Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, is home to more than 6.4 million people, making it Australia’s second largest city. While the city offers a fantastic array of things to see and do, the huge number of people means you’ll be sharing the sights with lots of others. After seeing the sights, you’ll probably want to get out of town for the day.
Fortunately, for you, the surrounding environs offer a pleasant opportunity to escape the madding crowd. You can take a drive along the Great Ocean Road, stopping to beach comb or surf. You can also sample some great wines on a day trip from Melbourne or maybe get up close and personal with Australia’s favorite animals, the koala and the kangaroo. Enjoy!
Hanging Rock is a gigantic rock formation Mother Nature created from stiff magma 6.5 million years ago. Over the millennia it has gone from being a sacred place for Victoria’s native peoples to being a venue for concerts. It was the star of the book and movie, Picnic at Hanging Rock. Hanging Rock, also known as Mount Diogenes, is the most famous landmark in the Macedon Ranges. Over the eons, Hanging Rock, an excellent example of a mamelon (volcanic plug), has eroded into a variety of rock formations. On a cloudy day, these formations appear almost spooky.
Puffing Billy Railway got its name because, well, it puffs. This well-preserved narrow gauge steam train has been operating on the same route through the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne since the early 1900s. It was one of four such railways constructed in Victoria to access remote areas. It takes just under two hours to make the scenic 24-km (15-mile) journey from Belgrave to Gembrook. Trains leave Belgrave several times a day, but not all go through to Gembrook. On a day trip from Melbourne, you’ll spend about two hours in Gembrook before making the return trip.
Mornington Peninsula is a peninsula southeast of Melbourne that is connected to the mainland in the north. It was home to Australia’s early indigenous peoples; today, about 180,000 people live year-round on the peninsula. Because it’s a destination for local tourists, the population increases by 90,000 during the busy season. Besides pretty scenery, Mornington Peninsula offers great beaches with colorful beach houses and associated water sports activities. Before heading off to the beach, you might want to visit a farmer’s market for fresh foods and a winery or two for wine for a picnic lunch. Its mazes and gardens are worth a visit, too.
Named after Arthur Phillip, the first governor of New South Wales, Phillip Island is a summer tourist destination just 140 km (87 miles) from Melbourne. The island gets 3.5 million visitors annually, most coming to see fairy penguins; the island is one of the few places in the world where you can see these little tykes. The island is also home to Australia’s largest colony of fur seals as well as wallabies and kangaroos you can feed by hand. Several varieties of whales are increasing in population here, so it’s possible you may see some, though whale watching activities aren’t too developed yet.
If you like coastal scenery, put a drive along the Great Ocean Road on your bucket list for Australia. The views along this 243-km (151-mile) route between Torquay and Allansford are simply stunning. Be on the lookout for the 12 Apostles, gigantic rock formations rising out of the sea. Because there’s so much to see and do along the way, you might want to turn this day trip from Melbourne into two. You can choose to walk along the beach, surf, visit an art gallery or museum, eat a gourmet meal at a quaint village or see cuddly koalas and not-so-cuddly emus and kangaroos.
When you simply must have a glass of chardonnay or pinot noir with your meal, the best place to indulge yourself is the Yarra Valley east of Melbourne. The wineries here are best known for these two wines. More than three million people a year visit Yarra Valley wineries, one of Australia’s great wine-producing regions. The Yarra Valley was the first wine grape growing region in Victoria; wines have been produced here since the 1850s. Today, the Yarra Valley is considered one of the world’s best wine regions. You’ll find more than 100 wineries offering fruits of the vine to tempt your taste buds.