By Oceana Setaysha
September 7, 2020 | 8 minute read
International travel may be well and truly off the table, but for Victorians there is a silver lining: your state has so much on offer to discover once local travel is back on the agenda. And now's the perfect time to start planning! So to help get you started, here are my top 10 day and weekend trips out of Melbourne.
* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.
Best for a day trip or weekend
Years ago the Daylesford region (tucked away into the base of the Great Dividing Range approx 1.5hrs drive from Melbourne) was famed for its mineral springs. Today it is just as celebrated as a road trip destination, perfect as a family day trip destination.
Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to great activities. We’re particularly big fans of the extensive parks and gardens, such as Castlemaine Botanic Gardens, Wodend Children’s Park, Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens and Kyneton Botanic Gardens, great for picnics and letting the kids run about. For those looking to get further afield, enjoy taking a hike to Trentham Falls lookout or the top of Mount Piper. And if you plan to stay over, check out great places to stay here.
On the surface, Phillip Island has motorsports and penguins, but for those families who set off to explore this coastal locale there is really so much more to discover than that. A manageable day trip from Melbourne (around 2 hours driving one way), Phillip Island is a fantastic place to escape the business of the city.
Families will love seeing the koalas at the Koala Conservation Centre and sampling the delights of the local Chocolate Factory. There’s also great walks along the village foreshores and around Cape Woolamai. For penguin lovers the famed ‘Penguin Parade’ is not to be missed, while motorsport fans can zoom their way around the Grand Prix Circuit on go-karts! And if you plan to stay over, check out great places to stay here.
There’s a truly unique historical atmosphere in Bendigo that calls out for deeper exploration, and as the town is less than 2 hours from Melbourne a day road trip is a great way to accomplish this. For families, Bendigo offers a chance to be immersed in a historical and cultural wonderland. Take a trip on the Dja Dja Wurrung Tram and hear about the local Aboriginal people who have lived in the region for more than 40,000 years.
Step back to the 1800’s with a visit to the Victoria Hill Mining Reserve or tour the Central Deborah Gold Mine where you can journey into the depths of the earth. Bendigo also has an interesting Chinese cultural history that visitors can learn more about from the Golden Dragon Museum, and let’s not forget the many parks, gardens tracks and trails just waiting for families to set out for adventure.
Sovereign Hill Ballarat
Dandenong Ranges/Yarra Valley
We love the Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley region because they are so close to Melbourne (less than 40km for most residents), which makes it ideal as a road trip that doesn't need a lot of plannin. Despite its close proximity, there is so much on offer here for families including great national parks and gardens like the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens, Dandenong Ranges National Park, and Alfred Nicholas Memorial Garden.
There’s also waterfalls, a wildlife park (Healesville Sanctuary) and not one but two heritage railways: Puffing Billy Steam Railway and Yarra Valley Railway. Talk about options for adventure! And if you plan to stay over, check out great places to stay here.
Victoria’s history is rich with untold stories, and there’s few places better for exploring them than Ballarat. Located just 1.5hrs from Melbourne, Ballarat is an easy day road trip for families with lots on offer. Highly recommended is Sovereign Hill, an 1850’s gold rush village recreated in modern day Victoria, allowing visitors a chance to descend into an underground mine, make their own dip candles and pan for gold by the river.
There’s also the Ballarat Gold Museum and the Eureka Centre (built on the site of the 1854 Eureka Stockade Rebellion) for those wanting to look more into Ballarat’s history. For something completely different take the family to check out Kryal Castle, a medieval castle smack bang in the Victorian countryside, that offers a stone maze, archery and sword fighting training, and proper jousting shows on horseback with Australia’s only full-time professional knight.
Best for a weekend trip
We’ve always loved the Mornington Peninsula. It’s a fantastic family road trip, located just an hour or so from Melbourne, and with its beautifully rugged cliffs, lighthouses and national park we’re tempted to say it’s one of the best trips available out of Melbourne. And, while the Mornington Peninsula can definitely be done as a daytrip, we recommend staying over in the great accommodation that's available and really soaking it in instead .
All families can appreciate the picturesque Fort Nepean and Cape Schanck lighthouse, full of history and with so many stories to uncover. Coastal hiking trails are also in abundance, along with incredible native wildlife and natural surrounds.
Great Ocean Road
Easily Melbourne’s most famous road trip, the Great Ocean Road has so many treasures for families to discover. While you can definitely see parts of it in a day, you won’t get the full experience in anything less than a weekend trip (in my opinion). So pack up the car and take a drive to check this incredible coastline, as well as the unique rock formations like the famed Twelve Apostles
and many more. For great places to stay go here
In terms of activities, there's so much to do along this stretch of beautiful Victorian coastline. Families will love the surfing, hiking, wildlife activities, picnics, beaches, kayaking and other water sports. Let there be no talk of boredom here!
Take the high road and set your family’s sights on Victoria’s High Country, a delightfully accessible 2.5 hour drive from Melbourne. Bright makes for a great weekend home base to explore the region, with lots of accommodation options and oodles of activity choices.
In winter, snow sports attract the most attention and enjoyment for adults and kids, but the High Country is a great travel spot all year around. Just for a start, families can embark on a stunning hike at Canyon Walk, take a bike ride on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, fish for rainbow trout and salmon at the Buxton Trout and Salmon Farm, and sample Beechworth’s famed honey.
Bike riding in the High Country - image credit Ride High Country
There’s something really special about Wilson’s Promontory, and not just because it is the most southern point of Australia’s mainland. Located a three hour drive from Melbourne, Wilson’s Promontory is best explored over a weekend as there is just so much to see and do.
The coastal location is particularly popular with families thanks to high quality walking trails, beautiful rainforest and gorgeous beaches, complete with granite peaks and unique clifftops offering impressive views. In the warmer months there are also opportunities for underwater adventures within the Marine protected area. This is a perennially popular destination, and we don’t think that will change even with the current circumstances, so book early and get planning!
Located just over 250km from Melbourne, The Grampians a.k.a. Grampians National Park is a paradise for nature lovers. Filled with soaring views, picturesque waterfalls, amazing plant and animal life, and unique rock formations, The Grampians is an amazing trip for the family looking to take a drive and stretch their legs on the trails.
Hiking tracks thread their way through this gorgeous landscape, and there’s a walk to suit folks of all ages and ability levels. Some highlights include the Pinnacle and the Balconies, where scenic vistas await, and MacKenzie Falls, which is Victoria’s tallest waterfall.
There you have it, our top 10 choices for families wanting to hit the road and take a day trip or weekend road trip. The only question now is, where are you going first?
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