Take the time to explore Victoria’s diverse natural landscapes and iconic wildlife while you travel. Wander across sand dunes and snow white beaches, trek through lush green rainforests and rugged desert country, while getting up close to the natural inhabitants as you go.
See the famous 12 Apostles rock formations, walk through the Princess Margaret Rose Cave, and take in the striking landscapes of Mungo National Park. Time your trip to the Great Ocean Road to see the southern right whales, or head to Phillip Island to see the little penguins crossing the beach at dusk.
1. The Great Ocean Road
Best explored over a couple of days; however, if you only have a day, you can still take in the highlights of the eastern end of the route. From Melbourne it takes around 90 minutes to reach Torquay, one of Australia’s best-known surf towns, which is home to both the Rip Curl and Quiksilver surfwear labels. A further 45 minutes down the road, Lorne is another charming seaside town, known for its lively arts scene and its one kilometre (0.6 mile) long beach. You might like to grab some lunch here before continuing on to the Great Ocean Road’s most famous sight the 12 Apostles. Nearby, the striking Loch Ard Gorge is also worth visiting before you head back to Melbourne.
The Dandenongs’ tall forests and glorious gardens are a perfect escape from the city. Start your adventures at National Rhododendron Gardens about an hour out of Melbourne. Its 42 hectares (104 acres) are filled with azaleas, camellias and cherries as well as rhododendrons. From here, it’s a short drive to Kallista, where Grants Picnic Ground is the start of a beautiful 6.6 kilometre (4 mile) circular walk in Sherbrooke Forest through fern-filled gullies where kookaburras and cockatoos make their homes. Continue on to another of the area’s charming villages, Belgrave, to take a trip into the past on a 100-year-old steam train known as Puffing Billy. Book in for an on-board lunch and enjoy the return journey through the area’s towering forests before making your way back to Melbourne.
3. Phillip Island
Aim to reach the fishing village of San Remo, about two hours from Melbourne, before midday to watch the daily feeding of the pelicans and stingrays. From here, a bridge takes you to Phillip Island. Take a walk around rugged Cape Woolamai with its striking pink granite cliffs and golden sweep of sand. Next stop for motor sport fans will be the Grand Prix Circuit that hosts the Motorcycle Grand Prix each October; take a guided tour or do laps with a professional driver. Take an eco-cruise to admire one of Australia’s largest fur seal colonies. Finish the day at the Penguin Parade, when hundreds of little penguins come ashore at Summerland Beach after a day swimming at sea.
With a scenic Central Highland setting and a healthy dose of style, Daylesford, just 90 minutes from Melbourne, makes for an easy day out. Invigorate body and mind, and reignite your imagination amid the spectacular forests, natural mineral waters and historic villages of the Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region. Find balance and harmony at mineral spas and wellness retreats, sample exquisite food and wine at restaurants, wineries and country pubs, and be inspired by the vibrant artist community. Pack a picnic and visit the mysterious Hanging Rock or cruise around historic streetscapes, local markets and boutiques brimming with art, craft and antique treasures.
5. Yarra Valley
Wineries aren’t the only attraction in the Yarra Valley. Your first stop, Coombe, about an hour out of Melbourne, is a historic house with heritage gardens that belonged to Australia’s first international opera star, Dame Nellie Melba. From here, it’s a quick drive to Domaine Chandon, one of Australia’s premier producers of sparkling wine. After sampling the bubbles, head on to Healesville Sanctuary to encounter kangaroos, koalas, wombats, dingoes, lyrebirds, platypus and Tasmanian devils. Stop in at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, which has a fabulous collection of acclaimed Australian artists such as Brett Whiteley, before heading back to Melbourne.