Melbourne and Victoria, Australia, have been seeing a fresh, new range of exciting experiences, hotels, restaurants and bars open in the last few months.

These include the launch of Australia’s first-ever five-star riverboats on the winding Murray River; a new foodie tour in Melbourne visiting hidden dining spots; and a new installation that pays tribute to the late Australian artist, Josh Muir. Sydney Melbourne Touring provides resources for the planning of an iconic road trip between Australia’s top two largest cities: Sydney and Melbourne – either by the coast or inland.

Along the way, guests can discover the many adventures and wonderful experiences that driving within New South Wales and Victoria offer. Four new experiences can be enjoyed throughout the route. PS Australian Star, Australia’s first ever five-star riverboat, will debut on Victoria’s Murray River from June 2025 to early 2026. Run by Murray River Paddlesteamers, guests on board PS Australian Star will be able to enjoy exclusive luxury experiences of the riverboat’s blend of heritage charm with contemporary elegance.

PS Australian Star features 19 modern staterooms, a fine-dining restaurant, plenty of outdoor relaxation areas and ever-changing river views. The iconic paddle steamers along the winding Murray River are a great option to make the most of Australia’s longest river in an elegant and relaxed way.

Two new restaurants opened in the Goldfields region, testament to Victoria’s gold rush. The first restaurant, Babae, located within Hotel Vera, in Ballarat, opened in late January. Seating 26 guests, Babae celebrates contemporary Australian cuisine with a menu that features a wide range selection of dishes that are sourced from produce grown in the Goldfields.

The second restaurant, Terrae, opened at Hotel Ernest, in Bendigo, shortly after. Terrae offers a European-inspired menu of rustic fare and with rich flavours that match robust local wines. Accommodating up to 50 guests, Terrae is the Hotel Ernest’s main dining space, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a daily basis.

The restaurants are now managed by chef Tim Foster through the recently formed Goldfields Hospitality Group. Local company, Tour Local, has launched new full-day tours in Phillip Island, a very popular destination to see little penguins.

The new coach tour offers a wine tasting session and a locally guided experience around the land that will take guests where locals go – plus, of course, tickets to the world-famous Penguin Parade. Phillip Island is home to more than 32,000 little penguins (the largest colony anywhere in the world) and the nightly return of more than 2,000 penguins to their burrows every night on the ‘Penguin Parade’ has become one of Australia’s most popular visitor attractions.

Renowned for its dedication to preserving Australia’s distinctive fauna, Moonlit Sanctuary is creating a significant impact in the field of conservation. The sanctuary’s steadfast commitment lies in the protection of endangered species and the promotion of environmental awareness.

The sanctuary has innovative programmes to raise awareness about the importance of preserving our natural heritage and strives to increase the population of several species. One of Moonlit Sanctuary’s development projects is the rehabilitation and release of Orange-bellied Parrots (OBPs) back into their natural habitats.

The sanctuary is also presently involved in conservation programmes for species including Spot-tailed Quolls, Pookila and Bush-stone Curlews, and supports programs for Golden-shouldered Parrots and Bali Starlings. The Great Southern Touring Route (523 miles) offers fabulous road trips full of adventure from Melbourne to iconic spots such as the city of Geelong, the impressive Grampians National Park, the food and wine region of the Bellarine Peninsula and, of course, the iconic Great Ocean Road.

Amidst the breathtaking backdrop of the Grampians National Park, the historic Mount William Homestead has become a luxurious boutique hotel destination. After some extensive upgrades, the new luxury boutique stay offers an unparalleled escape into the heart of nature to those who want a break while driving Victoria’s Great Southern Touring Route.

Guests are well located to climb a summit in the Grampians National Park, enjoy the finest wines from the Great Western Grampians wine region and enjoy Mount William Homestead’s gourmet country dining with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Sunnymead Hotel is located in Aireys Inlet, a small coastal town with radiant personalities and passionate individuals in the art and creative fields.

The hotel, which opened in late 2022, offers 20 fun and colourful guest suites and facilities such as a day spa and bathhouse, a fusion restaurant, an outdoor pool and bar. Sunnymead Hotel’s purpose is to bring a ‘sunny’ feel to those driving along the iconic Great Ocean Road. The hotel was announced a Gold Winner in the New Tourism Business category at the 2023 Victorian Tourism Awards.

Sunnymead Hotel also won Best Spa Design for its day spa at the 2023 Australian Beauty Industry Awards. Great Ocean Road Resort is a boutique accommodation in the stunning town of Anglesea, on the Great Ocean Road.

The resort has 20 one-bedroom suites and nine two-bedroom apartments. The hotel was announced a Silver Winner at the 2023 Victorian Tourism Awards for scoring a 4-4.5 Star Deluxe Accommodation in the prestigious category.

It was the resort’s first-time entering the awards and became one of the six winners for the Great Ocean Road region. The property offers guests a comfortable experience with great facilities such as their spa suites, tennis court and indoor heated swimming pool, modern rooms and local dining experience at The Coast restaurant.

Hidden Secrets Tours is a well-established Melbourne walking tour company offering guests first-hand experiences to make the most of the city’s hidden and quirkiest spots – which are not always visible on the main streets. Hidden Secrets Tours has launched a new tour for food lovers.

The new ‘Progressive Degustation Walking Tour’ is a tour of Melbourne’s hidden away and favourite, local dining spots. Running three times a week, the tour visits three unique venues, with carefully chosen wine tastings and tantalising savoury tastes from their menus. Each chosen venue has a distinctive restaurant design, food style and history.

Guests will indulge in delicious meals, be treated with wine tasting and get to hear from staff on how their restaurant evolved to where it is today. Koorie Heritage Trust, in Melbourne’s central Federation Square, is a not-for-profit organisation that supports, promotes and celebrates the living culture of the Indigenous people of Victoria.

The centre has announced new exhibitions. In late 2023, Koorie Heritage Trust reopened following extensive refurbishments in the Birrarung Building, where they are based in Federation Square.

The renovation welcomed new exhibition galleries, new space for permanent display items and enhanced areas for community and educational purposes. Along with the new look, the organisation celebrated its 11th Koorie Art Show on 9 December 2023 which brought together over 100 Indigenous artists to celebrate its living culture with a wonderful art exhibition.

The ‘JXSH MVIR: Forever I Live’ installation showcases the solo artwork of the late Josh Muir, an indigenous man who passed away in 2022. The exhibition, taking place until 14 July 2024, is a tribute to Josh’s legacy to celebrate his artistic creations taken from his personal healing journey, cultural heritage and inspiration from contemporary street art.

The exhibition was created by Josh’s partner, mother and the Koorie Heritage Trust team. Victoria is roughly the size of the British Isles.

The compact state features a wealth of diverse regions and attractions that are easily reached from its lively capital, Melbourne (Naarm): from pristine beaches and national parks teeming with wildlife to sweeping coastlines and one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road – plus superb wineries and dining options.