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How to have a quintessential Australian vacation in just seven days

Planned: Your one-week Australian dream itinerary

Written by Time Out for Qantas and Visit Victoria |
Sunset at St Kilda Pier
Photograph: Roberto Seba

Seven days may not seem long enough for a trip to Australia, but with the right itinerary, you can see and do plenty. No need to choose between city and nature, coffee and koalas, museums and spas—you can fit it all in. Start your Australian vacation the second you step on board by flying the way Australians do, on Qantas. Their new Dreamliner takes flying to a whole new level of passenger comfort, including food designed by famous Australian chef Neil Perry and award-winning Australian wines.  When you land, maximize your time by exploring Melbourne before heading out of the city by taking day trips and an overnight to see what else Victoria has to offer, such as wine regions, breathtaking sunsets and even a penguin parade.

Your seven day itinerary

Hidden Secrets Walking Tour
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Day one:

The best cure for jet lag is a strong cup of coffee, and Melbourne has more than a few world-class offerings in that department. We like Au79, an ambitious café that boasts an on-site bakery, a coffee roaster and a mini retail space selling sweet treats. For a healthier fix, try Terror Twilight, where the chocolaty, smooth filter coffee can be injected with a vitamin boost. Once you’re good and caffeinated, strap on your sneakers and join a Hidden Secrets tour to orient yourself to the city’s vast network of cobblestoned arcades and laneways. Afterward, you’ll want to sit down with a drink. With a massive list of wines, beers and spirits, Gerald’s Bar will cure what ails you. Make sure to say hi to Gerald, who can often be found holding court on the patio among the neighborhood regulars.

St Kilda Beach, Melbourne
Photograph: Josie Withers

Day two:

After a day spent eating, drinking and walking, you’ll be ready for some culture. Luckily, Melbourne’s arty vibe makes the city an attractive destination for some of the world's best traveling exhibitions and artworks, as well as a breeding ground for exciting new talent. Victoria’s national gallery—the NGV International—flaunts grand modernist architecture as well as an impressive permanent collection. Once you’ve had your culture fix, you can spend the afternoon relaxing at the large and sandy St Kilda Beach. Take a walk down the boardwalk at sunset and then catch a band at the nearby Local Taphouse, where there’s live blues and soul music and plenty of beer.

Penguins Parade
Photograph: Bernard Yeung

Day three:

By day three, you might decide to venture outside the city and see what else Victoria has to offer. For a great day trip, book a tour to Phillip Island, 90 minutes from Melbourne. It boasts gorgeous beaches, spectacular sunsets and a growing food-and-wine scene. A true nature-lover’s paradise, the island is home to a koala sanctuary, and  spot a seal or two. But the main attraction here is the twilight Penguin Parade: hundreds of the tiny, tuxedoed birds waddle in the dusk light from sea to shore every night.

Great Ocean Road

Day four:

Greater Victoria is best seen by car, and it’s fun to try driving on the left side of the road. So take a driving tour of the Great Ocean Road, and land yourself at Great Ocean Road Resort, a picturesque hotel complex a short walk from the beach. It’s a great place to rest up after a day of driving: take a dip in the ocean, and then head back to the hotel’s luxe spa, where trained therapists offer all variety of restorative treatments. The resort also offers a restaurant, a fitness center and, most impressively, a giant trampoline playground for kids that must be seen to be believed. Not confident behind the wheel?
There are also plenty of Great Ocean Road tours available, with overnight, or multi-night stay options built in. You can even take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace, without having to drive.

An aerial shot of the twelve apostles along the Great Ocean Road
Photograph: Roberto Seba

Day five:

The next morning, continue on for half an hour to the breathtaking Great Otway National Park, a rainforest where you’ll spy koalas and other native animals in their natural habitat. An hour further west you’ll find the Twelve Apostles, a series of natural limestone formations that emerge from the ocean just offshore, providing a great photo op. History fans will love the trail of shipwrecks that are still visible along the shoreline in this area, and there are also great opportunities for bird watching. Settle in for the night at Anchors, a series of secluded self-catering bungalows which offer astonishing views out over the ocean, and elegant interior design.

Osteria Ilaria pasta
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Day six:

You’ll be hungry on the drive back to Melbourne. Turn that hunger into a beautiful experience  with a stop in at the award winning fine-dining restaurant Brae. It’s just an hour and a half’s drive from Port Campbell, and a perfect midway point on your journey back to the city.  Chef Dan Hunter’s inventive menu sources local meat and produce—pistachios literally fall from the trees out back—and much of the seasonal menu is grown on the grounds. Back in Melbourne, check out Flinders Lane–this shopping street is lined with boutiques from cult Melbourne brands like Alpha 60 and LifeWithBird, perfect for picking up a stylish souvenir.  In the evening, head to Hardware Lane, a redbrick laneway with a Parisian vibe that’s populated by buzzy bars Stop in for a drink at Kirk’s Wine Bar, whose thoughtful list focuses on natural and organic drops from around the region and further afield. Still hungry? If it’s Italian you crave, head to Osteria Ilaria, Time Out Melbourne’s Restaurant of the Year for 2017, where handmade pasta and intense, savoury flavors rule.

Brighton Beach Boxes
Photograph: Udey Ismail

Day seven:

No trip to Melbourne is complete without a visit to the bathing boxes at Brighton Beach. What’s a bathing box? Imagine a decoratively painted shed lined up next to 82 others. Against a clear blue sky, the colorful boxes—some feature bright stripes, while others sport small murals—are quite a sight. From there you can go watch the sunset on St. Kilda Pier and then dine at nearby Donovans, an elegant beach house–styled high-end seafood joint where you can partake in an elevated lemon-herb version of the shrimp on the barbie that you promised folks back home you’d tell them about.

Getting there...

Qantas Dreamliner in the sky over Melbourne
Photograph: Courtesy of Qantas

Your Melbourne journey will begin the moment you step on board your flight when traveling with Qantas. The ‘Spirit of Australia’ airline boasts warm Aussie hospitality and world class service.  Your ticket with Qantas includes inflight dining and award winning Australian wines. With more than 1500 entertainment options and generous checked baggage allowance, too. It’s just a movie, a meal, a sleep and you’re there. Qantas flies daily nonstop from Los Angeles to Melbourne, with 13 flights a week.