Australia’s second smallest state is home to some beautiful and historic towns. Read on to discover some of the best small towns in Victoria and why you should make the time to visit them.
Australia has plenty of small towns worth visiting.
There’s cute destinations to be found in each state, but I think Victoria is home to some of the loveliest in the country.
Victoria’s gold rush-era led to the construction of magnificent buildings, some of which have been carefully preserved to this day.
Many of these towns are truly excellent to visit – whether you’re making a dedicated trip, or dropping in on the way to somewhere else in the state.
Here are some of the prettiest small towns in Victoria, each worth a visit in their own right.
The best small towns in Victoria to visit
Sassafras is a charming town a short drive from Melbourne, within the beautiful Dandenong Ranges.
You can spend a decent couple of hours walking around the main, very picturesque street, dipping into the various boutique stores and local specialist shops.
The main tourist draw-card is Miss Marples Tearoom, inspired by author Agatha Christie. It definitely has an English feel to it, along with the rest of the town.
Are you a tea enthusiast? Explore Tea Leaves, which has some wonderful teapots.
Sassafras’ close proximity to nature is another boon.
Check out the nearby Alfred Nicholson Gardens, take a gentle hike to Sherbrooke Falls or head to nearby Olinda (another really lovely town) to wander around the gorgeous Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden. And explore plenty of other things to do in the Dandenong Ranges.
Healesville is a village in the Yarra Valley.
In my opinion, it’s one of the best small towns in Victoria. I go there fairly regularly, as I seemingly can’t get enough of it.
Take a trip to this small town in Victoria for nature walks, delicious meals in cosy settings, wildlife sightings and wineries.
Any nature/animal lover should drop into Healesville Sanctuary. Say hi to Australian flora and fauna and hear about the sanctuary’s numerous conservation efforts. Book a ticket to the Sanctuary in advance.
I also highly recommend jumping on Black Spur Drive, which will take you from Healesville to Marysville. It’s only 27km long but is one of Australia’s best road trips – a wonderfully scenic drive, winding through ancient Eucalyptus forest.
Discover other things to do in the Yarra Valley.
Bright is one of the most beautiful towns in Victoria.
Most visitors flock there in the autumn, to take in its autumn foliage. However, it really is lovely anytime of the year.
Summer trips lend themselves to hikes, mountain biking and dips in the Ovens River in Centenary Park.
In winter, you can stop in Bright on your way through the Alpine Region or even base yourself there for snow activities.
There’s fab food and drink to be sampled in Bright too. Hop into Bright Brewery for sips by the river, or linger in cafes such as Ginger Baker and Sixpence Coffee. Drop in to Reed & Co Distillery, Billy Button Wines cellar door or Tomahawks for food, fine wine and good times.
Beechworth is known for three things:
- historic gold rush era architecture
- a fabulous food scene
- the gorgeous nature surrounding it.
So – why wouldn’t you visit this small town in Victoria?!
Take your tastebuds on tour through the town. Hop into Bridge Road Brewers for crafty ales or Billson’s Brewery/Soda Bar for a range of alcoholic and non-alc tipples. Stay or fine dine at Provenance, which boasts two chef’s hats from The Age Good Food Guide. Fuel up with coffee or a toasty from Tiny or pick up pies from Beechworth Bakery.
And if you love waterfalls, head to Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park and feast your eyes on Woolshed Falls.
If you’re up for more gourmet goodness, make a side trip to the King Valley, best known for its ‘Prosecco Road’.
I am enamoured with Maldon.
It’s probably the closest you can get with experiencing what life was like in Victoria during the gold rush of the 1850s – at least visually.
Old weatherboard homes, stone buildings, age-old advertising and traditional shop fronts have all been preserved in this town. It is a bit like stepping back in time.
Having been perfectly preserved, it was named Australia’s First Notable Town in 1966. The accolades don’t end there – in 2006, Maldon was awarded the ‘most intact heritage streetscape’ by the National Trust.
Quite fittingly, Maldon is an excellent destination for antique shopping.
It’s the perfect side trip to make if you’re spending some time in Bendigo.
Although Melbourne gets a lot of attention for its street art, there’s plenty of regional towns in Australia with a strong street art game.
One standout is Benalla, about three hours from the capital, in the state’s north east.
To bring in tourism, murals have been painted across pretty much every available surface of the town – public buildings, shops, library walls, the skate park and even public toilets.
The annual Wall to Wall Festival has been a big catalyst in facilitating this, bringing rock stars of the street art scene to the town, to make their mark on its surfaces.
Benalla is also gateway to the North East Art Trail. Unlike the much larger trail in the state’s north-west, this trail can be easily seen in a day, starting at Benalla and ending at either Tungamah or the Winton Wetlands.
7. Port Fairy
Confession time – I’m kinda in love with Port Fairy.
Although the Great Ocean Road is one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations, its a favourite region of mine and Port Fairy is one of the best stops along it.
Once a fishing village, the town’s wide streets are lined with gorgeous cottages and old stone churches.
It’s also the setting of one of Australia’s largest music festivals – the Port Fairy Folk Festival, held in March.
If you have the time, discover things to do in nearby Warrnambool, including whale watching in the cooler months (June–September).
Forrest is a small town located north of the Otways rainforest. It can easily be visited as a side trip on the Great Ocean Road.
It’s known for its MTB trails and nearby Lake Elizabeth. There’s excellent walking tracks and hiking trails. It’s also one of the top spots in Australia to spy platypi.
As with most towns in this area, impressive falls are a hop skip and a jump away. Stevensons Falls is located in Otways Forrest Park and also has free camping sites. Both Beauchamp Falls and Triplet Falls are not far from the town.
West Barwon Reservoir is also worth ducking into. While you’re in the area, make friends with ferns on the Fern Gully walking trail.
This small town in Victoria is one for nature lovers.
Cool off at Lorne surf beach or chase waterfalls in Great Otway National Park.
Ten waterfalls flow within cooee of Lorne, including Erskine Falls with its 30 metre plunge, Phantom Falls and Sheoak Falls.
There’s also some cracking walks of varying length, including the Great Ocean Walk, which totals 91 kilometres.
Back in the town itself, you can relax on the pavement with a hot bev or dine on fresh seafood from local restaurants.
Where to stay: The Mantra Lorne is located beachfront, guaranteeing a gorgeous view.
Trentham is truly tiny, but there’s plenty on offer.
Bread is life and you should definitely stop in at RedBeard Bakery, for a loaf of their finest, baked in a 120-year-old scotch oven.
Not far from the town is Trentham Falls, one of Victoria’s highest single-drop waterfalls, coming in at an impressive 32 metres. Pack a picnic or take a hike in the surrounding forest.
And if you’re looking for something truly unique to do in the area, why not take a llama for a walk around nearby Hanging Rock?
Onto one of the most historic small towns in Victoria, with some serious star power to its name.
You might recognise it as a setting for Ned Kelly (2002) and Mad Max. It also features in the third season of one of the greatest television shows of all time, The Leftovers.
It’s not only a hero of the silver screen. Clunes is recognised as being one of only 21 internationally recognised ‘Booktowns’ in the world.
Bookworms should flock to the town in early May for a whole weekend of literary discussions, author meet-and-greets and book browsing at the Booktown Festival.
Where to stay: Kip down at Tiny House Clunes at The Old Butter Factory, which boasts river views.
Kyneton is certainly one of the prettiest small towns in Victoria and one of my favourites to visit.
A lot of the action is based around Piper Street, with its heritage shops, antique dealers and foodie favourites.
Notable offerings for good nosh include South East Asian restaurant and bar Fook Shing, or French style fare at Midnight Starling. Pop into Piper Street Food Co for gourmet goodies and lift your spirits right next door at Animus Distillery.
Wander further into town for slightly hidden wine bar Musk Lane. Drink in the cosy cellar door or enjoy a vino in the spacious beer garden.
Kyneton is just a hot, skip and a dunk from Victoria’s Spa Country and the town is situated around mineral springs. You can fill bottles at the old pump of the Kyneton Mineral Springs Reserve. There are plenty more things to do in Kyneton, enough to justify a weekend getaway.
There’s even a waterfall nearby – the Cascades in nearby Metcalfe.
For more, check out this guide to Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.
This historic town is located at the very tip of the very underrated Bellarine Peninsula.
Wander through its historic streetscapes to a modern harbour, which is perfect for exploring Port Phillip Bay.
You can even catch a ferry to the Mornington Peninsula – and take a high tea onboard, while you do so!
One of Queenscliffs main attractions is the Blues Train, which is basically a moving party. You board the train for a meal and drinks, while listening to the best blues artists in the country rock, roll and riff.
Where to stay: Live it up at the Vue Grand Hotel. It’s rooftop bar has panoramic views across Queenscliff.
This tiny town is the perfect stopover on a trip back to Melbourne from Wilsons Prom.
Loch is home to cute cafes, art galleries and antique shops.
Or raise a glass of cool climate wine to unreal views at nearby Gippsland Wine Co.
Where to stay: Stay in a cute little holiday home in town, Cinta Cottage, where you can sit on the terrace with a wine in summer and cosy up by the fireplace in winter.
15. Fish Creek
Fish Creek is a quirky town in Gippsland, easily accessible on a getaway to Wilsons Prom.
The town is mostly know for two attractions.
One is the eponymous hotel, a gastropub with delicious offerings. In homage to the town’s name, the art deco building bares a fish out of water sculpture, flopping across a corner of the pub.
Fish Creek is also the home of beloved children’s author Alison Lester. The illustrator has a gallery in town, where Lester will sometimes pop in to sign books and meet generations of adoring fans of her work.
Beyond these two sites, Fish Creek has a collection of interesting cafes and shops. It’s worth escaping to if you’re after a weekend escape to one of the prettiest towns in Victoria.
Dimboola is a small town located in north-western Victoria.
It’s a cool town, with a nice peaceful vibe. There’s some lovely architecture on the high street, revitalised ghost signs and neat art, including a couple of Instagram-friendly murals.
Dimboola is the gateway to Little Desert National Park and is right by Wimmera River. Little Desert is great for hiking, bird and wildlife watching. Plus it blooms with an array of wildflowers in late winter, early spring. Long distance hikers may want to tackle the Little Desert Discovery Walk, which is 75 kilometres long.
Drive around 10 kilometres north-west of Dimboola along the Western Highway and you’ll get to the very literal Pink Lake. Algae growth gives this salt lake its rosy hues. It’s one of a few pink lakes in Victoria.
There is also silo art nearby in the town of Arkona.
A bit of trivia – artist Sidney Nolan was stationed here during WWII. Inspired by the area’s colours and general vastness, he went on to paint the Wimmera Landscape Series. You can visit The Nolan Studio on Lochiel Street for a bit of insight.
Where to stay: Motel Dimboola is both comfortable and no-fuss.
Avoca is a small town nestled within Victoria’s Pyrenees region. The area is home to some gorgeous nature and excellent wineries, producing cool-climate varieties.
The town is home to one of the more interesting pieces of silo art. While not officially part of the Silo Art Trail, it glows in the dark, which is pretty neat.
In town, grab a drink at the excellent looking Avoca Hotel or a pleasing pastry from Pyrenees Pies.
For something completely different, consider taking a trip to Steiglitz.
Located between Geelong and Ballarat and nestled within Brisbane Ranges National Park, this almost-ghost town was once a thriving goldmining village.
It once had 1500 residents, a bunch of hotels, a local newspaper and even an undertaker.
Some of these buildings remain as either semi-ruins, preserved monuments and private housing.
The crown jewel is the local courthouse, which is open on Sundays and public holidays. It contains a display of maps, photographs and relics of the gold rush era.
Take some time to wander through the town, or jump on a trail nearby.
As I said, this is by no means exhaustive – I’ve personally still got stacks left on my list to visit. Paynesville, Great Western, Rutherglen, Walhalla, Orbost, Omeo, Mallacoota, Tarnagulla… the list goes on and on.
These are just some of the most beautiful small towns in Victoria. Have you visited any of the towns or villages on this list? Are you thinking of paying them a visit now? Please let me know in the comments.
And for more on Oz, see my Australia Travel Guide.