Travel

The Best Spots in Victoria to See Autumn Leaves

Get your cameras ready.

Visit Victoria / Rob Blackburn

Autumn is arguably the most beautiful season of the year, as the weather starts to cool down and the leaves start to fall, we can’t help but embrace our inner romantic.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a burning log fire, paired with mulled wine, hot coco and some type of delicious homemade stew—all with the burgundy and burnt orange backdrop of Autumn.

We’ve pulled together 11 of our favourite places in Victoria for Autumn foliage.

Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park

Just a 10-minute drive from Castlemaine is Australia’s first national heritage park, including remains of gold rush house sites and literally gold diggers. The park is perfect for bushwalking, cycling and even gold hunting if you want to test your luck. The Goldfields Track is particularly lovely in Autumn.

Arthurs Seat State Park

At 314 metres, Arthurs Seat is the highest point on the Mornington Peninsula, and the views are panoramic, making it perfect to watch the Autumn leaves change shades in real-time.  Arthurs Seat State Park has a range of walks with different levels of difficulty and is just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne.

Visit Victoria / Rob Blackburn

Bright

Bright is everyone’s favourite Autumn destination. It’s perfect for cosy evenings in front of an open fire, strolling through the storybook-like streets lined with beautiful maple trees and exploring all of the fresh produce on offer. You can hire some of the world’s electric bikes to explore the Autumnal views with a side of speedy adventure. 

Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour

This is a 22-kilometre avenue of trees, the longest in the southern hemisphere and one of the first of its kind in Australia. Personally, when we think ‘Autumn’, this is what we see. Incorporating the Ballarat Arch of Victory, the avenue was planted to represent the 3912 local men and women who served in World War I. In Autumn, as the leaves turn myriad shades of red and gold, this is a beautiful spot for a drive or, for the more ambitious, a walk. 

Royal Botanic Gardens

You don’t need to leave the city to immerse yourself in the beauty of Autumn. The Royal Botanic Gardens is simply stunning and super accessible, with its perfectly manicured gardens and London Plane trees, whose leaves are arguably the most beautiful of the Autumn transitions. This is the perfect place for an Autumn picnic. Did someone say hot chocolates?

Mansfield

This darling town at the base of Mount Buller is beautiful to witness as the weather cools down. You can watch it have a full-circle moment, from green, to orange and red, to white, its beauty is truly unmatched as the seasons gracefully change and the Winter buzz begins.

Visit Victoria / Emily Godfrey

Yarra Valley

It’s always wine season, in our opinion. Autumn in the Yarra Valley is stunning, as you taste some of the region’s best wines whilst overlooking the vineyards as they change into magnificent shades of burgundy, rose and orange. 

Cloudehill, Dandenong Ranges

At an altitude of 580 metres, get lost in an autumnal oasis of 25 garden compartments, divided by stone walls and hedges. Basically, expect a scene out of a Beatrix Potter novel. Each garden brings something different, from peonies to bluebells to stunning weeping Japanese maples, growing on the property since 1928. Drop into the nursery and take something beautiful home, or settle into the restaurant at the top of the garden for a taste of local produce.

Carlton Gardens

Another beautiful nature spot, right at the edge of Melbourne’s CBD. Stroll down paths lined with beautiful big London Plane’s, have a picnic in front of the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building, maybe even play a spot of tennis at the public tennis courts, all with a backdrop of Autumn glory.

Valley of Liquidambers, Heathcote

Heathcote is known for its rich wine, but it’s also rich in beauty and countryside moments. What could be better than a bottle of shiraz by an open fire, surrounded by the brilliant shades of Autumn? The Valley of Liquidambers, not far from Heathcote’s town centre, blooms in vibrant burnt orange, red and golden shades of desert sand.

Visit Victoria / Rob Blackburn

Windsor House Walhalla

Windsor House in Walhalla is one of the last original properties in the gold mining town of Walhalla, Gippsland, and now operates as accommodation. As perhaps one of the most beautiful places to stay in Autumn, Windsor House offers five bedrooms for bed and breakfast accommodation. A separate three bedroom residence, The Quarters, is also available for self-catered accommodation and is well suited to families with young children or groups. Only two hours outside of Melbourne, it’s perfect for a weekend getaway, a special occasion, or just a beautiful place to enjoy Autumn foliage and some of Gippsland’s finest produce.

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Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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