Victoria's Goldfields region, a mere hour's drive away from Melbourne, is becoming known as much for its major art exhibitions as for its gold rush history and architecture. This year, the
Art Gallery of Ballarat has secured the rights to host Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration from 25 February - 15 April, 2012. It's an exhibition of vintage prints from London's V&A Museum taken by royal photographer, Sir Cecil Beaton. And just down the road in Bendigo, there is a celebration of another Queen, the Queen of the screen. Grace Kelly: Style Icon will be drawing visitors far and wide to
Bendigo Art Gallery from 11 March - 17 June 2012.
2. New accommodation options are a welcome addition for outdoor adventurers visiting the Grampians, North West Victoria, in 2012.
DULC cabins in Halls Gap is building new cabin, Boroka Downs luxury accommodation now has a two bedroom villa available, and
Hamilton Apartments in the Southern Grampians has range of self contained houses available for holiday rentals. And after working up a hunger exploring the region's many mountain ranges and natural wonders, visitors can stop by
Three Troupers Brewery provedore / café which has recently opened in Beaufort.
3. The biggest shark and stingray feeding experience in the world opened near Melbourne this month. The
Australian Shark and Ray Centre (ASRC) is the world's largest combined shark and ray feeding experience located just 20 minutes from Melbourne on route to Phillip Island and the Mornington Peninsula. Visitors can opt to stay dry in waterproof pants, or get waste deep in the water with a wetsuit, and hand feed, pat and play with nearly 20 species of sharks and stingray. Sharks range from 10cm to 3m giants, and rays from 15cm to the world's largest species of stingray (the Black Stingray) at 300kg. Children and adults of any age can enjoy the experience and there are shallow pools and viewing bridges for those wanting to keep their distance.
Aqua Orbs water zorbing is the hottest new family fun activity in Victoria's second biggest city, Geelong. On the Eastern Beach of the beautiful Geelong foreshore, Aqua Orbs is a safe, fun addition to any day on the Corio bay. Another new family attraction nearby is Geelong's
Saddle On Riding School. It's been operating as a horse riding school for several years but is now open as a tourism experience with horse camps, pony parties, BMX, buggy, archery and track hire available, plus an animal farm for the little ones.
5. The second and final stage of the Royal Botanic Gardens' 18-hectare
Australian Garden in Victoria is anticipated to open in spring 2012 and will complete one of the most significant landscape projects in Australia. The multi award-winning Australian Garden tells the story of the metaphorical journey of water through Australia's arid outback eastward to the urbanized coast and will offer visitors a unique landscape experience and the chance to immerse themselves in the stories, colours, textures, sounds and scents of Australia. The garden is located just 45 minutes from Melbourne at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne, a division of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. Since it opened in 2006, it has received over 17 international, national and regional awards for landscape design, tourism and sustainability. The garden was also recreated at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011 and won a prestigious gold medal.
King Valley Prosecco Road is a new wine and food trail attracting a lot of attention to north east Victoria. The King Valley is the first region in Australia to commercially grow and produce the Italian celebratory sparkling white wine, prosecco. Each year the region produces over 10,000 cases for the Australian market. In 2011, the King Valley prosecco wine making pioneers developed the food and wine trail with a dedicated King Valley Prosecco Road website and travel booklet enabling visitors to discover a new way of experiencing the warmth and hospitality of Victoria's beautiful King Valley. The King Valley is easily accessible by car, train or air. Albury Airport has daily flights between Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney and from the airport it's an approx 90 minute drive to the King Valley.
7. Historic property,
Perricoota Station, has been carefully restored in a makeover that will be ready for those visiting the Murray River town of Echuca Moama in early January 2012. The property, which has previously been associated with pursuits including Merino Sheep, Cobb and Co Horse Transport, Short Horn Cattle, Orange and Grapefruit Orchards, has been brought back to life as a grand visitor destination. Surrounded by over 3 ½ Km's of Murray River frontage it will be available for accommodation, functions, weddings and conferences.
8. In Daylesford, one hour drive from Melbourne in the wonderful Spa Country, the owners of the recently renovated
Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat announced the purchase of the historic Club Hotel in Clunes. Clunes is notable as the site of Victoria's first gold strike and the Club Hotel is one of the many features that stand to this day. Plans are already underway to transform the 1870's Hotel into a stylish bistro restaurant, café and wedding venue under the new moniker Birch Club. It is planned that almost all of the produce used in the bistro will be sourced from the Birch Estate Farm nearby.
9. Experienced Murray River captain, Greg Evans, and his singer/entertainer wife, Julia, have this month launched
Wentworth River Cruises. Heading off from the historic port of Wentworth, near the tranquil desert town of Mildura, a four hour drive from Melbourne, this new scenic cruise is the only one that takes visitors to the junction of Australia's two largest rivers, the Murray and the Darling. The new fully catered, licensed and air conditioned motor vessel can carry more than 50 passengers who can relax on either the lower indoor or upper outdoor decks.
10. The Barmah Forest Heritage and Education Centre has opened its doors to the public. Located in picturesque, Nathalia, in north central Victoria, the centre provides visitors with the chance to discover and explore the colourful history associated with the Barmah National Park. Interpretive boards show key time-frames dating back to pre 1830 and information on the Indigenous community; the timber industry; past industries; cattlemen and ecology is brought to life for visitors as they walk through the centre. Situated on the doorstep of one of largest River Red Gum wetlands in the world, the centre will act as the perfect starting point or stopping point for those visiting the Barmah National Park.