Best day trips from Melbourne by car or train.
There are many Melbourne tours to escape the city. The breathtaking ocean views will captivate you along the length of the Great Ocean Road, renowned as one of the most scenic coastal drives in Australia. At around 600km return from Melbourne, there are plenty of things to see and do along the way. Admire the power of nature at the mighty geologic formations known as the 12 Apostles, or the huge natural rock span known as the London Arch.
Take a helicopter ride past the awe-inspiring cliffs and their sheer drop into the pounding surf below. Explore the rugged beauty and diversity of the Grampians National Park. Its mountainous ranges are home to some of Australia’s most famous wildlife; see if you can spot a kangaroo, a koala, or even an emu out in the wild!
Penguin alert! Phillip Island is home to one of the largest penguin colonies of its type in the world. These cute little fairy penguins parade up the beach in groups of 300-750 nightly to roost, and there is a choice of viewing options that will make you feel like you’re part of the action! Visit the Seal Rocks Sea Life Centre for an up-close and personal experience with the seal colony inhabitants; and round off your wildlife experience spotting koalas along the treetop boardwalks at the Koala Conservation Centre.
The Eureka Skydeck boasts the highest public viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere. Nestled on the 88th floor of a residential tower building, the Skydeck offers fantastic views of Melbourne both day and night. If you need a bit more thrill in your attraction, step out on “The Edge”—a glass cube jutting from the edge of the building. The only thing between you and the ground 285m below is a piece of glass!
All aboard! The Puffing Billy historical steam train is still running daily on its original track, which is now over a hundred years old. Specialty tours are offered throughout the year, including dinner and lunch rides, themed nights out at the Nobelius Packing Shed, and live jazz. There is even the chance to drive the train yourself!
Just 3 hours drive from the city, Mt Buller is the closest ski resort to Melbourne. Take a day trip up during the winter and hit the ski slopes, snow shoe, toboggan, or just enjoy the après-ski hospitality of the mountain village. In summer, Mt Buller offers challenging hiking and mountain biking trails—as well as intensive clinics to tune up your riding skills (and your bike) before you head out.
Australia’s largest sports stadium is also one of the most famous cricket venues in the world. Embrace your love of sporting history by taking part in a full, all-access tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, led by guides with a passion for sport and a knack for storytelling.
Melbourne is referred to as the garden city, and the state of Victoria is officially known as the garden state, with parks and gardens in abundance. A self guided tour of the city’s many parks and gardens can be a relaxing way to spend a day.
Melbourne has an extensive public transport network. It has one of the world’s most extensive tram networks, which is one of a kind in Australia. For visitors there is a free City Circle Tram, which takes in many of Melbourne attractions.
The Dandenong Ranges are the day out for locals. A cooler place than the city heat and where it is easy to relax and enjoy cream teas, gardens and for those who have not done it a trip on the Puffing Billy.
Take the Burswood Highway to the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road at Upper Ferntree Gully. Pass through a lot of little villages and stop at some.
The visitor centre is on the Burswood Highway at Upper Ferntree Gully.
Bush walking is popular and there is an easy one at Sherbrook Picnic Ground. More challenging is the Kokoda Memorial Walk from Fern Tree Gully Picnic Ground up to One Tree Hill. Memorial plaques commemorate troops who died in Papua New Guinea during World War 2.
Have a look at the National Rhododendron Gardens if around in from September until November. At William Ricketts Sanctuary are clay figures representing the Aboriginal Dreamtime and created by Ricketts who died in 1993.
The Grampians National Park is a favourite bushwalking retreat of Victorians and interstate visitors alike. Located in the agricultural district of western Victoria, the Grampians is a oasis of biodiversity and home to one third of all bird and animal species in the state.
Numerous walking trails exist in the park, and all offer stunning views of the limestones cliffs and densely-forested valleys. With so many sheer cliff faces through the area, the Grampians is also a major rockclimbing destination.
Prior to European settlement, a rich indigenous culture existed in the Grampians area. The Jarwadjali and Djab Wurrung people lived on this land, and numerous sites throughout the park were important meeting places for the local population. As evidence of this area’s significance, the Grampians features the most extensive collection of Aboriginal rock art in south-eastern Australia. This area is extremely important to the study of Australia’s indigenous history, and there’s no better place to discover Aboriginal art in its original form.
There’s a good selection of accommodation options within the park itself, ranging from basic cabins to luxury resorts. Whatever your budget and level of comfort, you can stay within the heart of the Grampians and wake up to an incredible view.
Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is one of the best scenic drives anywhere on Earth. Draped along the southern coast of Victoria, this 214km highway takes the motorist through some of Australia’s most remarkable landscapes.
By far the most famous sight along the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles – the surreal limestone stacks that rise up from the Southern Ocean. These jagged rock formations are the result of erosion over hundreds and thousands of years.
Harsh ocean weather has slowly eaten into the soft limestone cliffs, creating rock arches which eventually collapse under their own weight, leaving the standing pillars that we see today. The Twelve Apostles is an incredible and unique natural attraction, and one of southern Australia’s iconic postcard faces.
Elsewhere on the Great Ocean Road you will discover caves, natural land bridges and and endless ocean views. Tourist attractions aside, the road itself is of immense historical significance for Australians. Few people are aware that the Great Ocean Road is actually the world’s largest war memorial. Built by returned servicemen between 1919 and 1932, the highway is a tribute to the fallen Australian soldiers of the First World War.
The Great Ocean Road is an easy day tour from Melbourne, and an absolute highlight of any visit to Victoria.
The Mornington Peninsula lies south and slightly east of Melbourne. On its inner side (west and north), the Peninsula encloses Port Phillip Bay, while on its outer side it almost meets French Island and Phillip Island on the east, and has Bass Strait to its south. There are several places to explore on this peninsula.
One pleasant journey is to take a suburban train to its terminus at Frankston and then change to a further train to Stony Point. It is a typically rural line which travels across the peninsula from its inner west coast to its outer east coast. The journey from Flinders Street to Frankston takes just over an hour. The journey from Frankston to Stony Point takes approximately forty minutes, and trains wait there for about twenty minutes before returning to Frankston.
At Stony Point, there is a tea room and not much else. The train travels right to the water’s edge and from this point there is a ferry service which operates to French Island and to Cowes on Phillip Island. It is a good way to reach the latter if you are thinking of visiting the penguins there.
French Island is so called because it was discovered by the French survey vessel Le Naturaliste in 1802. It has a total area of 17,410 hectares, of which 11,100 hectares is National Park. The population is approximately 80. It can be reached in ten minutes by ferry, arrival point being the small town of Tankerton on the west coast. Sights include lots of koalas, echidna, wildflowers, birds, a chicory kiln, and an historic prison. Camping is available on the island. The island measures approximately 25 kilometres from east to west and fifteen kilometres from north to south. The closest point to the mainland is on the eastern coast, where the distance is a mere two kilometres.
Another possible expedition is to the town of Mornington itself. Again you take the suburban train to Frankston, and from there catch a bus. Mornington is 55 kilometres from the centre of Melbourne and has a population of 30,000. A settlement was first established at nearby Schnapper Point, and this developed into the town of Mornington. A jetty was built in 1857, after which the town soon became a favoured destination for holidays and day trips on the steamers which plied the bay in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
The Courthouse here dates from 1860 and the Post Office from 1864. There are also several imposing nineteenth century hotels, such as the Royal Hotel, Kirkpatrick’s Hotel and the Grand Hotel. The Old Mornington Hotel used to be called the Tanti Hotel and was the original staging point for the Cobb and Co. coaches, while the Royal Hotel used to be called the Schnapper Point Hotel, but changed its name after the Duke of Edinburgh stayed there in 1896. The Old Post Office is now a Museum. The Old Courthouse is an Information Centre, open at weekends only. It also displays local works of art. There is a statue of Matthew Flinders. He visited in 1802 in H.M.S. Investigator and landed near Mornington. Nearby is a memorial to the Mornington Football Team, all members of which were lost at sea in 1892.
One more possibility is to perform a complete circuit of Port Phillip Bay, by travelling the length of the Mornington Peninsula, crossing by ferry and returning to Melbourne via the Bellarine Peninsula and Geelong. The journey from Frankston to Sorrento takes approximately ninety minutes. On the way, near Dromana, you will see, on your left, Arthur’s Seat, the highest point on the peninsula at 304 metres. A 74-seat chairlift leads up to it. This chairlift is the longest in Victoria, almost precisely one kilometre long. Arthur’s Seat was climbed by Matthew Flinders, and his journal records that he enjoyed the view too. It was named in 1802 by Lt. John Murray after a mountain near Edinburgh. The ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula operates every hour. On the other side, on the Bellarine Peninsula, a bus can be taken from Queenscliff to Geelong, and then a train back to Melbourne.
While it’s true that Australia is more famous for beaches and sunshine than it is for snow, a lot of foreign visitors are unaware that we also have some fantastic ski resorts in this country. Victoria’s Mt. Buller is one such place, and in the winter months people flock here from around the country to carve up the slopes and enjoy the views.
With over 300 hectares of skiable terrain, an extensive lift system and world-class facilities, Mt. Buller is a premier ski holiday destination. The resort features two toboggan parks, a half pipe and ultra cross course, and a vast array of ski runs for all levels of ability, from beginner slopes to hair-raising black runs. Only a three hour drive from Melbourne, Mt. Buller is an easy escape for a day, a week or a month.
Nestled amongst the alpine peaks is Mt. Buller Village, a serene and picturesque town with a vast range of accommodation options. With over thirty restaurants and countless pubs and cafes, the village is the ideal place to unwind after a long day on the slopes. There’s something to suit every taste and budget, and for party animals the nightlife kicks on into the wee hours.
If you’ll be coming to Victoria in the colder months of the year, why not make the most of it and experience Australia’s very own ski holiday.
Penguins probably aren’t the first animal that spring to mind when most people think of Australian wildlife. This arid, semi-tropical land of ours hardly seems like the ideal place for the little ice-dwelling birds. There is, however, one very small corner of our country where penguins roam free: Phillip Island. Located off Victoria’s southern coast, only an hour and a half from Melbourne, Phillip Island is an ecological marvel and one of Australia’s most fascinating places.
Phillip Island Nature Park draws over three million visitors annually, the vast majority of whom have come to see the penguins. The officially-named “Little Penguins”, one of the world’s rarest and smallest species, inhabit the island and surrounding waters. Every evening the birds come ashore in groups, in a spectacular display known as “The Penguin Parade”.
Elsewhere on Phillip Island is Seal Rocks, an area which is home to as many as 16,000 fur seals – by far the largest colony of these creatures in Australia.
If you’re looking for something a little bit faster than penguins and seals, Phillip Island is also home to a world class Grand Prix circuit. The island hosts various international motorsport events throughout the year, including the V8 Supercars, Superbike World Championship and MotoGP.
Phillip Island is an unforgettable destination for nature lovers, petrolheads and everyone in between.
Some other Philip Island attractions are the Koala Conservation Centre and the National Vietnam Veterans Museum.
Philip Island is a two hour trip from Melbourne along the South Gippsland Highway and then the Bass Highway and take the bridge to the island.
Puffing Billy is a steam-operated narrow-gauge railway running in the Dandenong Ranges forty kilometres to the east of Melbourne city centre. When Victorian Railways found that its 5 feet 3 inches gauge was not suitable for sparsely populated hill areas, it constructed four railways to a 2 feet 6 inches narrow gauge, a gauge not used elsewhere in Australia and one which confused the railway compatibility situation even further.
This particular line was opened from Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook in 1900. It lost money right from the start, but the unfortunate point about it was that the more traffic it carried, the more it lost, so that Victorian Railways was constantly hoping that a good reason would arise for its closure. That occurred in August 1953, when a landslide blocked the line, and on 30th April 1954 it was declared closed.
In November 1954, some farewell trips were operated on the part of the line unaffected by the landslide, between Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave, and these trips were so popular that they were continued on a regular basis. In 1958, however, Victorian Railways decided to extend the electrified broad-gauge suburban network to Belgrave and the narrow-gauge operations had to cease. Therefore, those who had been promoting the narrow-gauge trains turned their attentions to the part of the line which had been closed by the landslide.
A diversion around the affected area was built in 1959, and on 28th July 1962 the band of volunteers succeeded in running their first Puffing Billy train as far as Menzies Creek. In less than a year, 100,000 passengers had been carried. In 1965, the line was extended to Emerald and in 1975 it reached Lakeside, where it seemed that the restoration efforts would end. However, so successful has this line been that finally, on 18th October 1998, its entire length was reopened and trains ran again to Gembrook for the first time in 45 years.
The Puffing Billy offers a delightful day trip, crossing over wooden trestle bridges and negotiating tight curves. To reach the railway, take a suburban train to the Belgrave terminus, from where Puffing Billy starts. The 10:30 Puffing Billy usually runs right through to Gembrook, while most of the other trains terminate at Lakeside.
Spirit of Tasmania
Travelling from Melbourne to Tasmania on the ferry can be a real hit or miss experience. The Spirit of Tasmania has a variety of travel options and it does make a difference to the travelling experience.
If on a budget, there are reclining chairs and prices go up depending on the type of cabin booked.
Spirit of Tasmania crosses the Bass Strait twice a day and passenger have the option of travelling during the day, or overnight. The trip passes quicker if you get the chance to sleep.
The crossing can be rough and so there is chance of sea sickness.
Located 15 minutes by car from Melbourne via the iconic West Gate Bridge, Williamstown is a lovely sea side town with lots to offer guests of all ages. Williamstown is very proud of its rich maritime history, as it should be… A beautiful leafy suburb of Melbourne, boasting amazing city views and some of the best sea side dining around, it’s a wonderful location to rest and relax and do a spot of shopping.
By car, train or ferry it is easy access to Williamstown where you can eat, shop and explore the dense history in a beautiful location. The Williamstown Maritime Museum located at Gem Pier invites you to experience walking in the shoes of history where you can visit the Enterprise, the very first vessel to carry European settlers up the Yarra and into what is now the city of Melbourne.
Nelson place is the hub for arts and craft shopping where little galleries, boutiques and specialty shops display beautiful one of a kind artistic wares, clothing and souvenirs.
The Williamstown Beach is a favourite for locals and tourists alike, where the clear blue waters and soft sand invites families, couples and friends to picnic, paddle and play in the water and in the park. The beautiful Williamstown Botanical gardens is a true testament of Melbourne’s horticultural heritage. Just back from the calm bustle of Williamstown is the famous Scienceworks Museum which is a very popular attraction for families where everyone can experience science through interactive play and experimentation.
Williamstown is host to many arts events, competitions and displays and on the third Sunday of every month you are invited to join the locals in a craft market at Commonwealth Reserve where artists from all around Victoria come to show off their creations.
A wonderful relaxing location, with great food, great shopping and a chilled vibe, Williamstown is a perfect alternative to the hustle and bustle of Melbourne City.
It’s no secret that most visitors to the Yarra Valley come in search of the world-famous wine. With a cool climate and large range of first class wineries, the Yarra Valley is known for producing outstanding Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling. Yarra wines are appreciated the world over, and connoisseurs come to the valley in droves to tour the wineries and sample the good stuff.
But don’t let all the grapevines fool you – there’s plenty more to this gorgeous part of Victoria. The Yarra Valley is home to Healesville Sanctuary, one of Australia’s leading wildlife parks and a great place to discover some local furry characters.
If you feeling like stretching your legs, the Yarra Ranges National Park offers superb views and walking trails – a great way to burn off some of those wine calories!
Once you’ve seen the sights and had a bit of exercise, why not relax and recover in one of the Yarra Valley’s numerous health and day spas? A massage and some pampering is the ideal way to wind down after a busy day in the valley.
The Yarra Valley has a fantastic selection of hotels and gourmet restaurants, meaning your visit will be a comfortable and thoroughly enjoyable one. Only an hour’s drive east from Melbourne, the region is highly accessible and pleasant to visit all year round. Come and discover the delights of Yarra for yourself.