Bigger is not always better. Some of the best discoveries can be found in Victoria's tiny towns and villages. Some are off the beaten track; others already well known.
They're home to local secrets worth seeking out: like where to find the best vanilla slices, craft gin, and gourmet bakery goods. They're full of vintage boutiques, secondhand records, artisan products, postcard-perfect gardens and captivating small galleries.
Stop off at places such as the tiny hamlet of Walhalla. It's like a time capsule from the mid-19th century gold rush era, complete with authentic experiences such as gold mine tours and even a hair-raising ghost tour. Nearby, the town of Noojee is home to an imposing all-timber train trestle bridge.
In South Gippsland, Fish Creek hosts a thriving enclave of local artists and is also a hub for the region's spectacular home-grown produce, while grandly-named Grand Ridge is famous for an award-winning brewery of the same name.
Further east, visit the waterside village of Metung for spectacular views of the Gippsland Lakes and a stay at Metung Hot Springs; catch a short ferry from Paynesville to tiny Raymond Island for a koala-spotting expedition; or stop in at Buchan to tour a spectacular underground cave network.
Traverse the Great Alpine Road to charming Omeo and stay at the cute Snug as a Bug Motel, or drive on to Dinner Plain which is one of Victoria's highest townships and a hidden gem for skiers (winter) and adventure lovers alike.
Straddling the Ovens River on the outskirts of perennially popular Bright is Porepunkah, a tiny township with panoramic views of nearby Mount Buffalo. Nearby, the historic towns of Beechworth and Chiltern are laden with Victorian-era charm. The former is just as well known these days for its thriving honey industry, and don't miss a stop at Dow's Pharmacy in Chiltern, which these days is a museum offering a window to Victoria's golden era.
A short detour off the Hume Freeway, the key arterial connecting Melbourne and Sydney, is Glenrowan, which commemorates the life and deeds of Australia's most famous bushranger and outlaw, Ned Kelly.
The tiny township of Great Western, a short drive from tourist favourite Halls Gap, is home to the grand old Seppelt winery offering tours of its vast underground storages. Pop into Murtoa, near Horsham, for an unexpected encounter with installation art at the Murtoa Stick Shed, while a trip to tiny Kaniva surprises as the the home for one of the last puppet shops still operating in Australia, as well as being a stop on the now-famous Silo Art Trail.
The famed Great Ocean Road and its lush hinterland conceal a trove of fascinating villages and hamlets such as Forrest, a favourite of mountain bikers and also renowned for its quaint general store and highly regarded brewery.
Take time out in Victoria’s villages. Find your own pace, enjoy surprise discoveries, and support local enterprises.