Victoria | The Motorcycle Touring State | With Phil Hall
As I have noted many times before, I started touring seriously on a motorcycle around 1980. It was my trusty 500/4 that got me started and, in the intervening years, I have covered many thousands of kilometres motorcycle touring along the eastern seaboard of Australia on two wheels. Budgetary and time constraints have militated against me venturing further north than the Sunshine Coast of Queensland and further west than the Victoria border with South Australia. And I make no claim to have covered in great detail the area enclosed within these parameters but I have, I believe, seen pretty much the best that that enclosed area has to offer.
If I were to pick my favourite state of Australia in which to tour it would have to be Victoria. Yes, I know I have done a lot of north coast of NSW stuff and it is wonderful, but as a motorcycle touring destination, Victoria pretty much takes the cake and it does so for one very simple reason; it is small. Unlike all of the rest of the eastern states where huge distances can be covered without crossing a border, Victoria offers so much within a very compact footprint (relatively, of course – it is still larger than quite a few European COUNTRIES in total area). And, unlike NSW or Qld where you have to travel considerable distances between places of interest or a set of twisties that you’d like to explore, Victoria’s size makes that unnecessary.
Caveat here; I have not included Tasmania for one very good reason; I have not yet had the opportunity to tour it on two wheels, but, what I was able to see of it on a brief visit by car many years ago still makes me want to do so. My conclusions, therefore, are based only on my personal experience.
But there is so much to see and so many wonderful roads to explore in Victoria. The scenery ranges from alpine beauty to sweeping plains, from ocean panoramas to quaint country towns with every manner of variation in between. Here are a few examples.
In the east, the Cann River run down the coast is superb culminating in the picturesque town of Lakes Entrance. If that’s not your style, what about the run over the top of the Alps down from Bright to Moe across Mt Hotham. Sweeping over the roof of Australia, the road is great and the views magnificent. And, if you have time, take a detour out from Bright and take in the thrilling Tawonga Gap road. Don’t miss the Granya Gap road either, back further up in the mountains
Moving a bit further west there is the run to the east of Melbourne from Whitfield through Mansfield, Eildon-Jamieson Road (MCNews.com.au central..) or down through the east Gippsland ranges taking in the famous Black Spur with towering mountain ash trees on both sides, or Marysville and the Reefton Spur down to Warburton for a road that is as challenging as you’d like. There are enough roads winding in and around this area to keep you entertained for days.
Westwards again sees the goldfields, littered with mementos of the rush that made Australia what it is today. Towns like Castlemaine, Bendigo with its magnificent period buildings and the quaint Daylseford, all misty and old-worldy. If you follow that road north to the border you’ll come to Echuca where the paddle boats take tourists for runs along the mighty Murray which once was home to hundreds of steamers before the railway killed off the carrying of freight on the river.
The road across the western plains isn’t the most interesting, but the distance isn’t great and the end result is worth the ride; the Grampians National Park and Hall’s Gap. A network of roads around the area all provide some great riding experiences, and, may I recommend heading south from there, through Dunkeld until you come out on Bass Strait at Portland. From there, if you head east again, you have a couple of hundred kilometres of the Great Ocean Road, which combines some of the best touring roads with some of the best scenery you are ever likely to see anywhere. Mountains of towering trees on your left and the rolling ocean on your right, the only problem with the GOR is keeping your eyes ON the road. (and the ridiculous speed limit.)
And that’s just a few of the motorcycle touring highlights, there are so many. If you haven’t explored Victoria on two wheels you really owe it to yourself to do so. Just a couple of warnings, though, to finish off.
At the risk of offending a few people, I have to say that the main problem with Victorian roads is that they let Victorians drive on them. If you tour Victoria, do so with the understanding that Victorians can often be a little “out there” in the way that they drive; rarely aggressive and dangerous, more vague and prone to sudden changes of intention.
The other warning is issued for the sake of your wallet and your licence. Victoria, like no other state in Australia, has a Nazi attitude to speeding. Do anything more than 3 km/h over the limit and you can, and will be booked, either by a policeman in one of the fleet of mobile police cars, but more likely by one of their concealed speed cameras. Get used to watching your speedo constantly, which is a shame because you will then miss some of the wonderful sights that Victoria has to offer.
Oh, and try and avoid Melbourne completely if you can. Yes, it is a lovely city and yes, you can park your bike on the footpath, but navigating the crowded roads while trying to avoid trams that have right-of-way and tram tracks that act like an ice skating rink at the first sign of precipitation is not a recipe for enjoyable riding.
Victoria has so much to see in such a small space and it has some of the most sublime roads and scenery that it is a “must see” destination for the motorcycle tourist.
My coverage has been brief, just a “taster” if you wish. If you really want to get to grips with all that this wonderful state has to offer, grab a copy of “Australian Motorcycle Atlas” by HEMA Books and start exploring. (and I haven’t even MENTIONED the opportunities available if you have an adventure bike!)