DANNY DE HEK › Entrepreneur Decision Maker Connector Podcaster EducatorThe royal ‘Garden State’ of Victoria may be Australia’s smallest state, but it is very large on life. The pulsating heart of the State of Victoria is the grand city of Melbourne.

Melbourne has taken on the mantle of ‘Cultural Capital of Australia’. It is a kaleidoscope of colour and excitement for people who are lovers of fashion, art, music and entertainment. Over recent years the rivalry with Sydney has lost its sting, and Melbourne residents are convinced they live in the most culturally advanced city in Australia.

This elegant city of three million people has an aura of sophistication and contemporary style. The modern architecture of Federal Square contrasts with fine examples of Victorian buildings, which have been carefully preserved in the CBD. The city is being revitalised with an increasingly international character. Growing immigrant communities add colour and variety to this melting pot of world-class cuisine, great wine and glamorous events. Melbourne residents enjoy an exceptional lifestyle that is the envy of many.

Highlights of the Melbourne cultural scene are; the Victorian Arts Centre, Southgate Arts Complex, National Gallery and Museum. The city is buzzing with exhibitions, theatres, concerts, festivals and street entertainment. This sense of style and good taste extends to the City’s 3000 restaurants representing no less than 70 nationalities. Countless outdoor cafés grace the Yarra River banks at Southgate, St Kilda and South Yarra. Serious shoppers are spoilt for choice at modern complexes on Collins Street and the Bourke Street Mall. A comprehensive tramway system serves the downtown area of Melbourne.

The Crown Casino also has restaurants, shops and theatres.

Ideas for day trips into the country include Phillip Island, where you will see the famous fairy penguin parade and the treetop koala boardwalk. The Mornington Peninsula has lovely boutique wineries, rustic restaurants and coastal scenery. The Dandenong Ranges make a pleasant drive, providing the visitor with stunning views of the city. Here you will discover quaint villages, craft shops and eateries nestled in the hills.

Travelling northwest of the city you can relive wild gold rush days at the historic towns of Ballarat and Bendigo. Further north, take the Murray River Drive, which brings you to Echuca, where you can enjoy an historic paddle-steamer ride on the river. For a longer journey follow the Great Ocean Road to the Shipwreck Coast, and the Grampian Ranges. Along the coast you will see the Twelve Apostles – towering rock stacks defying the boiling surf. Or alternatively head east to the natural wonders of Gippsland and the ski fields of the Victorian Alps.

The variety of things to see and do in Victoria is simply amazing. By taking virtually any highway or byway you will find something that excites the imagination or tantalizes the senses. As for the ‘good life’, well, the Melburnians have got it made.