Mike Perso’s Favourite Spots in Regional Victoria

By Rebecca O'Malley June 7, 2019

In partnership with Visit Victoria, Mike Perso takes us on a trip to find his happy space.

When the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, I try to squeeze in as much ‘me’ time as possible. Nature is at its most dramatic during the winter months and I'm definitely at my happiest when I'm outdoors — crisp layers of frost upon rolling hills and trees peeping through layers of fog. So beautiful!

Do yourself a favour and break away from the confines of routine. Join me as I head out on a trip through the countryside to find my happy space.

When I’m ready to get the blood flowing with a bit of outdoor exercise, I head east to the Dandenong ranges to take the Kokoda Memorial Walk (more commonly known as the 1,000 steps). All up, it’s a two-hour hike up a steep track (pretty exhausting) but you’ll experience the stunning beauty of the tree ferns, manna gum and blackwood along the way. The hike has been named in remembrance of the Australian soldiers who followed the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea in World War 2 — an opportunity to soak up nature and a slice of history in one. 

The 1,000 Steps is a decent workout so I treat myself to something from The Piggery Cafe at Burnham Beeches. Shannon Bennett (head chef at Vue de Monde) stands at the helm of this handsome nature retreat, delivering a menu that celebrates regional produce and homegrown veggies and Five Senses coffee. 

Healesville Sanctuary is a must for any wildlife lover – it’s my own little slice of the great Aussie bush! I love to spend time with native wildlife and Healesville has it all — koalas, kangaroos, platypus, dingoes, wombats and emus as well as majestic birds of prey and parrots. Plus, it centres on local conservation and indigenous culture, which makes it a wonderful spot to connect with nature and the land.

Healesville Hotel

For a bite to eat, I usually head to the Healesville Hotel. The menu serves up a seasonal selection of veggies and local produce to deliver a bloody good pub lunch. Then wander 800 metres down the road for refreshing G&T from Victoria's iconic Four Pillars Gin distillery

The Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit Walk is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in Gippsland. It's an easy three-hour hike (5.8 km) through one of the most temperate rainforests of Wilsons Promontory National Park. Alternatively, the Mount Oberon Summit Walk takes you to the peak and southernmost point of Australia's mainland. Expect panoramic views over the coast and offshore islands. Walking is a great way to work up an appetite, too. When the hunger pangs kick in, I like to stop off at Waratah Hills Winery (pictured at the top) for a bite to eat. 

If I’ve got some extra time on my hands, I love to head out on a longer hike. The Great Prom Walk stretches out to either 35.5km or 52.8km (there are two route options depending on your time and energy levels) and circuits the finest of Wilsons Promontory National Park. It’s quite a tough hike (3-4 days through steep terrain) but with such incredible natural surroundings, I always want to keep exploring.

Anderson Winery, Rutherglen

Got a set of wheels? I love to venture up north and take on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail on my bike. It’s 107 kilometres and follows a gentle upwards incline which makes it perfect for all levels of fitness. The trail offers over 100 kilometres of sealed off-road trails, an easy link between the popular tourist centres of Wangaratta, Beechworth, Rutherglen, Bright and Myrtleford. You’ll meander through pine forests, natural bushland and the valleys of the North East Victorian Alps with just enough time to stop off a local winery for a bite to eat. I highly recommend a picnic at Feathertop Winery

Find your happy space in regional Victoria. Visit​ for more travel inspiration.