Penguins, bushrangers & prosecco: the best day trips from Melbourne

Penguins, bushrangers & prosecco: the best day trips from Melbourne

Victoria must be one of Australia’s best states for several reasons. The first is that it’s home to Melbourne, a fabulous city, thriving with culture and colour. That’s something to be proud of, for sure. Victoria also happens to be third smallest out of Oz’s eight states and territories, meaning you can cover a lot of land in a short amount of time. This is no mean feat in Australia; a vast country with a desert so arid that it does tend to contain a whole lot of nothing in some parts. Although Melbourne is a wonderfully vibrant city, you’d do yourself a disservice if you didn’t get out and see at least a tiny bit of what regional Victoria has to offer. Here are a few destinations that are all easy day trips from Melbourne. Some are already quite popular amongst tourists; others are more frequented by Victorian locals. Go ahead and take your pick!

Milawa/King Valley

Drive time: 2 hours, 50 mins

Distance from Melbourne CBD: 259 kms

Reasons to visit:

There is a heck-tonne of wonderful wine produced in Victoria and if you’re a fan of prosecco, to the King Valley you must go. This corner of the state has seen a strong settlement of Italian wine-producers, with winemaker Otto Dal Zotto leading the way by planting the first prosecco vines in 1999.

Five other local winemakers began making this delicious sparkling Italian wine, creating what is now known as “Prosecco Road”. This is essentially a food and wine trail that snakes through the area, concentrating heavily on Italian cuisine.

If wine isn’t so much your thing, don’t fear. The area is home to local breweries and distilleries, such as Hurdle Creek Still, which will certainly appease gin lovers. I thoroughly recommend buying up some cheese from Milawa Cheese Co and grabbing a meal at the Brown Brother’s vineyard’s award-winning restaurant, Patricia’s Table.

Make a weekend of it:

Milawa is quite a lovely small town and an ideal place to stay if you’re planning on taking a bit longer to explore the region. I thoroughly recommend having a poke around the local antique store and buying some mustard from the eponymous Milawa Mustards.

Drive through the King Valley to Power Lookout to enjoy views of either the sunrise or sunset. This spot is named after the bushranger Harry Power, as it’s believed he used it as a vantage point to view approaching troopers in the 1860s.

If you’re after a hearty dinner in a pub setting, book a table at the Mountain View gastro-pub, which offers up European style cuisine in the heart of the King Valley.

day trips from melbourne King Valley

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Ballarat

Drive time: 1 hours, 26 mins

Distance from Melbourne CBD: 116 kms

Reasons to visit:

Ballarat is one of Victoria’s most historic towns, from the gold rush era. It’s a destination that’s rife with culture and history, alongside good food, fantastic wine and some of the most stunning architecture you can imagine.

Ballarat is home to some beautiful Botanic Gardens (featuring “Prime Minister Avenue”, a path which is adjourned by bronze busts of every PM that Australia has ever had), Lake Wendouree and Sovereign Hill.

Sovereign Hill is a popular tourist destination here. It’s essentially an open-air museum, which depicts Ballarat during the Gold Rush era. Costumed actors drift around a replica of a gold mining town and visitors can go panning for the precious substance.

The best thing is that you don’t need a car to visit Ballarat – it’s easily accessible via trains, which depart often from Southern Cross Station.

Make a weekend of it:

I highly recommend visiting during the month-long winter festival, which celebrates all that makes Ballarat the fantastic destination that it is. There are wine tastings, plays and food fairs. The town centre is trussed up with lights and winter-themed decorations – it’s a lot of fun.

Ballarat is also a stone’s throw away from another spectacular wine region – the Pyrenees. Not to confused with the famous mountain range in France, you can drive from cellar door to cellar door, or stuff yourself full of delicious local wares.

This region is a popular place for artists and there are many local galleries and studios to explore.

Dandenong Ranges

Drive time: 55 mins

Distance from Melbourne CBD: 50 kms

Reasons to Visit:

Of all the places on this list, the Dandenong Ranges are the closest, making them an ideal destination for a Melbourne road trip.

The town of Olinda is a great place to start – it’s very picturesque, filled with boutique stores and cute cafés. Olinda is also quite close to the National Rhododendron Gardens. These gardens are free to enter and are home to not only some lovely flora but plenty of bird life – including Lyrebirds.

The William Ricketts Sanctuary is another spot worth making a stop at. A peaceful, tranquil area, it’s full of mystical wooden sculptures that are hidden amongst the ferns that line the pathway.

You can survey the ranges from the top of Mt. Dandenong at SkyHigh. This restaurant is surrounded by gardens, forests, sculptures and even features a maze. On a clear day you can see the city of Melbourne in the distance.

Make a weekend of it:

If you fancy an extended trip, there are plenty of other activities on offer. The Dandenongs are essentially known for their stunning natural beauty and the best of it can be found at the Dandenong Ranges National Park – the perfect place for a stroll or a picnic.

Take a ride on Puffing Billy, Victoria’s historic steam train. It’s ideal for families but singles and couples can also enjoy a meal on board or dress up for murder mystery nights.

Don’t forget to grab a meal at the Pig & Whistle Tavern. It has the vibe and decor of an English pub, with boutique beers on tap.

day trips from melbourne Dandenong Ranges

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Daylesford & Hepburn Springs

Drive time: 1 hours, 27 mins

Distance from Melbourne CBD: 114 kms

Reasons to visit:

Daylesford is one of Victoria’s best-loved tourist destinations. The town and nearby Hepburn Springs are home to the largest concentration of mineral springs in the country.

Bearing this in mind, it would probably be best to plan your trip around the Hepburn Bathhouse. A spa of sorts has been on this particular site since the late 1800s. Visitors today can buy a general pass, which gets you access to The Bathhouse, or you can upgrade to enter “The Sanctuary”.

Here you’ll find Spa Couches, a Salt and Magnesium Pool and the Creekside Bathing pools, which overlook the surrounding bush. It’s certainly worth the upgrade and yes, I am speaking from blissful experience.

After visiting the Bathhouse, be sure to stop in one of the cute cafés within Hepburn Springs, such as Frank & Connie’s or Love Blue Bean. Daylesford town centre is fantastic for a spot of shopping, particularly if you’re into antiques.

There are also plenty of places to grab a decent meal or tipple. Cliffy’s Emporium is always a winner, along with Wombat Hill House and the very picturesque Farmer’s Arms. For dinner, I suggest Koukla, which will have Italian food fans raving.

Make a weekend of it:

Daylesford can be a lot of fun to party in, particularly as it’s the LGBT capital of Victoria.

Daylesford Cider Company is located 3km out of town and is ideal for a lazy afternoon spent sipping cider in the sun. If you time your visit right, you can frolic amongst the lavender at Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm, or at the very least eat at the local café or buy all the lavender scented products you can imagine.

Phillip Island

Drive time: 1 hours, 53 mins

Distance from Melbourne CBD: 141 kms

Reasons to visit:

One word. Penguins. Phillip Island is home to a colony of Little Penguins, who return to shore every evening after a day spent fishing in the Bass Strait. Visitors to the island can see the penguins from a viewing station known as “Penguin Parade”. They’ll come in from the ocean and waddle across the sand to their sandy burrows, to rest for the night.

Although the penguins are the main attraction, there are plenty of other things to do on Phillip Island, particularly if you’re an animal nut. You can visit the Koala Conservation Centre to see one of Australia’s most famous mammals in their natural habitat. You can even pat one at Maru Koala and Animal Park.

Visit Churchill Island Heritage Farm, the site of the first European agriculture attempts in Victoria and stroll amongst the cottages, gardens and lawns.

Phillip Island is also the site of the Grand Prix. If you time your visit right, you can bear witness to one of the most popular and exciting sporting events in the country.

Make a weekend of it:

For a small place, Phillip Island sure does pack a lot in. Visit ‘The Nobbies’ for wonderful views along the rugged coast of the island. There are also plenty of walking trails available, which you can stroll along whilst taking in the spectacular scenery (the island is also an excellent vantage for both bird and whale watching if you should be so lucky!).

If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, be sure to check out the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory. You can grab a hot chocolate onsite – plus the entry ticket is made from chocolate, too!

Although you could spend an entire holiday in the city and not get bored, you’d do yourself a real disservice if you didn’t get out and take at least one day trip from Melbourne. Regional Victoria will not disappoint.

day trips from melbourne Phillip Island

About The Author

LC Hunter is an ex-expat, who is currently exploring her home country of Australia. She has two ambitions in life – to travel plastic-free and to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a miniature pig and several pygmy goats. Follow her travels around Oz and attempts to embrace a greener lifestyle on her blog Birdgehls and on Facebook.

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Bronwyn Griffiths (Hostelworld)

Part-time drag queen. Full-time travel content queen. Just a small town (Australian) girl, living in a lonely (London) world.

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