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The Nobbies Boardwalk
Photograph: Destination Phillip Island

The best day trips from Melbourne

Take a break from the big city with Melbourne day trips to beaches, mineral springs, wineries and more

Written by
Rebecca Russo
,
Nicola Dowse
&
Cassidy Knowlton
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If you're looking for a break from the inner-city grid, there's no better cure than a day trip from Melbourne. The state of Victoria is full of friendly neighbourhood towns, whether you're in the mood for a winery tour, a road trip or a national park to explore. These one-day escapes are just what the doctor ordered, so get out there and explore Melbourne's beautiful backyard. 

Note: please check with individual venues before arrival. Many venues have not opened to the same capacity after lockdown. 

Best day trips from Melbourne

  • Travel

There’s a reason that Daylesford is known as a haven of relaxation. Eighty per cent of the country's mineral springs are in this region, which makes it perfect for spa treatments and for growing high-quality produce, which you can enjoy at one of Daylesford's top restaurants. The region is extremely popular with weekenders from Melbourne, and once you visit you'll soon realise why many of them decide to make the tree change. 

EAT

If you have the cash to splash and you want the best of the best, there is one restaurant you must visit: Lake House, perched on the titular body of water. The multi-course menu changes all the time, depending on what is in season and what nearby Dairy Flat Farm, owned by the Wolf-Taskers and part of the Lake House mini-empire, is growing at the time. Everything is fresh and treated with the utmost respect, with a vegetable-forward menu that heroes local produce but is the opposite of ascetic.

For a breakfast of champions, Cliffy's Emporium is very popular with locals, and for good reason. The small café does all the breakfast favourites, often with a vegan twist. Cliffy Hauser's original 1950s general store is now a providore, offering local produce, smallgoods, the region's justly famous mineral water, preserves and specialty groceries.

DRINK

Thirsty? Make sure you stop into Daylesford Cider, which makes traditional and not-so-traditional cider onsite from the onsite heritage apples. Owners Mackie and Clare are serious about cider, and they make numerous drops in both sparkling and still varieties. Many are traditional English ciders made using traditional methods, but there are also a few that are just for fun. Paddles are the most popular way to taste all the ciders on offer at the venue, which is also dog-friendly.

We can’t (and won’t) stop raving about Radio Springs Hotel. Don't resist the pull of sipping whisky in the bric-a-brac-filled dining room, and if you’re here on a Thursday, the kitchen takes a break from serving impressive pub fare and invites a Thai chef to create a feast.

DO

You’re here to relax, so begin your getaway by visiting arguably the most famous spa in the region, Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa.

Similarly, the best time to take in art is when you’ve got the mental space – so head to the Convent Gallery and spend time with work from all manner of historical periods and styles. 

STAY

Luxury can be found at Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat; a grand ’30s guesthouse transformed into a mineral spa and hotel. You could also stay here and not leave for days: there are open-air mineral pools, fine dining at the Argus Dining Room and huge, elegant rooms.

If you only do one thing... For a simple slice of tranquillity, pick up some picnic goods at the gourmet food shops on the main street and head to the pristine Lake Daylesford. You can take a walk around the lake or make a meal of your picnic on a bench. Keep an eye out for birdlife. 

  • Travel

Known for its colony of Little Penguins, Phillip Island is an island packed with coastal wildlife experiences, cultural events and a growing food and wine scene.

EAT

There are plenty of good food options on the island, and we'd highly recommend stopping in at Wild Food Farm and Café in Rhyll for breakfast or lunch. The property is a labour of love by Jude Mayall, whom you may know as the founder of bushfood company OutbackChef (and author of a cookbook of the same name). The farm grows native bush tucker like wattleseed and lemon myrtle, which is then used in the café as well as being packaged and sold online, in the gift shop and wholesale to chefs, distillers and brewers all over Australia. Fresh, native ingredients make the food here sing, and you can have a wander through hectares of native bushland and carefully cultivated bush tucker plants before or after your meal. 

DRINK

At the Westernport Hotel, we’d suggest grabbing a drink (preferably a locally brewed Furphy) and enjoying it as you catch views across to the island.

DO

It’s always busy, but nothing beats the Penguin Parade. Every day at sunset, hundreds of little penguins waddle in from the sea on Summerland Beach.

STAY

If you're looking for a relaxing and bucolic place to stay, Five Acres farm stay could be just the place to unwind. Spanning the titular area, the farm has views across fields to the sea and friendly chickens, goats, sheep and two highland cattle, Rory and Ivy. The guesthouse is fully equipped with everything you need, including breakfast provisions procured from the farm's resident chickens. 

If you do one thing... the 5km return Pyramid Rock to Berrys Beach walk is well worth your time. The clifftop walk offers pretty spectacular views, and the path is wide, mostly flat and easy to navigate. There are a few steps and undulating terrain, but for the most part, it's easy on the calves. The Berrys Beach end of the walk is along a paved road, but most of it traverses grassland. Keep an eye out for wallabies and the ubiquitous Cape Barren geese.

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  • Travel

The coast gets all the glory, with its shining vistas and its glittering seascapes. But central Victoria should be your next weekend away destination, particularly the arty hub of Castlemaine. In recent years, Castlemaine and its surrounding towns have developed a reputation for being home to artists, musicians, writers and creatives. Castlemaine punches way above its weight when it comes to cultural festivals and activities – not to mention restaurants that are well worth the drive north. 

EAT

In what used to be the ice-creamery of the Theatre Royal, you'll find Bistro Lola, a snug, two-tier restaurant with clusters of small tables and booths. With its low-lit charm and simple posies of flowers, it’s perfect date material. Indeed, Bistro Lola goes above and beyond quick bites before the movie or concert starts next door – this menu’s designed by head chef Sarah Curwen-Walker for destination dining. You might try an entrée of orange and coriander seed-cured Spanish mackerel, cucumber, currants and almonds, with green chilli oil; or a main such as Yapunyah chicken involtini with haricot beans, sage, porcini and speck.

DRINK

Looking for a chill, feel-good place to enjoy a beer? One of the three owners of the Taproom is Doug Falconer of Hunters and Collectors, so there’s plenty of music booked on Sundays and most Fridays (not to mention Falconer hosts the karaoke, comedy and trivia nights), and there’s no door charge. 

DO

Head to the Mill, an 1875 woollen mill given a new lease of life when it was taken over in 2014 by a biodynamic sheepfarmer and a GP and transformed into a giant hub for food and artisan manufacturing. The biggest drawcard is the giant Vintage Bazaar, open seven days a week and packed full with groovy clothes and homewares. They’ve thought of everything: as you browse the furniture makers and artist spaces, kids can be kept amused by the ping-pong and fussball tables, not to mention the Ice Cream Social’s hole-in-the-wall good times. The Mill is also home to the cellar door of the Boomtown Winemakers Co-op, traditional Viennese coffeehouse Das Kaffeehaus, and the Taproom, a haven of craft beer. Make sure you stop by Cabosse & Feve Chocolates on your visit to stock up on artisan chocolates that are as pretty as they are tasty.

STAY

Those who do not stay at the Empyre Hotel stand outside and take photos. The Empyre was built in the late 1800s and is an exemplar of gold-rush architecture with its lace balconies and stained-glass windows. This boutique hotel offers a full breakfast and has its own luxurious bar. There are its gardens to explore, but it’s also mere metres away from Castlemaine’s loveliest sights, such as the Theatre Royal of the same era. There’s off-street parking, too. It's luxe, but you have to treat yourself now and again, no?

If you only do one thing... Do you know how to have a gouda time? Sorry, sorry, no cheese puns here – the people at the Cheese School in Castlemaine take the dairy arts very seriously, as well they should. Not one but two experienced French cheesemakers, Ivan and Julie Larcher, have upped sticks from the French countryside to Castlemaine to open Australia's first 'university of cheese'. The school aims to teach cheesemakers and mongers traditional French techniques to create and sell the most delectable artisan cheeses in the Australian market. Although primarily aimed at industry professionals, the school also offers classes for laypeople to better appreciate cheeses (yes, there are tasting classes), as well as half-day or two-day intensive courses in home cheesemaking. 

  • Travel

With beaches, wineries, parks, gardens and spas, Mornington Peninsula boasts an embarrassment of getaway riches. These diverse attractions are best discovered by car, and it’s an easy 90-minute drive south of the CBD. Not to mention the views overlooking Port Phillip Bay are nothing short of amazing.

EAT

You’ll find excellent examples of barbecue, banana pudding and good ol’ southern hospitality at Red Gum BBQ, a stellar barbecue restaurant inside a former machinery shed on Arthurs Seat Road. If you’re after something a little more luxe, Laura is the fine diner of the Mornington Peninsula to try, located at Pt Leo Estate.

DRINK

A produce-led, fantastic restaurant, a fascinating sculpture garden and delightful wines crafted with care – Mornington Peninsula wineries don't get much better than Montalto. If you’re more of a cocktail fan, head to Flaggerdoot, the fancy design-driven cocktail bar at Jackalope Hotel.

DO

It’s often packed with visitors, but the Peninsula Hot Springs is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the mood for a soak. There are also dolphin and seal swims, which take you out into Port Phillip Bay, and a wonderful hedge maze in which to lose yourself at Enchanted Adventure Garden.

STAY

It is not an exaggeration to say the Jackalope Hotel has changed the Mornington Peninsula. The cutting-edge, ultra-luxe hotel is what you might expect to find in New York's uber-hip Meatpacking District, not set among rolling hills and gently swaying vines.

If you don’t want to shell out $650 a night, try the Lindenderry at Red Hill. It sits on almost 14 hectares of vineyards and gardens and inside it feels like one big, glam country house with all of the elegance but none of the kitsch.

If you do one thing... go for a walk down the Bushrangers Bay Trail at Cape Schanck. This coastal clifftop walk boasts picturesque vistas over Bass Strait.

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  • Travel

It’s kind of hard to believe that the Yarra Valley is less than an hour’s drive from Melbourne’s CBD. One minute you’re in the CBD, then next it's suburbia, and all of a sudden you’re surrounded by rolling hills covered in vines and paddocks with cows aplenty. The region’s world-renowned producers of cool-climate wines have helped put the Yarra Valley on the map. So pick your designated driver and get rolling.  

EAT

Giant Steps do excellent charcuterie and cheese platters that you can match with fresh drops from the vineyard. Or hop across the street to Innocent Bystander for delicious wood-fired pizzas and moderately priced moscato.

DRINK

Visit TarraWarra Estate’s cellar door where, for $5 a person, guests can sample wines with winemaker Clare Halloran. Try the Single Block and Reserve ranges – the best chardonnay and pinot noir produced on the estate. There’s also Yering Station, one of Yarra Valley’s oldest wineries, which is a favourite with visitors to the region.

DO

If you think the Yarra Valley resembles a pastoral wonderland from the ground, imagine how it looks from up in a hot air balloon. Global Ballooning Australia runs a one-hour sunrise tour over the Yarra Valley for those looking to see the bucolic landscape from a bird’s eye perspective. Finish off with a visit to the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery for chocolate balls, blocks and many scoops of ice cream.

STAY

Glamping in a winery? Why the hell not. The historic Balgownie Estate has glamping accommodation just steps from the cellar door. Here you’ll have all the fixings of home – including a queen-size bed, split-system air con and a mini bar.

If you do one thing... get some cheese from Yarra Valley Dairy. These handmade farmhouse cheeses pair all too well with the local drops. 

  • Travel

It’s a Victorian icon for a reason – this windy stretch of road snakes all along the south-west coast of the state, starting at Torquay (1.5 hours from the CBD) and finishing up just before Warrnambool. It’s about a four-hour drive without stops, but heed our warning: you’ll definitely want to stop. There’s just too much happening along the coast not to, especially for those who like nature and native Australian animals. 

EAT

It’s the beach, so fish and chips are a must. Get yours from Salty Dog Fish and Chippery in Lorne and remember to ask for lots of chicken salt. They even do a deep-fried Mars bar, if you’re game.

DRINK

The Aireys Pub is where it’s at. This much-loved watering hole regularly hosts live music sets, and it’s a great place to kick back with a bevvy post-swim. The pub serves up a great parma as well.

DO

The Great Ocean Road runs right past the cool, temperate rainforest of the Great Otway National Park, meaning you’re close to some of the country’s best native flora and fauna. Get close to animals in their natural habitat – the Koalas in the Wild Tour is great for spotting out eucalyptus-loving friends. If you can bear getting up early, watching the sunrise at the Twelve Apostles is well worth the effort.

STAY

If you want to stay the night, head deep into the Otways towards the Great Ocean Ecolodge and Conservation Ecology Centre. This entirely solar-powered centre boasts comfortable country style-rooms and access to local wildlife – your next-door neighbours could be kangaroos, wallabies and (if you’re very lucky) adorable tiger quolls.

If you do one thing…  try surfing! There are plenty of places along the coast to do it; we’d suggest Anglesea if you like your waves friendly but not frisky.

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  • Travel

The Bellarine Peninsula has stood in the shadow of its eastern cousin for too long. Travellers are starting to realise that the rugged coastal region has just as much to offer as the Mornington, and it’s considerably less expensive. Whether you’re looking for wineries, beaches, luxury accommodation or great food, the Bellarine is ready to assist. 

EAT

The degustation-only Igni will bring some culinary mystery to your stay, otherwise, we’d suggest a meal at Merne, which has carved out its own chunk in the region’s epicurean scene. For something more casual, try the Queenscliff Brewhouse which, yes, is a brewery, but it’s also a pub, bistro, tasting room, whisky bar and hotel.

DRINK

Take your pick from some of the peninsula’s best wineries including Jack Rabbit Vineyard, Curlewis Winery, Basils Farm and Scotchmans Hill. Switch up your winery visits with a trip to the Whiskery, a whisky and gin distillery. 

DO

Animal lovers will love a visit to Jirrahlinga, a sanctuary for Australian native wildlife like kangaroos, echidnas, reptiles, dingoes and more. In the summertime, when the weather is fine, be sure to stop over at Adventure Park for some exhilarating water slide fun. If all else fails, you won’t be disappointed with a swim or surf at Ocean Grove beach. 

STAY

If you want to stay the night, you can go all out at the French chateau-looking Campbell Point House or whisk away your troubles at the seaside Lon Retreat. For a more boutique stay, try the Nest Point Lonsdale.


If you do one thing… cycle the coast. The relatively flat terrain of the Bellarine makes it ideal for a little two-wheeled tourism. The main track cyclists will want to try out is the Bellarine Rail trail – a 35-kilometre track that follows the old railway line and winds past many of the region’s attractions. You can even take your bike over on Port Phillip Ferries which travels daily between Melbourne and Portarlington on a schmick two-floor catamaran.

  • Travel

If Sovereign Hill is all you know about Ballarat, it’s time for another visit to this historic gold rush town. From art galleries to winning dining destinations, this historic regional town is bursting with fun activities, especially during the colder months. The best part? VLine trains from Ballarat to Melbourne roughly run on the hour, and it takes less time than driving (about an hour and 20 minutes).   

EAT

You’ll need to keep your energy up during your Ballarat adventure, so we suggest hitting up L’espresso for a strong coffee and a hearty breakfast. If you need a pick me up, head to Vegas and Rose for cakes and macaroons.

DRINK

Try Hop Temple, a cosy food hall that serves a vast array of craft beers, ciders and wines, as well as OTT burgers, gluten-free salads and pizzas for one.  

DO

Grab a coffee and walk down Sturt Street to the Art Gallery of Ballarat. One of the oldest and biggest regional art galleries, the space boasts a huge collection of Australian art as well as running exhibitions throughout the year. A stand out is the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, a month-long exhibition that features workshops, screenings, portfolio reviews, discussions and social events.

STAY

If you’re thinking of staying overnight, you can’t go past the Provincial Ballarat. This 1909 building is heritage listed but was renovated in 2015, so it’s a happy mix of cosy old-world charm and stylish modern fixings.

If you do one thing... you can't pass up a visit to Sovereign Hill. This outdoor museum recreates what Ballarat was like ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851. Pan for gold nuggets, dress up in old-school garb and definitely take home some raspberry drops – they're really good.  

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