With a climate that lends itself more to gallery tours than beach days, Melbourne can sometimes feel like the odd city out in a country that’s known for its sea and sun. But there’s more to it than cafe culture – and with vineyards, coastline and wildlife-filled rainforest all within easy reach, here is Culture Trip’s list of what to see and do on a day trip.
Just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula is an idyllic, ocean-wrapped getaway characterised by vineyards and rugged beaches. It’s a favourite day or weekend trip for locals and in-the-know visitors, and Phillip Island, with its fur seals and nightly penguin parade, is just a short ferry ride away. Flex your local knowledge and make the trip, but be sure to leave time for a vineyard lunch on the way.
A visual wonderland, Wilsons Prom is an otherworldly mashup of white-sand beaches, emerald-green bush, hefty hiking trails and breathtaking cliffs. Clamber over huge beachfront boulders or climb to the top of a lookout point and you’ll be rewarded with views of azure bays. It all feel a million miles away from the rest of the world, making it the perfect escape for frazzled city dwellers and adventurous visitors.
Take a cruise around the coastline of Wilsons Promontory on an amphibious boat. Part boat, part car, this vehicle allows you to sit back, relax and get up close and personal with much of the coastline without even leaving your seat. Take in stunning rock formations such as Skull Rock – a curved boulder with a skull-shaped cave that seems to rise out of the sea – and marvel at the grandeur of nature. Keep an eye out for the dolphins, fur seals and whales, plenty of which can often be seen here.
If it’s a bit of greenery in an idyllic rural setting you’re after, why not take a trip to Daylesford and Ballarat, which offer a captivating combination of verdant gardens and old-school architecture. This lush corner of Victoria is renowned for its fresh produce, and the area is home to plenty of excellent cafes and restaurants that serve great local food.
A bike tour is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in this rural area. This one is 37km (23mi) long, from Linton to Skipton, and takes you quite literally off the beaten track, traversing over grasslands, through eucalyptus forests and past historic landmarks and townships. You’ll get a back-road look into Aussie life outside its major cities, and discover the native flora and fauna of the country’s more remote corners.
Driving into the green hills of the Yarra Valley, it’s impossible not to slip into holiday mode. This wine-centric patch of Victoria is famous for its quaffable wine, but it’s equally worth the trip for the picturesque scenery. Find a designated driver and head into the rolling hills for a day of drinking and dining well.
This tour is a full-day event, visiting some of the best wineries in the region. Starting at 9am, your host will collect you from the South Yarra Station, where you’ll begin navigating the vineyard-lined hills. Stopping at plenty of award-winning wineries, you’ll sample a wide range of grapes and learn about the wine-making process, with a lunchtime pitstop to feast on paella. Perhaps less widely known, the valley is also a burgeoning hotspot for gin makers, and the tour leaves plenty of time to explore these distilleries too.
Starting in Torquay, a 1.5hr drive from central Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road winds a few hundred kilometres down the Victoria coast. It’s known as one of the most scenic drives in the world, for good reason, as it takes you past spectacular coastline, lush rainforest and through a series of towns that are destinations in their own right. It’s the ultimate Australian road trip, and a must-see while in town.
Plenty of people drive the Great Ocean Road, but for a unique – and quintessentially Aussie – experience, take to the waves for a surf lesson. In a country that’s world-famous for its breaks and its laidback, ocean-loving residents, trying your hand at surfing is a rite of passage. Lorne beach is the perfect spot: a 2hr drive from Melbourne, it sits near the start of the Great Ocean Road, and its sandy beach and relatively calm waves make it ideal for beginners. You’ll be standing up and catching a wave in no time.