Victoria might be Australia's second littlest state in terms of area, but it sure does pack a punch when it comes to scenic variety. Within a couple of hours' drive of Melbourne there are majestic mountain ranges, towering clifftops, bluer-than-blue bays, rich green farming country and idyllic vineyards. Such diversity in such a small area makes for ideal walking, and you don't have to wander far to be well rewarded for your efforts. Get to know the Garden State a bit more intimately with these five epic multi-day hikes near Melbourne.
GREAT OCEAN WALK
How long? Eight days.
Chances are you've driven at least some part of the Great Ocean Road. Now it's time to walk it. The 100-kilometre-long Great Ocean Walk starts at Apollo Bay (about 200 kilometres southwest of Melbourne) and sticks to the coast all the way to Port Campbell, home to the Twelve Apostles. Just a few of the extraordinary sites you'll see include Cape Otway Lighthouse, Melanesia Beach, Moonlight Head and Wreck Beach, where the melancholic remains of the Marie Gabrielle and the Fiji lie. Carry a tent and self-cater along the way, or stay at your pick of BnBs, hotels or guest houses and feast at local eateries.
WILSONS PROMONTORY SOUTHERN CIRCUIT
How long? Three to four days.
This 59-kilometre loop is one of Victoria's most popular multi-day hikes. To get going, drive to the trailhead at Telegraph Saddle Car Park (about 200 kilometres southeast of Melbourne). Wilsons Promontory is home to some of Australia's most magical beaches and this walk takes you to many of them, from Sealers Cove, a protected bay filled with turquoise water, to Oberon Bay, backdropped by Oberon Mountain. In between, you'll explore tea tree forests, sheer granite cliffs and relaxing heathlands. Set up at campsites as you go and/or reward yourself with a sleepover in one of the Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse Cottages.
GRAMPIANS PEAKS TRAIL
How long? Two to three days.
If fresh mountain air, 360-degree views and shimmering lakes are on your mind — and you're not afraid of a bit of climbing — then the Grampians Peaks Trail is for you. Lace up your boots at Halls Gap (about 250 kilometres northwest of Melbourne) and stride out. The 37-kilometre long trail is a circuit and, for the best vistas, anti-clockwise is the way to travel. Keep an eye out for Venus Baths, where you can take a dip, the impressive rock formations of the Grand Canyon, legendary Pinnacle Lookout, and Mount Rosea summit which affords awe-inspiring panoramas of the Serra and Mount William Ranges. You'll also pass three campgrounds: Bugiga, Stoney Creek and Borough Huts.
GREAT WALHALLA ALPINE TRAIL
How long? Two to three days.
If the Grampians Peaks whets your appetite for heights, then make your next adventure the Great Walhalla Alpine Trail. This 40-kilometre trek is just a teeny-tiny section of the massive Australian Alps Walk, a 650-kilometre track that travels through Australia's high country. The former gold mining town of Walhalla is at one end of the Walhalla Trail and Mount Baw Baw Alpine Village at the other. You get to decide whether you walk uphill like a hard-core mountaineer, or downhill. Either way, you can count on wildflowers (during spring), sculpture-like snow gums, enchanting myrtle beech forests, rushing rivers and majestic mountain views.
WILDERNESS COAST WALK
How long? Seven to eight days.
The Wilderness Coast Walk is an interstate affair, leaving from Victoria at Sydenham Inlet in Croajingolong National Park, and arriving, 100 kilometres later, at Nadgee Nature Reserve in New South Wales. As the name suggests, the track follows remote coastline most of the way, transporting you to lonely beaches fringed by national park, dramatic headlands that look like scenes out of 19th century ocean-going novels, and pristine river estuaries. Expect to meet loads of wildlife, from whales (in season) to seals to sea birds. Most areas are inaccessible by vehicle, while accommodation is in the form of rustic campsites.