Within easy distance of Melbourne, there are beautiful natural wonders, award-winning restaurants, cozy cafes, and innovative galleries. So jump in a car, train, tram, or bus for the day and get exploring.
Melbourne has an extensive public transport network. For travel on trams, trains, and buses, you’ll need a reusable myki pass, and a myki Explorer card will get you a day of unlimited travel on public transport. The V/Line runs train and coach services to regional areas including Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and Frankston.
Two hours northwest of Melbourne, Bendigo is a historic gold rush town, and between 1850 and 1900 more gold was found here than anywhere else in the world. Check out the Bendigo Art Gallery which has a reputation for design and fashion-focused shows. On the way, hop off the V/Line train from Melbourne when it passes through Woodend, Kyneton and Castlemaine, thriving villages great for vintage shopping, craft breweries, and artisan producers.
The winding roads of the Dandenong Ranges National Park are punctuated with quaint villages and artists’ studios, forests of mountain ash and verdant fern gullies, but many make the hour drive or 1.25 hour train/walk from Melbourne to walk or run up the 1,000 Steps, a 1.8mi (3km) track ascending through a damp fern valley up through tree ferns and manna gums.
For a quick dip on a hot day, Melbournians head to Plenty Gorge, 12.4 mi (20km) from the city. The water is clear and refreshing, and there are abundant kangaroos and parrots in the area.
While these destinations are also accessible by public transport, they are best visited by car due to the distance, the flexibility to visit multiple spots, and the ability to carry gear such as surfboards.
An hour southeast of Melbourne by car, the Mornington Peninsula is known for its beautiful coastlines, abundant marine life, vibrant coastal villages, wooded hamlets and outstanding food and wine. (It's also reachable in two or three hours by bus.) As well as local wineries there are a number of luxe restaurants, as well as low-key options such as in the charming towns of Flinders and Balnarring which are great for pub meals and cafes. The Village Café in Flinders is known for delicious, home-made cakes, and the Red Hill Brewery is a great spot for a local craft beer and a burger.
The rugged and historic Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve, in Mornington Peninsula National Park, has spectacular wild beaches and rugged basalt cliffs. The Bushrangers Bay Walking Track provides stunning views over the pristine coastline and, further along the coast, you can soak in healing thermal waters at the Peninsula Hot Springs or don a mask and snorkel to spot sea dragons under Rye Pier.
It’s a perfect day for a surfing safari when you stand on Torquay’s beaches surrounded by the high cliffs forming a natural amphitheater, the golden sand, and rolling swells. Torquay is just over an hour from Melbourne by car or around two hours by train or bus, so there’s plenty of time to surf as well as visit the world’s largest surfing/beach culture museum, the Australian National Surfing Museum.
An easy 90 minutes east of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is a thriving wine region, and home to many cellar (and distillery) doors including Four Pillars, a boutique gin distillery that uses Australian native botanicals, and TarraWarra Estate, known for its wine and spectacular views.
There are few things cuter than seeing tiny penguins in their natural environment. A popular day trip destination, Phillip Island is a two-hour drive (or three-hour bus ride) southeast of Melbourne, and home to the Penguin Parade at Summerland Beach. With spectators a safe distance away, every night at dusk, hundreds of the small penguins emerge nervously from the ocean to make their way up the beach to their burrows for the night. Adorable.
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