Australia’s most iconic road trip is also the best day trip that the state of Victoria has to offer. The Great Ocean Road demands some serious driving. It takes three hours to tackle the 243 kilometres from the starting point in Torquay to Allansford near Warrnambool at the end, but the breathtaking coastal scenery is worth every minute in the car. Stop at towering rock formations like the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, get lost in the rainforest and spot native Australian animals in the Great Otway National Park, pop in for a cup of tea at one of the many charming seaside villages, and just enjoy the view from the front seat as the road winds around the rugged Victorian coastline.
An easy two-hour drive south-east of Melbourne, Phillip Island is a popular day trip from Melbourne for surfers, nature lovers and petrol heads alike. Motorsport lovers will be thrilled to drive a lap of the track that hosts Moto GP and V8 Supercar races every year. Surfers will enjoy some of the state’s premier breaks, especially the bigger waves off the spectacular Cape Woolamai and the gentler swell at Smiths Beach and YCW Beach. And admirers of wildlife can melt their hearts at the Koala Conservation Centre and Penguin Parade, where this tiny species of penguin waddles across the sand at Summerland Beach to return to their burrows after a long day fishing at sea.
The 90-minute drive from Melbourne to the tip of the Mornington Peninsula links a string of serene city beaches lining Port Phillip Bay, and that’s not all there is to do on this easy day trip. Schedule stops at quaint coastal villages like Sorrento and Portsea, with gorgeous sandstone buildings filled with galleries, boutiques and eateries. Relax at the Peninsula Hot Springs, a little slice of heaven steaming with natural geothermal waters. And dive into some of the state’s best ecotourism experiences, like witnessing the 200 animals at the 25-hectare Pearcedale Conservation Park and swimming with wild dolphins off the Sorrento Pier every day between October and May.
Victoria’s leafiest bush scenery is located in this huge national park three hours’ west of Melbourne. The Grampians is renowned for its sandstone mountains, abundant wildlife and blooming wildflowers which all attract huge numbers of bushwalkers throughout the year. Don’t miss the panoramic views from the summit of Mount William and the picturesque Reeds Lookout. You can hike to the lofty MacKenzie Falls, take the time to learn about Indigenous culture at the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Halls Gap on your way into the national park, and sample the town’s booming food and drink scene, too.
This spa town in the Macedon Ranges region is a favourite getaway for Melburnians looking to escape the city to relax and unwind. Just 90 minutes north-east of the Victorian capital, Daylesford is famous for its natural mineral spring waters, making the town a hub of spas and wellness retreats. Hepburn Springs, Daylesford Day Spa and Salus Spa at the Lake House are a few of the best. And it’s not all mud masks and massages: lace up the walking shoes for a bush walk to the mysterious Hanging Rock or to the top of the Wombat Hill volcano, go for a dip in Jubilee Lake or Sailor’s Falls, then feast on one of the many great restaurants in town. Daylesford is also one of Australia’s most queer-friendly destinations for LGBTQI+ travellers.