10 Great Road Trips from Melbourne
Last updated on March 21, 2020.
One of the best things about Melbourne is that there is so much to see and do – not just in the city center, but around the city as well. And it’s all so beautiful! While I was living in Melbourne, I tried to explore as much as possible – including several trips outside the city. Every opportunity I had, I ventured around the state of Victoria. I quickly learned that there are so many road trips from Melbourne that are amazing!
Originally published October 17, 2017.
Most recently updated on March 21, 2020.
1.5 Hours Northwest of Melbourne
Ballarat is famous for one thing: gold. The city was founded after the discovery of gold in the 1850s and experienced a long-lasting gold rush of its own. The best part? You can relive those ‘good ole days’ today at Sovereign Hill. The outdoor museum has brought the 1800 gold rush days back to life through old-style building, actors, and exhibitions. You can easily spend a day exploring all that Sovereign Hill has to offer – which is exactly what I did! You can watch historical reenactments, glass blowing, old-fashioned lolly making, and more.
My favorite part? Panning for gold, of course! Be prepared to get a little dirty as you try to discover the famous Ballarat gold. Then, check out the camp and farm replicas that were popular during the gold rush days. Don’t worry if the weather doesn’t hold up – there are plenty of buildings to check out, as well as the modern gold museum to learn even more about the history of Ballarat.
1.75 Hours North of Melbourne
Another city built upon the glory days of the Victorian gold rush, Bendigo is a charming place to visit. Rosalind Park is a must, especially during Spring when the tulips are all in bloom. Within the park you can climb an old mining poppet head to get a great view of the surrounding city. It’s also home to a large population of grey-headed flying foxes – aka bats. While some people might find this a little creepy, there’s nothing to be afraid of – in fact the little guys are pretty cute! Since they are a threatened species, they are actually protected by the Australian government and there is a section of the park closed off for them.
Nearby you’ll find Sacred Heart Cathedral – a beautiful place for religious and non-religious folks alike. Behind the cathedral you’ll find a garden dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes (a favorite saint of my mother’s).
1 Hour East of Melbourne
Living in another country can be really difficult, especially when trying to meet new people and venture out. Luckily, the University of Melbourne had a graduate student association that planned various activities. A friend and I chose to sign up for the one out to the Dandenong mountain range and had an absolute blast!
The first activity of the day was a ride on the Puffing Billy, an old-fashioned steam-powered train that takes passengers through the rainforest of Dandenong. It was both a fun and scenic experience.
Hand Feed Native Birds
Next stop: Grant’s Picnic Ground. Grant’s is amazing because you can get up close and personal with the birds. It’s free to visit, but for just $4, you can hand feed the birds. It’s the only spot in the Dandenong Ranges where it is legal to feed the native rosellas, cockatoos, and parrots. I highly recommend it! There’s also a café inside where you can get a drink or some scones with jam and cream.
The rest of our day in the Dandenong Ranges included a visit to Silvan Reservoir and William Rickett’s Sanctuary. William Rickett was an Aboriginal man who believed in the importance of tranquility and respecting the natural environment. The sanctuary contains nearly 100 sculptures of Aboriginal people seamlessly mixed into the rainforest setting. It’s a beautiful place to explore and gain a deeper understanding and respect for the Australian landscape.
1.5 Hours Northwest of Melbourne
Daylesford has a little something for everyone – a good mystery, a waterfall, chocolate, and flowers. Sounds like the perfect day to me!
When I lived in Australia, everyone talked about the mystery of Hanging Rock – I was clueless. But, after a little investigation, I learned about the rumored tragedy of some girls that went missing on a school picnic that inspired a famous Australian movie – Picnic at Hanging Rock. The 1970s film has recently been remade as an Amazon prime series, starring the fabulous Natalie Dormer.
If you don’t know by know, I love a good mystery. And if it’s been made into a movie, you can bet that I’ll want to visit the place it was filmed. Cue my trip to Daylesford. Luckily, Hanging Rock is FREE to visit, and worth a hike to the top. Bring a picnic lunch if you dare! Either way, the view from the top of the rock is stunning. It’s the picturesque Aussie landscape full of gum trees.
Not far from Hanging Rock you’ll find Trentham Falls. A modest waterfall, it’s still worth the visit since it’s visible from a short path off the road.
Chocolate & Lavender
Another Daylesford highlight is The Chocolate Mill. The perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth is to make a quick stop at the mill and try some of their gourmet chocolate. All of their products are made with fair trade Belgian chocolate and are delicious! I recommend a visit to the hot chocolate café if the day isn’t too hot.
Our last stop of the day in Daylesford was probably my favorite – Lavandula, a Swiss-Italian farm with gorgeous fields of lavender. I had the best time walking around and admiring the views. Visiting the café is also a MUST. Be sure to get some lavender tea and scones.
Great Ocean Road
1 Hour East of Melbourne
If you’re planning any road trips from Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road is an absolute must! It’s the most iconic place along the southern coast of Australia, and for good reason. It’s gorgeous. The stormy waves from the ocean have carved out the coastline over the years, making it one of the most beautiful in the world. Ideally, this road trip would last a few days or a week, but it is possible to hit the major sights if you only have one day.
The most famous of the stops on the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles – just don’t expect to see all twelve. Erosion over the years has definitely affected the pillars, but it’s still a beautiful sight. Lucky visitors may see whales or little blue penguins after dusk if they are patient. (But no promises!)
Don’t Stop There
Other highlights along the Great Ocean Road include Loch Ard Gorge, Cape Otway, the Blowhole, London Bridge, and more. At Loch Ard Gorge you can descend a long flight of stairs to get to the beach – it’s worth the hike back up! There are also plenty of cute seaside towns to visit along the way. One last highlight? Bells Beach and Winkipop. Together they are a world famous surfing spot, so you might be able to catch some talented surfers if the waves are just right!
One last piece of advice – when traveling along the Great Ocean Road, everyone always looks out to the ocean. But take a few moments to look inland, because the views are just as magical.
1 Hour East of Melbourne
Because of my love for animals, I knew that one of my road trips had to take me east to Healesville Sanctuary. The sanctuary was a really beautiful place, with all of the animal exhibits settled into the forest. It made for a lovely walk and a great place to see native Australian animals up close – including baby dingoes!
We wandered around a bit and saw tons of birds. Inside one of the exhibits were emerald doves – one of my favorite birds. It’s not just that they share the name of my birthstone, but they’re also just beautiful!
Apparently we hadn’t had enough of the birds yet, because we decided to sit down for the birds of prey show. But it was so worth it! The birds flew right over our heads, nearly close enough to touch. The best bird by far was the black-breasted buzzard. They are known to pick up rocks and throw them against emu eggs to crack them open and eat the insides. As sad as it is, it’s really cool to watch the bird demonstrate it (don’t worry, it was a fake egg!).
Native Australian Animals
After the show, we walked around to see all the native animals. There were wallabies, koalas, echidnas, more birds, goanas, even more birds… and kangaroos that we got to visit and pet! No visit to Australia is complete without hanging out with a group of kangaroos! On our way out we stopped by the baby dingo exhibit again. A few of the zookeepers had come to visit the pups on their day off, so they were in there playing with them. It was fun to watch as the brother and sister dingoes wrestled each other in the dirt.
1.75 Hours South of Melbourne
Phillip Island is famous for one very important reason – penguins! Okay, two reasons – it’s also the home of Chris & Liam Hemsworth (swoon). But back to the penguins. Phillip Island is the native habitat of little blue penguins. Yes, that’s their official name… And they’re adorable!
Of all the road trips from Melbourne, Phillip Island is popular because the penguin parade is quite the spectacle. Every night at sunset, people gather to watch the little blue penguins return from fishing all day in the ocean. There are tired viewing platforms at the back of the beach for people to watch – and honestly, it’s adorable. Once the penguins are on shore, people can walk along the boardwalks to see the penguins scamper to their burrows. Please note that photography and videography of the penguins is prohibited.
Fun fact: the researchers at the park have microchips on the penguins so they can track their behavior. People often talk about how penguins mate for life, but according to the workers on Phillip Island, the penguins are often found in other penguins’ burrows. Scandalous!
1.5 Hours Southwest of Melbourne
The first road trip I took from Melbourne was down to Port Arlington in search of a lighthouse. But, being on a limited time schedule, and not knowing exactly where we were going proved our search unsuccessful. Instead, we stopped a few times along the coast to take pictures and skip rocks in the water. Honestly, at one point I just kept driving until I found a stretch of beach with public toilets! Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do! But it was all fun nonetheless.
After a few short stops and some spontaneous journeys down some random roads, it was time to head back towards the city. This time we knew to avoid Geelong because all of the roads through the city were closed for a bike event that weekend. Instead we drove along the country roads that reminded me so much of the roads to take to get to my childhood camp back home. We stopped along the way to take photos of the beautiful canola fields that lined the horizon in yellow.
The moral of the story? Sometimes you don’t need to have a specific destination in mind. Just drive along and enjoy the journey. That’s what road trips are for!
Half Hour West of Melbourne
Unfortunately, through all my time in Melbourne, I never actually made it to Werribee. And that’s still something I regret! With a mansion, garden, open range zoo, and a winery, it’s exactly the type of place I’d love! But don’t worry, Laura from Passport Collective can give you all the inside information of what to do in Werribee.
Half Hour Southwest of Melbourne
Williamstown was one of my favorite road trips from Melbourne, and the one I did most often – including the night of my birthday. (Spending my birthday on an ocean beach is just not possible in Syracuse, so I took the chance I had!) Williamstown is a quaint little place, with a large marina and lots of great little restaurants. My favorite part? The views at the beach – both toward the city of Melbourne and out toward the sunset. The beach there is much quieter than many of the others nearby, so it always felt like a little escape from the city.
When You’re Done, Display Your Travels!
Because I travel so much, I have photos and maps around my house to remind me of all of my adventures. My new favorite thing? A minimalist metro map of the Victoria transit system. I was lucky enough to partner with The Camera Graphic and received this gorgeous print for my home office.
Jake personally designs the maps and currently has several available for order, including many major metropolitan areas like New York, London, and Tokyo. They are a fun, colorful pop to your living space or home office! They also make a great gift for someone who has lived abroad (like me).
The customer service was fantastic and Jake ensured that my print arrived quickly and safely with plenty or packaging to prevent any damage in transit. Now I can’t wait to go through some of my old photos from my road trips from Melbourne to put up surrounding my new print.
So Many Possibilities
By now you’ve certainly realized that there are so many adventures you can take through road trips from Melbourne. So, if you’ve got time in the city – if you’re living there or on an extended vacation – be sure to explore all of the amazing places throughout Victoria. And while I’m at it, a huge shoutout to all of the people who helped make my road trips a reality – my host parents and sisters: Louise, Brett, Jamie, and Liv; as well as all my wonderful Aussie and American friends: Karissa, Esther, Alyssa, Andrew, and Louise.