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12 BEST Day Trips from Melbourne

12 BEST Day Trips from Melbourne

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Looking for a fun day trip from Melbourne?

Well, you’re in for a treat! From wineries to penguin parades, there’s a ton to see outside of the city limits. I’ve been to Melbourne so many times, since I grew up in Perth, and Bailey lived here when she first moved to Australia, so together we’ve spent a lot of time exploring the best places to visit from the city.

We know that day trips can be tricky to figure out, especially when you don’t know an area very well. That’s why we’ve included all the information you need, and tour options in case you don’t plan on renting a car. So let’s get into it – and if you see us on the road, be sure to say hi! 

Day Trips from Melbourne

1. Phillip Island

Penguins walk down a path on phillip Island during a go west penguin tour near melbourne australia
Penguins on parade!
Bailey smiles with a koala at the moonlit sanctuary on phillip island during a go west penguin tour near melbourne australia
Meeting koalas during a tour of Phillip Island!
  • Distance from Melbourne: 142 kilometers (88 miles)
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes 
  • Time needed: 6 hours 
  • Tour available: Yes 

Phillip Island is a gorgeous island that boasts dramatic coastal scenery, as well as tons of wineries, craft breweries, and restaurants to explore. But if I’m being honest with you, the real draw here is the wildlife – and yes, I’m talking about the famous penguin parade! 

Every night at sunset, the adorable Little Penguins waddle across the beach to nest for the night, and Bailey and I loved watching this from the grandstand. Tickets cost $32 AUD per person, although ours were included with the tour we did, but more on that in a moment. There’s also a Koala Conservation Reserve, a wildlife park, and amazing bird-watching on the Rhyll Inlet, so I’d advise bringing your binoculars. Oh, and this place is amazing for whale watching during winter, too.

It takes an hour and 50 minutes to drive to Phillip Island, and this is the easiest way of getting here without a tour. However, it’s possible to take the V Line Metro from Flinders Street Station and change to the bus at Dandenong, which will take you to Cowes, aka the main township on Phillip Island. This takes around 3 hours, and then there’s a local bus service on Phillip Island itself. 

Personally, I think that’s a bit too long, so if you want to get here via public transport I would suggest using the pedestrian ferry from Stony Point Jetty. The crossing takes 40 minutes each way and costs $31 AUD for a return ticket. 

Bailey walks on a boardwalk at the nobbies on phillip island with the ocean in the background during a go west penguin tour to phillip island near mebourne australia
Walking The Nobbies on Phillip Island

When we visited, we just wanted a relaxed day out, which is why we booked this guided tour of Phillip Island. It took all the planning out of it and our guide, Terry, was fantastic. We really appreciated all of the insight that he gave us (and his sense of humor!), but we still had plenty of free time to explore by ourselves. Best of all, the penguin parade was planned and organized for us! 

This had been on our Melbourne bucket list for ages, and it didn’t disappoint. We loved this experience so much that we even featured it in our 4-day Melbourne itinerary!

We also got free admission to the Moonlit Sanctuary, and then there were some paid extras to choose from. On the advice of our guide, we booked the koala encounter and loved it, and we also bought food pellets on the day to feed the kangaroos and wallabies, which was SO worth the extra $3 AUD. We also visited the iconic Brighton Bathing Boxes on the way, which was pretty cool. 

The tour costs $175 AUD, which we thought was a good deal since the sanctuary and penguin parade would have cost us $62 AUD each anyway, and that’s before other costs like petrol and car rental. It’s one of the best tours we’ve done in Melbourne. For more info, read our full review of the Phillip Island tour, but don’t just take our word for it – there are over 2,000 positive reviews for this popular tour! 

2. Great Ocean Road 

Bailey in a fallen over tree in Kennett River on a great ocean road tour australia
Enjoying a nature walk at Kennett River!
the twelve apostles on a great ocean road tour australia
The Twelve Apostles rock formation
  • Distance from Melbourne: 101 kilometers (62 miles) to the start of the road
  • Accessible by public transport: No
  • Time needed: 12 hours
  • Tour available: Yes

The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most scenic drives. It begins in Torquay and hugs the coastline for 240 kilometers (149 miles) until it reaches Allansford, and we were absolutely blown away by the beautiful sights along the way. From spotting koalas on a rainforest walk to admiring the beautiful Twelve Apostles – although only eight of these limestone needles are actually left – this drive showcases what Australia is all about. 

We took this tour of the Great Ocean Road and especially loved the stop in Kennett River, where we got to see wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, and kookaburras and the stop at Loch Ard Gorge was so beautiful. Learning about the shipwrecks here was interesting, too. We also enjoyed grabbing lunch in Apollo Bay, and it’s worth stopping in Fairhaven to snap a photo of the Pole House, which, when viewed from the right angle, looks as though it’s floating above the sea! 

Daniel and Bailey pointing at a sign signiling the start of the great ocean road australia
At the start of the Great Ocean Road – so excited!

Since visiting the Great Ocean Road is a road trip rather than a one-stop shop, public transport isn’t really a viable option. However, it’s easy to rent a car in Melbourne and drive yourself. We definitely suggest stopping at Kennett River, Apollo Bay, and Gibsons Beach, where we loved viewing the Twelve Apostles from the sand, but the great thing about driving yourself is that you get to pick the places that interest you the most. 

However, for ease, we booked this tour of the Great Ocean Road, and we’re so glad we did! With over 4,000 5-star reviews (yes, really!) we were pretty confident it was going to be a good day, but it surpassed our expectations. We loved all of the stops and felt like we got a sense of the variety that the Great Ocean Road offers. Also, since it was a small-group tour, the minivan was able to take us to places that the big tour buses couldn’t reach. It was such a fun and adventurous day out, and at $155 AUD each, we were impressed with the price, too. 

Related Read: For more options, check out our list of the top 5 Great Ocean Road tours from Melbourne!

3. Yarra Valley

Grape vines at a winery in the Yarra Valley, Melbourne
I love the Yarra Valley!
A tasting glass of wine is poured at a winery in the Yarra Valley
The wine here is so good
  • Distance from Melbourne: 58 kilometers (36 miles) 
  • Accessible by public transport: No
  • Time needed: 8 hours 
  • Tour available: Yes

The Yarra Valley is just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, and it’s primarily famous for its fantastic wineries! We love coming here to sample cool climate wines, especially pinot noir, which is arguably the region’s most famous grape. And if you’re not into wine, the Four Pillars Distillery is a must-visit – in fact, scratch that, it’s a must-visit even if you are into wine. We loved it! 

However, as we discovered, there’s more to the Yarra Valley than boozing. The area is home to the incredible Edible Forest, some great farmers’ markets, and the Healesville Animal Sanctuary where you can say “hi” to koalas and kangaroos. There are also some fantastic pick-your-own farms, like Rayner’s Orchard and CherryHill Orchards, which are ideal for families. I don’t know about you, but I always find that fruit tastes better when you pick it yourself! We also loved the views from the Keppel Lookout, but for even better vistas, one thing that we’d love to do here one day is take a sunrise hot air balloon ride.

As mentioned, it only takes about an hour to drive to the Yarra Valley, but this can be a bit of a bummer for those keen to go wine tasting. Neither of us wanted to be the designated driver, so we booked this wine tour instead and had an amazing day out. We visited five different wineries and got to try so many different wines. It gave us a great overview of the region and left us a little tipsy by the end. We also visited the Four Pillars Distillery, and it was nice to change it up from wine for a bit, although we did have the option to go to the winery across the road for a private tasting instead. 

What’s great about this tour is that every day is different, because the guides take into account what guests want. We had the option to swap out wineries for cheese factories and ice cream stops, which is ideal for anyone who can’t handle a lot of wine. The tour costs $129 AUD and includes all transport and tastings, so we were really happy with that. The only thing we had to pay for on the day was lunch at one of the wineries, where most things on the menu cost between $20-$30 AUD.

4. Grampians National Park

Silverband Falls in Grampians National Park in Australia
Silverband Falls
A kangaroo in Grampians National Park in Australia
A kangaroo in Grampians National Park in Australia
  • Distance from Melbourne: 267 kilometers (166 miles) 
  • Accessible by public transport: No
  • Time needed: 13 hours 
  • Tour available: Yes

The rugged and beautiful Grampians National Park is a must-visit for anyone who loves to hike, chase waterfalls, and spot wildlife. That’s us down to a T, so of course we had to go and see this place for ourselves, and it’s definitely one of the best day trips from Melbourne. It’s pretty far from the city, as it takes 3 hours each way, so it’s a long day but we thought it was worth the effort. 

There’s plenty to see and do in Grampians National Park. We found it so interesting to discover Aboriginal Australian history at the Brambuk Cultural Center, which is easily accessed from Halls Gap. Speaking of Halls Gap, it’s known as the heart of the Grampians and is home to a zoo, Splitters Falls, the scenic Boroka Lookout Point, and the Venus Baths Loop Trail. We think this hike is awesome because it offers so much variety, despite being just 1.8 km (1.1 mi) long, from botanical gardens to a natural plunge pool. 

For a longer hike, the Halls Gap to The Pinnacle Loop is one of the park’s most famous hikes. This 8.5-km (5.3-mi) trail does an amazing job of showcasing what the Grampians is all about and leads to The Pinnacle, which is another impressive lookout point. We also loved majestic Mackenzie Falls, which is the only waterfall in the park that flows year-round. 

And if all of that weren’t enough, we were delighted to discover that the Grampians is also an award-winning wine region. Seriously, what doesn’t this place have? We loved the Cellar Door at Grampians Estate.

It’s possible to drive to the Grampians and back in a day but to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it for a day trip. That’s why we booked this tour of the national park. It gave us an amazing overview of the park, from the gold mining town of Ballarat to kangaroo-spotting in Halls Gap, and a bushwalk to Silverband Falls. We also got to visit Mackenzie Falls and do a guided hike along a section of the Wonderland Loop, so we felt like we got a comprehensive overview of what Grampians is all about. 

Now, I’ll be honest with you, it was a long day, but our guide, Chris, did such a good job of keeping the group’s energy up, and since it’s a small-group tour that’s capped at 24 people, we got to know our fellow travelers, which was nice. The tour runs year-round on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, but I would advise booking in advance during the summer. It’s competitively priced at $155 AUD and it’s got hundreds of 5-star reviews, so it books up fast! 

5. Dandenong Ranges

Puffing Billy in the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne, Australia
Puffing Billy in the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne, Australia
  • Distance from Melbourne: 35 kilometers (22 miles) 
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes
  • Time needed: 8 hours 
  • Tour available: Yes

The Dandenong Ranges are a set of low mountain ranges just east of Melbourne – although us Aussies usually just call them “the Dandenongs”. The scenery here is all rolling hills and forested valleys, and there are some charming villages spread across the area. 

In Sassafras, we love Miss Marple’s Tearoom, which serves up a classic, English-style high tea, and it’s also fun to visit Geppetto’s Workshop and see the old-world wooden puppets and toys. Honestly, visiting this village made us feel as though we’d traveled back in time!

Just 8 kilometers (5 miles) down the road from Sassafras is Olinda, we loved visiting the Only Mine Chocolate Factory. We bought some exquisite handmade truffles and had the yummiest hot chocolate ever, although they have frappes too if you’re going on a hot day. And of course, we just had to stop in at the famous Olinda Sweet Co – Bailey can never say “no” to a classic candy store. Meanwhile, the Olinda Collective is a fantastic permanent market with lots of locally made artisan goods on offer, from fancy soaps to clothes and jewelry. 

We also recommend visiting SkyHigh Bistro in Mount Dandenong for epic views of the area and the Melbourne Skyline. The spacious outdoor terraces are perfect for a sunny day, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows and a fireplace in the indoor section, which is perfect for those cooler Melbourne Days. It closes during the winter, and I’d strongly advise you to make a booking here during the summer months. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s really popular!

It takes about an hour to drive here from Melbourne, but we also found it pretty easy to get here via public transport. It’s possible to take the train to the Upper Ferntree Gully Station, and then change to the #668 bus towards Croydon, which stops in all three of the villages we’ve mentioned above, so it’s a cheap and convenient way to explore. 

View from the Sky High Bistro in the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne
Photo credit: SkyHigh Bistro

However, we also loved riding through the Dandenong Ranges on the famous Puffing Billy steam train on this scenic train tour from Melbourne. Puffing Billy is actually the oldest surviving steam train in the world, and it still transports passengers through the mountains every single day! It’s iconic, and we think it’s an absolute must when visiting the Dandenong Ranges. 

Not only did we love soaking in the beautiful scenery of the Dandenong Ranges while we relaxed on board, we also got to visit the Healesville Sanctuary Zoo, the Yarra Valley’s scenic Emerald Lake, and sampled lots of sweet treats at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. We think this itinerary is ideal if you’re short on time, as you get to tick off two destinations on this list in one go! 

The tour costs $196 AUD, which includes all admission fees, including a ticket for Puffing Billy. We think it makes visiting the Dandenong Ranges so much easier than going it alone, and it sells out fast since Puffing Billy is in demand. 

6. Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park

Feeding a wallaby at the moonlit sanctuary on phillip island during a go west tour near melbourne australia
Feeding wallabies at the Moonlit Sanctuary is awesome!
Daniel smiles with a koala at the moonlit sanctuary on phillip island during a go west penguin tour near melbourne australia
Koala buddies at the Moonlit Sanctuary!
  • Distance from Melbourne: 64 kilometers (40 miles) 
  • Accessible by public transport: No
  • Time needed: 4 hours 
  • Tour available: Yes

We visited the Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park on our way to Phillip Island as part of this tour we took. To be honest, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect beforehand, but we absolutely loved our experience. Exploring the bushland environment was so much fun, and we saw so many native Australian animals, from emus and kookaburras to koalas, kangaroos, and wallabies. 

Standalone entry to the sanctuary costs $32 AUD. However, there are lots of animal encounters available, which cost extra. And if you’re anything like us, you’ll want to get up close and personal with the animals. We went for the Koala Encounter, which cost $30 AUD and was so worth it because we got to meet and take photos with koalas. A lot of people on our tour went for the Dingo Walk, but there are also kookaburra, wombat, and emu experiences, and even a python one if you’re really brave! 

Bailey-and-Daniel-smile-with-a-koala-at-the-moonlit-sanctuary-on-phillip-island-during-a-go-west-penguin-tour-near-melbourne-australia through get your guide
Making friends with koalas at the Moonlit Sanctuary

We also ended up buying some food pellets, which cost $3 AUD a pop, as then we were able to feed the kangaroos and wallabies. They also host free talks and shows throughout the day, so it’s worth checking the schedule to see if there’s one you’re keen to catch.

It takes about an hour to drive from Melbourne to the Moonlit Sanctuary, so it’s pretty easy to visit, but we loved visiting as part of our Phillip Island tour. Our tickets were organized for us and we had plenty of time to explore the sanctuary and enjoy our koala encounter. And of course, exploring Phillip Island and watching the penguin parade was so much fun. 

Basically, the tour allowed us to make a day of it without having to worry about organizing a thing. It’s a fantastic way to leave the city behind and spend the day immersed in wildlife and Victoria’s natural beauty. Plus, at $175 AUD each including all of our admission fees, we thought it was good value. 

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

7. You Yangs Regional Park

You Yangs Regional Park
You Yangs Regional Park
  • Distance from Melbourne: 59 kilometers (95 miles) 
  • Accessible by public transport: No
  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Tour available: No 

The You Yangs is the perfect escape from the city for the adventurous at heart – and Bailey and I would definitely put ourselves in that category! From hiking and horseback riding to birdwatching, the You Yangs is ideal for escaping Melbourne’s crowds and enjoying the Great Outdoors. 

There are over 50 km (31 mi) of mountain bike trails here, and plenty of rental shops in Melbourne, or 25 minutes down the road from the You Yangs in nearby Geelong. And of course, we just had to climb Flinders Peak, which is the highest point in the park. The trail is 3.2 km (2 mi) long and takes about an hour, but be warned: there are 450 steps to take you to the top, so bring plenty of water and prepare to give those leg muscles a workout. The views from the top are worth it, though, as you can see to Melbourne (and beyond!) on a clear day. 

Big Rock Walk is another popular hike in the park. It’s a straightforward 3 km (1.9 mi) trail that takes an hour to complete. It’s definitely easier than Flinders Peak, which has three times more elevation gain, but the views from the top are still worth it. Or for a longer walk, the Branding Yard Trail is 5 km (3 mi) and it’s a well-shaded flat loop, so this is a comfortable one for a hot day. 

We were a bit disappointed to learn that there weren’t any full-day hikes in the You Yangs, but instead, we just decided to do a few different ones on the same day and really enjoyed ourselves. Oh, and make sure to bring binoculars, because the You Yangs is home to over 200 bird species, and it’s common to spot kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, and more! 

There are no tours to the You Yangs, so it’s best to drive here. It’s most convenient to enter through the main gate on the southern side of the park, but the eastern entrance is usually quiet, so bear that in mind for public holidays and weekends! 

Related Read: There’s also plenty to do in Melbourne itself before leaving the city! Check out our recommendations for the best tours in Melbourne here.

8. Sorrento

Calm Bay in Sorrento, Victoria, Australia
Boardwalk to the ocean in Sorrento, Victoria
It’s so beautiful here!
  • Distance from Melbourne: 108 kilometers (67 miles) 
  • Accessible by public transport: No
  • Time needed: 8 hours
  • Tour available: Yes

No, not we’re not talking about Sorrento in Italy, but Sorrento, Victoria also offers beaches, boutiques, and lots of delicious food. Located on the Mornington Peninsula, we love coming here to admire the limestone buildings, spot dolphins, and enjoy the ambiance of this laid-back town. 

For the adventurous, Sorrento Ocean Beach is a great spot for surfing, while Front Beach is a great spot for a dip. What we loved even more, though, was Millionaire’s Walk, a 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) trail that passes many waterfront mansions. It’s actually a section of the longer Sorrento-Portsea Artists trail, which is designed to showcase spots that have inspired Australian artists. There are interpretive signs to tell you about the artists who have been captivated by the various viewpoints. 

We also think it’s worth visiting Point Nepean National Park, which is 10 minutes from Sorrento by car. There are some fantastic walking and cycle trails along the rugged coastline, but we were also really interested in the old military forts and tunnels here. This is actually where early European settlers were quarantined when coming into Australia, and where a former prime minister famously drowned. However, it is safe to go swimming at Cheviot Beach here, as long as you follow the safety rules! 

Coastal track in Sorrento, Melbourne
Coastal track in Sorrento, Melbourne

And if you feel like a drink after all of that walking, we love the Conti Bar at the historic Continental Hotel. This historic property is over 145 years old and has a relaxed, elegant feel that did make us feel as though we were in Italy. 

It takes roughly 1.5 hours to drive from Melbourne to Sorrento, and there’s plenty of free parking all over town. We highly recommend stopping at Arthur’s Seat on the way there for stunning views over the city. Sadly, there’s no convenient way to get here via public transport for a day trip, but if you don’t want to drive, then this top-rated tour of the Mornington Peninsula is your best bet. 

We got to stop in historic Mornington and Arthur’s Seat Park on the way to Sorrento, and there was plenty of time to enjoy Front Beach and get lunch at an eatery of our choice, although our guide, Karin, was happy to share some excellent recommendations with us. We also loved visiting Portsea National Park and Karin took us along Millionaire’s Walk and shared lots of interesting info that we’d never have found out otherwise! This was the perfect introduction to Sorrento and the fact that it was a private tour meant we could take it at our own pace. 

The tour costs between $179-$249 AUD per person, depending on group size, and you’ll need at least two people. We think it’s perfect for couples, families, and friends. We felt like it helped us see so much more of Sorrento in a day than we would have on our own! 

9. Brighton Bathing Boxes

Bailey sits in front of a brighton bathing box with a volkswagen on it during a go west penguin tour to phillip island near melbourne australia
The famous Brighton Bathing Boxes!
Bailey and Daniel smile at the brighton bathing boxes on a go west penguin tour to phillip island
So cute!
  • Distance from Melbourne: 13.6 kilometers (8.5 miles) 
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes
  • Time needed: 3 hours 
  • Tour available: Yes

The Brighton Bathing Boxes are a Melbourne icon. These brightly colored beach huts are painted every color of the rainbow, and one of them is famously adorned with an Australian flag. 

It must be pretty nice to have a bathing box here, right? Well, it is if the prices of these huts are anything to go by! They’re said to be worth around $400,000 AUD each, and together have a value of at least $30 million – how crazy is that?

So although most visitors aren’t in the market to buy a beach box, it’s still fun to visit them and snap some photos. Plus, it’s really easy to get to. It’s a 25-minute drive from the city center to Brighton Beach, and there’s paid parking around, although the lots do fill up fast during the summer. 

However, Brighton Beach is easily accessible via public transport. The 603 bus goes from Chapel St/Commercial Rd in Melbourne to Brighton Beach Station/South Road. Or, the train from Flinders Street Station towards Sandringham stops at Brighton Beach and departs roughly every 20 minutes. 

Personally, we visited Brighton Beach on the tour we took to Phillip Island, and I’m really glad we did it this way. The beach is very touristy and although seeing the bathing boxes was cool, a 20-minute stop here was enough for me! That way, I got to tick them off of my Melbourne bucket list and visit lots of other fantastic places on the same day. 

10. Gumbuya World Theme Park

Water slides at Gumbuya World Theme Park
Photo credit: Gumbuya World Theme Park
Roller coaster at Gumbuya World Theme Park
Photo credit: Gumbuya World Theme Park
  • Distance from Melbourne: 88 kilometers (54 miles) 
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes
  • Time needed: 8 hours 
  • Tour available: No

For families especially, I think that Gumbuya World is the ultimate day trip from Melbourne! This huge theme park includes a water park, a wildlife park, and tons of roller coasters and rides. On a hot day, we love heading here to drift along the lazy river, get a thrill on the boomerang slide, and brush up our skills on the surf machine. 

There’s also a nice mix of adrenaline-pumping roller coasters and more family-friendly rides here, and plenty of walkthrough wildlife enclosures, so we were able to see kangaroos, snakes, lizards, and lots of adorable farm animals. Basically, it’s impossible to get bored at this theme park, so I suggest that you set aside the entire day for this one! 

General admission to the park starts at $31 AUD on weekdays and $49 AUD on weekends when you book online, which tends to save you money and queuing time. Family passes are also available, and general admission includes the free-flight bird show and the Aussie Outback Experience, which starts at 12 pm and has live demos like sheep shearing and cow milking.

General admission covers all of the rides and water slides, except for the surf machine, but there are some close-up animal encounters on offer for an extra fee. There’s the chance to get close to koalas, dingoes, tree kangaroos, and more, with each encounter costing $35 AUD. We also noticed that there were daybeds available to rent by the main pool, which we think is ideal for parents with kids who are old enough to go off and enjoy the water slides by themselves. 

In terms of getting here, it takes an hour to drive from Melbourne, and there’s free parking. It does get really busy during school holidays and weekends, as I’m sure you can imagine, but there’s the option to reserve a parking spot close to the entrance for $25 AUD, which can be a real time-saver. 

Alternatively, getting to the park by public transport isn’t too difficult, either. The best way is to take the V-Line train from Flinders Street Station to Tynong, which takes roughly an hour and 10 minutes and is a bargain at $10.60 AUD return. From there, it’s possible to take a taxi to the park but Gumbuya World also operates a daily shuttle from Tynong Station, which we reserved online when we booked our tickets. The shuttle picked us up at 9:30 am and dropped us back there at 5:15 pm, ready to get the train back to the city. Oh, and did we mention, it was free? 

11. Geelong

Waterfront statues in Geelong, Australia
Waterfront statues in Geelong, Australia
Pier in Geelong, Australia
Pier in Geelong, Australia
  • Distance from Melbourne: 74 kilometers (46 miles) 
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes
  • Time needed: 6 hours 
  • Tour available: No

Geelong is Victoria’s second-largest city, but to me, it doesn’t feel like a city but rather a lovely waterfront town. On a sunny day, nothing beats strolling through the Eastern Beach area, which has beautiful art deco architecture and a huge ferris wheel during the summer. There are some fantastic cafes, bars, and restaurants to check out around here, too. We loved the beachfront Sailor’s Rest, and Hecho in Mexico has awesome tacos and margaritas – yum!

On a hot day, it’s worth bringing your bathers and enjoying the diving platforms around the swimming enclosure. We also love strolling along the wooden promenade, and there’s a cute miniature train that goes from the carousel around the waterfront, which kids will just love! I think that Geelong is ideal for anyone seeking a chilled-out day trip that doesn’t require much planning.

In terms of culture, the Geelong Art Gallery is worth checking out and the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre might just be the most futuristic library we’ve ever visited. I loved the peaceful reading rooms, 3D printing facilities, and gaming machines, but even if you don’t have time to go in, it’s worth admiring this ultra-modern building from the outside. We also loved learning about Aboriginal Australian culture at the Aboriginal Cultural Centre, and the staff were so friendly and happy to answer all of our questions. There were pieces of Aboriginal artwork available for purchase and we enjoyed the on-site cafe, too. 

It takes an hour to drive from Melbourne to Geelong, and there’s plenty of parking in the city. If you arrive early, it’s possible to snag free all-day parking at Hearne Parade, which is a short walk from Eastern Beach. 

Or, if you’d like to use public transport, the V-Line train runs from Southern Cross in Melbourne to Geelong. The city is pretty walkable and it only takes around 15 minutes to get from the station to the Eastern Beach area, which is easily our favorite part of the city to hang out in. The train takes just over an hour each way and the round trip costs $10.60 AUD, so this is our favorite way of getting to Geelong! 

12. Ballarat

Sovereign Hill Ballarat
Sovereign Hill Ballarat
Gold Mine tour in Sovereign Hill Ballarat
The gold mine!
  • Distance from Melbourne: 115 kilometers (71.5 miles) 
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes
  • Time needed: 8 hours 
  • Tour available: Yes

We love exploring historic towns and let me tell you, Ballarat fits that criteria perfectly. It was a prominent gold mining town that earned itself the nickname “the Golden City”, and this was where the famous Eureka Stockade took place. This is when gold miners revolted against British rule, and the event helped to shape Australian democracy as we know it today. 

So given all of this history, we just had to pay a visit to the famous Sovereign Hill museum. It’s a recreation of what Ballarat was like in the decade after gold was first discovered. We explored the “Trapped” exhibit, which tells the story of one of Australia’s worst mining disasters, and we wandered around Main Street, which was so cute with lots of little old-timey shops.

We also fell in love with the beautiful botanical gardens, which are cool-climate gardens with wonderful seasonal conservatory displays to check out. The gardens are right on the edge of Lake Wendouree, too, so we went for a quick stroll along the lakefront. There are some nice places to have lunch along here like the Yacht Club and the Boatshed. 

It takes 1.5 hours to drive from Melbourne to Ballarat, and there’s plenty of parking, including free all-day parking at the Eastern Oval and Creswick Road parking lots. Trains also run regularly from Southern Cross Station to Ballarat, and the journey takes between 75 and 90 minutes.

However, we loved visiting Ballarat on this tour from Melbourne, as it made our day trip so easy. We were in a small group, so we didn’t feel crowded, and the tour was perfectly paced. We visited all of the highlights mentioned above, as well as the Eureka Centre which is where the miner’s rebellion broke out. Our guide, Matt, taught us so much about Ballarat’s history, from before the gold mining days to well after it transitioned into an industrial town. Then, the day ended with a complimentary trip up to the top of the Melbourne Skydeck, which was such a treat! 

I think this tour is ideal for first-time visitors to Melbourne, or anyone keen to experience Ballarat to the fullest. All of our admission fees were included, so for $189 AUD, we thought it was a good deal for a full-day tour. It only runs on Tuesdays and Fridays, so do bear that in mind if you’d like to do this one! 

Other Things to do in Melbourne

Bailey and Daniel cheers their wine on the spirit of melbourne dinner cruise with tthe city in the background
Cheers to amazing views on our river cruise!
Bailey poses for a photo inside the The Block Arcade in Melbourne Australia
The Block Arcade is stunning!

If you have a little extra time in your itinerary, we have even more epic Melbourne activities. You can check out our full list of the best things to do in Melbourne or check out our top recommendations below!

  • Cruise down the River – The Spirit of Melbourne Dinner Cruise isn’t just one of the best cruises in Australia, but one of our all-time favorites. It’s an all-inclusive experience with stunning sunset and nighttime views of Melbourne, unlimited drinks, and a four-course gourmet meal. Seriously, what’s not to love?
  • Wander the Arcades – Melbourne is also home to tons of pretty arcades (covered walkways), and my favorites to explore are the Block Arcade and the Royal Arcade. You can see the most famous arcades and visit the best chocolate shops and dessert cafes (with plenty of samples!) on this Arcades Dessert Walking Tour. Our guide was amazing and my sweet tooth was so happy!
  • Explore the Melbourne Gardens – The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne is another great way to escape the city, without leaving city limits. This huge garden is home to over 8,500 species of plants and has been around for over 170 years. It’s simply gorgeous, and spending a few hours strolling through the gardens makes for a lovely afternoon. There are often special events going on, so check the website here before you go!
  • Explore St Kilda – This cute beach town is just 15 minutes from downtown Melbourne, and is a great place to grab a coffee and take in those ocean views! St Kilda is famous for its coffee scene, there are many to choose from – but our favorite is Galleon Cafe. If you’re visiting on the weekend, check out Esplanade Market for some unique souvenirs or Luna Park, super fun for families!
  • Rent a boat and float down the Yarra River If you haven’t seen enough of the Yarra River yet, rent a boat and explore it for yourself! That’s right, you can be the captain of your own ship (more like a dingy) and cruise along the river. On a Boat rents the boats and they are really easy to use, you don’t even need a boating license!

Renting a Car in Australia

Driving through the outback in a rental car in Australia
Outback Australia!

With many must-see destinations in Australia outside city limits, one of the best ways to get around is in a rental car.

Australia is a huge country and traveling between cities or getting to some of the most scenic spots requires driving. While public transit is sometimes an option, it often adds a lot of time and planning. Plus, we love the freedom of a rental car to stop wherever we want and not have to stick to a set schedule.

Car rental in Australia is super affordable, especially if you choose a smaller vehicle. We use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine that compares multiple car rental companies for you – saving you from visiting each website individually.

If you plan to be based in a main city like Sydney, Melbourne, or Perth and do a few day trips while returning your car to the same location, we’ve booked rentals for as cheap as $25 AUD a day! Full coverage insurance can be added for around an extra $12 AUD a day too. The price will vary depending on the time of year, type of car, and if you’re able to pick up and drop off at the same location.

Discover Cars also offers handy filters so you can search for cars that offer features like child seats, GPS, or let you have an additional driver. There are also free cancellation options if your trip changes. Read our honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

Check out the selection and book your car rental online here!

Where to Stay in Melbourne

The Langham Melbourne room
Photo credit: The Langham Melbourne

If you’re planning to visit Melbourne, let us help you find a great place to stay. There’s something to fit every budget, so check out our top picks from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Here’s what you need to know!

The Langham Melbourne – $$$

For an elegant stay – think marble staircases, fountains, and chandeliers – The Langham Melbourne is the perfect place. The hotel is in the middle of Melbourne overlooking the Yarra River. You’ll get beautiful city views from the hotel’s restaurant and from the indoor pool. It’s also within walking distance of a number of top attractions.

Rooms here start at $300 – $400 AUD per night. Check availability and reserve a room here.

Grand Hotel Melbourne – $$

Stay in the Melbourne Central Business District at this historic hotel that has plenty of character. The studios and apartments at the Grand Hotel Melbourne give you more space than a typical hotel and even include a kitchen. You can also take advantage of the heated indoor pool and the fitness center with a sauna. Plus, it’s just a few minutes’ walk to Crown Casino, Southbank, Docklands, and more.

A studio starts at around $200 AUD per night and can be reserved through Booking.com here.

Space Hotel – $

You don’t have to sacrifice style for money at this hostel. The Space Hotel is a modern hostel with lots of extra guest amenities like a gym, a hot tub, and even a mini-theater. You can head to the rooftop terrace to relax and enjoy the views. The hostel is conveniently located in the Central Business District and is not far from the Queen Victoria Market and Chinatown.

Accommodation options include both private rooms and shared dorm rooms. A bed in a dorm starts at $55 AUD and private rooms begin at $100 AUD. You can reserve a spot in advance through Booking.com or HostelWorld.com.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at the twelve apostles on a great ocean road tour australia
Thanks for reading!

We love visiting Melbourne, but we especially like getting outside city limits and exploring! Hopefully, these day trips from Melbourne have you excited to plan your own getaway. Whether you choose to drive or hop on a tour, I know you’ll have the best time.

If you found this blog helpful, there are a lot more where that came from! We have lots of helpful guides about Australia. From tour reviews to custom itineraries and everything in between. If you’re sticking around Melbourne, I put a few related blogs below for you.

25 Things to do in Melbourne for First-Time Visitors

Spirit of Melbourne Dinner Cruise Review – Is it Worth it?

Go West Tours Melbourne Review – Can You Trust Them With Your Tour?