Melbourne offers plenty of things to do, but if you want to venture away from the city for a but, you’ll get to experience a whole new breath of fresh air. We use that expression because a day trip to a different part of Victoria usually includes hikes, wildlife, beaches (and the occasional wine tasting).
Most of these day trips require a car, which gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Be sure to give yourself enough time for the ride back so that you’re not driving in the dark. Kangaroos, as cute as they are, are a problem on the country roads—kind of like deer elsewhere. For day trips that include public transportation, be wary that it might extend your travel time due to stops along the way.
No matter how you get there, you’re sure to find a nearby adventure just a few hours from the city. Here are the top 10 day trips from Melbourne.
Ballarat: Learn About the Gold Rush at Sovereign Hill
Ballarat is a charming town known for the 1850s Victorian gold rush. This part of Australian history is similar to the California Gold Rush, where there was a discovery of wealth in the mines of Ballarat. Sovereign Hill is an outdoor museum where you can take a guided tour of the gold mine and pan for real gold. The best part? The whole museum is in character, including actors in costume, horse-drawn carriages, and Wild West-style buildings. Sovereign Hill takes you back in time.
Getting There: If you rent a car from Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD), it’s an hour and a half drive on Highway M8 toward Ballarat. Otherwise, you can take the V/Line train from Southern Cross Station. The train takes about 90 minutes and drops you off at Ballarat Railway Station. From there, it’s about a 30-minute walk through town to Sovereign Hill or a seven-minute cab ride.
Travel Tip: If you visit Ballarat during July, Sovereign Hill throws a month-long winter festival with Christmas lights, snow, and an ice skating rink.
Great Ocean Road: Drive Along the Southern Coast
The Great Ocean Road is a 150-mile stretch of road along Victoria’s southern coast, starting at Torquay and ending in Warrnambool. Along the way, there are stops for vantage points, wildlife encounters, waterfalls, and surfing. If you’re doing a self-guided road trip, be sure to stop at Bells Beach to watch the surfers. This beach is the spot where the Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition is held each year during Easter. Have your camera ready for incredible rock formations at the Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge, The Grotto, and Bay of Islands.
Getting There: While a lot of visitors complete this route over a couple of days or more, it’s possible to do the Great Ocean Road in one day if you start early. If you rent a car in the city, take M1 toward Warun. Then take the exit toward Torquay to begin your coastal road trip. You can also hop on a tour bus that will take you to all the top spots in one day.
Dandenong Ranges: Nature Hikes and Bushwalks
The Dandenong Ranges are a set of mountain ranges east of the city. It’s an excellent spot for hiking, cycling, or bushwalks. Among the hiking trail options are Mathias Track (four miles round-trip), Bartletts Track – Blackhole Loop (3.7 miles round-trip), and Burkes Lookout Mount Dandenong (under one-mile round-trip). The Kokoda Track Memorial (1,000 steps) is a popular trail known for its challenging stairs to the top of a hill. It’s set in a wet and cool rainforest environment and offers a peaceful escape from the big city.
Getting There: From the city, it’s a 45-minute drive along M1 toward Ferntree Gully Road. By train, hop on the Belgrave train from Flinders Street Station. Get off at Upper Ferntree Gully Station, and the carpark is just down the road.
Travel Tip: The Dandenong Ranges gets super busy with tourists and locals on the weekend. Skip the crowds and visit during a weekday or get there early.
Mount Buller: Ski or Snowboard
Have you ever thought about skiing in Australia? If you’re visiting Victoria from late June to early October, consider a trip to the snow. Mount Buller is about a three-hour drive from Melbourne and offers 22 lifts and 740 acres of skiable terrain. Don’t expect anything like the Swiss Alps—skiing in Australia is quite tame and family-friendly. You can rent gear at Mount Buller, and lift passes can be as cheap as AU$66, depending on the time of year. It is one of the largest ski villages in Victoria, with more than 30 restaurants and bars, plus plenty of accommodation options.
Getting There: You can rent a car and drive yourself to Mount Buller or catch the coach bus service that regularly runs during the winter season.
Travel Tip: If you decide to drive to Mount Buller, you must have snow chains for your car tires. There are regular checkpoints on the roads where local authorities will ensure that you are carrying chains. If you aren’t, it could result in a fine, and you might have to turn around. You can purchase or rent snow chains at service stations and rental shops as you get closer to the mountains.
Yarra Valley: Wine Tasting
The cool and wet climate of Yarra Valley makes it a prime region for producing wine, particularly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The best way to experience the Yarra Valley is on a wine tour or by car service so that you can learn about the region while having a designated driver. It’s a big area, but be sure to stop at TarraWarra Estate. It’s a massive property on top of a hill with a cellar door, art gallery, and restaurant. You can do a wine tasting here for AU$10 a person. Yarra Valley is not only known for its wine, but also for producing artisanal cheese, rich chocolate, and craft beer.
Getting There: By car, it’s an hour’s drive from the CBD along M3 toward Maroondah Highway. Otherwise, search for a winery tour or car service that’s right for you and your group. With a car service, you can arrange the pick-up and drop-off location as well as which wineries you’d like to visit.
Travel Tip: For a fun way to experience Yarra Valley, check out this bicycle wine tour. You can cycle through the countryside while stopping at various vineyards and eateries along the way!
Phillip Island: Spot Fairy Penguins
Phillip Island is a small island off the southern coast that’s known for its wildlife, beaches, and nature walks. The Nobbies is a coastal boardwalk where you can spot Australia’s largest Fur Seal colony by looking through the viewing binoculars. When the sun goes down, be sure to check out the Phillip Island penguin parade. At sunset, a colony of tiny fairy penguins make their way from the water onto the beach.
Getting There: Phillip Island is a two-hour drive from Melbourne. Take M1 and M420 to Phillip Island Link Rd. This is a toll route, so be wary of that if renting a car.
Travel Tip: The penguin parade is a popular event on Phillip Island. Tickets are required for general viewing, so if you know it’s something you want to do, book in advance.
Grampians National Park: Scenic Hikes
There are plenty of hikes within Grampians National Park. It just depends on how far you want to walk and how much of a challenge you’re craving. An easy and popular hike is the Balconies Walk, a one-mile hike to panoramic views of Victoria Valley. To break a sweat, Hollow Mountain is a two-hour hike with a bit of rock climbing involved. It leads to a wide-open view of Wimmera Plain.
Getting There: Grampians National Park is a three-hour drive from the city along the Western Freeway. You can also take the train by getting on the V/Line at Southern Cross Station direct to Ararat with connecting coach services to other parts of the region.
Travel Tip: Pack a lunch and snacks for a day trip to the Grampians. There are very few restaurants in town.
Torquay: Beach and Surfing
Torquay is Australia’s surfing capital where you’ll find big swells, fearless surfers, and laid back beach culture. This town is where brands such as Rip Curl and Quicksilver were born, which you can learn about at the Australian Surf Museum. Bells Beach and Jan Juc Beach are the best spots to have a picnic and watch professional surfers shred the rolling waves.
Getting There: It’s an hour’s drive from the city along M1 toward Warun. Take the exit toward Torquay. It’s possible to get to Torquay via public transportation, but it would take two trains, one bus, and two hours.
Travel Tip: If you’re in town during Easter, try to catch the Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition at Bells Beach.
Wilsons Promontory National Park: Hikes and Beaches
At the southernmost tip of mainland Australia is a vast national park called Wilsons Promontory. It’s a beautiful area for camping, hiking, and spotting wildlife. When you’re there, take on the Tidal River to Pillar Point hiking trail. It’s a quiet 2.5-mile walk with ocean views along the way. Mount Oberon is a four-mile return track that zig-zags up to the summit. Once you’re at the top, it’s unobstructed views of the surrounding park.
Getting There: Wilsons Prom is a two and a half-hour drive from the city of Melbourne. Take the South Gippsland Highway (M420) until you reach the exit labeled Korumburra/Leongatha/Wilsons Promontory. Then follow the signs into the park.
Travel Tip: Be sure to visit Squeaky Beach during your day trip to Wilsons Prom. It’s filled with pure white sand that literally squeaks under your toes.
Mornington Peninsula: Peninsula Hot Springs
For relaxation, take a day trip down the Mornington Peninsula to the natural hot springs. It’s a spa with thermal hot baths and private pools in a peaceful, outdoor setting. The Hilltop Pool, in particular, has a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding region. There are also options for dining, accommodation, wellness retreats, and massages if you’d prefer to upgrade your relaxation experience.
Getting There: It’s about an hour and a half drive from Melbourne CBD to the hot springs. Take M3 towards Mornington Peninsula, then continue onto Mornington Peninsula Freeway and Browns Road to Springs Lane. There’s also a shuttle service that will take you to and from the hot springs from the city for AU$130. That price includes entry to the Bath House. The shuttle service is only available on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.