Beyond the city: best day trips from Melbourne

The city of Melbourne is a playground for sporting and cultural pursuits and has an almost embarrassing abundance of exceptional dining and shopping options. This makes it easy to get caught up in a routine of sticking close to the city on the weekends and miss the amazing opportunity to explore the spectacular beauty of Melbourne’s surrounding coastal and inland destinations.

If you find yourself needing an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, we’re here to help with a list of day trips guaranteed to suit a range of tastes and adventure levels and all within easy driving distance of Melbourne’s CBD.

If you’re chasing fine wine…visit the Yarra Valley

Melbourne’s premier wine region, the Yarra Valley lies a comfortable hour’s drive north-east of the city. The region’s crisp climate makes it ideal for producing excellent quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wine varieties. Here, you’re likely to find cellar doors with onsite restaurants and cafes making the most of the valley scenery and exceptional locally sourced produce. Stock up on locally grown fruits with several purveyors offering the opportunity to pick your own cherries and berries straight from the farm. Visit the Healesville Sanctuary and wander the trails for a close encounter with koalas, kangaroos, wombats, platypus and other Australian wildlife. Make the most of the Valley’s burgeoning cultural scene with a visit to the Tarrawarra Museum of Art, Art at Liden Gate or the stunning gardens of Coombe – the Melba Estate, which was once home to Dame Nellie Melba, with its onsite gallery a nod to her role in Australian history and excellent restaurant located onsite. For the market lovers, the Yarra Valley plays host to a range of craft and food markets with the wares of local artisans on full display.

If you’re keen for a coastal wildlife experience…visit Phillip Island

Phillip Island is well-known as a hotspot for Australian motorsport racing. However, only those who have been there before fully appreciate it’s also a marvellous day trip adventure for anyone wanting to experience Australia’s diverse range of marine life.  Located 90 minutes south of Melbourne, the island is home to the world-famous Penguin Parade at Summerland Beach; take a self-guided tour or head out with experienced ranger. You can also take a virtual tour of Antarctica at the Nobble Centre, hop on a 90 minute adventure  tour with Wild Ocean Eco Boat Tour to see  Australia’s largest fur sea lion colony or get personal with koalas at the Koala Reserve. Once you’ve had your fill of beautiful wildlife, take in some of the area’s beautiful beaches; try Woolamai Surf Beach or Surf Beach and Surfies Point if you’re after a spot of surfing, or Cowes Beach, Ventnor Beach or Red Rocks Beach for swimming. Away from the water, visitors can embark on a step-back-in-time experience on Churchill Island, the site of the first farm in Victoria, or taste exceptional quality chocolate with a tour of Pannys Phillip Island Chocolate Factory. There’s also plenty on offer for food and wine lovers on the island; stop in at the Phillip Island Winery or head to Ocean Reach Brewing or Rusty Water Brewery for handcrafted beers or relax by the water at one of island’s ocean-view restaurants or cafes.

If you’re into hiking and village life…visit the Dandenong Ranges

With its spectacular scenery and quaint village feel, it’s hard to believe the Dandenong Ranges are located only an hour from Melbourne. The Dandenong Ranges National Park has an extensive network of walking and cycling trails which make the most of the park’s stunning forest and waterfall features, including its famous Mountain Ash Trees, the tallest flowering tree in the world. Try the popular Eastern Sherbrooke National Park Walk, Kokoda Memorial Walk or the longer Dandenong Ranges Tourist Track or head to the Dandenong Botanical Gardens, one of the Range’s most popular attractions.  The Ranges are also home to small, popular village destinations teeming with cosy cafes, arts and craft galleries and gift shops; head to Sassafras for delicious fresh local produce and boutique stores, or Olinda, the highest village in the Ranges with its unique stores, a range of quality dining establishments and beautiful gardens to explore.

If you want to relax by the water…visit Mornington Peninsula

The Mornington Peninsula is located just over an hours’ drive south-east of Melbourne and is the place to go for day-trippers seeking a little relaxation and rejuvenation. Start your day by sampling locally roasted coffee and fresh local produce at one of the many cafes and restaurants, before indulging in some serious pampering at Peninsula Hot Springs, Victoria’s first natural thermal mineral springs and day spa. If you’re up for something a little more active, take a ride on the Arthurs Seat Eagle, a modern gondola ride to the highest point of the Peninsula where you’ll be treated to panoramic views over the bay to Melbourne. Take a stroll through the Arthurs Seat State Park or head to the hinterland and try your hand in the Enchanted Adventure Garden.  Visitors seeking some beach time can head to popular Sorrento Front Beach or Portsea Front Beach, or for something a little wilder, walk part of the 30km Costal walk on the southern side of the Peninsula between Cape Schanck and Point Nepean for spectacular views of the coastline.

Not from Melbourne but still want to check out these amazing day trip destinations? Virgin Australia offers a range of great value fares to Melbourne direct from most Australian capital cities. On arrival, hire a car with one of Virgin Australia's car hire partners and you're ready to begin your Melbourne day trip adventure.

Words by Rebecca Walker. Image courtesy of Visit Victoria - Published 18 April 2019
Quick Facts 
Population Approx 3.73 million
Area 2,254 km2
Time Zone GMT +10
Languages English (official)
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Electricity 220 – 240v 50Hz
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