Beautiful beaches, quirky wildlife, spa towns, and spectacular wilderness areas – you’ll find all this and more within a few hours’ drives of Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road, i.e.; one of the country’s most dazzling scenic drives is just at a distance less than 200 kilometers from the city. The gorgeous Grampian National Park, the gleaming white-sand shores of Wilsons Promontory and the rugged Dandenong Ranges are also very close to the city.
Top billing is scored by wildlife at many of these city escapes. Penguins parading up a pristine beach can be easily watched at Phillip Island along with colorful parrots, wild kangaroos, and wombats in the national parks. History buffs can explore an old gold rush town, and in winter, skiers and snowboarders can carve up the slopes of Mount Buller less than a three-hour drive from the city.
Step outside the city limits and explore the surroundings with this list of the best day trips from Melbourne:
1 Great Ocean Road:
Australia’s most spectacular stretches of coastline and a top road trip destination, the Great Ocean Road is about 200 kilometers from Melbourne. Many of the adventures can be enjoyed on the Great Ocean Road Small-Group Eco-Tour that includes a hike in Great Otway National Park, Kennett River koala spotting, and a stop at Apollo Bay.
2 Phillip Island’s Penguin Parade:
About 140 kilometers from Melbourne’s city center, the Phillip Island is a top pick for wildlife lovers who gather along the shore to watch adorable penguins waddle up the beach at the Phillip Island Nature Park. An easy way to visit this top attraction from Melbourne is on the Phillip Island Tour.
3 The Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley:
The Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley have been a favorite weekend getaway for well-to-do Melburnians for more than a century. This day trip has a little something for everyone – from nature and wildlife to cute villages, fantastic food, and a fun ride on a historic train.
4 The Mornington Peninsula:
A 90-minute drive from Melbourne, the picturesque Mornington Peninsula is a favorite seaside escape from the city. Flanked by the ocean on one side and Port Phillip Bay on the other, this prime sliver of real estate hosts tranquil coves, cute villages, and rocky shores. One of the region’s must-see destinations is stylish Sorrento, site of the state’s first mainland European settlement, with its heritage buildings and high-end shops, boutiques, and cafes.
5 Grampians National Park:
About 260 kilometers from Melbourne, Grampians National Park (often called “The Grampians”) offers beautiful vistas of waterfalls, colorful spring wildflowers, rock formations, and rugged crags. You can learn about the park’s ecology at Brambuk the National Park & Cultural Centre.
6 Wilsons Promontory National Park:
Affectionately called “The Prom” by locals, Wilsons Promontory National Park is the state’s largest coastal wilderness area and nirvana for nature lovers and photographers. It lies on the southernmost point of the Australian mainland, about a three-hour drive from Melbourne’s city center, but the spectacular scenery of squeaky-clean beaches, cool-climate rainforests, and rugged granite peaks is worth the trip.
7 Daylesford: Day Spas and Mineral Springs:
Skirting the Wombat State Forest, about 115 kilometers from Melbourne, Daylesford is perfect for a pampering city escape. Soothing mineral springs, wellness centers, and day spas are the prime draws in this quaint country town, earning it a reputation as the spa capital of Australia.
About 138 kilometers from Melbourne’s city center, Lorne, on beautiful Loutit Bay, has long been one of the country’s favorite seaside resorts. Snuggled between Otway National Park and the Great Ocean Road, this pretty little town offers an intoxicating mix of Mediterranean ambiance, seaside elegance, and natural beauty.
9 Sovereign Hill at Ballarat
At Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, about 110 kilometers from Melbourne, you can experience the exciting 1850s gold rush days in a living museum. Sovereign Hill is a recreated gold-mining town, with Victorian-era houses and shops where you can watch goldsmiths and artisans at work, tour an underground gold mine, and even pan for the precious metal.
10 Mount Buller Skiing:
In winter, rain often means snow in the mountains, so if the weather is not cooperating with your outdoor activities in the city, you can play at the snowy peaks nearby. From early June through late September (depending on snowfall), avid skiers and boarders can hit the slopes of Mount Buller, one of Australia’s most popular ski resorts, about a three-hour drive from Melbourne.
11 Hanging Rock Reserve, The Macedon Ranges
Rich in mystique, Hanging Rock Reserve is a wonderful wilderness escape less than an hour northwest of Melbourne, in the Macedon Ranges. The massive 105-meter-high extinct volcano, now eroded into columns, was the location for Peter.