I’ve been living more than a year in Melbourne. Even though I love the bustling life in the city, sometimes my mind craves for an escape from all the traffic, noise and busyness. Then it is a good time to take a car, or sometimes you are lucky and can use the public transport, and head to diverse, peaceful and relaxing countryside outside Melbourne. If you are looking for getaways for a day or two, you might find this list helpful.
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is world’s largest war memorial and, if you ask me, one of the most beautiful coastal routes in the entire world. You have to drive two hours from Melbourne to a small surfing town called Torquay, and from there you can slowly start to drive on the Great Ocean road. Along the way you will see beautiful beaches, idyllic towns, rainforests, majestic cliffs emerging from the ocean and world famous rock formations, the most popular being the Twelve Apostles. If you have only one day trip to pick, choose this one (and make it a two-day-trip and spend the night near the Apostles so you can see them both during the sunset and sunrise).
If you have more time, you can combine The Great Ocean Road and The Grampians as a three- or four-day trip. The Grampians is a natural park listed on the Australians natural heritage list, and if you are into hiking, this is the place to go. The park is located around 260 kilometers from Melbourne and it is famous for being one of the richest aboriginal rock art sites in south-eastern Australia.
The Dandenong Ranges
If you have just one day to get out from the city, you can visit the Dandenong Ranges, a set of low mountain ranges and valleys covered in rainforest and ferny vegetation. The area is located relatively near, only 35 kilometers from Melbourne. You can for example catch a train to Upper Ferntree Gully and do a walk called 1000 steps (yes, a lot of steps involved). Or especially if you are traveling with kids, you can catch a train to Belgrave and visit Puffing Billy, an old steam engine train, and travel to Lakeside or to some other small town along its route. Or if you want to see magnificent views, the best place is the Skyhigh and the lookout there.
Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula
The citizens of Melbourne, the Melburnians, love to spend their weekends visiting the popular wine regions of Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, do a bit of wine tastings, buy a bottle or two and have a lunch at one of the high quality restaurants in the area. One thing I would love to do, and it is now at the top of my Australian bucket list, is to do a hot air balloon ride over the wineries in Yarra Valley during the sunrise.
Phillip Island is located around 140 kilometers from Melbourne. It is a beautiful, small island with almost 100 kilometers of coastline. I guess the most famous thing there to see are the small penguins that leave their nests every morning before sunrise. They spend the day at the sea catching fish, and after the sun has set, they return to their nests where the baby penguins are eagerly waiting. While the penguins are performing their daily duties, hundreds of tourists are watching this spectacle called the penguin parade. I’ve seen the penguin parade as a kid and again after 25 years, and yes, the penguins still look cute.
Have you ever wanted to swim with dolphins? Well, you can do that near Melbourne in a small, upscale beach town called Sorrento. A couple of companies are doing dolphin cruises where you can either swim with wild dolphins or admire them and seals from the boat. I felt that companies are operating according to high ethical standards and trying not to cause any stress on the animals. Luckily the dolphins are so curious and friendly that they actually approach boats and especially people in the water.
If you want to see native Australian animals, Healesville Sanctuary is the place to go (if you are considering between Melbourne Zoo or Healesville, choose this one!). Here I felt that the staff is not just working there but they really love the animals and know each and everyone’s personality.
Wilsons Promontory is a natural park located approximately 170 kilometers from Melbourne, so depending the traffic, it takes around three hours to get there. In order to avoid rushing through the area, I would recommend spending at least one night at the campsite there (must be booked in advance, and during the school holidays, really well in advance). Wilsons Prom is known for its beautiful beaches (check out Squeaky beach where the sand literally squeaks when you walk on it), rainforests, mountains and wildlife. You can have a relaxing day at the beach, do some kayaking, bush walks, just admire the stunning scenery or camp in the area. This is a place where I have to come again!
Even the life in the city is great, deep down I’m still a country girl and being out in nature makes my heart bounce. So get out from the city for a while and explore what fantastic things there are outside Melbourne!