This bucolic peninsula is just a short drive from central Melbourne, but feels a world away. It has the best of everything with lush orchards and vineyards inland, and rugged, flourishing coastlines where it meets the ocean. With an equally vibrant drinking and dining scene – thanks in part to its abundance of local produce and wine – it’s easy to see why it has become a popular second-home destination for in-the-know locals. If you want to stay within easy reach of the beach and the peninsula’s hot springs, this kitschy cottage is the perfect place to rent – it’s packed with retro decor and unusual furniture, including a king-size bed made from fire hydrants.
Off-the-grid French Island is a short ferry ride from Mornington Peninsula. With a population hovering around 100 at any given time, it’s home to huge numbers of undisturbed wildlife. Your tour guides are the only operators on the island, which means you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with crowds of other visitors as you go. Spot koalas while learning about the island’s history and importance, before finishing the tour with a freshly cooked lunch at a local homestead.
A three-hour drive from Melbourne, this gigantic national park is best explored over a whole weekend to truly take in the sheer enormity of its beauty. From pristine white-sand beaches to tangled jungles and craggy cliff faces, this is where the power of Mother Nature comes into full effect. Spend the weekend exploring its hiking trails and cooling off with dips in the crystal clear ocean, before turning in for the night at one of the area’s picturesque farm-style stays such as Foxhill Farm. It has views over Corner Inlet and the Prom, and is surrounded by paddocks where you can spot kangaroos and wombats.
This amphibious vehicle – half boat, half car – will guide you through the majestic coastline around Wilsons Prom. You’ll get insight into the incredible topography of the national park, exploring offshore islands and granite rock formations – such as Skull Rock – and coming face-to-face with fur seal colonies. The route also winds past South Point, the southernmost tip of Australia’s mainland, with the chance to spot dolphins and whales along the way. You won’t even need to leave your seat, making it a relaxing way to immerse yourself in this wild landscape.
Is there a better weekend trip than one that involves an abundance of wine, good food and a healthy dose of fresh country air? The answer is a good and strong no. The Yarra Valley not only benefits from all that, but also from its proximity to Melbourne, allowing you to whizz out of the city after work and be fireside with a glass of Shiraz before dinner – or in the case of this romantic Airbnb, relaxing in a giant spa bath, with waterfall views and surrounded by a rainforest of giant ferns and eucalyptus trees.
Should you want a break between winery visits, take this guided tour of a man-made permaculture garden, hidden inside Yarra Valley Estate and brimming with edible plants, bees, birds and butterflies. The sustainable ecosystem is home to more than 800 plant varieties – with a goal to add 200 more – and everything is either edible, medicinal, or helps to nurture local bee populations. Over an idyllic afternoon, your expert guide will talk you through the intricate details of each plant and its uses, alongside the innumerable sustainable benefits of this thriving edible forest.
Located at the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, Torquay is a quintessential Aussie surf town. Home to the iconic brands Rip Curl and Quiksilver, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump away from the infamous surf spot Bells Beach. Stay in a cottage by to the coast to surf by day and barbecue by night – an idyllic escape for those looking to get some sun on their skin and salt in their hair.
Should you want to get involved with Torquay’s most prevalent sport, this surf lesson is a great place to start. Over two hours your instructor will help you learn the basics, then get you out in the water to ride waves like a certified pro (or try to, at least). Conditions are perfect for beginners thanks to the easy surf break and sandy beach. You might not be hitting up the international competitions anytime soon, but you’ll leave with enough confidence to try again on your own. Who knows – you might just get the surfing bug and decide to stay.
Lorne is one of the most popular spots along the Great Ocean Road. Its gumtree-lined hillside looks down over golden sand and sparkling waters – a natural playground combining sea and forest. You can stay within minutes of town, beach and National Park trails at this snug ocean-view cottage (which comes with complimentary sourdough for breakfast, too). Whether you’re a water baby or a hiking lover, there’s a multitude of ways to fill a weekend in this coastal town.
The sandy beach at Lorne is hugely popular with locals, and it’s the perfect spot to give surfing a try. Your instructor will help you master the basics on land before taking you into the water to put them into practice. They will be there each step of the way, putting you at ease and guiding you on the best techniques for standing up, staying balanced and riding waves properly. It will take more than one session to become the next Kelly Slater, but it’s a great way to experience the fun side of Australia’s favourite ocean sport.