The Best Summer Day Trips Out of Melbourne
Secluded beaches, camel rides, beachside cafes and air-conditioned art galleries are all just a road trip away.
Melbourne city slickers, rejoice — summer is back and in full swing. It's time to put your laptop away (momentarily, at least) and bid farewell to your very familiar living room, because the season of daytime getaways is upon us.
From gin tastings to quick dips in the oceans, hikes to bike adventures, we've put together a list of ten day trips for you. And, of course, it wouldn't be an Australian adventure without stumbling along some interesting wildlife, so gear up to gawk at some native koalas, dolphins, seals, and best of all, a parade of penguins. Venture beyond the city limits and get out of the grid while the rain's away and the sun's out to play.
With current COVID-19 restrictions, many venues are operating under capacity limits and with adjusted opening hours, so bookings are a good idea.
FOR BEACHES, BRUNCH AND BOOZE: MORNINGTON PENINSULA
Just an hour out of the city, the Mornington Peninsula is a favourite day getaway destination for many Melburnians. And with countless brunch venues, breweries, wineries and swim spots to be found here, it's not hard to see why. Start with a coffee and some chilli scrambled eggs at Merchant & Maker (or one of the other stellar cafes on the peninsula) before heading for a swim in the rockpools at Bushrangers Bay. Then, take your pick of drinking spots for the afternoon — perhaps at Montalto's sprawling restaurant and winery, the newly revamped Portsea Hotel or this entirely gluten-free brewery.
FOR WINE AND WATERFALLS: THE YARRA VALLEY
A hop, skip and a jump from the bustling city, the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges feature farmlands, vineyards, art and gourmet foods that'll make you feel like you're a world away from the grid. Get into the heart of the region by walking upstream along the Keppel Falls Walk, which lands you at a stunning waterfall. You can follow this with a trip through the TarraWarra Museum of Art (which is set to reopen on November 28). Then, end the day with some gourmet local delights — perhaps chic picnic platters and chardonnay at TarraWarra Estate, or pinot grigio and pizza at Rochford Wines.
FOR GIN AND CUTE ANIMALS: HEALESVILLE
Although it can be squeezed into a Yarra Valley day trip, Healesville has plenty of charms worth carving out a whole day for. For animal-lovers, Healesville Sanctuary is numero uno on the list as the bushland haven lets you get up close and personal with native wildlife. A very close second is Four Pillars' gin distillery where you can indulge in a guided gin tasting or grab a selection paddle — which includes its famous Bloody Shiraz gin — and sip at your leisure. Line your stomach back up with some sharing plates and pizza at Innocent Bystander, and maybe a glass of its moscato, before heading back to the big smoke.
FOR ICE CREAM AND INSTAGRAM OPPS: GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Between the limitless beaches, nature walks and infinite Instagram opportunities, the Great Ocean Road leaves a lot to discover as you travel along its picturesque strip. It's never too early to fuel up with breakfast and sweet treats from the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery, before a drive down to the iconic 12 Apostles. Beyond that sits the stunning Loch Ard Gorge — while it's too rough for swimming, you can dip your feet in its crystal clear waters and marvel at its sharp golden cliffs. On your way home, stop for a tapas feast at MoVida Lorne, or a craft pint and pizza at Blackman's Brewery in Torquay, and keep your eyes peeled for koalas in the trees lining the roads.
FOR SECLUDED BEACHES AND CAMELS: LAKES ENTRANCE
Ok, so this one might require an overnight stay — but we thought it was still worth a spot on this list. With sand dunes on one side and crashing waves on the other, you'll feel a long, long way away from Melbourne at Lakes Entrance. At Ninety Mile Beach, the fourth longest beach in the world, you can go for a swim or explore the epic stretch of sand by camelback. Camel rides start at Lakes Entrance in the north, and head towards Reeves Beach in the south. When you're done, rest up at Miriam's Restaurant over some top-quality local seafood dishes, or head for US-style barbecue eats and craft drops at Lakes' first brewery, Red Bluff Brewers.
FOR RELAXING IN NATURE: DAYLESFORD AND THE MACEDON RANGES
When it's hot, sometimes you just want to stay inside. But, rather than staying inside your house in front of the fridge, why not make your way to Daylesford and the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa? First, a climb up Mount Macedon offers a good excuse to reward yourself with a post-hike brunch and coffee at Mr Macedon. Then, venture on over for a soak in the famed mineral baths — they are set at varying temperatures so you can warm up and cool off as you need, and there's a menu of other spa experiences also on offer. Of course, no trip home is complete without a stop off at Holgate Brewery in Woodend for a cold pint.
FOR WILDLIFE AND COASTLINE: PHILLIP ISLAND
Head on out to Melbourne's neighbour, Phillip Island, and surround yourself with nature and wildlife for the day. Start with some furry fun at the Koala Conservation Reserve and clear out any remanding hay fever amongst the eucalyptus woodlands. Then, you absolutely need to pay a visit to the newly refurbished Penguin Parade at sunset as the island's resident little penguins return to their terrestrial homes, having spent the day out and about fishing. Beyond wildlife watching, you can settle in to sample some local booze — the Phillip Island Winery is a popular choice — bliss out with a massage or spa treatment, or conquer a hiking trail like the Cape Woolamai Walk, which traverses dramatic cliff tops along Phillip's southernmost point.
FOR HERITAGE AND ART: BENDIGO
The old mining town of Bendigo offers scores of history and heritage, while also boasting extensive contemporary art, boundless pub lunches and some tasty sweet treats. Go underground (it's cooler) and walk in the footsteps of prior gold miners at Central Deborah Gold Mine (once it's reopened), or if you prefer to stay above ground, take a wander through the soon-to-reopen Bendigo Art Gallery and eyeball the extensive collection of painting, sculptures, ceramics and photography. Then, top off your summer day trip with bocadillos (Spanish sandwiches), tostadas and other tapas at buzzing laneway bar El Gordo, or stop by Masons of Bendigo for a feast starring plenty of top Central Victorian produce.
FOR DOLPHINS AND TASTY DISHES: GEELONG
Geelong is quickly becoming an alternative for young professionals who have decided to swap city life for a smaller scale, more affordable option. It offers native wildlife, relaxing ocean views and more local producers than you could possibly sink your teeth into. And it's way less busy than St Kilda. Head just off the coast of Queenscliff and dive straight into the ocean to swim with dolphins and seals. Then, regain your strength as you eat and drink your way along Bellarine Taste Trail. Slurp down organic mussels at Little Mussel Cafe, relax into the pastel-hued interior of Frankie or book in for a fine dining affair at the much-lauded Igni. If you don't have a car, you can travel from Docklands to Geelong via the fancy new ferry, once it's up and running again.
FOR MOUNTAINS, HIKES AND BIKES: MOUNT BULLER
Although Mount Buller traditionally brings images of never-ending snowballs and big puffer jackets to mind, there are also lots of reasons to make the trip up in the summer period. Stretch those legs after the three hour drive and get them ready for your choice of bike riding, hiking, running trails and horse riding. Your eyes are in for a workout, too, as you explore the Gnome Roam, searching for a glimpse of the resident Mt Buller gnomes. Then after all the sunshine and activity, refuel your batteries with a spot of tasty comfort food from The Whitt, or kick back with some pub fare and refreshing cocktail jugs over at Abom.
Top image: Loch Ard Gorge via Visit Victoria.
Published on February 26, 2021 by Marnie Vinall