The Nobbies Boardwalk, Phillip Island
Even though Melbourne has many things to see and do there are some easy days trips you can take out of the city. From beautiful beaches, wineries, spa towns, quirky wildlife and small towns with quaint shops and award winning bakeries awaiting you when you take a day trip out of Melbourne. So whether you are based in Melbourne and looking for a getaway or visiting Melbourne, the day trips from Melbourne I have chosen will take you now more than 2 hours to reach. So here are my suggested easy day and weekend trips from Melbourne.
If you haven’t explored Melbourne yet read my post What to See and Do in Melbourne.
How to visit
The best way to visit these places is by your own transport, preferably a car. If you don’t have one, get prices and availability to rent one here.
Vines in the Yarra Valley
Distance and Time: Melbourne to the Yarra Valley is about 25km taking anywhere from 30-45 minutes to reach.
The Yarra Valley is an easy drive from Melbourne. In fact, it is less than an hour’s drive from Melbourne’s CBD. So one minute you’re in the CBD or the suburbs and the next minute you are surrounded by rolling hills covered in vines with paddocks of cows. The Yarra Valley is world-renowned for producing cool-climate wines and you are spoilt for choice of the number of vineyards with cellar doors that you can visit. One of my favourites is Yering Station. It is one of the Yarra Valley’s oldest wineries and you can walk around the winery, see where the wine is produced and where the barrels of wine are kept. There is also a restaurant there with fabulous views over the valley.
But the Yarra Valley is more than just vineyards. There is the Yarra Valley Dairy where you could purchase some handmade farmhouse cheeses and the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery where you can enjoy chocolate, chocolate, ice-cream and more chocolate. Watch the chocolatiers create their magic in the kitchens. And sit in the cafe with a hot chocolate and enjoy views of the Yarra Valley. Or walk around the expansive grounds.
From the Chocolaterie you could head out to Healesville and walk along the tree lined Main Street. Then head out to the Healesville Sanctuary to see the animals in their natural habitat. On the way home maybe stop in at the Coldstream Brewery – yes, a brewery in amongst the wineries – and enjoy a beer tasting and a meal.
READ MORE: Yarra Valley 2 Day Driving Itinerary
The Dandenong Ranges
Distance and Time: The Dandenong Ranges are 35km east of Melbourne. It will take about 30-45 minutes to reach the area.
The Dandenong Ranges, often referred to as The Dandenongs or The Nongs have been a favourite day getaway for Melburnians for a long time. They are a low mountain range rising some 633 metres and are full of nature and wildlife, cute villages, great food and a historic train known as Puffing Billy. They can burn with bushfires during the summer months and there can be snow in the winter months.
Start you visit with a scenic drive through the Dandenong Ranges. You will wind your way up passing by towering Mountain ash trees and forest ferns and passing through quaint villages like Sassafras, Kalorama and Olinda. Maybe stop in Olinda and have a pie at ‘Pie In The Sky’ restaurant then walk along the Main Street and enjoy the boutique stores of trinkets and clothes. Or treat yourself with a meal at The Cuckoo, a German establishment, but be sure to book first. Head to the top of the mountain at SkyHigh Mount Dandenong for panoramic views over the Dandenong Ranges and back to greater Melbourne and the bays. There are extensive English gardens to enjoy, a maze and there are plenty of places for hikes and picnics.
One way to explore the Dandenongs is on the Dandenong Railway. This railway is over a hundred years old and a must is to take a ride on the steam train, known as Puffing Billy. The ride is spectacular and very scenic. Having a ride on the train is a highlight for many. The full Puffing Billing train experience can take 3-5 hours from Belgrave to Gembrook and return. The train line is a dedicated line used by Puffing Billy trains only. If you don’t want to take the train you can always pass through the same towns that Puffing Billy does and wait to see it. A walk along the train station will see you step back in time.
Distance and Time: The Mornington Peninsula is a large peninsula about 75km East of Melbourne. It will take around 90 minutes to reach the beginning of it.
The Mornington Peninsula is a favourite seaside escape from the city of Melbourne. It is flanked by the ocean on one side and Port Phillip Bay on the other. If you don’t want to spend your time on one of the many beaches in the middle, between the coasts you have some world-renowned cool-climate wineries and olive groves to visit in the Red Hill area. However, spending the day at the beach then wondering through some of the cute villages will reveal some yummy eateries and boutique stores. Then you could be pampered at the Peninsula Hot Springs.
On the ocean side of the peninsula there are plenty of beaches to visit to enjoy the waves. You could walk down the Bushrangers Bay Trail at Cape Schanck. Or perhaps tour the Cape Schanck lighthouse located on the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula for fabulous vistas over Bass Strait.
I suggest instead of taking the freeway all the way to the peninsula, turn off at Frankston and travel along the road that hugs the coast. Pass through seaside towns of Safety Beach, McCrae and Rosebud. You will be treated to fabulous views over the bay and unfortunately, a lot of traffic. Many like to head to Sorrento, known for its heritage buildings, high-end boutiques and cafe culture. You can also catch the Sorrento-Queenscliff Ferry from here. But further down is the Point Nepean National Park where you could enjoy hiking on the back beach trails. I do think a day is not enough on the peninsula as the lifestyle is so good, you will want to stay longer!
Another popular place to visit is Arthurs Seat. Climbing to the top of Arthurs Seat will provide great views over the peninsula and over to Melbourne on a clear day. If you wanted you to take the revamped chairlift up and down. From Arthurs Seat you can head inland to Red Hill and visit one of the many world-famous Red Hill wineries and other local produce such as the Red Hill Cheese Factory.
Hanging Rock and Woodend
Stand in awe at Hanging Rock
Distance and Time: Hanging Rock is about 75km away from Melbourne. It will take about 1 hour to reach.
About an hour up the Calder Freeway you will find yourself in the Macedon Ranges. With a number of quaint towns like Woodend, Trentham and Mount Macedon the area is known for one of its most famous landmarks. That of Hanging Rock. Hanging Rock, or Mount Diogenes is a rare volcanic formation which is a great example of a volcanic plug. Years of weathering and erosion has resulted in its current formation which stands 105 metres high. It was made famous as being the location for Peter Weir’s iconic film, Picnic at Hanging Rock, based on the book by Joan Lindsay. The rock is also important to local aborigines and was a refuge for bushrangers during the Victorian gold rush.
Start your journey at Hanging Rock in the Discovery Centre. Gain the history before ascending the rock yourself. There are two ways to climb the rock. The fastest is via the stairs or you can meander along the windy footpath. But the view from the top is spectacular. After your climb you may want to sit in the grounds and enjoy a picnic or head to one of the nearby local towns and enjoy the local produce in the cafes, bakeries, restaurants and pubs. There are also a number of wineries to visit.
Distance and Time: Daylesford is around 115km from Melbourne. It will take about 1.5 hours to drive.
If in need of some pampering then head to the town of Daylesford and nearby Hepburn Springs. Known as being the spa capital of Australia due to the many soothing mineral springs, wellness centres and day spas found here. Escape here for a day or more for a relaxing time. And after you have enjoyed the pampering enjoy a meal in one of the restaurants serving seasonal local produce. But don’t forget to browse the town’s quaint shops, antique markets, art galleries and historic buildings.
Distance and Time: Williamstown is only 15km from Melbourne, taking about 20 minutes to reach.
A favourite day trip for many Melburnians is to take the ferry across Port Phillip Bay to the town of Williamstown on 15km or so drive south-west of Melbourne. This is a historic town, being the first site of European settlers in the state to build a harbour. There is a rich maritime history here and this is evident as you stroll the foreshore buildings and colonial landmarks like Timeball Tower and Fort Gellibrand. Many yachts dock alongside Gem Pier highlighting this seaside town. Ensure to visit the convict-built Nelson Place that now houses many craft shops and restaurants. Or maybe sit on the southern shore in the park or dip your toes in the waters of Williamstown Beach.
Distance and Time: Geelong is around a 75km drive from Melbourne. It will take just over an hour to reach.
Geelong is on the western side of Port Phillip Bay. It is one of the oldest cities in Victoria and is in fact, the second largest city in Victoria. Geelong has a scenic harbour front with many highly-rated restaurants. This is where most visitors head first, and I don’t blame them, as you can easily spend your time dipping your toes in the waters, walking along the promenade and enjoying good food. But if you leave the water side the city also has a cultural precinct at the west end of Little Malop Street. Here you will find the Geelong Gallery, the Geelong Library, City Hall and the Old Post Office that add an air of history and grandeur to discover. Like Melbourne, Geelong has a number of street-art murals and laneways to explore. And if you are visiting during winter you may want to catch an AFL game of the local Geelong team. Geelong is also the gateway to Bellarine Peninsula and near the start of the Great Ocean Road, so why not combine a visit to Geelong while visiting others areas.
Step Back In Time At Sovereign Hill
Distance and Time: Ballarat is 115km away from Melbourne, about 1.5 hour drive.
Ballarat is the third largest city in Victoria and was built from the gold rush in the 1800s. Even though there are many things to see and do in Ballarat the major thing is to spend your day at Sovereign Hill. Here you can pan for gold and watch and participate in the hustle and bustle of an 1850s gold mining settlement. A highlight is the AURA sound and light show which tells the story of the Eureka Rebellion. A big part of Australia’s history. When reforms were sought by gold prospectors who then clashed with government forces. They constructed a fortification in the Eureka goldfield, known as the Eureka Stockade. And it became a victory for the miners.
Distance and Time: Bendigo is about 150km north of Melbourne. It will take about 1.75 hours to get there.
Bendigo is a large city north of Melbourne. It was originally a gold rush boom town and there are grand buildings still standing from this time. You can ride a vintage talking tram through the city listening to an audio commentary on its rich gold mining history. During the gold rush many Chinese went there to make their fortunes. You can learn all about this at The Golden Dragon Museum. Still on gold, visit the Central Deborah Gold Mine and take a mining tour underground. But for something not about gold, visit Bendigo Pottery, Australia’s oldest working pottery to discover traditional pottery skills from its beginning in 1858 to today. Or simply walk around the Botanic Gardens or along the streets in town and appreciate the boutique stores within heritage frontages. I’d definitely pop into a cafe or restaurant to get a bite to eat or visit one of the many local Bendigo wineries.
The bridge to Phillip Island
Distance and Time: Phillip Island is 142km away from Melbourne, about 1.5 hour drive.
Even though Phillip Island is under 2 hours away from Melbourne and can be visited for a day trip, it is best to spend a little longer if you have the time. I say this because you can’t go to Phillip Island without seeing the nightly parade of the penguins as they come home from a day fishing to their nests. Once this is over and you have returned home it will be late at night, so why not spend another day. There is the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory to visit, walk along the Main Street of Cowes and dine in one of the cafes or restaurants. Possibly spend your time seeing much of the beautiful windswept coastline or just enjoying a swim or surf. Bike racing enthusiasts might want to head to the Phillip Island Bike Track.
READ MORE: Phillip Island – What To See and Do
The Great Ocean Road
Distance and Time: The Great Ocean Road starts some 209km from Melbourne. It will take 2 – 2.5 hours to get to the start of it.
Just like Phillip Island, I don’t think the Great Ocean Road should be rushed. If you are just visiting one spot on the Great Ocean Road then maybe a day will be OK but to truly appreciate all the Great Ocean Road has to offer I would suggest a minimum of 2 days or more. As well, the Great Ocean Road is around 650km long and can take around 9-10 hours to drive. And that is a lot of driving to do in the one day. To truly see everything, the entrance to the Great Ocean Road, the 12 Apostles, Shipwreck Coast, walk through the Otway Ranges and spent some time in the quaint sea side towns you will be cramming a lot into your time. Therefore, the longer you can spent along the Great Ocean Road, the better.
There are plenty of more small and large towns worthy of a day or weekend trip from Melbourne to do. However, the ones in this post are the most popular. Where ever you drive for the day or weekend Victoria offers a great deal of variety to explore.