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Melbourne, Gippsland & Phillip Island

My first trip to Victoria started in Melbourne – an incredibly vibrant city full of culture, passion and amazing food. It’s not hard to see why it’s been voted the world’s most liveable city.

Just to wander through the labyrinth of graffiti filled laneways and find secret cafes, quirky bars and designer shops was rad. I was really blown away by the diversity and openness of Melburnians; I felt like the city possesses such an energetic yet quiet confidence that leaves its residents totally free to express themselves. The cafes, restaurants, bars and galleries are a total feast for the senses and all so easy to access with their impeccable public transport (if you grew up in Auckland you'll understand how it compares with the buses there.)

Food redefined

I'd like to take a moment to now remember all the food I thought was good before. RIP food. Because Melbourne blew it out of the water. We had some ridiculously good eats during our time there.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Oh my. I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere sah fancyyy! The very modern, award-winning menu takes inspiration from fourteenth century cookbooks. Every dish on the menu has the date from when it originated. For example: Meat Fruit (c.1500) – an out-of-this-world chicken liver parfait that is shaped to look like a small mandarin. Visually confusing, but proper delicious.

I also had:

  • Frumenty (c.1390) – Grilled octopus, spelt, pickled red moss, chervil emulsion and smoked sea broth
  • Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) – Cooked with ale and artichokes *cries*
  • Sambocade (c.1390) – Goats milk cheese cake, elderflower and apple, perry poached pear and smoked candied walnuts *cries harder*

That was just the first night. I could have toddled back to NZ a changed woman. But Tourism Victoria had other plans for my newly awakened taste buds: Melbourne Food and Wine Festival's World’s Longest Lunch. A magical three-course meal put together by Guy Grossi enjoyed with 1,600 other guests on the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix track at one loooong table! Another occasion when I didn’t eat until I was comfortably full, instead eating until I hated myself (“whhhhyyy neevveerrr agaaiinnn”). Cheers for the extra puddings guys.

The day ended with the Melbourne Food Experiences Cocktail and Bar Tour, hosted by cocktails specialist Sebastian Raeburn. We visited Union Electric, Bar Ampere, Heartbreaker and the Boiler Maker House. Union Electric was a real stand out for me, not only did the bar look rad (Bill Murray tributes whhaaatt!) but they served us a super yum cocktail called 'The Lola'. Chuuurrrr Aussie cuzzies! It was also most enjoyable having absinthe the correct way at Bar Ampere.

More Melbourne fun

Here's a brief summary of my thoughts on the rest of my activities in Melbourne because I want to get to the Phillip Island and Gippsland part ASAP.

Hidden Secrets Tour of Melbourne: Raddest. Exploring laneways and discovering all the quirk. Thanks so much to Shaun Layh for a wicked morning!

Andy Warhol/Ai Wei Wei at National Gallery of Victoria: So, so, so good. Honoured to have been able to see some of Andy Warhol’s work in the flesh and Ai Wei Wei is my spirit animal.

Press Club Projects dinner: Food geeks unite! A six-course degustation created in front of us in the experimental kitchen of chefs George Calombaris and Reuben Davis, which I can only describe as a flavour and texture adventure. And I love a good adventure. The whole thing is essentially a fun lab for the chefs who use the space to be as creative as they want and you can watch the whole process from prep to plate while they explain all the steps and ingredients as they go. Thanks for having us and putting up with my loud laugh in such a small space.

Crown Metropol: Also worth mentioning here our absolutely insane accommodation! #softestpillowseva

Out of town and out of this world

After that blurr of art, culture, bread, cheese and booze, I was off on my own to Phillip Island and Gippsland. Before this trip, I had never heard of either of these places, but I’m already planning my return.

Phillip Island has a multitude of activities and wildlife. After a morning of freaking out at the cuteness of koalas (and how much they poo. Like wow, so much poop.), I enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Cape Kitchen with uninterrupted views of the Bass Strait and a wander along the cliffs to help digest my veggies. The afternoon was then filled with seals (aka water dogs, I luff yew) and an evening at the Penguin Parade. Now the penguins really did blow my mind – literally thousands of penguins all waddling up out of the water and up the beach at dusk. I was then lucky enough to enjoy a scenic helicopter flight, which was really the cherry on top of my time on Phillip Island. It was such a buzz to see the entire island I had just explored from above

Gippsland Gippsland Gippsland. I have this newfound love for a place I never knew existed. The only problem was I didn’t have enough time there! Sitting at the very southern tip of the Australian mainland, this place is a lush and vast playground. The rural farmland and a lot of the bush actually reminded me of New Zealand. Highlights had to be lunch and 4WDing with Jenny from Gippsland Food Adventures, meeting Spud the farm dog, staying with the beautiful Mary and Peter Riedel at the Church House (a brand new B&B in an 1887 Anglican church that featured on the first episode of Grand Designs Australia!) and of course Tidal River in Wilsons Promontory. My jaw was on the floor the whole drive. Incredible landscapes, white sandy beaches and turquoise water. I really was itching to have more time here. And I’m determined to see a tiger snake in the bush – plenty of those out there.

Lola has a photography and travel blog here: lolaphotography.co.nz/blog

Lola's top picks

Gippsland

So this was fun! Best way to see Phillip Island! @lola.photography #visitmelbourne #flyinglola #visitvictoria #phillipisland

Gippsland

Exploring Wilsons Prom in Gippsland today! This place is incredible! @lola.photography #visitmelbourne #selfie #visitvictoria #visitgippsland #needmoretime #jawonfloor

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Melbourne highlights

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Explore the region

Gippsland

Walking and hiking

Explore Gippsland's lush scenery by traversing one of the many walking trails within national parks.

Mt Baw Baw

Get set for exhilarating snow sports in winter and scenic alpine adventures anytime of year.

Skiing and snowboarding

Mt Baw Baw Resort offers snowboarding, downhill and cross-country skiing, tobogganing and snow-play.

Nature and wildlife

Get close to iconic wildlife on a journey through the diverse landscapes of the Gippsland region.

Walhalla

Discover Walhalla, an historic gold mining township in Gippsland's alpine wilderness.

Food and wine

Try excellent cheeses in charming food friendly villages or head to a local cellar door.

Inverloch

Hit the beach in Inverloch, a popular seaside town on the spectacular Gippsland coastline.

Morwell

Discover Victoria's energy centre at Morwell, located in the heart of the Latrobe Valley.

Road trips

Tour through Gippsland on the Great Alpine Road or the Sydney to Melbourne Coastal Drive.

Villages

Venture beyond the highways to Gippsland's tiny towns; small in size but brimming with things to do.

History and heritage

Explore Gippsland's rich and varied heritage with a visit to some of its historical attractions.

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Highlights

Gippsland

More attractions

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Things to do

Road trips

Tour through Gippsland following one of the famous itineraries - the Great Alpine Road or the Sydney to Melbourne Coastal Drive.

Gippsland

Food and wine

Gippsland is renowned for its countrified produce and gourmet food. Try excellent cheeses in charming food friendly villages or head to a local cellar door.

Gippsland

Events

There are a wealth of events on the Gippsland calendar to choose from including arts and music festivals, sporting and food and wine events.

Gippsland

Accommodation

Gippsland offers a variety of budget and luxury accommodation close to Wilsons Promontory, Gippsland Lakes or by the beach.