Top 9 Day Trips From Melbourne, Australia

Sarah Lempa

Chicago, USA

Eclectic sprawls of laneway graffiti and the exuberant fast pace of Melbourne’s central business district (CBD for short) are enough to keep you enthralled for weeks on end. If you’re anything like me though, after the 37,257th crowded city tram you’ll find yourself craving some sweet, sweet middle-of-nowhere nature to contrast the city’s unfettering buzz. And you’re in luck: there are just as many remote getaways as there are 5pm tram-induced traffic jams. Melbourne is a mighty fine time with hip happenings ‘round the clock, but I gotta say, the astounding perfection of Australia’s wilderness is what magnetically pulls me back time and time again. You’d be remiss to visit Australia’s “second city” without hitting up these non-city gems. Here are 9 of the best day trips from Melbourne, Australia:

Torquay

Torquay

Maneuvering the ocean’s waves with the smoothness of a salsa dancer unfortunately isn’t within my bandwidth (maybe someday). Living in Australia without checking out the country’s surfing capital, however, would be more of a disappointment than any of my wave catching attempts. Topping our list of iconic Australian beaches, Torquay’s waves are as pleasing for onlookers as they are thrilling for swimmers and surfers. Rhythmically hypnotic swells of blue and white waves are enticing alongside the charming offerings in town, ranging from well-stocked surf shops to airy cafés. What I’m trying to say is, place bets on me retiring here in like 40 years.

Day trip from Melbourne (distance): 1 hour 40 mins

Phillip Island

Phillip Island, Australia.
Phillip Island, Australia.

Those who thought penguins were reserved for masses of arctic ice are in for a pleasant surprise; you can find ‘em in droves right on Phillip Island meandering about in the world’s cutest clusters. If you’re lucky, a rogue koala will languidly cruise into view (although the local Koala Reserve is a surefire way to see them). Adorably lazy animals aside, the island’s southern coast knocked my sandy socks right off with its pristine condition and assertively tumbling waves. In fact, I may or may not have cooked spaghetti in a bathroom and woken up in a sweaty car next to Anzacs Beach because I loved it oh-so much. Talk about glamping (not).

Day trip from Melbourne (distance): 2.5 hours

Mornington Peninsula

Shire of Mornington Peninsula

After Gunnamatta Beach snagged the title of my favorite beach in Australia, I might as well have said to hell with it all and scrapped my return flight home on the spot. The Mornington Peninsula introduced me into Victoria’s coastal landscape: a wonderland of a place with no shortage of awe-inspiring beaches, fish n’ chip spots, and perma-vacation vibes. I’d go so far as to say this is exactly where my ongoing love affair with Australia kicked off. Don’t forget to don a robe and bask in the warmth of the Peninsula Hot Springs followed by a drive up Arthur’s Seat for a full view of the glittering bay below.

Day trip from Melbourne (distance): 1-1.5 hours depending on destination

Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley, Australia.
Yarra Valley, Australia.

Award winning wineries, among other hedonistic delights, steal the show in Melbourne’s Yarra Valley, a winsome experience for food and drinks flanked by Australia’s hallmark scenery. Like your favorite tipsy aunt at Christmas, you can dither about which wineries to drop in on, opt for beer or cider instead, or skip the booze altogether—say screw it—and jump in a hot air balloon. Hell, combine them all if you’re feeling particularly ridiculous (in a great way). Pro tip: join a hop-on hop-off tour if you’re really planning on indulging on that full-bodied cabernet sauvignon with subtle notes of blackberry.

Day trip from Melbourne (distance): 1-1.5 hours depending on destination

Daylesford

Daylesford, Australia.
Daylesford, Australia.

Treat yo self-worthy spas, museum-like antique stores, and farm-fresh local food make Daylesford feel trendy and fresh, yet steeped in rich history at the same time. Some of the quaint, red brick cottages have been converted into luxury accommodation, but the town retains a healthy dose of grit as one of Victoria’s former most successful gold rush towns. Bathe away your city woes at The Hepburn Bathhouse, which has been renewed as a spa since its original creation in the 1800s. I don’t always go to small towns from the gold rush era, but when I do, you better believe there’s one hell of an invigorating mineral bath on deck.

Day trip from Melbourne (distance): 1 hour

Hanging Rock

Hanging Rock, Victoria, Australia.
Hanging Rock, Victoria, Australia.

A local friend told me about Hanging Rock—not in any guidebook—and after months of living in Melbourne, I was befuddled as to why I had never heard of it. This 6 million year old volcanic formation lives up to its namesake, with craggy rocks jetting up left and right along the walk to the summit. It’s a sacred place for indigenous people, along with an unsuspectingly noteworthy place for musical acts, having hosted big names like Elton John and Bruce Springsteen.

Day trip from Melbourne (distance): 1 hour

And 3 you should probably take the whole weekend for:

Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road

Let’s start here: Great Ocean Road is simply un-f*%$ing-believable and absconds with the cake for my favorite coastline. It’s the type of place that moves you, creating jittery excitement coupled with are you seeing what I’m seeing faces of glee among visitors. The Twelve Apostles receive the most praise, a towering series of limestone stacks that mingle melodically with low-hanging sea mist. To say the beaches on Great Ocean Road are merely pretty almost seems like an insult to me. They’re leagues beyond that, fully embodying words such as grandiose, assertive, and monumental. Rent a car, don a swimsuit, and turn off at every single beach. I loved it enough to sleep in the back of my car in a forest to stay longer (a common theme for me, I’ve learned).

Day trip from Melbourne (distance): 1.5-3 hours depending on destination

Wilson’s Promontory

Wilson’s Promontory, Australia.
Wilson’s Promontory, Australia.

Kangaroos, wombats, and the occasional echidna are your neighbors at Wilson’s Prom, a magical peninsula replete with humble mountain slopes and (literally) squeaky-clean beaches that make faint noises with each buttery step. You could definitely roll down for a day trip, but camping at Tidal River is worth making it into a whole weekend shebang. Despite being lauded as one of Victoria’s largest coastal wilderness areas, it’s likely you’ll find a beach to enjoy entirely to yourself. And if you’re anything like me, that might result in a spontaneous skinny dip at the beyond magnificent Cotters Beach. Live a little, eh?

Day trip from Melbourne (distance): 3 hours

Grampians National Park

Grampians National Park, Australia.
Grampians National Park, Australia.

Lace up those dusty hiking boots and prepare to melt over the cuteness of every little wallaby that skips across your path. Grampians National Park has world-famous hiking trails and any logical person will understand why upon arrival. There are more panoramic mountain views than you could possibly dream of pointing your iPhone at (I suggest leaving it at home sometimes anyway) and a smattering of waterfalls shrouded in the bush. Oh, yeah, and the region is known for top notch Shiraz, should you end up craving some vino.

Day trip from Melbourne (distance): 3 hours