Open season: Regional Victoria ready to welcome visitors

Travelling Well | Clare Barry | Posted on 22 June 2020

After months in hibernation, Victoria’s regions are welcoming back visitors.

After months in hibernation regional Victoria is open for business again, as our country towns, forests, beaches and mountain villages welcome back the restless-hearted. 

From the dreamy river country of the Murray to the windswept beauty of Bass Strait and the historic charms of the central goldfields, Victoria beckons. And it seems we can’t wait to get back on the road to explore it. According to the latest AustraliaSCAN survey more than three-quarters of Victorians are planning a trip to a regional area this year. 

RACV resort at sunrise

Escape the city at RACV Inverloch Resort.

Things will be a little different, of course, as accommodation providers, restaurants, cafes and tourism operators implement social-distancing requirements as well as other measures such as contactless check-in to protect staff and visitors. And on the upside, international travel restrictions mean fewer crowds at the most popular attractions.  

There will be new things to see and do too, as some savvy operators have taken advantage of the long weeks of lockdown to rethink, refresh and rebuild. For instance at all of RACV’s eight resorts, including further afield at Noosa, Royal Pines and Hobart, staff have been busy repainting and refreshing rooms, finishing new cabins, and in the case of Cape Schanck and Goldfields properties, preparing to open two spectacular new restaurants. 

Victoria has always been blessed with world-class scenery and attractions, but now after weeks confined to quarters and with long-haul travel off the agenda for now, there truly has never been a better time to get out and make the most of what’s on our doorstep. 

So where to first? For inspiration, we asked the managers of RACV’s Victorian resorts to give us the inside scoop on what’s new and worth a visit in their backyards. 

Superior Ocean Suite at RACV Cape Schanck Resort

Ocean-views at RACV Cape Schanck.

How's the serenity at RACV Cobram Resort

How's the serenity at RACV Cobram.

Five must-do Victorian weekenders 

Cape escape

The Mornington Peninsula has long been a summer playground, but its cosy cellar doors, hiking tracks and ocean vistas make for a perfect winter escape too.  

Overlooking Bass Strait, RACV’s Cape Schanck Resort will soon boast new 150-seat restaurant Samphire, where executive chef Josh Pelham is excited about “breaking down those walls of formality”. 

“We’ll do things like a really delicious fish pie, with beautiful layers of golden puff pastry, baked and filled with garfish and rockling and prawns and mussels and calamari with a nice rich bouillabaisse dressing. Also XO-glazed crispy duck legs, cured kingfish with taramasalata, or a shared kilo ribeye.” 

Signature fine-dining restaurant Cape is set to re-open later in the year with a more intimate space seating 70, and an open kitchen and dedicated bar. 

The resort has been a hive of activity in lockdown, with solar panels now being installed, and refurbishment beginning on its golf villas. A walkway connecting the resort to the Coastal Walk, which skirts the south-west sweep of the peninsula from Cape Schanck to Point Nepean, was also completed during lockdown. It can be tackled in smaller sections, or you can trek the whole bracing 30 kilometres. 

Anglers are never far from bay or ocean on the peninsula, or for a freshwater catch head to Devilbend Reservoir near Tuerong for estuary perch and trout. And at dusk animal lovers can catch hundreds of roos going about their business just off Boneo Road a few kilometres from the resort.  

To the river

Had enough of the winter chill? Time to head north to the Murray for river beaches, olive groves and a better-than-Melbourne chance of sunshine. 

“We used to have a tourism motto that we have more sunny days here than Queensland,” points out Cobram Resort manager Gary Hunt, “and I think it still applies.”

There are plenty of outdoor activities for that sun to shine on too. Cobram sits within a “mecca” for golfers, says Gary, with 36 holes of championship golf within five minutes’ drive of the resort, and several more courses within half an hour. Cycling, boating and walking are popular too. For wildlife, he recommends a wander around nearby Quinn Island in the Murray, “and if you don’t see a koala you’re not looking”.  

Gary’s getting ready to open 27 new two-bedroom deluxe park cabins, designed by the RACV Cobram team with the Victorian-based manufacturer. “They’re designed with a bedroom at each end which makes them ideal for two couples,” says Gary. “And they’re set in a lovely spacious grassy area near the tennis courts.”

Sunrise at Inverloch

Sunset at RACV Inverloch.

Sunrise over RACV Torquay

Happy hour with a view at RACV Torquay.

Surf’s up 

No region has endured a more dramatic drop in tourist numbers than our magnificent Great Ocean Road, but that means fewer crowds for domestic travellers. 

And winter is a “fantastic” time to explore the area, says Torquay Resort manager Dean Newell. “In many ways it’s at its most spectacular. Sure it’s a bit colder and it might be a bit windier, but it can be far more impressive at this time of year. And it’s a really good opportunity for Victorians and Australians more broadly to get out and experience it without the crowds at those key points like the Twelve Apostles.”  

Aside from the Great Ocean Road itself, the Surf Coast Walk, stretching from Point Impossible north of Torquay to Fairhaven, is popular year round, and is split into 12 bite-sized trails. Or head for the hinterland hills for forest walks, waterfalls and the towering redwoods of Beech Forest.   

Dean says the absence of guests in recent months has allowed for a paint-and-polish blitz at the architect-designed resort. “It’s looking like new,” he says.  

Animal attraction  

South Gippsland has long drawn visitors to its beach-fringed coastline and rolling green hills. This is the place for fishing and rock-pooling, hiking and cycling, and for indulging in straight-from-the-paddock produce. It’s also home to wildlife both great and small, from echidnas and wombats to dinosaur relics. 

And with humans confined to quarters during lockdown some of those creatures have been reclaiming their turf, with an “influx” of kangaroos and wallabies in the grounds of RACV’s Inverloch Resort

“Guests are almost guaranteed to see a kangaroo at some stage when they stay here,” explains manager Carey Norton. “But now in the morning there might be six of them sitting on the lawn in front of the restaurant – or another 10 near the cabins.”  

Wombats and echidnas are common on the property too, along with the occasional koala, says Carey. “We see whales sometimes too from the observation deck. Last season one was in so close you could easily see not just the spray from the blowhole but its [tail] flukes.”  

Cycling in the Goldfields

Tackling RACV Goldfields Resort’s 4.5-kilometre mountain-bike trail.

Hiking in the Goldfields

 A forest walk is the perfect winter warmer.

Go for gold 

There’s a story down every byway of Victoria’s Goldfields region – tales of calamity and instant riches from the ultimate treasure hunt. Perfectly placed to explore them is RACV’s Goldfields Resort set outside Creswick.  

There chef Mark Boyd, who has worked with culinary stars Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White as well as Melbourne legend Jacques Reymond, is ready to open new restaurant Three Founders with a signature menu strong on game including orecchiette with rabbit three ways and kangaroo scented with juniper berry dust. Whole roast chicken, braised beef ribs and gratin of potatoes will also feature, alongside a deep-fryer-free kids’ menu. “We are a real family destination here so providing healthy cooking for kids is so important,” says Mark. 

Resort manager Martin Zumstein says local produce will star in the resort’s Urban Grocer, completed during lockdown, as was a bigger games room with table tennis, an arcade game and air hockey. 

Martin says winter in the goldfields lends itself to exploring, starting with the mountain-bike trail around the resort itself. Beautiful St Georges Lake is a five-minute drive away, or venture out on your own historic tour of gold-rush towns like Creswick, Clunes and Talbot.

Safety first

As RACV resorts welcome back visitors the health and safety of guests and staff is paramount. On top of thorough and regular cleaning, under our ‘Hygiene Promise’ our team is implementing best-practice hygiene and social-distancing protocols for all room and common areas, including golf, spa, pool, gym and other facilities. Hand sanitiser will be readily available.    

Additional precautions include contactless check-in and check-out. No one will enter your room during your stay unless requested. Room servicing, fresh towels, mini-bar items, pillows and rubbish removal will be by request. In all our restaurants, a-la-carte dining has replaced buffet-style meals and single-use menus will be provided. 

With eight resorts to choose from, find the moments you'll remember at an RACV Resort