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Published September 3rd 2013
Top Ten Melbourne Day Trips
Glorious Melbourne has so much to offer for the day tripper, from the free to the expensive, and the mountains to the beaches. Having lived in Melbourne for much of my life with an unbridled passion for the place, I have come up with ten top day trips all within a two hour drive of Melbourne CBD.
Some of these day trips are free, or can be altered to make them free or low cost, others involve some dollars. But one thing they all have in common is that they make for a fantastic and memorable day out - that much I know for sure.
1. Picnic in Melbourne Botanical Gardens with BYO entertainment
Memories of countless day trips picnicking in Melbourne's Botanical Gardens will forever linger in my mind as many of the most enjoyable days I've ever had. To make this into a particularly great day trip, pack a gourmet picnic, wine, frisbee, football or soccer ball, scrabble, games, picnic blanket and cushions.
The emerald undulating lawns, space for running around, mirror like lakes, colourful flowers and majestic trees make this day out the perfect escape. It is the kind of day trip that can be done every weekend for the cost of ingredients to make a picnic. Walking, playing and just sitting in Melbourne's Botanical Gardens is one of the great pleasures in life and it's free.
This day trip tops my list because it is one that can be done every weekend for no cost and provides maximum pleasure in the midst of nature. Being right in the city, yet feeling as though you are a million miles away lost in a beautiful oasis is hard to top.
2. Yarra Valley Wineries Visiting the Yarra Valley wineries is an all time favourite day trip. I recommend starting by making a list of about four to five wineries you want to visit, decide which one you want to have lunch at, and plan out the day. Some of the wineries offer tours, tastings, lunch and beautiful grounds for picnics or wandering around the vines and enjoying the sunshine and scenery.
My personal favourites include a few of the larger wineries which provide a fun day out even for those who don't drink. These 'must do' wineries include Domaine Chandon for their free winemaking tours and beautiful expansive grounds, Yering Station for their fabulous buildings, tasting area, produce store , and Tarra Warra Estate for the views and for lunch. Of course each winery has great wines, wine tasting, beautiful grounds and fresh food available.
Image by Jamesonf.
It is a joy to spend an entire day loving the spectacular Yarra Valley scenery as you drive to each winery, check out their wares, grounds, wines, wander around, do a tour, and maybe even some wine tasting. There are many other boutique wineries which are definitely worth visiting and have great restaurants for lunch too. I have taken friends who don't do tasting/don't drink on this day trip, and they love it.
The Yarra Valley is high on this top day trip list due to its proximity to Melbourne, low cost, beauty of the area, and uniqueness or variety between the wineries - each offers something different.
To make it virtually no cost or low cost, just look around, do the free tours, walk around the vines, luxuriate in the scenery, check out the produce stores, pack a picnic lunch and have it on the lush green gentle slopes of Domaine Chandon.
Location: Approximately a one hour drive from Melbourne CBD. Take the Maroondah Highway toward Healesville
3. The Dandenong's: Sherbrooke Forest Walk and Lunch in the Mountains
When there is touch of mist in the area, this walk is even better, so don't let overcast weather stop you. There are many walking options including an easy walk to Sherbrooke Falls (2.4km, approximately an hour return) which leads past tree ferns and towering Mountain Ash trees. Keep an eye out for lyrebirds which reside in Sherbrooke Forest.
After pottering around Sherbrooke Forest and exploring its many nooks and crannies and breathing in all that ultra fresh mountain air, it may be necessary to go to one of the following warm and inviting mountain places for lunch: Miss Marples Tearooms in Sassafras, Pig and Whistle Tavern in Olinda (a favourite), Cuckoo Restaurant in Olinda (Bavarian Chalet style, smorgasbord lunch or dinner).
To save money, bring your own lunch. There are also BBQ and picnic table facilities at Sherbrooke Picnic Area which is lovely.
Pic by Stephen Edmonds - Flikr
Location: Less than an hour's drive from Melbourne CBD, and ocated near Kallista in the Dandenong's.
4. Mornington Peninsula: Red Hill Markets and Hot Springs
After tramping the Red Hill markets all morning with quality crafts and yummy food, take a short 20 minute drive to Peninsula Hot Springs in Fingal to soak in a range of outdoor pools including thermal mineral pools, a hilltop pool, cave pool or Turkish steam bath. Affordable and decadent, this is the perfect way to spend the afternoon. If you didn't eat something naughty at the Red Hill markets because you were watching the waistline or too busy spending, you can even book for a light lunch to be provided at the Hot Springs.
Location: Red Hill Markets are on Arthurs Seat Road in Red Hill South, about an hour and a quarter drive from Melbourne CBD. The Peninsula Hot Springs are in Fingal (about a 20 minute drive from Red Hill).
5. Daylesford and Hepburn Springs
Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are prime spa country. But even without visiting a single spa, Daylesford is still well worth a day trip. Its historic buildings, quaint shops and stunning lake and surroundings are simply irresistible.
I suggest starting with visiting The Convent, an utterly charming 19th century mansion perched high on Wombat Hill overlooking the township of Daylesford and providing rather gorgeous views. There is so much to see while wandering inside and outside this intriguing building set on six acres of prime land. The mansion includes a unique 3 level gallery of different types of fine art, a retail area, chapel and nuns museum.
After the morning spent exploring the Convent Gallery, it is simply a pleasure to wander Daylesford's pretty streets and quaint shops to find the perfect venue for lunch. Alternatively, pack a picnic and enjoy lunch by stunning Lake Daylesford. Autumn is a particularly wondrous time to visit this area. The afternoon can be spent exploring more of Daylesford or getting massaged and sitting in a mud bath at one of the many day spa's in Daylesford or Hepburn Springs such as the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa.
Location: About an hour and twenty minutes drive from Melbourne CBD.
6. Hanging Rock - Macedon Ranges
A scenic one hour drive through the Macedon Ranges leads to Victoria's most spectacular and unique rock, Hanging Rock. A volcanic creation formed around six million years ago, Hanging Rock is a spectacle in itself and provides a fun forty minute climb to reach the top. Teeming with nooks and crannies to get distracted by, it is bucket loads of fun to spend all day exploring this ridiculously massive rock.
Pack a picnic lunch or go to the cafe in the area for lunch - I recommend the picnic on top of the rock. If you happen to have any extra time left over in the day, visit one or two of the many wineries in the Macedon Ranges.
Hot Tip: For extra interest, spookiness and talking points, start the fun early, and watch the movie 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' the night before you go on this day trip.
Location: South Rock Road, Woodend ( 1 hour drive from Melbourne)
7. The Dandenong's: Puffing Billy
Take an ancient open air steam train through the lush Dandenong Ranges for a nature filled, fun and scenic day out. Running from Belgrave to Gembrook, Puffing Billy provides options to dine on the train for lunch or dinner (book in advance for the onboard luncheon).
Alternatively, pack your own lunch, get off at Emerald Lake Park and enjoy your own private picnic at the lake.
Check Puffing Billy's website for special events and luncheon specials on board.
Location: A forty five minute drive from Melbourne CBD. Puffing Billy departs from Belgrave Station. You can drive there or get the train to Belgrave Station and follow the signs for a short stroll to the Puffing Billy train.
8. Lake Mountain in Winter - Tobogganing, snowmen, snow fights, lunch, hot drinks, snow!
With three toboggan slopes, Lake Mountain offers the most fun you can have during a Melbourne winter without skiing. All gear can be hired on the mountain from toboggans to waterproof clothing. There is also a bar and bistro at Lake Mountain Alpine Resort for lunch.
Although this is a favourite Winter day trip, it can be done any time of the year by substituting tobogganing and snow fights for trekking through the forest.
Location: 2 hour drive from Melbourne (Drive to Marysville from Melbourne 1.5 hours, then it is just a 30 minute drive up to the top of Lake Mountain from there).
9. Phillip Island
Leave early in the morning and spend a whole day and evening there, driving home after the sunset penguin parade and dinner, to feel like you've had a whole weekend away without accommodation costs.
The first stop at Phillip Island must be The Nobbies with lots of boardwalks and lookouts right along the impressive coastline amongst sea bird gardens - expect to see lots of nests and it is even possible to see penguins. This area overlooks Seal Rocks, home to Australia's largest fur seal colony, so bring your binoculars.
I usually spend a good few hours at The Nobbies to take it all in. The longer you spend there, the more you discover. Don't miss the fascinating blowhole where swelling waves of water crash into a sea cave and erupt in an explosion of water.
There are countless options for lunch on Phillip Island including the Rusty Water Brewery Restaurant in Cowes or fish and chips on the beach. On warm days, bring your swimwear and towel for a swim. To finish off the afternoon, there is the penguin parade at sunset (there is a cost involved for this).
If you somehow manage to find some extra time, you can also visit the Koala Conservation Centre, Church Hill Island or explore the rest of Phillip Island - there is plenty to discover.
Location: An hour and forty five minutes drive from Melbourne CBD
10. Mornington Peninsula: Beach Horse Ride, Historic Hotel Lunch & Swim
Gunnamatta Trail Rides offer a Beach Ride for groups of 2-8. I have done this ride a few times in the past, and it is a well organised morning out. You don't need any riding experience to do the beach ride. They also offer a package which combines a Horse ride along the beach combined with a visit to the Peninsula Hot Springs.
Alternatively, I recommend doing a morning horse ride along the beach, then heading to the historic Royal Hotel in Mornington opposite the beach for lunch, and taking a dip afterwards in the sea (weather permitting) - a seriously perfect action packed yet relaxing day out.
Location: Horse Riding at Fingal with Gunnamatta Trail Rides is one hour and fifteen minutes drive from Melbourne, Mornington for Lunch on the Esplanade which is a thirty minute drive from Fingal back toward Melbourne.
There is no number eleven on this list. But if I were to add one, it would be a day trip driving the Great Ocean Road to Lorne - breathtaking. This drive is long and so jam- packed with exciting pullovers that I much prefer it for a whole weekend away though.
Finally, I could not complete this article without mentioning a day trip to Queenscliff. Driving to the pretty seaside town of Sorrento and getting the ferry to Queenscliff to wander the streets, loiter around the markets and do lunch at the charming historic Queenscliff Hotel makes for a great day trip.
Just make sure you check the ferry time table first and leave early in the morning. The drive is about an hour and twenty minutes to Sorrento from Melbourne, and the ferry trip to Queenscliff from Sorrento takes about 40 minutes and is all part of the fun.
I guess this really should have been a Top Twelve list, and unofficially, it is.