Melbourne is the skyscraper-filled coastal capital of Victoria. Everyone knows its good points: the street art, the wining and the dining, the coffee culture, the music scene. There’s a lot to Melbourne that could keep you here a while but in 2020 never have people wanted to do holidays and weekend trips from Melbourne more!
There’s a whole lot out there within easy reach of the big city – some of it you may not even realise just how easy it is to get to. So if the pavements and highrises are bugging you out, and you feel like you need to escape into nature – or simply another place – for a few nights, you’re in a good place to head out from.
To the south, there’s sea. Beaches, cliffs, surfer towns, artsy communities, and laid-back lifestyles make for a seaside break and a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Inland is where you’ll find everything from gold mining heritage – with all the historic buildings and heritage spots to match – to gorgeous mountain retreats, where you can get your snowboard on in winter or cycle to your heart’s content in summer.
In between, there are hot springs and spas, hiking opportunities in epic mountain scenery, world-class wineries and storied breweries, and food, glorious food, just about everywhere you can imagine.
If you’re ready to look at booking yourself a weekend getaway from Melbourne, here are some of the best spots you could hit up. All you have to do is hop in the car, and your escape from the city awaits.
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The Mornington Peninsula
If you want to be surrounded by the sea (well, almost), and have access to everything from good food and farms to wine and artsy towns, consider Mornington Peninsula.
Just an hour’s drive from the hubbub of Melbourne, south and winding around the coast, the Mornington Peninsula makes for a perfect getaway from city living. The slow pace of life here, combined with the chance to get active if you feel like it, makes it great for just about anybody.
Sorrento is one place to hit up. A cool, chic coastal village right on the tip of the peninsula, this place is all about its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. It’s thought to have taken its name from the Italian seaside town of the same name.
Here you can explore historic homes, stay in Victorian-era hotels, and live the good life (as they say).
In the hinterland of the Mornington Peninsula, there’s Red Hill. A microregion away from the coast, it’s home to copious amounts of food, vineyards and hillside lodgings where you can meet local food producers and get stuck into a wine tour.
For a chilled spot to make your getaway from Melbourne, check out Philip Island. This is the place to come to lose yourself in grassy fields and sandy beaches – a classic seaside holiday spot, where you can glimpse penguins and koalas in their natural habitat. Oh, and spend all day at the beach, of course.
Away from the Peninsula, to the west of Melbourne, is Lorne. Set along the Great Ocean Road, it’s a seaside town with fresh air and a cool arts community. Combine that with a Mediterranean atmosphere, and it’s easy to see why this place is so popular.
There are music and arts festivals, performing arts, galleries, and a whole load of fresh and kooky places to eat and drink when you need to refuel. There are boutique shops and coffee shops to sit along on the pavement and watch the world go by.
Highlights of The Mornington Peninsula:
- Wandering along one of the rugged coastal trails on Philip Island
- Staying in a charming historic hotel in Sorrento
- Engaging in a spot of art gallery hopping in Lorne
- Sipping on wine at one of the many vineyards in Red Hill
- Having a whale of a time at the scenic Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens
Where to stay on the Mornington Peninsula
Sapphire Shores Luxury Retreat in Mount Martha is a gorgeous spot to spend some downtime with stunning views from luxe rooms looking out over the bay.
We also love Carmel at Sorrento with their wonderful apartments only a short stroll from the beach.
For something a little different, the very charming The Dairy at Red Hill is a very romantic and luxurious spot to spend a few days and you’ll probably try and move in!
The Yarra Valley
Natural scenery, organic produce, and – of course – wine. These are the things that make the rustic Yarra Valley irresistible to any foodie or wine-lover worth their salt.
Set in and around the scenic landscape of the Yarra River, it’s just about an hour’s drive from the centre of Melbourne, making it super easy to indulge in the delights of this region.
With a relatively cool climate, the Yarra Valley is primed and ready for growing wine – its specialities being pinot noir, sparkling wine and chardonnay. If you’re looking to sample everything this region has to offer, the best way to soak it all up is with a wine tour – there are over 90 producers, after all.
If you’re not into wine, don’t worry! The Yarra Valley also has a strong history in the way of beer and cider production, dating all the way back to the early 1800s. Recently, there have been a bunch of cool microbreweries and cider producers setting up shop in the area.
The “Cider and Ale Trail” is a great way to take in the best of the scenery – and the beverages – that have made the Yarra Valley famous. Yes, you can actually hike scenic trails between orchards, breweries and vineyards.
At the centre of it all is Healesville. This is where you can really indulge in the area’s food and drink. Home to artists, galleries and studios, it also has some strong creative credentials going on. If shopping is more your thing, there are heaps of boutique stores to browse on a leisurely afternoon.
If you’re not keen on alcohol, the cafe culture is strong in Healesville: it’s all about al fresco dining, freshly brewed coffee, and long lunches in shaded terraces. If you like your food, you should definitely pay a visit to one of Healesville’s markets. Taking place on the weekends, these are the places to come to stock up your pantry with oodles of organic produce.
Highlights of The Yarra Valley:
- Trying out a (very yum) cheese platter at Yarra Valley Dairy
- Hiking the comprehensive Cider and Ale Trail
- Riding on the impossibly scenic Yarra Valley Railway, starting in Healesville
- Getting stunning views at the Warramate Hills Nature Conservation Reserve
- Dining on delicious grub in Healesville (try out the pizza at Bodhi Tree Restaurant)
Where to stay in the Yarra Valley
There are so many wonderful places to stay in the Yarra Valley.
From wineries with accommodation such as Chateau Yering and Balgownie Estate and pubs such as the Yarra Valley Grand to small, charming cottages like Haig Avenue, Yering Gorge Cottages and Sanctuary Park.
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road from Melbourne is one for the road trippers – the official “start” of which is about 100 kilometres west of the city centre.
This super scenic stretch of road encompasses 243 kilometres of the southeastern coast between Torquay and Allansford.
It’s listed on the Australian National Heritage List and, in fact, was built by soldiers returning after World War I. The road actually acts as a memorial to the soldiers killed during the war, making it the largest war memorial in the world.
Winding along the coastline, it’s an incredible road to drive. Hugging the Surf Coast and the Shipwreck Coast, the highway passes by some pretty cool towns and villages along the way, as well as some awesome natural sights.
After the suburb of Geelong, you’ll get to Torquay and the official start point of the highway. First up, you may want to hit up Bells Beach nearby. The beach here is sandy and, surrounded by high cliffs – which offer up great views of the landscape – forms a natural amphitheatre. The surf here is world-renowned; this is frequently touted as one of Australia’s best surf beaches.
If that sounds like you, you can end your journey here and base yourself nearby. Even if you don’t surf, it’s a worth a stop just to gaze in awe at the skill of the surfers carving up the water below.
You’ll also pass through Lorne. This cool town is an excellent option for breakfast or brunch on your way cruising this coastal road. There’s a bunch of lovely places to stay here, too, if you want to base yourself somewhere along the way.
The road continues, meandering around the coast, traversing rainforest and sandstone cliffs. You’ll start to catch sight of some incredible rock formations – the Twelve Apostles being the most famous. A collection of limestone stacks in the sea, only eight remain now, but it’s still an iconic sight on the Great Ocean Road.
For another rock formation, stop by London Arch or take a walk around The Grotto.
Though the road officially stops at Allansford, a historic railway town, nearby Warrnambool (ten minutes’ drive) offers up more coastal vibes, with heaps to do, and places to eat and stay – you can even catch glimpses of whales during the right season.
Highlights of The Great Ocean Road:
- Stopping off to see weird and wonderful rock formations along the way
- Watching the surfers do their thing at Bells Beach
- Enjoying a spot of food at a cool cafe in Lorne
- Visiting the charming old fishing village of Port Fairy
- Taking a trip to Otway National Park for waterfalls and treetop walks
The Twelve Apostles
Where to stay on the Great Ocean Road
The most popular towns to stay along the Great Ocean Road tend to be Torquay near Bells Beach and Lorne and Apollo Bay although you will find accommodation dotted all along the route.
Lorne Bush House Cottages and Eco Retreats is great for families with their 2 bedroom bungalows often visited by wallabies and other wildlife.
Something really special is to stay at Cape Otway Lightstation with spectacular views over the Southern Ocean and full of history and adventure.
We also love the cottage at Points South by the Sea at Wongarra – top-end luxury and comfort and incredible views and wildlife.
One hundred and fifty years ago, gold was discovered in Victoria. This changed the course of the history of the area, sparking a gold rush and forming the basis for settlements that still exist today. This area is still known as The Goldfields.
If you’re looking for history, if you want a taste of intrepid discovery, and if you like your landscapes adventurous and dramatic, a trip to The Goldfields might just be the best weekend getaway from Melbourne for you.
Bendigo, in the north of the area, is about a two-hour drive from Melbourne. Built up during the mid-1800s Gold Rush, this city is awash with gold mining history.
A good way to experience this is simply strolling around its historic buildings and opulent architecture, with urbane fountains and rich streetscapes.
The best way, however, is to ride the vintage tram through the historic district of the city – it’s super cool!
You can check out the venerable Bendigo Art Gallery, dating back to 1887, or even learn about the city’s Chinese heritage at the Golden Dragon Museum – complete with a tranquil garden.
Ballarat, in the south, is another of The Goldfield’s cities. Just an hour-and-twenty-minute drive from Melbourne, there’s history here, of course, but there’s also food, wine and contemporary arts on that historic backdrop.
Here you’ll find tree-lined avenues, Victorian and Edwardian houses, and landscaped gardens to stroll around. A self-guided heritage walk around Ballarat is a good way to take it all in.
Elsewhere, there’s more history at Maldon. This place really looks like what you imagine when you think “Gold Rush”. Though many residents left after the gold ran out, it’s been kept intact and is now home to antique shops, boutiques, cafes and local arts.
For history – as much as wine – head to Heathcote. With its chilled-out Bush setting, Heathcote was founded in the 1850s. Today, it’s famous not just for its heritage architecture, but also for its fine shiraz wine – apparently some of the finest in the world.
Highlights of The Victorian Goldfields:
- Admiring the Victorian and Edwardian buildings on a self-guided tour of Ballarat
- Visiting the Heathcote Regional Farmers’ Market to get stuck into local produce
- Panning for gold at Sovereign Hill, an 1850s gold-mining settlement
- Walking the Goldfields Track in the heart of Ballarat
- Catching the Victorian Goldfields Steam Railway from Maldon for a historic trip
Where to stay in the Victorian Goldfields
Whilst it is tempting to stay in Ballarat or Bendigo many of the smaller towns have a lot to offer in terms of comfort and charm.
One of our favourite weekend trips from Melbourne was to see Elton John at Hanging Rock and we rented an entire historical hotel in Maldon for our group of 8. It still has the original public bar, fully fitted out, and is truly a very memorable place to stay.
If you really want to get stuck into epic scenery and dramatic nature, the Grampians National Park is waiting for you. Located around 250 kilometres from Melbourne (around a three-hour drive), it’s perfect for a weekend getaway.
Covering more than 413,000 acres, this national park – also known by its native name, Gariwerd – is huge. It’s on the Australian Heritage list, it’s incredibly beautiful – with soaring mountain ranges – and there’s an abundance of Aboriginal heritage to learn about.
The area, naturally, offers an array of different activities to suit any travellers’ needs. From foodies and wine enthusiasts to outdoor explorers and heritage-seekers, the Grampians makes for a diverse destination.
There’s the history of gold in the area, particularly in the north. You can uncover this Victorian history in towns such as St Arnold, founded in 1855, with its Gold Rush feel and museums.
In the south of the Grampians region, you’ll find thriving farming communities. This means fresh produce and plenty of food – as well as some great hiking along trails in places like Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt.
Ararat, with food and wine galore, is in the east of the Grampians area. On a background of Gold Rush heritage, Ararat has some world-class wineries and is the gateway to the national park, making it a good place to base yourself.
In the middle of the Grampians National Park, there is an abundance of Aboriginal rock art – the richest site of such rock art in Southeastern Australia. Incredible motifs decorate caves, depicting humans and animals dating back 20,000 years; these were created by Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung peoples.
There are opportunities to learn about the history and culture of the traditional owners of the land at Halls Gap, with its Brambuk National Park & Culture Centre.
The scenery in the Grampians is decidedly rugged, with sandstone mountain ranges home to an abundance of wildlife. The area hosts campgrounds, scenic bushwalks, and even climbing opportunities for the more intrepid.
Highlights of The Grampians:
- Hiking to immense waterfalls such as the MacKenzie Falls
- Checking out rock art at places like Billimina Shelter
- Enjoying some award-winning wine in the area around Ararat
- Camping under the stars in the heart of Grampians National Park
- Learning about gold mining heritage in the town of St Arnold
Where to stay in The Grampians
Southern Grampian Cottages have wonderful family cottages that are very affordable and centrally located in Dunkeld. There it’s also worth checking out Grampian Chalets.
Bennett House in Horsham is a great 3 bedroom holiday home that is perfect for families and groups while Horsham Riverside Caravan Park and Pyrenees Caravan park are both great budget option with cabins and are both pet-friendly.
For couples wanting completely tranquility, Heavenly Escape is a great cabin in the hills surrounded by Wallabies and nature.
Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges
Nestled in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, around an hour and a half by car from Melbourne, Daylesford is awash with hot springs and history.
Established in 1852 as a gold mining settlement, Daylesford is today a popular retreat for those wanting to kick back in one of its natural mineral spas.
Daylesford is actually one of the only spa towns in the whole of Australia, making a visit here even more of a precious weekend getaway from Melbourne. It’s truly a place to take time out, so if you feel like you need a little TLC, the region’s mineral springs will rejuvenate you.
However, just ten minutes’ drive up the road, you’ll find Hepburn Springs. Another of the spa towns that make this area so gorgeous for the body and soul, Hepburn Springs is where people go to find that rejuvenating feeling – with some added luxury for good measure.
Set among rich forests, there is a range of places where you can take a dip in the mineral waters, none more famous than Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, which has been a Victoria institution since its opening 1895.
For more watery delights, head to high altitude Trentham. Though there are mineral spas nearby, what this place does have are the magnificent Trentham Falls – the largest single-drop waterfall in Victoria. At a whopping 32 metres high, it makes for a spectacular sight.
Trentham also has some pretty impressive foodie credentials. Here you’ll find orchards and olive groves – if you’re into olive oil, you’ll be happy to know there’s the opportunity to taste this king of oils in the area.
These three towns are all part of the Macedon Ranges. Wholesome and hearty, its relatively cool climate offers up not just a chance to escape the summer heat, but the perfect balance for growing some amazing produce (including wine, obviously).
It’s also home to a whole lot of art. You can even take yourself along the Macedon Ranges Arts Trail that winds its way through the region, making pit stops at galleries and edgy exhibitions.
Highlights of Daylesford and surrounds:
- Strolling around the natural beauty and indigenous heritage of Hanging Rock
- Kicking back in the Wombat Flat Mineral Spring on the banks of Lake Daylesford
- Picnicking on a backdrop of the astounding Trentham Falls
- Following the Macedon Ranges Arts Trail for a taste of creativity
- Taking a rejuvenating dip at the wonderful Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa
Further reading: A complete guide to Daylesford
Where to stay in Daylesford
Being such a pretty and very fashionable part of Victoria it’s no surprise Daylesford is one of the most popular weekend trips from Melbourne and in fact, many people, like us, fly in from Interstate to stay!
Ideally, you want to be within walking distance to town and all the great little restaurants and pubs and if you can be near the lake too then that’s even better.
You can stay at a couple of the excellent pubs as well. Our pick is the historic Frangos Hotel right in the heart of town or the Farmers Arms which is on the outskirts of town but has an amazing bistro!
Victorian High Country
High Country, in the northeast of Victoria, is where you can find some of most incredible of Australia’s ski resorts. But it’s a year-round destination: in summer, this Alpine region is a hive of activity for great outdoors enthusiasts. In particular, it’s one of the best regions in Australia for cycling – on and off-road!
Very easily accessible from Melbourne, it makes for a great getaway in winter if you’re looking for some of the white stuff. And in summer, when the temperature is soaring, it’s the place to go to get some fresh, cool mountain air.
There are some pretty cool road trips to get involved with here. One is the Great Alpine Road that will whisk you through the dramatic scenery of the heart of the Victorian Alps, offering up the chance for detours along the way – maybe along the Bogong High Plains Road, or stopping off at Falls Creek.
Falls Creek is a resort town for mountain enthusiasts. In particular, this is an epic ski centre, the place to come for all things snow and ice. With its elevation of over 1,200 metres above sea level, it stays quite cool here all year round. Even if you’re not a keen skier, it’s great for beginners and intermediates if you feel like trying something new.
Falls Creek itself has resorts, or you could stay in the nearby town of Mount Beauty. You’ll see when you get here why it’s called that!
Another of the area’s Alpine ski resorts, Hotham – situated on the slopes of Mount Hotham itself – boasts 50 kilometres of slopes and 12 ski lifts. It’s a veritable hot spot for skiing and snowboarding. Set at 1,750 metres above sea level, Hotham is the second-highest resort village in the country (after Charlotte Pass in New South Wales).
- Cruising along the Great Alpine Road and making a road trip of it
- Learning to fall over gracefully at beginner-friendly Falls Creek
- Trying out some dog sledding with the huskies at Mt Buller
- Heading out on two wheels and cycling in High Country
- Enjoying the fun and finery of Hotham’s apres-ski scene
Where to stay in Victorian High Country
The wonderful people behind the QT group have a property in Falls Creek – QT Falls Creek and is our pick of the hotels in the area. Their funky one-bedroom apartments are spacious and come with all the quirky touches that QT is known for such as their great martini making kits.