5 Epic Road Trips from Melbourne
Featured destinations: Melbourne
Published 22 March 2017
As one of the world’s most liveable cities, you will not want to miss Melbourne during your stay Down Under. As the country’s culture capital, its vibrant art, music and foodie scene will have you entertained for days on end, while its cosmopolitan architecture, heritage sights and picturesque open spaces will keep you just as as enthralled as you make your way around the best that this fabulous destination has to offer.
But move beyond the city limits and you’ll be equally as impressed with its vast and wonderfully varied surrounding scenery. From stunning national parks and exquisite, unspoilt beaches to charming wineries and traditional tea rooms; if you’re after a day or two away from the bright lights, you’re bound to find something that’ll suit. Read on for my top five road trips from Melbourne:
Penguin Parade, Phillip Island
See the famous Penguin Parade at Phillip Island
Located just off Melbourne’s southeast coast is a little island known for its even littler penguins. And at just a ninety-minute drive away, it’s the perfect day trip for animal lovers. The Penguin Parade is also one of the country’s most popular attractions – as well as where actor Liam Hemsworth once worked!
Every evening as sunset arrives on Summerland Beach, the world’s largest little penguin colony –the smallest penguin species in existence – waddle their way across the sand to their dune burrow homes, after a long day at sea. As this wonderful natural occurrence takes place, you’ll have the chance to observe from a ridiculously close distance via a variety of viewing platforms - though you’re not allowed to take photos so you’ll have really to live in the moment and savour the experience.
While you’re waiting for the penguins, spend the day beach bumming, especially if you’re a surfer or water sports fan. Otherwise you can wander the stunning shores, taking in the picturesque coastline and spectacularly rural surroundings. The island’s Nobbies Rock formations are another must, and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to spot the native seals and graceful seabirds that frequent this region. Finally, if you’re a motorsports enthusiast, Phillip Island houses a Grand Prix track, so if you time it right, you might be able to catch a race during your visit too.
Mackenzie Falls, Grampians Mountains image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Explore the natural wonders of the Grampians National Park
Prepare to be blown away as you head north towards the Grampians, one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges, as well as a centre for Aboriginal culture and history. It truly is a world away from Melbourne with its rugged landscape, wild plant life and diverse native animals all waiting to be discovered, as you make your way along the winding bush trails and up the magnificently placed lookouts.
The sheer vastness of this area will really take you aback, with its rolling hills and valleys going on for as far as the eye can see, cascading waterfalls dramatically running alongside the steep, craggy peaks, while ancient and fantastically preserved rock art intricately decorates the lands throughout the site. In amongst this all, you’ll also be able to spot a variety of Aussie animals, including kangaroos, koalas and emus, which feel more special as you’re in the wild with them. Additionally, if you’re keen on taking things up a notch, there’s the chance to scale the Grampians on rock climbing or abseiling expeditions. And for the more laid back types, there are fishing, camping and canoeing opportunities too.
Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Tour the magnificent Great Ocean Road
A stay in Melbourne wouldn’t really be complete without hitting at least some of this delightfully scenic highway, stretching across 243 kilometres of vibrant Victorian coastline.
Starting off in Torquay, home to the famous Bells Beach and Rip Curl Pro surfing competitions, and travelling west to finish up in the quaint town of Warrnambool, you’ll be able to take things at your own pace, stopping off at secluded beaches, gorgeous national parks, charming villages and more; whenever the mood takes your fancy.
While most tend to head for Port Campbell National Park to view the renowned Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and the Shipwreck Coast, I would also suggest taking time to enjoy the historical fishing village of Port Fairy – home to its very own Folk Festival; as well as heading to Cape Bridgewater and Cape Nelson for seal and blue whale watching. Further along is the Great Otway National Park, which is perfect for bush walks to isolated beaches, illustrious waterfalls and more.
Finally, if you’re after an all-important beach day, head to the likes of Apollo Bay and Lorne. And if you’re a fan of the cult 90s TV show Round The Twist, you won’t want to miss stopping at the lighthouse, located in nearby Aireys Inlet.Drinks tasting in the Yarra Valley image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Go wine tasting in the Yarra Valley
Located just an hour outside of the city, the Yarra Valley truly has it all; it’s enchantingly scenic while having a real bohemian vibe to it - so you know you’re not too far from Melbourne after all. Every summer there’s a diverse variety of music events to attend, and many artists and creatives have also chosen to set up studios in the area. So you’ll have the chance to visit and see local wood carvers, painters, sculptors, jewellery designers and glass blowers at work, as well as visit the neighbouring galleries and boutiques dotted across the valley; all selling and exhibiting the most unique pieces and creations.
Honestly though, the best thing to do in the Yarra Valley is undoubtedly going on a tour of its wineries and cellar doors. And you’ll be spoilt for choice too as there’s over fifty of them to get around! If you’re not a wine fan, there are also craft breweries and a gin distillery; as well as a chocolatier, ice creamery and a dairy for all you foodies – all of which comes highly recommended!
But there’s more to the Yarra than just drinking, so if you’re interested in outdoor activities, there are a number of options to choose from. Cycle, walk or camp along one of the trails for the stunning waterfalls, creeks, nature reserves and more. And for the avid golfers, hot air balloonists, and zip-liners, there are choices for you too.
Finally, if you’re interested in taking things at a much slower pace, you’ll find spa retreats aplenty; while the animal lover will be more than at home at the Healesville Sanctuary. The Australian wildlife experience centres on local conservation and indigenous culture, and plays a critical role in saving some of the world's most endangered animals. Here you can also experience close-up encounters with some of the country’s most endearing wildlife, including koalas, kangaroos, wombats, emus, dingoes, birds of prey, platypus and more.
Trees in the Dandenongs image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Admire the beauty of the Dandenong Ranges
Located close to the Yarra Valley, the Dandenongs is another devastatingly beautiful setting, home to towering forests, eclectic villages, elegant tea rooms and a rather Hogwarts-like steam train.
For the panoramic views, head to Mt Dandenong, the tallest peak in the ranges, to see the vastness of this striking landscape in all its glory. But to really feel immersed and at one with nature, do make sure you hit up one of the plush walking trails amongst the gullies, where you’ll feel minute and maybe even a little overwhelmed next to the soaring ferns and mountain ashes. If you’re quiet enough, you might also spot a wallaby hopping around or even a rainbow lorikeet adding a splash of colour to the trees. If you’re feeling like going harder though, conquer the Thousand Steps at the Kokoda Walk – a popular run amongst Aussie celebs.
Once you’ve worked up a bit of a sweat, I would recommend heading to one of the old-style tea rooms. A big favourite of mine is Miss Marple's Tearoom in Sassafras. But Olinda and Belgrave all have places that are just as pleasant, as well as a variety of pubs and restaurants to check out.
Finally, you do not want to miss a ride on the Puffing Billy Railway, which will take you through the captivating ranges, as well as stop off at a number of the towns and attractions. The century-old train is one of the best preserved working steam railways in the world, and has the novelty of open-sided carriages, so dangle your legs over the side – if you dare! It’s a ride in style, with the views to match. You will not be disappointed.
Head to Melbourne and explore Victoria with Round the World Experts' Melbourne Holidays.