Victoria's best summer spots

With the sun shining, there's never been a better time to walk, ride or simply relax.

1. Get dunked in the Murray

The Murray River may be far from the ocean, but it's long been a favourite summer water-sports destination. The Echuca/Moama area is a popular spot to get to know the river, and there are plenty of ways to explore: jump on a touristy paddle steamer; grab your friends or family and hire a houseboat, or be really active and waterski the mighty Murray. Brett Sands Watersports offers lessons and will help even the novice get up and waterskiing.

2. Start walking

Walks in Nature (Hardie Grant, $24.95), from Explore Australia, outlines a terrific bunch of walks within cooee of Melbourne. No. 1 on its summer list of walks is the area of Cape Schanck, a strangely spelt place on the Mornington Peninsula with divine rock pools that are great for a soak. Start your return 13-kilometre walk to the water in the Boneo Road car park and head along Bushrangers Bay Walking Track to the lighthouse.

3. Hit the slopes

OK, the snow's a mere wisp of river now, so hit the high country by bike instead. There's more than 250 kilometres of off-road Rail Trail running through towns including Mansfield, Milawa, Bright and Rutherford. You can do it yourself or make it really easy by booking a local tour operator to organise things for you. Newcomer Riding High Cycling Tours sorts out itineraries and transfers.

4. Volunteer in a tourist hot spot

Help protect Phillip Island's penguins on one of Conservation Volunteers' Naturewise Conservation Holidays. They roll a holiday into a volunteering experience so you can have your fun in the sun and help out, too. Prefer inland? There's also owl, bandicoot and lyrebird monitoring.

5. Escape to your holiday house

Nothing says summer like a week at your holiday house. If you don't have one, borrow someone else's. Functional holiday houses include The Little Deckhouse at St Andrews Beach on the Mornington Peninsula. For something just like granny's house, try Retro Retreat in Lorne.

6. Snorkelling

Port Phillip Bay ain't no Great Barrier Reef, but that doesn't mean you can't don a wetsuit, snorkel and mask and check out what's under the surface. Pope's Eye is in the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park and offers good, sheltered snorkelling. See All Dolphin Swims takes guests there by boat on the way to dolphin- and seal-spotting nearer Sorrento. Once you're over the shock of the coolish water, you'll be surprised to see fish swimming among the kelp and along the white sandy bottom beneath you.

7. Summer ice-skating

Geelong's waterfront has certainly become a thriving summer destination. Offerings include stand-up paddle-boarding around the moored yachts, a slow whirl around the restored 120-year-old carousel, or sky-bound joy flights. But things are getting chillier. From December 21 to late January, a 25-metre by 15-metre ice-skating rink will sit at the end of Cunningham Pier. Sure beats an Icy Pole.

8. Kayak to the seals

Learn how to kayak in stable sit-on kayaks. Once you've mastered the first step, paddle your way out to Apollo Bay's Australian Fur Seal colony off Marengo. You can get closer to them in a kayak than in a boat and, while you're gazing at the world's fourth-rarest seal species, your instructor will tell you all about them.

9. Find a festival

Out of touch with the communal spirit? Forgotten how to dance? If you don't mind getting a little dusty, join the 10,000 others who make a beeline for the Rainbow Serpent Festival each January. It's held near Beaufort, less than two hours from Melbourne.

10. Stay home

Come on, admit it. Sometimes there's nothing nicer than having your city to yourself.

THE FACTS

WHERE Brett Sands Watersports: brettsands.com; 54821851; half-day waterskiing lesson $140.

SEE All Dolphin Swims: dolphinswims.com.au; 52583889; adult snorkel $135; departs from Queenscliff.
Riding High Cycling Tours: ridinghigh.com.au; from $150 a person a day.

STAY The Little Deckhouse: stayz.com.au/115503. $300 a night school holidays; off-peak $195 a night. Minimum stays apply. Retro Retreat: stayz.com.au/87600.  $800-$1800 a week. Minimum stays apply.

DO Apollo Bay Surf Kayak: apollobaysurfkayak.com.au; 0405495909. Seal kayaking tour $65.
Conservation Volunteers: conservationvolunteers.com.au; 1800032501. Penguin Protection program Jan 21-23 from $395, includes accommodation, transfers, meals. Rainbow Serpent: rainbowserpent.net. January 25-28; tickets $225 plus bookingfee.

The story Victoria's best summer spots first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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