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world – book in advance as reservations can be hot property.


Victoria's best regional pies - The Store Deans Marsh | RACV


Enjoy an outback road trip without leaving Victoria in Mildura. You might know the region for its long history of citrus agriculture (and a visit to Orange World is always a fun day out for the family), but the red earth is just as good for producing viticulture grapes with wineries like Trentham and Oak Valley some of the top to visit.  

Head out for a tour of the Murray on a paddlesteamer or really go bush with a day out in Murray-Sunset National Park (where if the season is right you can see pink lakes) or over the border to Mungo National Park where you can visit one of the most important archaeological sites in Australia. Swan Hill, a haven for water and nature lovers, is also just a few hours’ drive from Mildura. 

Mildura is also a haven for gastronomes – top restaurants to visit include Stefano’s Restaurant for upmarket Italian, Andy’s Kitchen for fun, fresh Asian cuisine in a tropical themed venue, or Brass Monkey for the kind of coffee and café fare that wouldn’t be out of place in Fitzroy.  

Fun fact: Mildura really is for wine lovers – 80 per cent of Victoria’s grapes are produced in the local area.

Gippsland Lakes region

Lakes Entrance is a favourite holiday haunt but there’s so much more to explore in the Gippsland Lakes region. Experience country and coastal living at the same time with plenty of farm gates to stock up on fresh local produce and scenic walking trails available from the Paynesville waterfront through to Mallacoota.  

A trip to Raymond Island is one of the region’s highlights. Catch the ferry from Paynesville to discover this small island with a big koala population. Walk the Koala Trail or hire a surrey bike to transport the whole family by pedal power.  

During the warmer months take advantage of the numerous beaches dotting the coast, including the famous Ninety Mile Beach (which is made up of many smaller beaches like Seaspray and Woodside), Betka Beach in Mallacoota and East Cape in Cape Conran Coastal Park.

Don’t leave without trying some of the freshest seafood you can buy from Off the Wharf in Lakes Entrance.  

Fun fact: The Burrunan dolphin is a distinct species of bottlenose dolphin only found in the Gippsland Lakes, as well as in Port Phillip Bay.

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