View Australia's iconic wildlife in the wild on this journey around the coast of Victoria. See wombats in Wilsons Promontory, penguins and seals at Phillip Island, dolphins off the Mornington Peninsula, and of course kangaroos, emus and koalas as you travel along the Great Ocean Road. Keep your eyes open for other cuties, such as the echidna, platypus and tiger quolls as you go. This touring route is 1295 km/804 miles and about 19.5 hours drive time. Allow 7 to 8 days.
Melbourne to Wilsons Promontory
190 km/118 miles, about 2.5 hours
Head south east out of Melbourne on the M1, then on to the South Gippsland Highway via Leongatha.Stop off at the village of Meeniyan for a coffee at Moo's, picnic and BBQ supplies, drive on to Foster for pantry supplies. Check in to your holiday cabin or luxury accommodation at Yanakie, or continue on to the Wilderness Retreats at Tidal River in Wilsons Promontory National Park. At Tidal River, stop at the old airfield to see kangaroos and emus. Wander around the campground to see resident wombats, and down to the beach to see the beautiful rock formations which trace Tidal River's path to the ocean. Walk from Tidal River to Squeaky Beach and back (1 hour each direction), via Pillar Point, for stunning coastal views, and keep an eye out for whales June to August. A variety of walks in the area cater to any fitness level. Take care when driving in the national park around sunset and always watch for wildlife. Much of the local accommodation is self-catering but you may like to use the free public BBQs in the national park.
Wilsons Promontory to Phillip Island
110 km/68 miles, 1.5 hours
Drive northwest to Phillip Island via Inverloch and San Remo.
Head to The Nobbies Centre to visit the Antarctic Journey exhibition, a joint venture between Phillip Island Nature Parks and WWF Australia. Stroll The Nobbies boardwalk for spectacular views of Phillip Island's rugged south coast and see resting little penguins, silver gulls and chicks spring to early summer. Spot migrating southern right and humpback whales June to September. Nearby Seal Rocks is home to Australia's largest fur seal colony. Baby seals can be seen October to December. Head out on the water with Wild Ocean EcoBoat to get closer. At Phillip Island's Koala Conservation Centre you can take a stroll along the elevated boardwalks for more close encounters of the furry kind. Take a walk at Cape Woolamai for spectacular ocean views, and spot thousands of shearwaters returning to the nest at dusk between October and April. At sunset, take the Ultimate Penguin Tour at the Penguin Parade, or visit the Penguins Plus viewing area. Book a bed at resorts, apartments and lodges or self-cater with a holiday let.
Phillip Island to Mornington Peninsula
135 km/84 miles, about 1 hour, 40 minutes
Start with a walk on Cowes Beach, Phillip Island before breakfast at Mad Cowes Café, then depart for Rye on the Mornington Peninsula. Get out on the water with Peninsula Stand Up Paddleboarding, or hire a snorkel and mask from Extreme Watersports or Bayplay and view the weedy sea-dragons under Rye Pier. November to April join Polperro or Moonraker tours and swim with the dolphins of Port Phillip Bay. Enjoy a wine tasting and lunch at an award-winning winery restaurant or casual bistro. Check in at your luxury accommodation, independent holiday rental or bed and breakfast location at Main Ridge, Red Hill, Flinders, Sorrento or Mornington. Then grab your bathers again and head to Peninsula Hot Springs for an afternoon soak or relaxing massage. Set off next day for a walk along the clifftops, part of over 100 kms of coastal trails known as the Mornington Peninsula Coastal Walk. And get set for an evening tour at Moonlit Sanctuary where you'll view Australia's nocturnal wildlife.
Mornington Peninsula to Bellarine Peninsula and the Great Ocean Road
156 km/97 miles, 3.5 hours
Depart Mornington Peninsula on the Peninsula Searoad Ferry for Queenscliff, across the bay on the Bellarine Peninsula. Meander through the Bellarine Peninsula villages of Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale and Barwon Heads, or take in the views at Jack Rabbit Winery over lunch. Stay overnight at Point Lonsdale or Queenscliff and tee up a cruise to see the seals, gannets and other extraordinary birdlife of the bay with South Bay Eco Adventures. Drive on to Torquay, birthplace of surfing in Australia. Discover the Australian National Surf Museum and visit nearby Bells Beach, home of the Rip Curl Pro surfing championship. Continue on to Apollo Bay and check in to your beach-side accommodation, then head out for a bite to eat. Kayak with the seals in the Marengo Marine Park near Apollo Bay.
Great Ocean Road
100 km/62 miles, about 1 hour, 45 minutes
From Apollo Bay, explore the The Otways and the surrounding coast. If you're staying a bit further down the road from Apollo Bay at Cape Otway's Great Ocean Ecolodge, be sure to arrive in time for the afternoon walk where you'll meet the resident kangaroo mob, koalas, and tiger quolls. Hike some of the Great Ocean Walk, and travel inland to Forrest in time for sunrise or sunset and paddle with a platypus on Lake Elizabeth.
80 km/50 miles, 1.5 hours
Move on to Port Campbell from your Apollo Bay or Cape Otway stop over. Explore short coastal paths, boardwalks and platforms, picturesque coves, beaches and lookouts. Visit the Twelve Apostles at sunset and sunrise to see them in all their majestic beauty. Get your feet wet and feel the sand between your toes at Loch Ard Gorge. Port Campbell National Park is home to hooded plover, rufous bristlebirds, antechinus and grass skinks. Look out for eastern grey kangaroos which also shelter in the park.
106 km/66 miles, 2 hours
From Port Campbell, continue along the Great Ocean Road via Bay of Islands Coastal Park, Warrnambool and Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve to the town of Port Fairy. Stop off at the Bay of Martyrs and Bay of Islands to view amazing wind and surf-sculpted coastal stacks. Spot peregrine falcons, terns and dotterels, gannets, albatrosses, shearwaters, gulls and cormorants. Don't miss Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. This extinct volcano crater is filled with free-roaming wildlife. See emus, koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, wombats and the occasional echidna. Check in to your resort or homestead room in Warrnambool or push on to a boutique hotel, apartment or historic coaching inn at Port Fairy.
Great Ocean Road to Grampians
157 km/98 miles, 2 hours
Head north to Halls Gap in the Grampians via Dunkeld. Visit Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre for an introduction to local Aboriginal culture, walking and park maps, tips on the best places to see native animals and birds, a coffee and a bite to eat. Visit the spectacular MacKenzie Falls and take a walk around the Sundial and to Reed Lookout. The Grampians are a birdlover's paradise with sulphur-crested cockatoos, long-billed corellas, crimson lorikeets and honeyeaters. Spot kangaroos at Halls Gap and emus over the ridge in Wartook Valley.
Grampians, Goldfields, Melbourne
261 km/160 miles, 3 hours
From Halls Gap in the Grampians, return to Melbourne via the Goldfields town of Ballarat. Set off towards the south east after a short Grampians bushwalk. Stop in at the Ballarat Wildlife Park for more information about any of the animals you've seen on your journey, or to tick any remaining iconic wildlife sightings off your list before you head back to Melbourne.