We’ve got more reasons than ever to embrace the adventures we can find in our own backyard and, luckily, Victoria has no shortage of beautiful destinations. Here are the best day trips you can take from Melbourne.
Get a taste of the Great Ocean Road
While the Great Ocean Road is best explored fully over a couple of days, you can take in the eastern end of the route in just one. From Melbourne, it takes around 90 minutes to reach Torquay, one of Australia’s best-known surf towns. Stop in at The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery to pick up a pre-lunch sweet treat on your way out of Torquay.
A further 30-minute drive on and you’ll be in Lorne, a charming seaside town known for its lively art scene and beach that stretches for a whole kilometre. Stop for some lunch before continuing on to the iconic 12 Apostles. The striking Loch Ard Gorge is also worth visiting before you head back to Melbourne; remember to keep your eyes peeled for koalas in the trees lining the roads.
Visit the Mornington Peninsula
With beautiful stretches of beach, day hikes, and wineries, all studded with quaint seaside communities, the Mornington Peninsula is wonderful for a visit year-round. Just an hour out of the city sits the McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery at Langwarrin, which showcases more than 100 works by well-known Australian artists.
After indulging in some culture, explore the area’s celebrated wineries known for pinot noir and cool-climate chardonnay. If you’re not a wine fan, roll up to one of the many breweries in the area instead.
If you’re looking for some rejuvenation, skip the alcohol and head to Peninsula Hot Springs for a relaxing soak in Australia’s first geothermal springs.
Surround yourself with nature at Phillip Island
Around 140 kilometres from Melbourne’s city centre sits the perfect place for wildlife lovers. Watch the 12pm daily feeding of pelicans and stingrays in the fishing village of San Remo, then drive along the bridge to Phillip Island.
See koalas in their natural habitat at the Koala Conservation Centre; hand feed kangaroos and wallabies at Phillip Island Wildlife Park; or visit the Nobbies, a boardwalk with breathtaking views of the coast. Little penguins often rest along here, and in the spring keep an eye out for silver gull chicks.
Finish the day at the Penguin Parade to watch the island’s resident penguins returning home at sunset after a day out fishing.
This old mining town boasts history and heritage right along with contemporary art and award-winning food. If you’re making the one hour 45-minute trip in summer, head for the cool underground of Central Deborah Gold Mine and walk in the footsteps of the gold miners of old.
If you prefer to stay above ground, the Bendigo Art Gallery holds an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics and photography.
You can also get the lowdown on Bendigo’s architectural and historical past with a relaxing hop-on, hop-off tramway tour and visit Australia’s oldest working pottery.
Pamper yourself in Daylesford
Make the 115-kilometre drive to Daylesford for a relaxing city escape. Head to the Mill Markets to peruse the stalls and pick up some fun gifts or new clothes and tour The Convent, an enchanting 19th-century estate on six acres of land before heading for a spot of pampering.
There’s a reason this area is known as the spa capital of Australia, but if you feel you need to earn some relaxation walk or run one of the routes in Macedon Regional Park. If you’re looking for a challenge, a short but sharp hike on Camels Hump will reward you with incredible views and a reason to visit nearby Hepburn Springs.
Explore charming Healesville
Even though it’s located right in the centre of the Yarra Valley food and wine district, it’s recommended that you take a whole day to explore the charms Healesville has to offer. It’s located just under an hour from Melbourne’s city centre, so perfect for a day trip sans alcohol.
For animal-lovers, Healesville Sanctuary is the place to go as the bushland haven lets you get up close and personal with native wildlife.
Explore the boutique shops along the main shopping precinct and indulge in some retail therapy or stop for lunch at one of the alfresco cafes or popular pubs. If you’re visiting over a weekend, check the local markets to stock up on fresh regional produce from the huge range of local growers and suppliers.
Buff up on Australian history in Ballarat
A day trip to Ballarat feels like taking a step back in time and offers something a little different to Victoria’s pristine natural attractions; a brilliantly preserved industrial history.
When visiting Ballarat, you can’t pass up a trip to Sovereign Hill. This outdoor living museum recreates what the town was like 10 years after the discovery of gold in 1851. You can watch goldsmiths and artisans at work, tour an underground gold mine, and even pan for the precious metal.
The best part? V/Line trains run from Ballarat to Melbourne, roughly on the hour, and it takes less time than driving (about an hour and 20 minutes).
Find a thrill on Mount Buller
Even though this one might be better with an overnight stay, I still wanted to add it to the list.
From early June through late September (depending on snowfall), avid skiers and boarders can hit the slopes of Mount Buller. The three-hour drive isn’t just worth it in the winter, though, there are plenty of reasons to make the journey to Mount Buller all year. Stretch those legs and get them ready for your choice of bike riding, hiking, running trails and horse riding when the mountain is free of snow.
After getting the adrenaline pumping, visit the National Alpine Museum of Australia to learn more about Australia’s alpine regions, from the fast and colourful action of snow sports to the fascinating early history of cattle, mining and timber.
What’s your favourite day trip from Melbourne? How many of these have you visited? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
Also read: Best NSW road trips for first timers