Melbourne, otherwise known as the culture capital of Australia, is most famous for its metropolitan lifestyle offerings. Quirky art-filled laneways, some of the best art museums in the world, Michelin Star restaurants and global events such as the Grand Prix and Australian Open draw visitors all-year-around. But as much as the fast-paced city life is thrilling and exciting, it can get exhausting. Luckily, there is an abundance of stunning and quiet Melbourne trips for a day in the country in Victoria.
Within a radius of only a few hours, these Melbourne day trips will propel you into the heart of the rainforest, take you back in time to the glitz of the gold rush era, and provide a serene coastal nature retreat. As a local who has been living and exploring from Melbourne for over two years, here are my recommendations for some of the best day trips from Melbourne:
- 5 Best Day Trips From Melbourne
- 1- The Great Otways National Park
- 2- Daylesford
- 3- Ballarat
- 4- Wilsons Promontory
- 5- Mornington Peninsula
5 Best Day Trips From Melbourne
1- The Great Otways National Park
Everyone has heard of the Great Ocean Road but have you heard of the Otways National Park?
Just south of the famous road trip route is some of the most incredible temperate rainforests in Victoria.
The region gets some of the highest levels of rainfall in the area and as such, it’s wonderfully lush, green and damp as you would expect.
One of the most popular things to do is explore the Otway waterfalls (of which there is an abundance).
My personal favourite of all has to be Beauchamp Falls which can be accessed on a 3 km looped walk through a beautiful Ash forest.
The lush ferns, trickling creeks, toadstools and mossy banks offer just a small taster for what is to come.
Arriving in a clearing within the enchanting forest there is a crashing 20-metre waterfall with mossy crags and overgrown vegetation.
The setting is like somewhere fairies would live: a picturesque rainforest backdrop lends itself well to a photoshoot and even if you’re not a keen photographer you won’t be able to refrain from taking photos.
If you would like to spend longer than a day trip to the Otways, I would highly recommend camping at the free Beauchamp Falls campground (also the starting point of the walk to the falls) and using that as your base to explore the area.
Otherwise, there are some great hotel options to the east at Apollo Bay but they’re a little further away.
Aside from exploring waterfalls during your day trip to the Otways, there are plenty of other natural wonders.
On the banks of the Aire River is the incredible Beech forest (otherwise known as the Redwood forest).
The stunningly straight trees surrounded by the native eucalypts and ferns is as serene as it gets.
The atmosphere here is almost otherworldly, especially as you walk on the bouncy, mossy forest floor.
Whilst you’re in the Otways, it would be a shame to miss the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia – Cape Otway.
The historic lighthouse can be climbed for expansive views of the Bass Strait.
The area around the lighthouse is a wildlife haven, especially popular for whale watching and koala spotting on the popular Koala Trail walk.
The cafe at Cape Otway also has incredible scones and coffee if you’d like a pick-me-up.
The Otways is probably my favourite day trip from Melbourne as it’s extremely atmospheric and offers some fantastic rainforest hiking.
How to get from Melbourne to the Great Otway National Park
As the Otways is a little harder to get to is that it’s quieter than most other spots along Victoria’s famous road trip.
There are two main ways to get from Melbourne to the Great Otways National Park.
The first is of course via the famous Great Ocean Road and then taking the small and extremely windy back roads into the heart of the national park. For someone who gets carsick, I can recommend those who do get carsick to be prepared.
The second way to get to the Otways is via the inland road of the A1 and then heading south through the cute town of Forrest. This route is much quieter and less touristy.
Both routes will take roughly 2.5 to 3.5 hours, depending on the conditions and the time of year as traffic leaving the city can get congested.
You can see the highlights of the Great Ocean Road and the Otways National Park through an organised tour or drive yourself.
Daylesford is near the Macedon Ranges and a really cute regional town to visit for a day trip.
The town of 2,500 residents has a quaint ‘village feel’ and provides such a contrast to the fast-paced vibe of Melbourne.
The Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region is well known for its artisan food industry and many fantastic wineries.
One of the best local wineries to visit is Passing Clouds, just a 10-minute drive away from the centre of Daylesford.
Not only is the wine here award-winning (the pinot is to die for), the restaurant is sophisticated yet has a distinct farm-like, relaxed ambience about it.
If you would like to have lunch at this popular spot, I would highly recommend making a booking at the restaurant in advance.
Once you’ve had lunch, you can walk around the back of the winery where they have old tractors, sculptures and a lake.
If you love being close to vineyards, there are also some awesome glamping spots in the region where you can actually spend the night surrounded by vines with a glass in hand!
Aside from spending the day eating and drinking, there are lots of ‘outdoorsy’ things to do such as visiting the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens, walking around Daylesford Lake and other great walks such as to Sailors Falls and Mineral Springs.
Nearby is the famous Hanging Rock, an area with intriguing geological rock formations that is most definitely worth checking out for a few hours.
Hanging Rock is an area of important Aboriginal significance and is also the setting for the famous eerie mystery book ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’.
How to get from Melbourne to Daylesford
Like with most day trips from Melbourne, taking a car is the best mode of transport and Daylesford is 115km northwest of Melbourne.
The journey will take you about an hour and a half and if you don’t want to stray too far from the city, Daylesford is a great day trip option.
The old gold-mining town of Ballarat oozes Victorian charm and a day trip is a fantastic way to learn about the town’s dazzling past.
Gold was first discovered in Ballarat in the 50s triggering thousands of people to flock to find their fortune.
To get an insight into the gold mining experience, you can pay a visit to Sovereign Hill, a brilliant open-air museum complete with a mine tour and gold panning.
Realistically you could spend a whole day here in itself, but if you can, get to Ballarat early and squeeze it into a half-day so you can enjoy the other parts of Ballarat too.
The architecture of the town shows off the area’s historical wealth and an enjoyable activity is a simple walk around the streets.
The ornate Victorian colonial buildings, especially along Lydiard Street, are adorned with gold embellishments such as brassy gates and gold paint.
There’s also the old Gold Mining Exchange and gold shops which you should take a look at.
The botanical gardens in Ballarat are gorgeous and also worthy of a stroll.
There are formal gardens overflowing with bedding plants, a statue walkway, open parkland and a very gorgeous lily pad pond.
In the summer and spring, there are loads of great outdoor events held at the botanical garden such as free community music concerts.
If you like art, I would also recommend visiting the Ballarat Art Gallery, the biggest and oldest regional art museum in Australia.
How to get from Melbourne to Ballarat
Ballarat is northwest of Melbourne and slightly southwest of Daylesford.
The journey by car will only take 1.5 hours, which by Australian standards is pretty close. There is plenty of parking all over the town and many parking spots are free.
4- Wilsons Promontory
In the Gippsland region of Victoria, you will find one of the most gorgeous coastal national parks, Wilsons Prom.
With dusty white beaches, aqua blue water and vegetation-covered cliffs, Wilsons Prom is the perfect day trip for those who love hiking and sea swimming.
The landscape here reminds me a lot of the national parks in Tasmania.
One of the most popular day hikes is the 6.8km fairly challenging trek up to Mount Oberon for panoramic views across the protected landscapes.
There’s also the popular easy Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit Walk suitable for all the family on a boardwalk through stringybark forest and then into the lush rainforest of Lilly Pilly Gully.
While you’re in the national park you cannot miss the huge inland sand dunes called The Big Drift which is totally otherworldly!
They’re conveniently near the entrance and exit of the national park so they are great to experience at dusk for that ethereal glow just before sunset.
To be honest, a day trip to the wilderness of Wilson Prom really is only a small taster of all the incredible views and walks offered here.
For example, I would highly recommend the two to three-day, 41.5km Southern Prom Circuit hike where you can camp at stunningly remote beauty spots along the way.
Nonetheless, Wilsons Prom is a really worthwhile day trip if you’re craving some fresh sea air, empty pristine beaches and incredible hiking.
You’ll just wish you could come back for more!
How to get to Wilsons Promontory
Wilsons Prom is a three-hour drive south-east of Melbourne, right down to the most southerly point of mainland Australia.
As it takes a little longer to get here than most of the other suggestions on this list, I would highly recommend getting up at the crack of dawn, making a hearty picnic and heading out early to make the most of a full day.
If you don’t have a car, you will struggle to get to Wilsons Prom unless you can find a tour group going from Melbourne or lift share.
5- Mornington Peninsula
A fantastic cool climate wine region, the Mornington Peninsula is another day trip ideal for foodies and wine connoisseurs.
Unlike the Yarra Valley which is flooded with tour groups, Mornington can be quieter in the off-seasons (though the summer is another story as lots of city folk have holiday homes there!)
For pizza and wine within the setting of stunning gardens, I’d recommend Montalto.
For a fine dining experience, with a view straight over vineyards (and even the wine shed where their magic happens), it has to be Paringa Estate.
The menu here is so creative and a real treat.
The beauty with the Mornington Peninsula is not just the wine though.
The coves, beaches, bays and cliffside walks within the national park are incredible.
The Cape Schanck Boardwalk is a great starting point to show off the area’s great views, rock pools, cliffs and the attractive Cape Schanck Lighthouse which you can actually go into.
When it’s a warm day in the Mornington Peninsula, it’s hard to imagine you’re not in the Mediterranean.
If you’re looking to relax for a few hours, the famous Peninsula Hot Springs draws visitors from all over the state.
The huge spa complex has an incredible array of naturally heated pools ranging in size and temperature. You could spend all day there and still not manage to try every single one.
If possible, try to go mid-week and not during school holidays so it’s that little bit quieter.
Saturdays can be especially overrun with people. Just remember to bring your swimwear!
How to get from Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsula
Mornington is an easy drive away from Melbourne taking just over an hour (about 70kms).
There is also a ferry between Queenscliffe and Sorrento, taking 40 minutes which if you don’t have a car, is a really fun transport option.
This list concludes five of the best day trips from Melbourne from the perspective of a local. As you can see, there is a great mix of food destinations, bustling towns and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Melbourne is a fantastic base to set out and explore the rest of Victoria simply through day trips.
Tamara Thurman is a marketing manager, freelance travel writer and documents her solo travels on her blog, Travelling Tam. Her writing has been featured in publications such as Time Out and Passion Passport. When she’s not writing or travelling, you’ll find her hiking or rocking out at a gig. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia.