Best Small Towns to Visit in Victoria, Australia
Are you planning to hit the open road in the stunning state of Victoria? There’s so much to see and do on this part of Australia’s south coast that it can be difficult to know where to start.
At Walk91, we love showcasing the very best our home state has to offer. It’s this passion for Victoria that inspired us to create our range of Self-Guided Great Ocean Walk Tours!
When you’re here, there are plenty of charming small towns to visit both before and after you tackle the Great Ocean Walk. These picturesque places are perfect for embracing local culture and enjoying the tranquillity of a slower pace of life.
Let’s get started on our picks for the best small towns to visit in Victoria. And if any questions come to mind as we go, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Apollo Bay: Gateway to the Great Ocean Walk!
Nestled at the foot of the lush Otway Ranges, Apollo Bay is the official starting point for the Great Ocean Walk. This charming coastal town is the place we call home! It boasts a scenic harbour, beautiful beaches, a relaxed, easy-going atmosphere, and so much more.
Verdant green landscapes surround Apollo Bay and, as a historical fishing town, you’ve got your pick of incredible seafood restaurants. There’s a little of everything to enjoy, be it fish and chips, oysters, king prawns, mussels, scallops, or calamari.
You can also find the only gin distillery on the Great Ocean Road right here — the Apollo Bay Distillery! Located on the town’s main street, this is also a highly popular dining spot serving all kinds of cuisines. For a craft beer alternative, check out the brilliant Great Ocean Road Brewhouse.
Fancy 18 holes by the sea? The Apollo Bay Golf Club has got you covered! Do you want to learn about our town’s rich history (including numerous shipwrecks!)? Head over to the Apollo Bay Museum.
If you’re in town on the third Sunday of the month, be sure to visit the Apollo Bay Farmers Market and sample some of the finest and freshest local produce.
And for a spectacular view over our town, the beach, harbour, and the wild blue ocean beyond, head up to Marriner’s Lookout.
The local recommendations keep on coming in our blog The Top 10 Things to Do and See in Apollo Bay!
Beechworth, North East: A Taste of Gold Rush Heritage
In northeast Victoria, you’ll find Beechworth, a town that has perfectly preserved its gold rush heritage. Walk through the historic streets lined with grand Victorian-era buildings. Visit the wonderfully preserved edifices of the Telegraph Station, Powder Magazine, and Beechworth Historic Courthouse before exploring the notorious Beechworth Gaol.
The town is also famous for its gourmet food and wine, so be sure to sample some local treats at the Beechworth Bakery, Bridge Road Brewers, or one of the many local wineries.
And while Beechworth is infused with history, it’s also in the foothills of the Australian Alps, so it’s surrounded by stunning nature. This includes Chiltern-Mt. Pilot National Park, home to Woolshed Falls.
Bright, North East: A Nature Lover’s Paradise
Nestled in the heart of the Alpine region, Bright is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. This tiny town is an ideal base for exploring the peaks of Mount Buffalo National Park and Alpine National Park. Mount Hotham, a popular ski resort, is close by too.
Whether you’re into hiking, cycling, or simply enjoying the natural beauty, Bright has something for everyone. It’s only a 3.5-hour drive from Melbourne, so it’s a popular weekend getaway from the city.
If you are staying in Melbourne for a while, check out our blog What to Do in Melbourne, Australia for a Month for some useful local insights!
The Ovens River winds through Bright, passing the beautifully landscaped Centenary Park, offering opportunities for fishing, swimming, and kayaking.
In autumn, the town comes alive with vibrant colours as the trees change to shades of red and gold. Don’t miss the Bright Autumn Festival if you’re visiting during this season.
Clunes, Northern Rivers: A Literary Escape
Clunes, a charming town in the Northern Rivers region, is renowned for its love of literature. In fact, it’s one of only 21 “International Book Towns” around the world. This little gem hosts the Clunes Booktown Festival, where book lovers can browse through a treasure trove of rare and secondhand books.
But Clunes has plenty of fascinating history to explore too. In 1850, the town registered Victoria’s first gold discovery. In 1873, the first gold strike followed!
On a visit to Clunes, you can stroll along the historic streets and admire the well-preserved 19th-century architecture. This is a serene retreat that appeals to those seeking intellectual and cultural enrichment.
Lorne, Great Ocean Road: Revel in Beachside Bliss
If you’re looking for a coastal paradise along the Great Ocean Road, Lorne is the place to be. A short drive northeast of Apollo Bay, Lorne is home to pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and the stunning Erskine Falls. This small town offers the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.
Located on the Surf Coast, Lorne is also a popular destination for surf beach holiday escapes. But in addition to easygoing surfers, it also attracts hikers, campers, backpackers, and people looking to take a break from city life.
Take a dip in the crystal-clear waters, explore the Lorne Sculpture Biennale, or indulge in delicious seafood at one of the local restaurants. It’s no wonder Lorne is a favourite holiday destination for both locals and tourists.
If you’re in this part of Victoria before taking on the Great Ocean Walk, don’t forget to prepare adequately. Read our guide Planning Your Great Ocean Walk Adventure to find out more.
Sorrento, Mornington Peninsula: Seaside Serenity
Sorrento, situated on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula, is a historic coastal town with a European charm — like its famous Italian namesake! The main street here is lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes.
Stroll along the gorgeous Sorrento Ocean Beach, where you can see the historic limestone kilns, or take the ferry to Queenscliff for a day trip.
Sorrento is truly one of the prettiest small towns in Victoria. It’s a place where you can enjoy the serenity of the beach and the bustle of the town in equal measure.
Dunkeld, Maranoa: Gateway to the Grampians
Dunkeld is a tiny town that packs a big punch, serving as the gateway to the awe-inspiring Grampians National Park. Sitting in the shadow of Mt. Sturgeon, this is a paradise for nature lovers and hikers, with numerous trails that lead to breathtaking lookouts and waterfalls.
The Royal Mail Hotel is a must-visit for foodies, offering a gourmet dining experience in a relaxed country setting. And don’t forget the Dunkeld Old Bakery. This institution has been feeding travellers since 1887!
After a day of exploring the Grampians, you’ll find Dunkeld to be a cozy and welcoming place to rest your head.
If you’re looking to take your hiking adventures further afield in the future, check out our blog What is the Best Multi-Day Hike in Australia? to inspire you!
Daylesford, Macedon Ranges: Victoria’s Famous Spa Retreat
Nestled in the Macedon Ranges, Daylesford is known for its rejuvenating natural mineral springs and spa retreats. This picturesque town offers blissful R&R and a tranquil escape from the bustling city life.
Pamper yourself with a visit to the Hepburn Bathhouse or simply unwind by the serene Lake Daylesford. The town is also renowned for its vibrant arts scene and boutique shopping, making it an ideal destination for a romantic getaway.
But there’s plenty of history here too! Like so many of the best small towns in Victoria, Daylesford has gold rush roots dating back to the mid-19th century. And the shine certainly hasn’t worn off this illustrious, well-preserved gem.
Looking for more travel inspiration? We think you’ll love our recommendations for the five best things to do in Victoria, Australia.
Best Small Towns in Victoria: Honorable Mentions:
- Queenscliff, Greater Geelong (South): Queenscliff is a historic maritime town with charming streets, heritage-listed buildings, and a strong connection to the sea. It’s the perfect place to relax and explore local history.
- Port Fairy, South West: This charming fishing village boasts well-preserved 19th-century architecture, a vibrant arts scene, and a picturesque harbour. It’s a fantastic spot for birdwatching and coastal walks.
- French Island, Western Port: If you’re seeking a true off-the-beaten-path experience, French Island is a car-free, untouched wilderness offering rugged landscapes, rare wildlife, and the ultimate escape from the modern world.
- Dookie, Goulburn Valley: Dookie is a quaint town in the Goulburn Valley known for its agricultural heritage and the Dookie Rail Trail, a popular path for walking and cycling.
Embrace Adventure with a Self-Guided Great Ocean Walk Tour
Now that you know some of the best small towns to visit in Victoria, Australia, it’s time to tackle some bigger adventures. They don’t come more impressive than the 110-km Great Ocean Walk!
Our range of Self-Guided Great Ocean Walk Tours includes 3-day to 10-day journeys, with numerous options in between. This means you can choose to take on the entire route in one go or pick sections to enjoy if you have less time.
Whatever way you want to explore, Walk91 is here to help. If you have any questions about our Great Ocean Walk tours, please get in touch for all the answers you need.