Having lived in Melbourne for two years I can shout from the roof tops about the fabulous bars, incredible restaurants, culture, street art and nightlife of my favourite Australian city. But one of the best things was exploring the beautiful state of Victoria in day or weekend trips from Melbourne.
The Yarra Valley
This famous wine region is actually the oldest in Australia, with vines first planted in 1838 so you can expect something special for your palate. There are a number of major wineries such as Montalto with its lovely views but my top tip is to explore the small vineyards of the Yarra Valley, where you can chat to the vintner and enjoy the unassuming atmosphere. Many vineyards offer food but you can also have lunch or buy supplies for a gourmet picnic at the Yarra Valley Dairy.
This could be combined with a Yarra Valley day or weekend trip but Healesville Sanctuary is definitely worth a whole day by itself. This lovely animal sanctuary is an amazing place to get up close to Australian wildlife in a natural setting. My top tip is to plan your visit so you see the Spirits of the Sky bird show.
This area of low, forest-covered hills south-east of Melbourne is full of hidden gems as well as spectacular views back towards the city from Observatory Road. There are two villages to visit in the Dandenongs – Sassafrass and Olinda – both packed with lovely shops and fantastic cafes. My top tip is to drive out there for brunch at Ripe and then visit the William Ricketts Sanctuary.
The Great Ocean Road
Ideally you would explore the Great Ocean Road on a three to four day road trip but it is actually possible to see the best of this famous region in a day trip from Melbourne. A cruise along the coastline, choosing a beach for a brief stroll, then the wild koalas at Kennetts Road, and onward to Loch Ard Gorge and the 12 Apostles for sunset. My top tip is to see the rock stacks from a different perspective at Gibsons Steps.
Daylesford and Hepburn Springs
When I lived in Melbourne a Daylesford weekend was a regular treat. This quirky village and its sister Hepburn Springs has cute shops, excellent dining and pretty scenery for gentle walks. There are also spa options as this area has natural mineral springs. My top tip is lunch at Lavandula, a beautiful lavender farm.
The Mornington Peninsula
The Mornington Peninsula is a perfect day trip from Melbourne but you may find yourself tempted to stay longer! The charming towns of Rye and Sorrento are famous for gourmet delights and pretty beaches. Note the peninsula has safe-for-swimming ‘Front’ beaches and wilder ‘Back’ beaches. Watch out for the colourful bathing sheds. My top tip is the world’s best vanilla slice at the Just Fine Food Delicatessen in Sorrento.
Phillip Island is an easy day or weekend trip from Melbourne and home to the world-famous Penguin Parade, where visitors gather at sunset at Phillip Island Nature Park to see hundreds of Little Penguins charge up Summerland Beach to their burrows. This is worth the trip in itself but Phillip Island also has a number of lovely vineyards to visit. My top tip is Purple Hen Wines, near Rhyll, both for the food, the views and the wine.
Victoria’s Grampian National Park mountains is a deliciously green area of hills full of wildlife, walks and more. The village of Halls Gap is a good base and don’t miss Mackenzie Falls and the view from The Balcony. The Grampians also has its own wine region, centred around the little town of Great Western, where a cluster of special vineyards welcome visitors. My top tip is a tour of the cellars at the historic Seppelt winery.
Wilsons Promontory National Park
The pristine natural paradise of Wilsons Promontory National Park (affectionately referred to by Victorians as ‘The Prom’) is best explored over a weekend as it is a three to four hour drive from Melbourne. Stunning beaches, a wide range of walks and hikes, and great opportunities to meet Australian wildlife make this a wonderful experience. It’s one Australian’s prefer to keep to themselves to so check about booking ahead in the summer season!
Ballarat is a small city that exploded out of nothing during the Victorian gold rush of the mid-19th century and the impressive architecture is a testament to the levels of gold discovered in this area. Nowadays it is a thriving hub with excellent art galleries and many exciting festivals and events throughout the year. Ballarat is also famous in Australia because of an armed rebellion that took place in the fight for democracy at the Eureka Stockade. To learn more about the gold rush in Australia visit Sovereign Hill, a fascinating open air museum.
The Heathcote wine region is just 100 kilometres north of Melbourne and boasts pretty country scenery backing the gentle slopes of vineyards. It’s just one of many historic gold rush settlements in Victoria that has reinvented itself as a destination. My top tip is to time your visit for the annual Heathcote on Show festival.
Only an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the green flanks of Mount Macedon rise one thousand metres above the plains and offer a beautifully shady escape from the city. With bush walks amidst tall mountain ash forest and perfect picnic spots such as Sanatorium Lake, it makes a lovely day trip from Melbourne. My top tip is not to read the creepy novel Picnic at Hanging Rock before you visit.
Bright and the Great Alpine Road
I’m sure you will have heard of the Great Ocean Road of Australia but perhaps not the Great Alpine Road? Australia’s beautiful and unique alpine country stretches from Victoria into New South Wales and the road runs from 300 kilometres from Wangaratta to Bairnsdale. The pretty township of Bright is a good base for the weekend. Ski resorts and alpine villages offer year round beauty and cycling and wine tasting are popular attractions, often in combination!
I hope you enjoy exploring Victoria – let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations for day or weekend trips from Melbourne!
By Natasha von Geldern