Country Gardens of Victoria
Journey through the diverse landscapes of rural Victoria, from dramatic seascape views along the Great Ocean Road to stately colonial gardens on the former goldfields.
Explore the lush forests of the Otway Ranges, wonder at the grandeur of the Twelve Apostles and gain exclusive access to private gardens that flourish against the backdrop of the dramatic southern Victorian scenery.
Uncover the region’s fascinating past, from the returned Anzacs who built the Great Ocean Road to the historic homesteads of the goldrush era, and appreciate Victoria’s artistic heritage on a guided tour of the Bendigo Art Gallery.
Explore acclaimed gardens including one designed by renowned landscape gardener Edna Walling, and enjoy gourmet meals accompanied by the finest country hospitality.
Arrive in Melbourne on suggested Qantas flights. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements including pre-tour accommodation and a private transfer from the airport to the hotel.
Meet Julie at The Langham Melbourne hotel at 10:00am for a welcome briefing with your fellow travellers, then take a scenic drive along the coast to the holiday town of Lorne for a special welcome lunch. After some time at leisure to explore the town’s boutiques, journey along the start of the iconic Great Ocean Road where dramatic cliffs meet windswept beaches, fern-filled gullies turn into lush rainforest and the almighty Southern Ocean swirls below.
Check-in to the hotel in Apollo Bay, a picturesque village tucked away in the foothills of the Otway Ranges, and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast visit the Apollo Bay Museum to appreciate the uniquely Australian history of the Great Ocean Road and its construction before ascending into the Otway Ranges. Take a bird’s-eye view of ancient plant life from amongst the rainforest canopy of the Otway Fly Treetop Walk, before enjoying a light lunch at a local café in the surrounding hills.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon. This evening savour dinner overlooking the Bay at sunset set amongst native ferns and manna gums.
This morning, continue along the Great Ocean Road to the majestic 12 Apostles, where constant erosion from the stormy ocean over 20 million years has blasted the mainland’s limestone cliffs to create the 45-metre-high collapsed rock stacks seen today. Visit the Loch Ard Gorge and learn of its place in Australian maritime history before stopping for a coffee break in the dairy town of Timboon.
In the afternoon visit the gardens of a private historic homestead with an interesting family history and be treated to genuine country hospitality at lunch on the rural property. Then continue along what has become known as the Shipwreck Coast to the oceanside town of Warrnambool. Check into the hotel in the late afternoon before enjoying the evening at leisure.
Today venture inland to the southern tip of the Grampians to visit gardens nurtured by rich volcanic soils in the country town of Dunkeld. Take a morning tour of the Royal Mail Hotel’s vegetable garden, one of Australia’s most imaginative regional dining destinations and venue for today’s lunch.
Enjoy time at leisure to explore Dunkeld’s quaint country streets before driving through Western Victoria’s vast grazing and cropping country to visit the garden of a working Angus beef cattle property, Toora West, in Glenthompson. With pastel florals and an elegant woodland area, owner Cass Kimpton has created a hardy yet balanced garden in country that often faces harsh droughts.
Return to Warrnambool and enjoy the reminder of the evening at leisure.
This morning, visit the historic Narrapumelap mansion-cum-homestead outside Wickliffe. Originally built in the French Gothic style in 1873 by a local pastoralist, the building has been restored by the current owner thanks to photos in the local paper’s archives. Explore the property’s gardens on a guided tour, before continuing to the small rural township of Caramut.
Take a guided tour of historical Boortkoi, a property once famous for hosting glamourous social events, and enjoy a home-catered lunch in the garden envisaged by iconic Australian landscape designer Edna Walling.
Arrive back at the hotel in the afternoon before enjoying dinner at a restaurant in Warrnambool.
Today, journey to Ballarat visiting en route a country town and private homestead in Victoria’s volcanic lakes and plains region. Enjoy some time at leisure for lunch and to explore the antique and vintage stores in Mortlake.
Continue to the provincial city of Ballarat, built on the wealth of gold hidden beneath it and now boasting a burgeoning dining scene. Check-in to the hotel in the late afternoon and enjoy dinner overlooking the surrounding bushland at dusk.
This morning visit the Creswick Farmers Markets before enjoying time at leisure to explore the charming town of Clunes, renowned by lovers of literature as an internationally recognised Booktown as well as its beautifully preserved 19th century architecture.
En route to Ballarat visit the sprawling Lambley Gardens & Nursery, an internationally recognised benchmark for sustainable gardening practice driven by horticulturist David Glenn and his artist wife, Criss Canning. Take a guided tour of the ornamental garden replete with unexpected colour from the dry-climate vegetation planted to survive the region’s harsh changes in temperature.
This evening enjoy dinner at a restaurant in the heart of Ballarat.
Today visit the culturally rich and lively country town of Bendigo. Explore beyond the tales of the gold rush to uncover a thriving arts scene with a guided visit of the current special exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery. Established in 1887, the gallery is one of Australia’s oldest art institutions and has showcased recent blockbuster exhibitions including works from London’s National Portrait Gallery.
Enjoy time at leisure for lunch and explore the View Arts Precinct, which features a thriving collection of art spaces, theatres and boutiques, before visiting a garden in Bendigo.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon for the remainder of the evening at leisure.
In the morning enjoy a guided visit of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens spread across 40 hectares and divided by a lake foreshore where begonias are in bloom as part of the annual Ballarat Begonia Festival.
Enjoy some free time to explore the old-world charm of Ballarat’s historic high street, then learn how Ballarat was transformed from a sleepy settlement to one of the greatest alluvial gold rushes in history with a guided visit of the Gold Museum on Sovereign Hill.
This evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers in an historic hotel that showcases the region’s finest produce.
After breakfast, return to Melbourne where tour arrangements conclude at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport for flights departing after 2:30pm or continue to The Langham Melbourne hotel where tour arrangements conclude.
Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour, a room category upgrade, travel insurance and private airport transfers.
Note: At time of publication (July 2020), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than two to three months prior to the visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.
Per person, twin-share
Deposit per person (at time of booking)
Final payment due
14 January 2021
Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Australia.
Tour price includes
- Nine nights’ accommodation at four-star country hotels, including breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with dinners
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Hotel/airport transfer on departure
- Expertise and insights of your tour leader, garden specialist Julie Kinney
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- Airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival (contact Renaissance Tours for assistance)
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, room service, minibar, taxis etc.)
- Travel insurance (highly recommended; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Apollo Bay – Sandpiper Motel ****
Warrnambool -– Lady Bay Resort ****
Ballarat – RACV Goldfields Resort ****
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.