The Melbourne Zoo was named the best major tourist attraction at the RACV Victorian Tourism Awards on Monday night.
The nod to the zoo breaks a three-year winning streak by the Melbourne Museum, which had won the top award on the back of some blockbuster exhibitions including Tutankhamun and Titanic.
The zoo's award, announced at a black-tie event at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, was given for its 150th anniversary campaign last year that featured major events around baby elephant Mali.
The events included "Mali in my School" and "Mali in the City" in which more than 50 miniature fibreglass elephants were painted by schoolchildren and displayed in the city and the zoo. They were eventually auctioned and raised $450,000 towards the zoo's conservation efforts.
The Victoria Racing Club won the category for major festivals and events for the Spring Racing Carnival, highlighted by the Melbourne Cup.
Kryal Castle Adventure Park and Resort won the award for new tourism development.
The castle, near Ballarat, originally opened in 1974 but under new owners it has received a $10 million makeover with 15 new attractions and 17 luxury guest suites.
The Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Louise Asher, said at the awards: “I congratulate the superb efforts of all winners to help sustain a tourism workforce of over 200,000 and contribute to the state's $19 billion tourism industry."
Ms Asher also mentioned Victoria's innovative tourism marketing campaigns including "Open up to More", which has generated social media awareness of Melbourne in China, and the "remote control tourist" campaign that was seen in every continent except Antarctica.
Other winners on Monday night included Bendigo's Central Deborah Gold Mine for heritage and cultural tourism; the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for business tourism; RACV Cobram Resort for the tourist and caravan parks award, and Hilton Melbourne South Wharf for luxury accommodation.
Three businesses were inducted into the RACV Victorian Tourism Awards Hall of Fame for winning their category for three consecutive years: Moonraker Dolphin Swims, Blue Moon Cottages and RACV Inverloch Resort.
The 29th annual awards attracted 90 entrants across 32 categories.