Afternoon rainbows at MacKenzie Falls

9 amazing day trips and weekend adventures from Melbourne

Just walking through the streets of Melbourne, there’s a tangible and almost infectious sense of excitement that most visitors experience instantly, drawn into the energy and vibrant culture of this dynamic Australian city. But there is still so much more to Victoria than its hip capital, and unfortunately many of the state’s most beautiful and intriguing spots do not make it onto travel itineraries. Prepare to be blown away as you discovering towering forests, colourful beaches, local food & wine, scenic hikes, adorable wildlife, sparkling waterfalls, and so much more on these 9 amazing day trips from Melbourne (that might easily turn into weekend adventures).

Exploring the Redwood Forest

1 | The Redwood Forest

Only a short trip from the CBD lies one of Victoria’s best kept secrets, a collection of nearly 2,000 California Redwoods towering 50 metres over the cool forest floor. The trees were apparently planted as part of a research project exploring canopy formation in Sequoia, and while I wasn’t able to learn much about the results of the study on my recent visit, I was still blown away by the beauty and sheer size of these incredible trees. When you’re done wandering through rows and rows of trunks (or when your neck starts to hurt from constantly looking up), grab lunch at the bakery in nearby Warburton, a sleepy little town chock-full of antique shops and weekend markets.

Getting there: The Redwood Forest is just 90 minutes east of Melbourne CBD
Best for: Grey Melbourne days when you still feel like getting outside for a wander
Make it a weekend: There are some crazy cute B&B options in and around Warburton

Carisbrook Creek

2 | Lorne

You’ve probably cruised through Lorne while driving the well-loved Great Ocean Road from Torquay to the Twelve Apostles, but it’s a place that deserves an entire trip of its own. Travelling from the city, it’s an easy drive to reach this charming seaside town, leaving plenty of time to explore the beautiful beaches, take photos from the coastal lookouts, and wander through the trendy shops. From Lorne, it’s a further 20 minutes to reach the fascinating Carisbrook Creek Rock Stacks, a beach dominated by thousands of rock cairns, and nearby Kennet River, an area famous for its large population of wild koalas— drive slowly and you may be able to spot a few furry friends asleep in the trees!

Getting there: Lorne is just under two hours from Melbourne CBD
Best for: Off-season beach days when the crowds are non-existent and the views are still breathtaking
Make it a weekend: Grab a beachfront hotel in Lorne and wake up to ocean views

Driving out to Wilson’s Promontory National Park

3 | Wilson’s Promontory National Park

Located several hours out of the city, “The Prom” is one of the more ambitious day trips on this list, but inarguably also one of the most scenic. This expansive stretch of coastal wilderness is home to some of the state’s best trails, amazing snorkelling, and, let’s not forget, a whole heap perfect white sand beaches. For the perfect afternoon combo, scamper up to the top of Mt Oberon and enjoy panoramic views of the scalloped coastline before descending to Squeaky Beach for a well-deserved relax in the sun.

Getting there: Wilson’s Prom is a 3.5 hour drive SE of Melbourne, but it’s totally worth the effort
Best for: Sunny summer hikes or relaxing days at the beach
Make it a weekend: Camp at the beautiful Tidal River campground and explore more of the trails and secluded beaches

The view from Hanging Rock

4 | Macedon Ranges

This stunning area of Victoria is not only full of natural beautiful, but has earned a national reputation as an up-and-coming foodie hotspot. Spend your day checking out the basalt-framed Trentham Falls, Victoria’s tallest singe drop waterfall; hiking around Hanging Rock, a brutally but brilliantly eroded volcanic rock formation made famous by the Aussie classic Picnic at Hanging Rock; and wandering through art galleries in Kyneton before booking in for a gourmet dinner at any of a dozen enticing eateries. Try The Plough in Trentham or Source Dining in Kyneton for dinner, and definitely pop into the Red Beard Historic Bakery for an incredible lunch if time allows.

Getting there: The Macedon Ranges region is just an hour’s drive from Melbourne CBD
Best for: Gourmet dinners and quick, undemanding jaunts into nature
Make it a weekend: Stay in cosy little Kyneton or Trentham, both in close proximity to the area’s main attractions

Mount Martha bathing boxes

5 | Mornington Peninsula

Home to some of Victoria’s best snorkelling and most vibrant beachfront scenery, a trip down the Peninsula is a quick way to escape from the city heat and find yourself surrounded by natural beauty. Unwind at the upscale Peninsula Hotsprings, keep your eyes open for all varieties of marine life under Rye Pier, admire Mount Martha’s colourful bathing boxes, or soar above the tree-line on the Arthur’s Seat gondola. When you’re done, be sure to check out the genius creme brûlée donuts at Johnny Ripe in Red Hill.

Getting there: 60-90 minutes from Melbourne CBD, depending on your final destination on the Peninsula
Best for: A rejuvenating day at the spa or a relaxing day at the beach
Make it a weekend: Check out some of these upscale options on the Peninsula

6 | Bright & Mt Buffalo

Bright definitely makes for a rather long day trip from the city , but one whose charm and natural beauty is sure to justify the distance. Originally settled during Gold fever, Bright has since evolved to be one of the primary centres of High Country tourism, offering a great base from which to explore nearby Mt Buffalo and Alpine National Parks. The town itself comes to life during autumn when the leaves are a rainbow of colours, but the parks offer a diversity of stunning scenery year-round— visit in winter to enjoy some Aussie snow!

Getting there: Bright is a 3.5 hour drive NE of Melbourne CBD
Best for: Outdoor adventures and some seasonal snow!
Make it a weekend: There’s a huge range of accommodation options in Bright

7 | Rutherglen

Just shy of the NSW border near Albury-Wodonga, Rutherglen is admittedly a bit of a trek from Melbourne, but one that is well worth it for the delicious wines and decadent ports that await. What’s more, this small Victorian town is probably one of the best places to go wine tasting, as several dozen fantastic cellar doors are all clustered in the town within easy walking distance of one another, making for a quick transition from winery to winery. Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend sees the town transformed into even more of a wine lover’s paradise as Victoria’s oldest wine festival welcomes thousands of visitors with food, live music, and heaps of tastings taking place at 17 different wineries.

Getting there: Rutherglen is 3.5 hours NE of Melbourne CBD
Best for: Wine tasting and market festivities
Make it a weekend: Rutherglen Caravan & Tourist Park is located in the centre of town and offers a fair few options

Beachfront viewing platforms for the Penguin Parade

8 | Phillip Island

Phillip Island boasts plenty of pumping surf beaches and fun weekend activities, but is best known for its adorable Penguin Parade. Every night around dusk, as tourists sit in bleachers positioned right on the sand, thousands of Little Penguins swim to shore, waddle up the beach, and curl into their burrows for the night. It’s one of Melbourne’s more touristy activities, but it is totally deserving of all the popularity—I recommend it to friends again and again as one of the best places to see Victorian wildlife in a natural setting. Tickets can be pre-booked online for $26, which includes the beach viewing and a self-guided wander along the boardwalks to see the penguins entering their homes for the night. You aren’t actually allowed to take photos of the penguins during their night-time run up the beach (the flash can be quite disorienting for these small, wild birds), so the photos shown here are courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks. This is just something you’ll have to experience through your own eyes rather than a lens!

Getting there: Phillip Island is about 2 hours SE of Melbourne CBD
Best for: Amazing nature encounters and great surf breaks
Make it a weekend: Find the perfect B&B on Phillip Island

Boroka Lookout

9 | Grampians National Park

Grampians National Park is my absolute favourite place to get outdoors in Victoria. This Park gets hardly any of the attention it’s due, but is truly overflowing with epic walking tracks, glittering waterfalls, incredible viewpoints, and local wildlife. The staggeringly diverse landscape is a bit unlike anything you’re likely to have seen on this side of Australia, and it’s these dramatic rock formations and impossibly blue lakes that will convince you, too, of the Grampians’ overwhelming beauty. Check out Boroka Lookout, Reed Lookout, The Balconies, and The Pinnacles, enjoy a walk to MacKenzie Falls, and then grab ice cream in Halls Gap for the ultimate visit.

Getting there: Grampians National Park is a three hour drive NW of Melbourne CBD
Best for: Day hikes, incredible viewpoints, and unique scenery
Make it a weekend: Find a campsite in Halls Gap (I’d recommend awesome and free Plantation Campground)

*Travel tips

  • Most of these day trips involve a car, so I’d recommend hiring one at the airport or in the city if you’re from out of town.
  • Just because Melbourne winters are notoriously chilly and grey doesn’t mean you can’t do some great exploring during these months— tourist crowds are almost non-existent on the Great Ocean Road in winter, Bright is beautiful in the snow, and Rutherglen presents the perfect opportunity to warm yourself up from the inside out.
  • Be sure to allow several days to explore Melbourne city, too!

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