The holiday season is upon us, and while you may not have time for an extended vacation, you don’t have to go far to enjoy a break. If you have a few spare days over the festive season, or you have relatives visiting and need to entertain them, here are our top five day trips from Melbourne.
The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, winding its way for more than 200 kilometres alongside jaw-dropping sheer cliffs buffeted by the Southern Ocean. The road begins in the seaside resort town of Torquay, Australia’s surfing capital. In a day, you’ll probably just have time to reach the pretty seaside town of Lorne, but if time, venture further to Apollo Bay, the gateway to the Otway National Park, where you’ll discover an oasis of fern gullies, giant rainforest trees and abundant native wildlife. Take a helicopter flight over the giant Twelve Apostles; or visit them from the shore in the Port Campbell National Park.
Daylesford and Hepburn Springs
Just an hours’ drive north-west of Melbourne, you’ll find the twin spa towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, famous for their abundance of health-giving mineral springs. But even if you don’t visit a single spa, Daylesford is still well worth a day trip. Its historic buildings, quaint shops and pretty lake are simply irresistible. Browse the boutiques brimming with art, craft and antique treasures. Wineries dot the landscape, many of which are family run and offer the chance to meet and chat with the wine makers. Stock up on fine local produce and enjoy a picnic by Lake Daylesford, then walk to the summit of Mount Franklin for spectacular views.
An easy 90-minute drive southeast of Melbourne, Phillip Island is home to the magical procession of Little Penguins waddling up the beach after a day’s fishing. During summer, the penguins don’t come ashore until about 8.30 pm, so be prepared for a late night, however there are plenty of activities to fill your day. Swim, snorkel and or stroll the sandy white beaches. See koalas in the wild at the Koala Conservation Centre; experience a piece of Victorian history at the Churchill Island Heritage Farm with sheep shearing and whip cracking displays; or buckle up for an adrenalin-pumping lap of Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit with an experienced racing driver.
More Inspiration for the Holidays:
Around one hours’ drive north-east of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is Victoria’s oldest wine region. Many of the wineries offer tours, tastings, lunch and beautiful grounds for picnics or just wandering around the vines and enjoying the sunshine and scenery. Discover local produce for yourself, stopping at farm gates, roadside stalls and gourmet outlets to collect ingredients for a picnic lunch. Kids and overseas visitors alike will love meeting the Australian animals, including platypus and the famed Tasmanian devil at Healesville Sanctuary. Return to Melbourne via the Dandenong Ranges and jump aboard Puffing Billy, a century-old steam train that runs from Belgrave to Gembrook, through beautiful forests and fern gullies.
The Mornington Peninsula is an ideal spot to cool off with a day swimming at the beach. Out in Port Phillip Bay there is a population of around 90 wild dolphins, and you can join a tour to swim with them. History buffs will want to take a tour of the 1850s-built still working Cape Schanck Lighthouse. Drive to the top of Arthurs Seat and take in the incredible views over Port Phillip Bay. Pick your own fresh strawberries at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm; or go horse-riding in the hinterland between wineries or along bush tracks to ocean beaches. All this is just an hour's drive south of Melbourne.
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The Kimberley Rocks of Ages
The rock making up the cliffs is old, so old, it predates life on earth. Let that sink in for a moment.
“I can’t see any fossils in any these rocks,” I ask my guide Carly.
“These rocks were formed before there was anything to fossilise,” she replies plainly.