Eight Easy Melbourne Day Trips to Tick Off Your List This Winter
Historic oak forests, gardens atop extinct volcanoes and country bakeries are all just a short drive away.
UPDATE Thursday, June 17: Melburnians will soon be free to travel around Victoria, with the 25-kilometre travel restrictions lifted at 11.59pm tonight, June 17. Check out the latest information on the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website. You can also find more figures and graphs on its Victorian coronavirus data page.
Is the open road calling your name? Are you itching to break out of your bubble to soak up the sounds and sights of somewhere else? Well, luckily for those itchy feet, Melbourne's got a whole swag of day-tripping options right on its doorstep — delivering quaint townships, stunning regional scenery and a healthy dose of Mother Nature, all within just a few hours drive of the CBD. Luggage and overnight stays not required.
Whether you're in the mood for a picnic in the mountains, or fancy trekking through some lush rainforest, there's never been a better time to get outta town and explore some of Victoria's finest locales. Fill up that petrol tank, jump in the car and check out these day trips from Melbourne.
For a nature-filled day trip merely 60 minutes out of the CBD, steer that car towards the Dandenong Ranges — an outdoor playground steeped in natural beauty and cloaked in majestic forest. You can indulge in some tree appreciation exploring the varied foliage of RJ Hamer Arboretum, before the adjoining Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden wins you over with its coloured blooms and impressive views. Nearby, Kalorama Lookout offers primo panoramas across the Dandenong and Yarra Ranges, while the dense mountain ash of Sherbrooke Forest make for a stunning bushwalking backdrop. Here, you're never too far from a picture-perfect picnic spot, nor a local venue slinging top-notch supplies to match — like the much-loved Mt Dandenong Bakery & Patisserie. Or, settle in for a cosy feed and some local wines by the roaring fire at Sassafras' Ripe Cafe.
How far? One-hour drive.
As the gateway to some of the state's most popular ski resorts, the picturesque hub of Bright is a familiar stopover for many. But, surrounded by waterfalls, rivers and bushland trails aplenty, there's no doubt it's also a worthy day trip adventure in itself. Test out your kayaking skills on the Ovens River running through nearby Porepunkah, or experience a local stretch of the scenic Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, either on foot or bike. You'll also find a stack of other walking tracks weaving through Bright and surrounds, ranging from easy 45-minute meanders through to the 11-kilometre Wandi Walk. Be sure to keep an eye out for furry residents along the way, too. And of course, no day of High Country appreciation is complete without a visit to the famed Bright Brewery, to sample some of its award-winning craft beers.
How far? 3.5-hour drive.
Home to stretches of rugged coastline, idyllic walking trails and remote bushland, Wilsons Promontory offers up 50,000 hectares of day-tripping goodness. It's a dream destination for any nature-lover, with a range of itineraries and bushwalks to suit all fitness levels. Favourites include the 3.8-kilometre trek between Darby River and Tongue Point, and the 7.4-kilometre Mount Bishop walk, which'll have you climbing to a rocky summit for memorable views across the Prom's west coast. Or, give those quads a bit more of a workout, tackling the two-hour return climb up Mount Oberon to see Tidal River from high above.
How far? Three-hour drive.
Venture 90 minutes north of Melbourne and you'll happen upon Nagambie, with its namesake lake hosting all variety of watersports and water-based pursuits throughout the year. If the weather's too brisk for canoeing or swimming, take in its beauty from dry land with a picturesque stroll up to nearby Jacobsons Lookout. Or, get the blood pumping hiking through ironbark forest on the Melville's Lookout Track. When it's time for a tipple and lunch, this cool climate wine region will leave you spoilt for choice, with renowned wineries including Mitchelton Estate — a stunning destination boasting architectural landmarks, an Indigenous art gallery, day spa, hotel and more. Elsewhere, you can hop on a Goulburn River cruise; visit the town's Black Caviar statue; or enjoy tastings, tours and waterfront views at Nagambie Brewery and Distillery.
How far? 1.5-hour drive.
A 90-minute drive from Melbourne, Daylesford scores plenty of attention for its mineral springs and spa resorts. But you'll find countless other reasons to spend a day exploring this charming town and its surrounds. There's no shortage of natural beauty to soak up out here, from the romantic Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens — built atop an extinct volcano — to the Lerderderg State Park with its famous gorge and abundance of rugged hiking trails. Wombat State Forest is brimming with opportunities for cycling, walking and koala spotting, or you can lock in an afternoon of paddleboats and picnicking at the stunning Lake Daylesford. And come lunchtime, Wombat Hill House (casual sibling to the legendary Lake House) is your go-to for plump toasties, pastries and sourdough pizzas.
How far? 1.5-hour drive.
Packing rich history, stunning scenery, a thriving arts scene and access to a whole smorgasbord of outdoor adventures, the Goldfields town of Castlemaine is a day tripper's delight. The La Larr Ba Gauwa Mountain Bike Park boasts 34 kilometres of world-class cross-country biking, as well as a historic oak forest peppered with walking tracks and picnicking spots. Otherwise, you can break a sweat by tackling the scenic Goldfields Track on foot or bike, as it ambles through Castlemaine and on towards Bendigo. And, when that appetite's sufficiently piqued, experience some top local produce with a visit to food, art and retail precinct The Mill. You'll find everything from Shedshaker's renowned craft brews to sourdough loaves and fresh pasta courtesy of Sprout Bakery.
How far? 1.5-hour drive.
For something a little different, bypass the familiar terrain of mainland Mornington Peninsula and treat yourself to a day trip across to French Island. Set in Western Port Bay, a 15-minute ferry ride from Stony Point, this 170-square-kilometre natural beauty is home to striking coastline, untouched bushland and the rugged wildlife haven of French Island National Park. You'll find a range of walking and cycling tracks kicking off from the Tankerton Foreshore Reserve, offering the chance to spot scores of sea birds and other critters in their natural habitat. In fact, the island boasts the most significant koala population in the entire state. The charming French Island General Store & Cafe is a winner for lunch or afternoon tea. And you can amp up the homeward journey by swinging past Peninsula wineries like Quealy and Willlow Creek Vineyard on the way through.
How far? One-hour drive + 15-minute ferry ride.
A diverse taste of Victoria's high country awaits you in Mansfield, with its breathtaking scenery, abundance of nature experiences, and top-notch food and drink offerings. Soak up sights of rolling alpine hills and quaint countryside on two wheels or by foot — highlights include the dreamy views from atop The Paps Lookout, a jaunt along the local section of the Great Victorian Rail Trail and a cruisy ride on the town's dedicated cycling trail. Right in the heart of Mansfield, local gems like The Produce Store cafe and bistro, and Ros Ritchie Wines Cellar Door make a strong case for an afternoon spent wining and dining. And drivers and passengers alike will enjoy the sweeping vistas and gourmet cheese platters of nearby Delatite Winery.
How far? 2.5-hour drive.
Image: Dandenong Ranges via Adrian Mohedano for Flickr.
Published on May 20, 2021 by Libby Curran