This article was originally published in December 2015 and updated in October 2018.
While the eclectic, fashionable city of Melbourne is well-worth a visit thanks to its cafe culture, vibrant districts and the colourful houses on Brighton Beach, it can be hard to stay put. That’s because its location in the heart of Victoria makes it the perfect launching-off point for hiring a car to explore great spots around the state, which include stunning scenery, cute critters and luxe getaways. From wine tasting to relaxing on sun-soaked beaches, here are five of the best day trips from Melbourne, Australia.
The Great Ocean Road
Considered one of the world’s most epic road trips, the Great Ocean Road is a can’t-miss journey for those who find themselves in Victoria. Stretching 240 kilometres, the scenic route passes roaring oceans and dramatic cliffsides, ducks through rainforests and culminates with an arrival at the famous Twelve Apostles.
Unforgettable Great Ocean Road stops include Apollo Bay which has a fantastic lookout point, Kennett River where visitors can see cockatoos, parrots and koalas up close, Great Otway National Park which is home to a historic lighthouse, and Loch Ard Gorge and the Twelve Apostles which have stunning views of giant rock formations jutting out of the roaring ocean.
Have extra time to explore Australia’s scenic spots? Check out this itinerary for an east coast road trip.
Animal lovers would be remiss to skip Phillip Island, which is one of the short trips from Melbourne as the drive is only a couple of hours. The island is home to koalas, wild wallabies and the real attraction: little penguins.
Every night at dusk, hundreds of the tiny birds cautiously emerge from the crashing ocean waves and waddle across expansive Summerland Beach toward their burrows. Best of all, wide-eyed visitors are invited to watch the spectacular show from a number of viewing platforms set up along the beach.
Once all of the penguins make it out of the water, guests can continue to follow their journey by walking beside the birds on the elevated boardwalks, watching right up until they duck into their hidden homes in the sand. The Phillip Island attractions can be seen on one of the half day tours from Melbourne, which includes stops at the working Churchill Farm as well as the Koala Conservation Centre.
Wine lovers, this is your spot. The Yarra Valley wineries are famous for their chardonnay and pinot noir, which visitors can enjoy at one of the area’s 80-plus vineyards. Just an hour east of Melbourne, the serene landscape makes it the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, whether it’s explored on a one-day wine tasting tour or at a leisurely pace including an overnight stay at one of the spa resorts.
With so many vineyards to choose from it’s impossible to explore them all, but top picks include gorgeous Yering Station which has a picture-perfect courtyard and tasting room, and Moët & Chandon’s famous production house where visitors can trace Domaine Chandon’s illustrious history on one of the self-guided tours.
It only takes one hour to drive to the Yarra Valley from Melbourne, and there are plenty of guided excursions which typically include all tasting fees, lunch and transportation. Luxury add-ons include a sunrise balloon ride over the Yarra Valley vineyards, complete with gourmet breakfast and a crisp glass of bubbly.
READ MORE: A starter guide to Yarra Valley wine tours
Just a one hour drive from Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsula, this stunning spot is sometimes compared to the Mediterranean thanks to its vineyards, quaint boutique hotels and stunning craggy coastline. Famed for its 50-plus wineries, the region also boasts golf courses, spas and activities like scuba diving, sailing and horseback riding.
Foodies will want to make the trip out for a Mornington Peninsula tour to enjoy the gourmet cuisine found throughout the region, which includes award-winning restaurants, farm-fresh produce and even wine, cheese and chocolate tours. If the beach is more your thing, don’t miss gorgeous Cape Schanck, the white sand beaches found near Port Phillip, or the brightly coloured bathing boxes.
Wilson’s Promontory National Park
Huge beaches. Soft sand. Spectacular viewpoints overlooking the ocean. Hiking trails. Surf spots. Campsites. If any of this sounds appealing, then it’s clear why Wilson’s Promontory National Park is one of the most beloved Melbourne day trips.
With a landscape boasting lush green foliage, a dramatic coastline that crashes up against huge rock formations and mountain peaks that soar up into the sky, Wilson’s Prom is a dream for adventurers and photographers alike. After making the 2 1/2 hour drive from Melbourne, visitors can enjoy a scenic hike that passes a number of lookouts points, kick off their shoes and squish their toes into the soft sand as the ocean laps over their feet, then relax along the tea-coloured Tidal River.
Standout spots in the park include Picnic Bay and Whisky Bay which can be seen from a spectacular viewpoint before heading down to the beach, the aforementioned Tidal River, Norman Beach which affords a great look at towering Mt Oberon, and Squeaky Beach where the sand looks like marble and literally squeaks when people walk across it.
Those heading to the Prom for just a day will have time to see all of the above, and perhaps even squeeze in a stop at one of the area wineries or grab dinner before heading back to the city.
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