Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Australasia & Pacific

One hour from: Melbourne

Up, up and away with the wallabies

Strike gold, float over the vineyards and meet koalas on a day trip Melbourne.

Strike gold, float over the vineyards and meet koalas on a day trip Melbourne.

Yarra Valley

Reach for the sky with a hot-air balloon trip and float silently over the wineries, lush landscape of national parks and forests. Keep your eyes peeled for wallabies. Sample the grape at more than 30 wineries, such as Domain Chandon, de Bortoli and Fergusson, and check the treats in the amazing restaurants. Nature fanatics should see Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary.

By car: take Maroondah Highway (B360) and follow signs; approx one hour.
By coach: frequent service to Healesville from Spencer Street coach terminal; one hour-plus.


Relive the days of the gold rush with a visit to historic Ballarat. Sovereign Hill is a replica 1860s goldmining township, where you can try your luck and pan for gold. Other sights include the beautiful Botanical Gardens and the Fine Art Gallery (the oldest provincial gallery in Australia). The annual Begonia Festival blooms in March, attracting visitors from across the world.

By car: take the M8 and follow signs; approx one hour. By train: frequent service from Spencer Street station: one hour-plus.

Daylesford and Hepburn Springs

Give your health a boost and head for Daylesford and Hepburn springs in Wombat forest. Well-heeled Melbournians have been flocking here to take the waters since the 1870s. The beautiful countryside has many Swiss-Italian drystone farmhouses and old colonial buildings. The Hepburn Springs Spa resort offers treatments including hydrotherapy and massage.

By car: Western Freeway out of Melbourne and follow signs; one hour- plus.

The Dandenongs

This area offers everything from National Park bush walks and antique shops to gardens and excellent guesthouses. Ditch your car at Belgrave and hop aboard Puffing Billy, a Victorian steam train. From an open-top carriage you can take in the stunning scenery of hills and forests.

By car: take the Burwood Highway to Upper Ferntree Gulley and follow signs for the Mt Dandenong Tourist Road; approx 40mins.

Mornington Peninsula

Looking for great beaches, outdoor sports and gastronomic delights? The Peninsula offers both quiet bayside beaches and spectacular oceanside surf sands. There are also top golf courses with great coastal views and excellent riding.

By car: take Nepean Highway and follow signs; approx one hour.

Phillip Island

The island is famous for its Penguin Parade, which happens every sunset. From environmentally safe observation decks, witness hundreds of fairy penguins return waddle up the beaches to their night time burrows. If you are a fan of the koala, stroll along the elevated boardwalks of the Koala Conservation Centre to observe these sleepy bears in their natural habitat. At the Sea Life Centre see Australia's largest colony of fur seals.

By car: take the South-Eastern Arterial (M1) south and take the Phillip Island exit onto the South Gippsland Highway (M420); one hour-plus.

Travelbag (0870 8901 458; www.travelbag.co.uk) offers two weeks in Melbourne from £1,256 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights with Emirates, b&b and car hire. For more information and details of events visit www.australia.com