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Though you’ll find the iconic opera house and turquoise pools of Bondi Beach elsewhere in the country, there are more than a few reasons Australia-bound travelers should head instead to the state of Victoria. Home to the nation’s second-largest city, Melbourne, Victoria is an amazing corner of Australia. During a trip here, you’ll find a world-class coffee scene (order a flat white), stunning street art and extraordinary natural wonders.
What To Do in Victoria
Start off in Melbourne, where you’ll check out the world’s largest stained-glass ceiling at the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s the perfect place to begin exploring the city’s vivid art scene, before continuing to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.
Street art abounds in Melbourne, too. The tiny passageways of Caledonian Lane, Hosier Lane and AC/ DC Lane (yes, it’s a dedication to the band) are all painted with colorful artworks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, AC/DC Lane features graffiti musical tributes.
Instagram-worthy shots include the expansive views of the city from the top of the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel, and the Flinders Street Train Station, famous for its imposing dome, tower and series of 19th-century international clocks framing the entryway.
Coffee culture in Australia is serious business, so ordering a “flat white” should be one of the first items on your Melbourne to-do list. Some of the city’s best flat whites (a less-foamy take on the cappuccino) are served at Seven Seeds. They’re known for their perfect coffee-to-milk proportion. Another favorite is Market Lane, which sources their coffee beans from various spots around the world and brings them back to Melbourne to roast.
But it’s not just the coffee that’s exceptional in Melbourne. TPG Contributor Eric Rosen pointed out that Melbourne’s fine dining scene is on the up and up. Put your thumb on the city’s culinary pulse by reserving a table at Attica or light-filled Cutler & Co. For a more casual affair, grab a seat at Movida.
Beyond the city, travelers will discover one of Australia’s most famous wine regions. Victoria’s Yarra Valley, the area located around the Yarra River, is just a short day trip from Melbourne. Here, oenophiles can sample pinot noirs, chardonnays and sparking wines while enjoying the region’s untamed nature. It’s also a popular getaway for hikers or cyclists — just be sure to hit the trails before the vineyards.
Victoria has an overwhelming number of places where travelers can relax and enjoy the outdoors. Pine Mountain, part of Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park, is a towering peak with a network of paths accommodating everything from moderate walks to rigorous multi-day hikes.
For something more low-key, take a boat over to Port Phillip Bay, where you’ll likely spot seals and penguins plying the waters.
When it comes to the outdoors, the diversity in Victoria is really impressive. Travelers can, during a single vacation, admire the waterfalls of Otway National Park and, later, sunbathe on the beaches of the trendy Mornington Peninsula.
Where To Stay in Victoria
Using Melbourne as a base and taking day trips is an excellent way to explore the region. If you have SPG points to burn, stay at the Westin Melbourne, a Category 5 hotel with an ideal location on the very central Collins Street. Rates start at approximately $230, or 12,000 SPG points per night.
If you prefer something more intimate and original, book a room at an art-inspired hotel. TPG favorites include The Cullen, which is decorated with works by Australian artist Adam Cullen (around $160 per night), and the Adelphi Hotel (around $220 per night), which could be easily mistaken for an art gallery.
Travelers can also go glamping in the Werribee Open Range Zoo. Aptly titled the ‘slumber safari,’ families in particular will love the luxury tented lodgings with private balconies and evening campfires. Rates start at $240 per adult (and $118 per child) for half-board and activities.
For travelers interested in bedding down on the Mornington Peninsula, consider Harmony Bed & Breakfast. This charming inn sits on five acres of rural grounds, and room rates hover around $150 per night.
Nonstop flights to Melbourne (MEL) from the US are only available from Los Angeles (LAX) or Honolulu (HNL).
Now that Qantas’ new 787-9 Dreamliners are flying between LAX and MEL, it’s the TPG-preferred way to reach Victoria. All American Airlines flights are codeshares on Qantas, and travelers can expect to spend 40,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in economy, 80,000 in business class and 110,000 in first class.
You can also fly nonstop from LAX to MEL on United using MilegePlus miles. Plan to spend 40,000 in economy or 70,000 in business one-way for saver awards, and 85,000 in economy or 175,000 in business one-way for standard awards (adding between 10,000 and 20,000 when both business and first are offered).
Virgin Australia is another nonstop option from LAX, bookable using Delta SkyMiles. As Delta Air Lines doesn’t have an award chart, it’s difficult to tell how many miles you’ll need, but we’ve spotted economy one-way awards as low as 45,000 miles.
If you’re flying to Australia from HNL, Jetstar offers a nonstop flight you can book with Qantas points. But because cash rates can be pretty low, paying for the ticket outright may be more cost-effective.
Featured photo of a valley at sunrise in the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Australia. (Photo by FiledIMAGE/Getty Images)
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