From panoramic views and cosy country breaks, to culture-rich towns and cityscapes, there's plenty to explore as Victoria opens its glorious doors once more.
Mitchelton Airstream Hotel
470 Mitchellstown Rd, Nagambie; (03) 5736 2222; mitchelton.com.au
THE LOCATION Mitchelton, an idyllic estate of vineyards and handsome architecture on the banks of the Goulburn River, is home to Mitchelton Wines and is the easiest of drives, just 90 minutes north of Melbourne.
THE PLACE Five Airstream campers, polished "silver bullets", comprise an adults-only glamping set-up with all the attributes of a boutique hotel, thanks to its on-site sister property, Mitchelton Hotel. Each has its own permanent site overlooking vines or bush, with a private deck and retractable awning. Grazing kangaroos may keep you company from a respectful distance as you dine alfresco from the included breakfast hamper and mini-bar. The camper's retro style belies the modern comforts inside of leather banquette, bed with fine linen and compact bathroom.
Inside one of the five polished "silver bullets". Photo: Supplied
THE EXPERIENCE Explore the 100-plus hectares of the Mitchelton estate by bike. Drop by the cellar door, Indigenous art gallery or the award-winning Hecker Guthrie-designed boutique hotel with day spa and pool. Stay on the property and enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at Muse, with its menu of rustic dishes offering fresh local produce such as woodfired Murray cod and triple-cooked potatoes.
DON'T MISS Panoramic views from the top of the 55-metre tower that was part of renowned architect Robin Boyd's property masterplan and completed by the equally lauded Ted Ashton following Boyd's death.
FROM $300 a night, two-night minimum stay. - Jane Reddy
Peninsula Hot Springs, just 90 minutes from Melbourne. Photo: Supplied
Glamping tents, Peninsula Hot Springs
140 Springs Ln, Fingal; (03) 5950 8777; peninsulahotsprings.com
THE LOCATION While soaking in Japan's thermal pools in the '90s, hot springs co-founder Charles Davidson figured the ritual would appeal to Australians at home. Today that vision is a sprawling 16-hectare bathing mecca on the Mornington Peninsula which, just 90 minutes from Melbourne, is a crowd favourite.
THE PLACE From the exclusive 10-tent space, glampers connect by private entry to the grounds that include a reserved pool for night bathing. Khaki canvas walls are the only things resembling camping in your tent, which is firmly in the realm of glamping, with its thermally heated concrete floor overlaid with high-pile rug, brass rain shower and king bed made up with hotel linen.
Inside one of the 10 tents. Photo: Supplied
THE EXPERIENCE Among wetlands featuring native animals and plantings, find your optimal bathing temperature in the 50-plus mineral-rich pools. Steam up in the Turkish hammam or take a "reflexology walk" in water on a path of specially inlaid stones. It's a white-bathrobe dress code at the Spa Dreaming Centre for plates of house-made dhal, free-range chicken and a local wine list that features Red Hill's Foxeys Hangout and Montalto. Finish a day in the great outdoors with room service and sleep surrounded by frog-song (earplugs are provided). Breakfast is included in this adults-only oasis.
DON'T MISS The guided Fire and Ice experience includes a sit in a sauna followed by an exhilarating plunge into a pool with a temperature of 4C.
FROM $650 a night. – Jane Reddy
The Stables @ Heart of Gold near Bendigo. Photo: Supplied
The Stables @ Heart of Gold
260 Mandurang Rd, Mandurang; 0411 046 088; heartofgoldvineyard.com
THE LOCATION This small-scale vineyard is just 10 minutes' drive from Bendigo, and a 90-minute drive north of Melbourne.
THE PLACE The grapes and gardens are new, but the stables date from the 1860s and have been transformed into a couple's retreat with a large open fireplace, exposed timber beams, stone walls and a sun-soaked garden terrace above a creek. In summer, you're welcome to take a dip in the owner's pool. Call ahead and you can even bring your pet.
THE EXPERIENCE Bendigo might be famous for its gold-rush history, but the city and region is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Spend a day exploring the vineyards around Bendigo and Heathcote and cideries of nearby Harcourt. The kitchen has the basics (breakfast provisions are included), but it isn't really geared up for you to cook a culinary extravaganza, so plan on a big lunch – try Ms Batterhams, Masons or the Goldmines Hotel in Bendigo. On weekends, there are tastings and live music at the adjacent cellar door, or take a bottle down to the dam for a sundowner on the jetty. When the temperature drops, warm up around the fire pit or retreat inside to the fireside sofa.
DON'T MISS Take a drive up to the top of Mount Alexander for expansive views.
FROM $350 a night; two-night minimum stay. – Lee Atkinson
The Glut Farm on the edge of Mount Cole State Forest, Raglan. Photo: Paul Lambeth
The Glut Farm
43 The Glut Rd, Raglan; 0437 674 083; theglutfarm.com
THE LOCATION Luxury awaits on a Dorper sheep farm on the edge of Mount Cole State Forest in the Pyrenees food and wine region, about a two-hour drive north-west of Melbourne.
THE PLACE A barn-style living space features comfy couches, cathedral ceilings festooned with pendant lights and a freestanding glass fireplace. A wall of windows leads out to a vine-covered terrace overlooking a vineyard and duck-filled dam, with views beyond Mount Lonarch. This contemporary farmhouse redefines the concept of a farm stay in a decidedly luxe way. There's room for seven in three bedrooms (one with en suite), and the shared bathroom has a lavishly deep bath. It's also flanked by a spectacular fruit and vegetable garden.
Relax on The Glut Farm's sun-drenched deck. Photo: Paul Lambeth
THE EXPERIENCE The well-equipped kitchen is the heart of the house and is stocked with staples and those spices that you invariably forget to bring on a weekend away. And if you're running short of supplies, you're welcome to forage in the garden or collect a few eggs from beneath the chooks, though there are plenty in the included breakfast hamper, along with home-made bread and jam. Stoke up the woodfired pizza oven and settle in for a long lunch at one of the large tables, indoors or out. Sleep it off on one of the rocking chairs on the sun-drenched deck. If it's hot, cool off on the jetty; if it's not, pull up a chair beside the outdoor fire pit with a glass of local red.
DON'T MISS The walking track to Raglan Falls in Mount Cole State Forest is just beyond the back fence.
FROM $500 a night; two-night minimum stay. – Lee Atkinson
Next Hotel Melbourne on Little Collins Street. Photo: Supplied
Next Hotel Melbourne
103 Little Collins St, Melbourne; (03) 9118 3333; nexthotelmelbourne.com
THE LOCATION Enveloped in Melbourne's new 80 Collins precinct, the 255-room hotel is at the Paris end of the eponymous strip. The entrance, however, is via an unassuming glass foyer on Little Collins. Look for Ingresso, Next's slim-line coffee and Campari bar out front.
THE PLACE Checking in at the lobby on the third floor of this 24-storey hotel, the feel is clubby and a little secretive. But the streetscape through the lobby lounge's soaring windows sets you right in the city's beating heart. In the restrained, flounce-free guest rooms, it's all names, names, names: local Hunter Lab amenities, Dyson hairdryers and Bose sound systems.
THE EXPERIENCE Consider this your Melbourne CBD pied-à-terre, the place to use when you've scored that elusive restaurant booking, or have a night of laneway bar-hopping planned. But Next is no mere flophouse: set aside time to swirl the hotel's own barrel-aged whisky at the bar at the end of the night, and don't skip breakfast.
DON'T MISS Sicily meets Hong Kong via chefs Daniel Natoli and Adrian Li in the hotel's main restaurant, La Madonna. Essential eating: the stuffed ox-heart tomato compressed in white soy. Essential drinking: a negroni matured in a clay pot amphora for eight weeks.
FROM $280 a night. – Belinda Jackson
Jetty Road Retreat in nature lover's nirvana Nungurner. Photo: Supplied
Jetty Road Retreat
230 Nungurner Jetty Rd, Nungurner; (03) 5156 3224; jettyroadretreat.com.au
THE LOCATION East Gippsland's upmarket village of Metung, with its bobbing boats and popular waterfront pub, may be a mere 10 minutes' drive away, but it's also a world away from this nature lover's nirvana at Nungurner, around three hours, 45 minutes' drive from Melbourne.
THE PLACE At the end of a narrow, bush-enshrouded road, Nungurner's jetty juts into the calm Gippsland Lakes Reserve, beyond which lies Ninety Mile Beach, the sandy stretch that levees the mighty Bass Strait. Just above it is Jetty Road Retreat, a set of four holiday bungalows well positioned for privacy and lake views. With unfussy, stylish furnishings, three cabins sleep up to five, and one sleeps six. Kitchens are fully equipped and there is split-system air-conditioning. But the real selling points are the private decks and designated patches of rustic grounds, some with fire pits.
THE EXPERIENCE You're not off-grid – there's good TV and Wi-Fi. But cottagecore enthusiasts can revel in the simple things, like the myriad native birds that descend, thanks to the seed provided for your feeding pleasure. Read or star-gaze from a canvas deckchair overlooking the lake as Bass Strait rumbles in the distance. Push out a canoe. Jetty-jump, swim, fish or walk the lakeside trail. Above all, just breathe in the serenity.
DON'T MISS Enjoy a pub meal with a view at the Metung Hotel.
FROM $250 a night; minimum two-night stay; three- or seven-night minimums on peak dates. – Julietta Jameson
Panoramic views across the Barwite Valley at BullerRoo. Photo: Brad McSweeney
BullerRoo at A View to a Hill
177 Melba Rd, Barwite; 0400 872 480; aviewtoahill.com.au
THE LOCATION Find BullerRoo on a bucolic pygmy goat farm at the foot of Victoria's high country. In the Mansfield Shire, it's a 15-minute drive from town and just under an hour from Mount Buller.
THE PLACE In this two-bedroom apartment attached to the family home of Vickie and Ed van der Hoeven, the magic is in the details, handcrafted mostly by tiler-by-trade, Ed, from an amazing interior granite stone wall to tropical plants under skylights in the hygge-style bathroom. Open the front door from your private carport, take off your shoes, head up the iron staircase to a landing from which the bathroom, second bedroom (that can sleep three) and main living space (beyond which you'll find the main bedroom) are accessed through industrial sliding doors. Step into the living area and behold: huge picture windows stunningly capture the "view to a hill" after which the overall property is named. Move back onto the landing, take the next set of stairs, push open the skylight hatch and you're on the barbecue deck and rooftop terrace: those views are now a 360-degree affair.
Just outside, there’s a pygmy goat farm. Photo: Brad McSweeney
THE EXPERIENCE A roaring fire, fabulous lighting, generous dining table, sofa adorned with reindeer pelts, big television and top-class kitchen make getting cosy all too easy. But the outdoors beckons: roam the property, swim in the river and commune with the sweet little pygmy goats, which the van der Hoevens breed as pets.
DON'T MISS Head into Mansfield and enjoy lunch or dinner at the local Delatite Hotel, an authentic country pub.
FROM $550 a night. – Julietta Jameson
Inside Ballarat's Lyon House, originally built in the 1880s. Photo: photoform.com.au
15 Lyons St N; Ballarat Central; 0404 633 203; lascellesballarat.com.au
THE LOCATION The gold-rush city of Ballarat, a 90-minute drive north-west of Melbourne, is full of architectural gems, including Lyon House, just two blocks from the city centre.
THE PLACE Originally built in the 1880s, the house is now a beguiling mix of Victorian features, arts-and-crafts embellishments and contemporary pizzazz. High ceilings, three huge bedrooms that sleep a total of seven, three bathrooms, two sitting rooms, library, oversized kitchen with butler's pantry and a fireside lounge make this two-storey terrace feel much bigger than it looks from the street. This light-flooded home's original dark-wood panelling is complemented with lots of black, smoky greys and charcoal. Add in striking feature lighting, textured stucco walls and a contemporary art collection and the result is a moody opulence.
A heated plunge pool in the property's former stables. Photo: photoform.com.au
THE EXPERIENCE Ballarat's best restaurants are only a few minutes' walk away, but should you wish to get MasterChef-ish, the extremely well-equipped kitchen was built for entertaining and has a six-metre-long dining table. Browse the art books in the library and curl up in one of the many sitting areas, or binge your favourite streaming series on the big-screen TV. The former stables' pool house, with a kitchenette, salvaged stained-glass windows and heated plunge pool, makes for a magical night-time dip beneath the coloured reflections.
DON'T MISS Start your morning off right with a stroll around Lake Wendouree. A lap will take about an hour.
FROM $600 a night; two-night minimum stay. – Lee Atkinson
W Melbourne, hidden in the centre of the CBD. Photo: Supplied
408 Flinders Ln, Melbourne; (03) 9113 8800; marriott.com.au
THE LOCATION Trams. Coffee. Laneways. Linguine. And lurking inconspicuously within all that, the W. You'd think hiding a 294-room hotel in the centre of Melbourne would be a big ask, but the W has done it.
THE PLACE This masterfully put-together property has a real swagger about it, with a design narrative based on Melbourne's laneway culture: plenty of contemporary art here and there, and mood lighting. There are 10 different room types, from a Cosy King Room to the Wow Suites. (There is also a 175-square-metre Extreme Wow Suite.)
THE EXPERIENCE In the room, you might find a stand-alone, neon-topped bar laid out with bottles of artisanal gin and a cocktail set, all ready to go, like walking into a James Bond film, circa 1963. One of the best features about this place is the ambient music, with carefully curated playlists that change according to your location. There's also a "wet deck", an indoor pool area on the 14th floor, overlooking Flinders and Collins streets, where you can recline in big, generously cushioned, clam-shaped lounges.The signature restaurant, Lollo, is headed up by chef Adam D'Sylva, of the award-winning restaurants Coda and Tonka (he's culinary director across the hotel).
DON'T MISS Curious, the cocoon-shaped cocktail bar. It's hidden away underground, below the hotel.
FROM $359 a night. – Tim Elliott
Mallacoota's Karbeethong Lodge was purpose-built in the 1920s as a seaside guesthouse. Photo: Supplied
12 Schnapper Point Dr, Mallacoota; (03) 5158 0411; karbeethonglodge.com.au
THE LOCATION Wilderness-ringed Mallacoota, on the East Gippsland coast, made global news as it burned during the bushfires of 2019-20. But the lovely little fishing and holiday town has settled back into serenity.
THE PLACE Purpose-built in the 1920s as a seaside guesthouse, Karbeethong Lodge was a survivor of the fires. Current custodians Graeme and Jenny Mitchell are on a quest to maintain the creative atmosphere that historically lured the likes of Banjo Paterson. It's an Edwardian collection of white timber-walled accommodation wings branching off a common area of lounge, communal dining and large kitchen, where guests can cook (or open their BYO local wine and cheeses) and from where the owners prepare the included continental breakfast. Sleeping 24, it can be booked as one.
Inside Karbeethong Lodge. Photo: Supplied
THE EXPERIENCE There's something about the thoughtfully curated vintage furnishings and curios, the grass-green corrugated roof, the wide verandah and the lush lawn sloping down to a painterly view of Mallacoota Inlet that transports you to a gentler time. There's no TV, though there's good internet. Rooms are cute and comfortable – but they're not the point. Find a spot with a view and open a bottle of East Gippy's own Lightfoot & Sons pinot noir, offer a glass to a fellow traveller and toast your good fortune.
DON'T MISS Explore picturesque waterways with Mallacoota Cruises aboard the 1910-built former ferry, the MV Loch-Ard.
FROM $150 a night. – Julietta Jameson
Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street blends old and new. Photo: Supplied
Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street
THE LOCATION Five years after vacating the Victorian capital, Hilton's eponymous flagship brand is back in a rather unexpected manner with this stunning 244-room, central CBD hotel, carefully blending the best of old and new Melbourne on the corner of Bourke and Little Queen streets.
THE PLACE On the site of Victoria's first synagogue, the Bates Smart-designed, un-Hilton-like Hilton, which opened earlier this year, operates inside both the charming early 1930s Romanesque-style Equity Chambers building and a brand new (and sympathetic) 16-storey tower. The contrasting two buildings are linked by a striking, lower-rise enclosed atrium dining and lounge space.
THE EXPERIENCE Absorb the stunning Manhattan-like heritage surrounds at Luci, the top-notch, modern Italo-Oz in-house restaurant in the atrium as well as the Douglas Club, a cosy 1930s art deco-style cocktail bar, facing Bourke Street and its tintinnabulating trams. Upstairs, in the heritage wing proper, some of the more expensive suites, reached by an adorable antique elevator, are clad in the original Queensland maple timber panelling from the building's legal-eagle glory days.
DON'T MISS In a sharp, contemporary foil to the Equity Chambers, check out the huge, specially commissioned street-art style mural on the Little Queen laneway. The artwork, directly opposite the discreet reception, is reflected in a series of external swivelled bronze sculptural panels.
FROM $285 a night. – Anthony Dennis
Port Fairy's Oak & Anchor Hotel dates back to 1857. Photo: Supplied
Oak & Anchor Hotel
9 Bank St, Port Fairy; (03) 4508 4206; oakandanchorhotel.com
THE LOCATION Port Fairy is a tiny Irish outpost on the south-western coast, dotted with whalers' cottages and famous for its folk festival.
THE PLACE This white-washed, bluestone pub dates back to 1857, when the town was called Belfast and Cobb & Co coaches were hitched out the front. In 2018, locals Blair and Sally Robertson bought it and spent two years transforming it into six light, unfussy suites sitting atop a cafe, bar and restaurant space that can accommodate weddings and other events. Just before opening, the couple asked Ally Richardson, who ran Driftwood cafe across the road, to be their business partner. So Richardson picked up Driftwood and moved it to the O&A. Incidentally, Richardson's coffee is the best in town and the Sri Lankan curries on the dinner menu are essential.
THE EXPERIENCE Each suite is different but all feature exposed bluestone, freestanding bathtubs, youthful current decor touches and views over either the striped-umbrella-lined back lawn, or Norfolk pine-lined Bank Street. The largest is the bridal suite, which has a west-facing balcony. When the winds are whipping off the Southern Ocean – which they frequently are – head to the open fires in the bar and order a Noodledoof gin made in the nearby town of Koroit.
DON'T MISS A walk to the lighthouse on Green Island, where you'll spot the nests of about 40,000 shearwaters.
FROM $300 a night. – Ardyn Bernoth
Battista in Ballarat, built in 1867. Photo: Supplied
3 Dawson St, Ballarat Central; 0408 177 700; battistaballarat.com.au
THE LOCATION Ballarat is a 117-kilometre drive from Melbourne, or you can catch the train from Southern Cross Station to Battista, which places you right in the heart of the city centre, and close to cafes and boutiques.
THE PLACE With incarnations as a nightclub, then derelict pigeon haunt, the 1867-built Baptist church, with a grand temple facade and neoclassical fluted columns, has had a glorious and sensitive revival. Owner Michael Whitehead spent three years creating his contemporary glass-framed home, plus a self-contained one-bedroom apartment stay with an open living, dining and kitchen area.
Past and present blend at Battista. Photo: Supplied
THE EXPERIENCE The past and present sing beautifully here without compromising either. Savour divine design while gazing at the lofty coffered ceiling, ornate friezes, handcrafted arched windows and the old choir-stall facade. Peruse art and travel books in the upstairs reading nook that adjoins the glass-walled bedroom, then sink into the freestanding tub in the black-tiled bathroom. Artwork by Brit Damien Hirst, Spanish surrealist Joan Miró and pieces from the Ballarat International Foto Biennale star in this splendid rebirth. A welcome hamper is stocked with all the good things in life: local cheese, bread, olives and wine.
DON'T MISS Stays include a breakfast voucher to use at L'Espresso Ballarat. It's just around the corner on Sturt Street, and is known for fabulous muffins as well as doing double time as a CD store.
FROM $400 a night. – Sue Wallace