When travelling within Australia with your caravan, you need not let the waters of Bass Strait constrain your journey.
Spirit of Tasmania, a passenger and vehicular ferry which traverses Bass Strait and links mainland Victoria with Tasmania, welcomes aboard those travelling with caravans, campervans and motorhomes.
Between late September and Easter, Spirit of Tasmania operates a number of day sailing services which depart from both Melbourne (Station Pier at Port Melbourne) and Devonport at 9am. Check-in for those services is between 6:30am and 8:15am. Due to the early morning check-in, those with caravans or motorhomes may find it convenient to stay in a caravan park close to the ferry terminal the night before, so that first thing in the morning they only have a short drive to board the boat.
Caravan Parks close to Port Melbourne
1. Discovery Parks Melbourne
13 kilometres by road north-west of ferry terminal entrance
The quickest driving route does not use any toll roads
Phillip Island is one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations. It is well-known for its famous penguin parade, large fur seal colony, native wildlife, exciting racing at the island’s Grand Prix circuit, its scenic coastline, quaint fishing villages, beautiful beaches, outdoor dining, and so much more.
The island’s reasonably close proximity to Melbourne makes it a popular choice for visitors, be it a day trip or longer stay.
As the crow flies, Phillip Island is only 75 kilometres from Melbourne. There are a number of ways to get there.
Phillip Island is linked to the Victorian mainland by a bridge at San Remo. The distance to drive from the heart of Melbourne to the bridge is just over 120 kilometres.
Head south-east along the Monash Freeway (M1), taking either the South Gippsland Freeway (M420), Clyde Road (C407) or Koo Wee Rup Road (C422) exit. Follow the M420 and B420 signs as you travel along the South Gippsland Highway, Bass Highway and Phillip Island Road.
The journey time is usually around 90 minutes.
Note that there is no car ferry to Phillip Island, so if you wish to bring your vehicle onto the island, you must use the bridge at San Remo.
A number of V/Line bus services run between Southern Cross Station in Melbourne and several towns on Phillip Island including Newhaven, Cape Woolamai, Surf Beach, Sunderland Bay and Cowes. The journey from Melbourne requires a change of bus at Koo Wee Rup and takes around 2 hours to get to the bridge and a further 20 to 25 minutes to Cowes.
Another option is to catch a suburban train service to Dandenong. From there, catch a V/Line bus that travels direct to Phillip Island. The train journey to Dandenong takes between 40 to 50 minutes, depending from which station in Melbourne’s city centre is used. The bus journey from Dandenong to the Phillip Island bridge takes around one hour and 45 minutes, and a further 20 to 25 minutes to Cowes.
Refer to timetable for Melbourne to Cowes which also includes details of the train service to Dandenong.
From Stony Point Jetty, board the Inter Island Ferries passenger catamaran which docks at the Cowes Jetty. The boat trip takes around 45 minutes, usually with a stop at French Island.
By car and ferry
If you have a vehicle but don’t want to drive all the way around the eastern side of Western Port to the Phillip Island bridge at San Remo, you can instead drive to Stony Point and catch a passenger ferry from there.
Head south-east along the Monash Freeway (M1), take the South Gippsland Freeway (M420) exit and continue along that road which becomes the Western Port Highway (M780/A780) and ends up at Hastings. Alternatively, take the EastLink (M3) exit off the Monash Freeway, then the Peninsula Link (M11) exit and follow that freeway to the Frankston-Flinders Road (C777) exit which takes you to Hastings.
Once in Hastings, follow the Frankston-Flinders Road (C777) to Bittern where there is a turn-off to Stony Point Road (C786) which ends up at the Stony Point railway station and jetty.
There is a public car park in the vicinity of the railway station and jetty. Alternatively, secure parking is available for a nominal daily fee at the Stony Point Caravan Park.
From Stony Point Jetty, board the Inter Island Ferries passenger catamaran which docks at the Cowes Jetty. The boat trip takes around 45 minutes, usually with a stop at French Island.
Did you know that Phillip Island has its own airfield? So you can get to the island by air!
Fronting Phillip Island Road at Newhaven are Phillip Island Helicopters who not only conduct scenic flights, but also offer charter services. In just 30 minutes, you can be flown from suitable landing locations in Melbourne, such as Essendon Airport or Moorabbin Airport, directly to Phillip Island. Avoid the traffic and save time! See www.phillipislandhelicopters.com.au for further details.
Join a tour
Take the hassle out of getting to Phillip Island and finding your way around by joining one of the many guided day tours that departs from Melbourne.
Day tours include a range of activities such as a visit to the famous Penguin Parade and eco-tours that explore the island’s diverse flora and fauna. Tours may also include visits to Churchill Island, the Koala Conservation Centre, The Nobbies and the island’s beautiful coastline and beaches.
Extra daylight is not the only thing visitors to Victoria enjoy more of. Queensland has some of Australia’s most restricted trading hours. This means that when in Queensland, you do have to plan your holiday around shopping hours. In Victoria, you are set free from those restrictions.
To illustrate the differences, let us consider the trading hours for the Woolworths chain of supermarkets in various locations across Queensland and Victoria.
First, let’s look at the major population centres in Queensland.
Area of Queensland
Gold Coast (*)
Major regional cities
Monday to Friday
8am to 9pm
8am to 5 or 5:30pm
9am to 6pm
(*) Extended trading hours apply to a small number of highly popular tourist areas along the Gold Coast which permits some supermarkets to open later on weekends.
Once you start going to smaller cities and towns in Queensland, both along the coast and inland, you will struggle to even find a supermarket open on a Sunday.
Area of Queensland
Monday to Friday
8am to 9pm
8am to 5pm
In Victoria, Woolworths trading hours are much simpler and longer than those in Queensland, particularly on weekends. This is of great benefit for those who are enjoying a weekend getaway and are trying to fit as much into their schedule as possible. Importantly, these longer trading hours not only apply just to Melbourne’s suburbs and regional cities, but also to smaller country towns throughout Victoria.
Trading hours in Victoria
Monday to Friday
6-7am to 10-midnight
6-7am to 10-midnight
6-7am to 10-midnight
Visiting Queensland on a Saturday? Chances are major supermarkets only open after breakfast and close before dinner time. Needing to shop on a Sunday? Good luck in finding a major supermarket that is actually open in smaller regional areas of Queensland.
Visiting Victoria? Enjoy our unrestricted trading hours and shop virtually whenever you want, every day of the week.
1. Some small parts of the toll roads are free to use
The operators of CityLink (parts of the Monash Freeway and Tullamarine Freeway) and EastLink don’t publicise this, but there are short stretches of their toll roads which are free to use, thus you won’t need an electronic tag or be charged for using those sections.
For a toll-free journey on part of CityLink, enter the M1 at Punt Road or Cremorne Street, head eastwards, then exit at Church Street.
For EastLink, enter the M3 from Caribbean Park Drive at the service centre, head southwards and exit at Wellington Road for a toll-free journey.
2. Use each toll road’s trip cap to your advantage
Both CityLink and EastLink have trip caps. This means that after accumulating a certain number of toll costs during an uninterrupted one-way journey, there are no additional costs to pay when driving in the same direction further along the toll road.
These trip caps can save you money as it may be more economical to use one toll road for longer journey (thus reaching the trip cap) rather than combining shorter journeys across multiple toll roads.
For example, consider the journey from Melbourne’s outer southern suburbs (Eg: Frankston) to the inner city. There are two options:
Travel north along the toll road EastLink (M3), then at Dandenong North enter the Monash Freeway (M1) which then becomes the toll road CityLink as it runs south of the city centre.
Travel north along the toll road EastLink (M3) which then heads west and becomes the Eastern Freeway which takes you to the inner northern suburb of Collingwood.
While the first option is of a shorter distance, it will cost more than the second option, because smaller sections of two separate toll roads are being used.
With the first option, you pay an EastLink toll of $4.37 plus a CityLink toll of either $4.24 to exit at Punt Road or $6.90 to Kings Way, taking the total toll cost to between $8.61 and $11.27.
With the second option, the EastLink trip cap is reached, so currently the journey will cost $5.69. So this option saves you between $2.92 and $5.58.
In addition, EastLink offers a 20% discount on tolls for travel during weekends, so you can save even more by using EastLink instead of CityLink which offers no weekend travel discounts.
Melbourne and the state of Victoria boomed in the 1850s after an influx of people from around the world entered the region to try their hand at winning big in the gold rush. In fact, in 1852 more immigrants leaving Britain purchased tickets to Melbourne than to any other destination around the world. While the capital and its surrounds have changed dramatically since then, there are still remnants of the era existing in the state that visitors can explore. If you want to visit Victoria to experience sites of the gold rush past, then read on for some of the top tourist attractions on offer.
Arrive in Melbourne by ship
You can start your journey like so many goldminers did in the 1850s – by ship. However, unlike the gold rush prospectors of the past who battled appalling conditions, scurvy and other diseases on the journey, today’s tourists can instead visit Victoria on the Spirit of Tasmania, a stylish and comfortable cruise liner operating twice daily between Tasmania and Victoria. You can put your car on board in Tasmania and then enjoy a pleasant journey across the Tasman to Melbourne. Once there you have your vehicle on hand to tour around the best historical sites in and near Melbourne.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Victoria is Sovereign Hill, an outdoor museum in Ballarat that tells the story of the region during the gold rush. Visitors to Sovereign Hill can enjoy feeling like they have stepped back in time on Main Street, where costumed actors parade up and down, or try their luck panning for gold. Children will love visiting the on-site theatre to watch a show or watching steam-driven machinery in action, as well as the multi-million dollar sound and light show that is presented at night. Adults are sure to enjoy the fully-guided gold mine tour, a horse-drawn coach tour of the town, or getting a glimpse of the many gold nuggets in the museum. Family tickets are available for around $117.
Located in inner-city Carlton, the Melbourne Museum provides an affordable day out for families. With tickets just $10 for adults and free for children, parents don’t need to spend a lot to take their family to this museum for an exploration of life in Victoria over the ages. The museum covers a wide array of subjects in its eight galleries, from the state’s culture and history to its natural environment. The Melbourne Story exhibition features over 1200 objects from Museum Victoria’s vast collection, including a Cobb & Co Coach and a gold mining model from 1858.
The Old Melbourne Gaol
Built in the mid-1800s, the Old Melbourne Gaol housed criminals, petty offenders, the mentally ill and the homeless during the peak Gold Rush period. At the oldest prison in Melbourne families can explore the three levels of the gaol and see Ned Kelly’s death mask; take a tour of the cells and visit the Police City Watch House; take part in a trial recreation at the old Magistrate’s Court; or take an evening tour of the facilities…if they dare! Family passes cost around $55 for the day.
Melbourne Walks is a company that operates walking tours throughout Melbourne. For tourists who would like to learn some more about the Gold Rush period, they can embark on a cottage tour of the city’s oldest residence and its surrounds. The gold rush cottage is owned by George and Lola Russell and was built in 1850. Tours cost around $70 per person, last for approximately 2 and a half hours and include morning or afternoon tea.
Many have the impression that the perfect example of an Australian summer beach holiday is spending time in Queensland with family or friends. However, for those that love the daylight, your number one choice during summer should really be Victoria.
With Queensland not observing daylight saving time, and being closer to the equator which ensures its summer days don’t get too long, both those factors ensure that sun lovers should consider Victoria for that summer beach holiday.
Let’s compare the summer sunrise and sunset times for an iconic beach location in those two states:
If you’re planning to get the first rays of the morning sun on Queensland’s Gold Coast, you’ll need to ensure you’re up at the unearthly hour of 4:47am on 21st December. However, you can almost forget that evening BBQ in the sun, with darkness falling from 6:42pm.
Compare that to a summer beach holiday at Sorrento, on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Sunrise is at the more reasonable time of just before 6am on 21st December. And you can still feel the warmth of the sun until just before 9pm at night – perfect for those evening meals, walks and swims. Fast forward one month, and while the days are half an hour shorter near the end of January, all that lost daylight time is taken out of the morning, so you can sleep in a bit longer and still enjoy those sunny evenings.
If your ideal summer holiday is evenings filled with daylight right up until quite late, then Victoria is a much better choice than Queensland…by 2 hours a night!
It’s now becoming easier when staying or holidaying in Victoria to ensure that your activities impact as little as possible on the environment. By selecting environmentally friendly accommodation, you can do your bit to reduce waste and conserve the resources of our planet.
Ecotourism Australia provides certification for tourism operators that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. This assures travellers that the accommodation they are staying at, or the tour they are going on, is backed by a strong and well-managed commitment to sustainable practices.
There are several levels of certification, with the highest being Advanced Ecotourism. This is awarded to the country’s foremost and innovative operators. In Victoria. only a small number of accommodation properties have achieved this certification, and one of them is the very special Venus Bay Eco Retreat.
Venus Bay Eco Retreat offers a truly unique experience, nestled in secluded native bushland within the Gippsland coastal community of Venus Bay. It’s well away from the tourist crowds, yet within each reach of panoramic beaches and tranquil wetlands.
The retreat can sleep up to 5 people and is decorated with colours which are inspired by the surrounding forest. It is well-equipped and features a kitchenette, sound system, quality linen, certified organic bathroom products, certified organic breakfast provisions stocked up on arrival, and the use of The Cobb – an eco-friendly outdoor roasting oven and BBQ. The retreat is ideal for couples, families and small groups.
As the Venus Bay Eco Retreat is a climate-action certified business, guests are encouraged to reduce landfill waste. Vegetable scraps can be composted and recyclable waste is collected.
Yoga mats are provided in the retreat, while massages and organic hair and beauty treatments are available nearby and can be booked in advance for guests.
Discover nature when staying at Venus Bay Eco Retreat. The property is home to kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, abundant bird life, echidnas, lizards and ringtail possums. You may be lucky enough to spot some unusual native creatures including as micro bats, native bees and pygmy possums.
Live simply with respect for nature and stay at eco-friendly accommodation!
Despite the small size of Victoria compared to other states in Australia, there can be significant variations between the lengths of days, sunrise and sunset times, and actual periods of sunshine.
Do you like things early? Then Mallacoota is the place to be. Of all the towns in Victoria, it has the earliest sunrise at 5:36am around the 21st of December. Mallacoota is also known for its early sunsets in winter – the sun will dip below the horizon at just 4:50pm on the 21st of June.
Perhaps you like things late? Then head to Portland, in the far west of the state. Sleep in during those chilly winter mornings, with sunrise at a leisurely 7:51am on the 21st of June. Fast-forward 6 months, and you’ll definitely make the most of those balmy summer nights with sunset not occurring until 8:57pm.
If you want to minimise or maximise the actual hours of daylight you experience, then it’s a toss up between the remote southern coastal extremes of Cape Otway and Wilsons Promontory. For those craving light, visit Cape Otway and enjoy the longest day in the state on the 21st of December – 15 hours and 4 minutes. For those that love the nocturnal way of life, then Wilsons Promontory comes in with just 9 hours and 25 minutes of daylight on the 21st of June, resulting in a really long night of around 14½ hours.
Of course, daylight hours for sun lovers means little if there’s cloud cover. The best places in Victoria to maximum your sun exposure are the towns along the Murray River from Wodonga westwards. The pick of the crop is Mildura which typically enjoys more sunshine that any other area in Victoria during those short winter days.
Each financial year, passenger numbers at each of Melbourne’s railway stations is collated and published by Public Transport Victoria.
The table below shows the top 20 most used Melbourne railway stations in the 2011/2012 financial year (1st July 2011 to 30th June 2012), with a comparison on how each of those stations fared from last year.
Change this year
Millions of passengers
The top 5 busiest stations are all the ones that immediately service the Melbourne CBD. They are the above-ground stations of Flinders Street and Southern Cross, plus the City Loop underground stations of Parliament, Melbourne Central and Flagstaff.
Of all the stations that were open for the entire 12 months of last financial year, Wattle Glen (on the Hurstbridge line) and Officer (on the Pakenham line) were the least used.
If you’re in Melbourne, you may decide that for a hassle-free and non-stop drive into regional Victoria for a day out or extended stay, you’d like to travel to the end of one of the city’s several freeways. Let’s see where you can go.
M1 – MONASH FREEWAY / PRINCES FREEWAY – to YARRAGON
Follow the Monash Freeway through Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, then eastwards from Berwick towards Gippsland where it changes its name to the Princes Freeway. Exercise caution when driving along the section between Nar Nar Goon and Longwarry North – the freeway drops to a lower standard and includes several busy level road crossings, but you won’t have to stop at those. Eastwards from Longwarry North, the freeway returns to a high standard again, and the speed limit rises to 110 km/h.
If you’re hungry along the way or need fuel, service centres with direct access to both sides of the freeway are located at Officer and Longwarry North.
The freeway ends at the charming town of Yarragon where you’ll stop at your first set of traffic lights since leaving Melbourne. This tourist village features an attractive strip of shops which overlook an extensive garden with manicured lawns, colourful flowers, a rotunda and lots of seating. Browse through antique and craft shops, drop into the Town & Country Gallery, or treat yourself to some refreshments or a meal at the local hotel or one of Yarragon’s cafes or restaurants. Yarragon is set against the backdrop of the Strzelecki Ranges, so you can take a scenic drive southwards from the town up into the hills.
M11 – PENINSULA LINK / MORNINGTON PENINSULA FREEWAY – to ROSEBUD
Depending where you are in Melbourne, you can access Peninsula Link and the Mornington Peninsula Freeway by starting off on either the Monash or Eastern Freeways, then using EastLink (a toll road) to reach the start of Peninsula Link at Seaford.
The high-standard Peninsula Link and Mornington Peninsula Freeway heads inland through the rolling countryside of the Mornington Peninsula, squeezes between the towering peak of Arthurs Seat and the beach-side suburb of Dromana, then arrives at the Jetty Road roundabout in the residential area of Rosebud. Head northwards along Jetty Road for just over one kilometre and you’ll reach the commercial centre of Rosebud, which is separated from the beach by a bushy foreshore.
Rosebud is one of the largest centres on the Mornington Peninsula, with an extensive array of shops fronting Point Nepean Road, the Rosebud Plaza Shopping Centre and several major supermarkets. One of Rosebud’s interesting features is the extensive foreshore reserve which acts as a thick buffer along the beach. This reserve is home to picnic areas, community facilities and designated camping areas in some of the bushy sections. Rosebud is excellent for swimming with the calm and shallow waters of the bay making it ideal for children and families. For surfers, the ocean beaches fronting Bass Strait on the other side of the Mornington Peninsula, such as Gunnamatta and St Andrews, are a short drive away.
M1 – WEST GATE FREEWAY / PRINCES FREEWAY – to GEELONG
Head westwards along the West Gate Freeway, crossing the iconic West Gate Bridge which spans the Yarra River and surrounding industrial areas. The road then becomes known as the Princes Freeway as it heads south-west towards Geelong.
Service centres are located on both sides of the freeway between Little River and Avalon Airport, providing a convenient location for topping up with fuel or grabbing a coffee to keep you going.
The Princes Freeway skirts around the edge of Geelong’s sprawling suburbs and reverts to standard highway conditions in Geelong’s outer south-western suburb of Waurn Ponds, with several freeway exits providing access to Victoria’s second largest city.
The city centre of Geelong fronts the waters of Corio Bay where there is an attractive waterfront precinct, a sandy beach, safe swimming enclosure and plenty of boating activity. Attractions galore can be found within Geelong including the National Wool Museum, Geelong Performing Arts Centre, several galleries, botanic gardens and the beautiful parkland along the Barwon River. Shopaholics will be right at home in Geelong, with its extensive collection of retail stores on the streets of the city centre, plus a selection of undercover shopping centres. Further afield, Geelong is the gateway to the emerging Bellarine Peninsula and of course Victoria’s internationally famous coastal drive, the Great Ocean Road.
M8 – WESTERN FREEWAY – to BALLARAT
Access to the start of the Western Freeway is via the West Gate Freeway (M1) and/or the Western Ring Road (M80). The high-standard roadway heads through Melbourne’s western suburbs on its journey westwards. Take care when driving on the section between Rockbank and Melton as there are several local roads which have direct level crossing junctions with the freeway. You’ll travel through the scenic valleys and farmland surrounding Bacchus Marsh, then on the eastern outskirts of Ballarat, the freeway standard drops again at Warrenheip with several local road crossings near a group of service stations.
The Western Freeway skirts around to the north of Ballarat, and there are several freeway exists which lead into the city centre and suburbs. The freeway ends to the west of Ballarat and becomes the Western Highway.
Ballarat is a city of grand architecture and many attractions due to its rich gold mining heritage back in those “gold rush” days of the 1850s. Re-live those days by visiting Sovereign Hill – a recreated gold township with activities for everyone of all ages. Visit the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka which commemorates the miners’ rebellion which is regarded as the birth of democracy is Australia. Other attractions include the Ballarat Aviation Museum, Bird World, the Ballarat Wildlife Park, Kryal Castle and Her Majesty’s – one of Australia’s historic theatres. There’s plenty of shopping in Ballarat, and if you want some time out, head to the beautiful botanic gardens and the parkland which surrounds Lake Wendouree.
M79 – CALDER FREEWAY – to BENDIGO
The Calder Freeway commences in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Essendon, and drivers can enter it either via the CityLink section of the Tullamarine Freeway (a toll road) or the Western Ring Road (M80). As the freeway reaches Melbourne’s outskirts, take care around the Calder Park area as there are several level road crossings which intersect the freeway.
The Calder Freeway heads north-west from Melbourne and crosses the Great Dividing Range at Macedon. It doesn’t quite make it to Bendigo, dropping down to highway standard north of Harcourt, however it’s still a non-stop journey along the Calder Highway through the Greater Bendigo National Park and to Bendigo’s far southern suburb of Kangaroo Flat where you’ll stop at your first traffic light since Melbourne.
Bendigo, like Ballarat, is a city of grand architecture and wealth thanks to its rich gold mining history. Bendigo and its suburbs are ringed on most sides by bushland, creating the impression of a city within a forest. Within this city you can go underground into a real mine at the Central Deborah Gold Mine, take a trip through the city on its famous “talking tram”, get hands-on at the Discovery & Technology Centre and connect with the heritage of Bendigo’s Chinese people at the Golden Dragon Museum. Beautiful gardens are a feature of Bendigo and highlights including Rosalind Park with its lookout tower, Lake Weeroona and the White Hills Botanical Gardens.
M39 – GOULBURN VALLEY FREEWAY – to SHEPPARTON
The Goulburn Valley Freeway starts 100 kilometres north of Melbourne, just outside of Seymour. Access from Melbourne is via the CityLink section of the Tullamarine Freeway (a toll road) and/or the Western Ring Road (M80), then head north along the Hume Freeway (M31) until you reach the exit to the Goulburn Valley Freeway.
The Goulburn Valley Freeway continues its journey northwards, roughly following the Goulburn River and drops down to highway standard on the southern outskirts of Shepparton as it makes its way into the city centre.
Shepparton is located within one of Victoria’s richest fruit-growing districts and is home to SPC Ardmona which has a factory direct sales outlet which is open to the public. Shepparton has a strong cultural background and the city is home to museums, galleries and festivals. There’s an extensive shopping precinct in Shepparton with its heart being the Maude Street Mall. If you’ve got kids, take them to Kids Town – one of Australia’s best community playgrounds. Natural attractions in Shepparton include Victoria Park Lake, on the highway just south of the city centre, the Goulburn River and the reserves and forests which line this iconic waterway.
What about the Hume Freeway (M31), you may ask? This freeway-standard roadway continues non-stop from Melbourne’s northern suburbs and across the Murray River into the neighbouring state of New South Wales, thus there is no end point for this freeway in Victoria. When the Holbrook bypass opens later in 2013, you’ll be able to drive from Melbourne to Sydney without stopping, although you should stop regularly for rest breaks of course.