Written by travel  |  09. October 2006

Victoria may be Australia's smallest state, but this magnificent region on Australia's Southeast Coast is certainly big on scenic attractions. Starting with the city of Melbourne, the funky, San Francisco-style state capital, Victoria makes the long flight to Down Under definitely worth the trip. Melbourne can lay claim to the title "Australia's favorite city," because even residents of the bigger and brassier Sydney seem to have a soft spot for Australia's "arts and culture capital." Starting with Chinatown and extending to hip neighborhoods like St. Kilda, Melbourne is a delight to the senses, gastronomic or creative. The San Francisco image extends to the cable cars that wend their way through the city's neighborhoods, which are a melting pot of races and nationalities, with, as you'd expect, terrific ethnic restaurants, from Italian to Malaysian, to Vietnamese. Outside Melbourne, you can see some of Australia's most spectacular scenery, in areas like The Great Ocean Road, built as a public works project by returning Aussie veterans from World War I. The scenic highway, taken in a day-trip or, more comfortably, on an overnight from Melbourne, brings visitors to such scenic wonders as "The Twelve Apostles," an awe-inspiring group of offshore rock formations, and "The Grotto," a cavern hewn out by the sea's powerful waves. Those who overnight at Port Campbell can take a "bush walk" through the crater of a dormant volcano in the Tower Hill State Game Preserve, where you can see koalas, emus, and kangaroos in the wild, and learn how Australia's indigenous people adapted to the environment. East of Melbourne, you can take a day trip to Phillip Island and see one of Australia's favorite attractions, "The Penguin Parade," where, each day at dusk, hundreds of little penguins make their way from the surf to burrows in the sand dunes. On the way, you can stop for a great lunch at the Warrook Cattle Farm off the South Gippsland Highway, and then milk a cow, watch a sheep-shearing demonstration, and feed the kangaroos. For further information, log on to www.visitvictoria.com. Enjoy!

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