Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city and often the spot in Australia that surprises and impresses people the most. With a few days in Melbourne, you’ll have plenty of time to see the city’s main sights and spend time trying out all of its beaches.
After that, you may feel the urge to rush off to another part of Australia. However, there’s value in sticking around as there are countless great things to see in Victoria outside of Melbourne, and often the easiest way to see them is on a day trip. The best day trips from Melbourne show you all the great things Australia has to offer, from wildlife and nature to pristine coastline. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to see some of the best places to visit in Victoria all from the comfort of your base in Melbourne.
How to Get Around
Although many of these day trips can be undertaken with public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. Your own four wheels allow you to be in control of your time and schedule, and depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregation site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies so that you can be sure of getting the best possible car for your budget.
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries, we’ve listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
1. Great Ocean Road
There’s really no better place to start than with one of the most classic Melbourne day trips, the Great Ocean Road. This stretch of coastline southwest of Melbourne is the ideal place to spend your day thanks to its rugged and gorgeous seaside scenery. The big attraction along the route is the Twelve Apostles, an area of rocky cliffs and offshore rocky stacks that have been worn away by erosion. Part of the appeal of this region is the road itself since the Great Ocean Road offers view after view as you pass between beaches and small seaside towns. You’ll want to stop in at some of these towns, like Apollo Bay and Anglesea. There’s also the peaceful rain forest of Great Otway National Park, home to walking trails, waterfalls, and koalas.
Getting there: A day trip down the Great Ocean Road is best done as a road trip, as you can’t stop along the way properly with public transport. So if you don’t have your own wheels, it’s best to go with an organized tour.
2. Healesville Sanctuary
If you’re interested in seeing a lot of Australian wildlife, you can’t miss Healesville Sanctuary. Located to the northeast of the city, this wildlife sanctuary specializes in the preservation and breeding of endangered native animals. The sanctuary is divided up into tracks and enclosures, each focusing on a different species or animal habitat. All the popular Australian animals can be seen here, including kangaroos, wombats, emus, and dingoes, plus a great array of birdlife, reptiles, and amphibians. The sanctuary is also one of the rare places where you can see platypus. Many tourists visit Healesville to interact with the animals, which can be done through the Close-Up Encounter program with koalas (no touching), and Kangaroo Close-Up program, where you can feed them.
Getting there: Although only a short trip from Melbourne by car, reaching Healesville Sanctuary by public transport requires a combination of trains and buses that takes up to three hours. If you want to guarantee entry, book your tickets in advance.
3. Phillip Island
Another fantastic part of Victoria that’s great for seeing all sorts of wildlife is Phillip Island, south of the city. Plenty of locals will tell you it’s among the best places to visit from Melbourne. The relatively small island is best known for its colony of adorable fairy penguins that emerge each evening during the ever-popular Penguin Parade. Before all that happens, first head to Phillip Island Wildlife Park to see indigenous animals, including kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats. You can also feed the kangaroos while you’re there. Nearby is the Koala Reserve, where you can see the sleepy critters in their natural habitat. You can also take a boat cruise out to Seal Rocks just off the coast. There you’ll see a huge number of fur seals lounging about.
Getting there: Phillip Island is too difficult to reach using public transport from Melbourne. Your best bet for a visit is with a guided tour.
4. Yarra Valley
There are excellent wine regions spread around Australia, and the Yarra Valley is one of the best in Victoria. Day tours from Melbourne to the Yarra Valley are a popular option as you not only get to sample some world-class wine but also get to see the splendid countryside. Lovely rolling hills covered in sprawling vineyards make the region a treat for the eyes as well as for the taste buds. The Yarra Valley boasts a nice mix of big-name wineries as well as smaller boutique ones, meaning you’ll likely find some familiar names and sample some wines you’ve never heard of before. Most wine tours will take you to at least a few wineries for wine-tasting and a cellar tour, and will feature a delicious lunch that showcases the region’s local produce.
Getting there: The only way to properly explore the wine region without a car is by taking a group wine tour.
5. Grampians National Park
Although it’s quite a trip from Melbourne, many travelers can’t pass up the opportunity to see the Grampians National Park. This national park in western Victoria is a popular holiday spot with Melburnians due to its dramatic landscape full of sheer mountain ridges. To really appreciate the Grampians, it’s best to begin with a visit to the Brambuk, the National Park & Cultural Center that tells you about the region and its aboriginal heritage. It’s then time to hit the hiking trails, where you’ll have the opportunity to see some picture-perfect waterfalls like Mackenzie Falls and Silverband Falls. Continuing on, you’ll work your way up to the incredible panoramic views of forest and mountains offered by Boroka Lookout and Reeds Lookout.
Getting there: Other than driving yourself there, the only way to do a worthwhile day trip to the Grampians is with an organized tour. Either way, it’s going to be a long day.
6. Wilsons Promontory
At the southernmost point of mainland Australia lies Wilsons Promontory, another coastal destination boasting beaches and nature. Wilsons Promontory National Park covers the region, meaning there’s plenty of spots untouched by human civilization. Most visitors make their way to the beautiful Squeaky Beach, where the white quartz sand does indeed squeak beneath your feet. Just up the coast lies Whisky Bay, where beachside boulders create captivating scenery. Inland, you’ll find loads of fantastic hiking trails, best of which are the Lilly Pilly Gully Nature Walk and the hike up Mt. Bishop. As you explore the national park, keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife, especially wombats and kangaroos.
Getting there: There aren’t public transport connections that will get you into Wilsons Promontory National Park, so your only option is to go with a guided tour.
7. Dandenong Ranges
Some of the nearest mountains to Melbourne are the Dandenong Ranges, where you’ll find an unlikely combination of fun places to visit. These low-lying mountains rest right on the edge of the city and are great if you’re looking for a scenic nature drive or hiking spot. The ranges are covered in lush rain forest that make them a nice escape from the city, and yet the region is best known for its man-made attraction: the cherished Puffing Billy Steam Train, which dates to the turn of the century and is popular with kids and adults alike. There are also interesting little towns hidden away in the ranges, like the artsy town of Sassafras, with its antique stores and nearby Olinda. Both feature quite a few cafés and tea houses where you can unwind and treat yourself to a Devonshire tea.
Getting there: Local trains regularly run from Melbourne to the Puffing Billy Railway. From there, you’ll need to rely on fairly regular local buses to explore the region. Alternatively, you can take a guided tour that handles transport for you.
Ballarat is a great opportunity to see a bit of Australian country life. Basically a big country town in look and atmosphere, this city northwest of Melbourne has plenty of character and history. Ballarat is most famous for Sovereign Hill, an open-air museum that recreates life during the gold-rush era of the 1850s. On a visit, you’ll see replica homes and stores from that era, including an apothecary, candlemaker, and confectionery store, as well as underground tours of the gold mines. You can also get your photo taken in period clothing, try your luck at gold panning, take a walk around the city to see its colonial architecture, or grab a craft beer at Hop Temple.
Getting there: Ballarat is one of the best side trips from Melbourne because of how easy it is to reach. Hourly regional trains go there from Melbourne, taking 1.5 hours. If you want to secure your ticket to Sovereign Hill, you can book tickets online.
9. Mornington Peninsula
Follow the shores of Port Phillip Bay east from Melbourne and you’ll soon reach the Mornington Peninsula and all that it has waiting for visitors. Although full of diverse destinations and attractions, the Mornington Peninsula is best known for its spectacular beaches at places like Rosebud and Sorrento. There are also other beautiful nature spots to be explored, including the Mornington Peninsula National Park and hiking opportunities such as Mount Martha and Arthur’s Seat. For a more relaxed approach, consider the peninsula’s many wineries or a dip in the gorgeous Peninsula Hot Springs. Families will find fun things to do here as well, especially the garden mazes at Ashcombe Maze & Lavender Gardens and Enchanted Adventure Garden.
Getting there: While you can take a train to Frankston and get buses from there, exploring different parts of the Mornington Peninsula with public transport is hard. It’s far easier to go with a guided tour, which will help you fit everything in.
It may be considerably smaller than Melbourne, but as the second largest city in Victoria, Geelong is definitely somewhere tourists should be aware of. Geelong is the gateway to the Surf Coast, and most people start with the city’s waterfront, which features a nice esplanade through parkland and a small swimming area at Eastern Beach. While there, make sure to see the iconic Baywalk Bollards, vibrant sculptures that depict Geelong’s history, as well as the art deco boardwalk. One of the city’s newest additions is the Geelong Library, which bears a strikingly modern design. Major cultural institutions in town include the National Wool Museum, Geelong Gallery, and the Geelong Botanic Gardens.
Getting there: Geelong is one of the many easy train trips from Melbourne, with frequent trains running there from Melbourne. The journey from Southern Cross Station takes roughly an hour.
To just relax and unwind, you’ll want to take a trip out to the country town of Daylesford. Daylesford and nearby Hepburn Springs are popular spa towns, thanks to their natural mineral springs. Both towns offer a broad selection of day spas where you can take a soak and pamper yourself. The waters are rich in minerals and then heated for use in spas, while other treatments include massage and facials, among others. As a town, Daylesford has other charms to offer visitors, from its particularly pretty surrounding landscape of hills and lakes to the celebrated food scene that has sprung up for tourists. You also get other nice country town perks like historic architecture, antique stores, and a relaxed pace of life.
Getting there: It’s possible to reach Daylesford from Melbourne by taking a train to Woodend and then changing to a bus. The trip should take roughly 2.5 hours.
12. Hanging Rock Reserve
This gorgeous patch of wilderness in the Macedon Ranges is the setting for the novel Picnic at Hanging Rock, which was later turned into a critically acclaimed film directed by Peter Weir. Hanging Rock Reserve was actually used for the filming of the movie, so you may recognize the scenery. Otherwise, you can just enjoy the wonderful landscape of forest and rock columns on top of this extinct volcano. To reach the top reserve requires a reasonably steep hike but isn’t particularly long. The views and nature along the way are well worth the effort.
Getting there: It’s possible to reach nearby Woodend by bus or train from Melbourne, with that part of the trip taking 70 minutes. From there, you’ll need to get a taxi over to Hanging Rock.
Of the many beach towns that run along Victoria’s south coast, one of the most popular is the town of Lorne. That’s because it basically has everything that makes Victoria’s Surf Coast so special while also having great places to eat and relax. Lorne Beach, right at the heart of town, has golden sand and lifeguards on watch for those swimming and surfing. Further along the coast is Teddy’s Lookout and its magical panorama of the coast along the Great Ocean Road. Venturing away from the shoreline, you have the rainforest of the Otways, where you can visit the stunning Erskine Falls and go hiking. In between all this sightseeing, make sure to visit a local bakery for a typical Australian snack like a meat pie or go to a fish and chip shop and try the catch of the day.
Getting there: To reach Lorne from Melbourne, you first need to take a train to Geelong and then a bus from there. The entire trip should take just under three hours.
14. Lake Mountain
Australia might not seem like somewhere you can go skiing, but you’d be surprised by the number of ski fields in Victoria. The most accessible ski field from Melbourne is Lake Mountain, making it perfect for a day trip if you’re around from June to September. Lake Mountain is especially known for its cross-country skiing, with 37 kilometers of trails to explore. There’s also plenty of space for toboggan rides and general fun in the snow. Visit in the warmer months and the area is great for hiking and mountain biking. There is also a flying fox and outdoor laser skirmish. Just don’t go looking for a lake; the mountain is named after George Lake, who was the surveyor-general of the area.
Getting there: Unfortunately, the only way to make the full trip to Lake Mountain is by car or by booking a “Snow Experience” tour (winter only).
One last spot along Port Phillip Bay that’s worth your time is the town of Queenscliff at the very entrance to the bay opposite the popular town of Sorrento. Because of its position on the tip of the Bellarine Peninsula, Queenscliff has long been an important spot. To learn more about the town, head to the Fort Queenscliff Museum inside the fortifications that once protected Port Phillip Bay. Within the fort grounds, you’ll find the Queenscliff High Light, said to be the only black lighthouse in the southern hemisphere. Another interesting bit of history in town is the Bellarine Railway, an old steam train that still operates out to Drysdale every Sunday and public holiday.
Getting there: Visiting Queenscliff from Melbourne means first taking a train to Geelong and then a bus the rest of the way. The trip lasts just over two hours.
Those are some of the best places you can find outside of Melbourne. You’ll likely want to give yourself a few extra days in Melbourne to fit all these fun day trips in.