Melbourne is a fantastic city with plenty of grit and a lot of cultural flair, but every now and then the wildness and splendour of our rural coastal areas, high country, lakes districts and desert oases beckon us to take our leave of trams and traffic jams and explore some of the less urban aspects of our fair state.
Port Fairy Beach
Three and a half hours from Melbourne (if you take the slightly less scenic route) you'll find this historic fishing town, full of delightful boutiques and charming restaurants. Head down to the beach and check out the Port Fairy Lighthouse
, visit the nearby Tower Hill Volcano
, or join the locals for the town's famous Folk Festival
in March. Accommodation doesn't come cheap during peak season, but if you're happy to stay slightly out of the action, Lagoons Bay
offers a bed and breakfast or self-contained apartments with private beach frontage, just a few minutes drive from the centre of town.
The Twelve Apostles
Towards the other end of the Great Ocean Road
, about two and a half hours from Melbourne, is Apollo Bay. There are many different walks
around the area available to nature lovers, from short hikes to six hour treks, encompassing beaches, waterfalls, scrubland, and of course, the Twelve Apostles
. Apollo's View
in Skenes Creek, just five minutes from town, affords visitors premium self-contained accommodation with an uninterrupted seascape.
Given that it's six hours from Melbourne, Mildura is a destination more suitable for a long weekend, so that visitors have more time to enjoy the break. Well worth the journey though, this lush town with a desert backdrop is home to acres of grape vines and fruit trees and sits on the banks of the Murray River. Here, visitors can take a ride on the old paddle-steamers or even just go down to the river to watch them chug and whistle their way through the weirs. For families, Sunraysia Resort
is a must, with its self contained units, pools, games room, gym, tennis courts and organised activities.
A little closer to home, Daylesford
is far enough from the city to feel like the country, while still being very accessible at only one and a half hour's drive away. Visitors can easily while away a day browsing through shops inspired by the town's 'hippy' culture, or walk around Hepburn Regional Park
and take the waters at the natural mineral springs. Bella's Retreat
, in the centre of town, offers guests convenient three bedroom accommodation with a therapy room on the premises for those who want to make the most of the relaxing atmosphere.
Situated amid the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, about three hours from Melbourne, Mansfield is a scenic town with a rich history, much loved for its proximity to ski destinations such as Mt Buller and Mt Stirling. Outside of snow season, attractions include Mansfield Zoo
and the wilderness of the Lake Eildon National Park
. Mansfield Country Resort
is set amongst the high country bushland and is a good place to stay for those keen on having all the amenities while still being close to nature.
Turbulent seas, unblemished beaches, rich red plains, peaceful lakes and snowy mountains – there's a lot of country to cover in Victoria. Where is your favourite weekend escape?