There’s more to Victoria than Melbourne, so to get you exploring here are the best Melbourne road trips worth filling the car up for.
We’re suckers for the big buzz of Melbourne city life, but sometimes you need to branch out.
These Melbourne road trips will have you exploring the rolling hills of Victoria’s highlands, diving into outback adventures, immersing yourself in vibrant restaurant settings or sinking into a relaxed spa stay with a glass of bubbles in hand. Whatever your getaway craving, we’ve got you covered.
Daylesford and Macedon Ranges
Duration: overnight to two days
Kicking off our list of the best Melbourne road trips is Daylesford and Macedon Ranges.
Prepare to be seduced when you visit Australia’s most famous spa region. Just an hour from Melbourne in Victoria’s central highlands, the Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region is the ideal destination for wellness and relaxation.
Head straight to Hepburn Springs and waste no time plunging deep into the mineral springs at the historic Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa. For an afternoon tipple, drop into the family-owned Passing Clouds winery cellar door for a taste of their current release wines, or become acquainted with Daylesford Cider Company’s dizzying range of ciders and varieties of organic English heritage apples.
The main street of Daylesford, Vincent Street, is abuzz with activity with a range of new restaurants, including Japanese-inspired Kadota, wine bars such as Winespeake from the team behind Eastern Peake winery, and the soon-to-open Daylesford Brewing Co.
It is worth the 30-minute drive to the historic township of Kyneton, where you can soak up the unique charm of Piper Street, visiting the small shops, boutiques, and delightful vintage emporia. For dinner, indulge in French cuisine and cocktails by Midnight Starling. Then, relax into the jacuzzi at East Wing house and enjoy a night amongst the olive groves.
Duration: overnight to two days
Only an hour and a half from Melbourne, the heart of Central Victoria and one-time richest city in the world, Bendigo has been attracting people from across the globe since the 1850s gold rush.
These days, frenetic fortune hunters have been replaced by a new breed of creative “tree-changers”, who have brought with them a passion for the arts, design, food, and wine which make Bendigo a must on our Melbourne road trips list.
Dubbed a City of Gastronomy by UNESCO’s Creative City Network, the dynamic regional centre continues to celebrate its contrasts, setting vibrant art hubs and buzzing bars and restaurants against grand architecture and storied history. The new restaurant, Alium Dining is receiving rave reviews while Nimbus Rooftop, which opened in 2020 is the region’s very first rooftop bar, with epic views of the Bendigo city skyline.
Great Ocean Road
Duration: two to three days
Of course, the Great Ocean Road makes our list of the best Melbourne road trips.
Considered one of the world’s most scenic drives, with windy roads offering spectacular views of the expansive ocean below. The Great Ocean Road self-touring road takes approximately nine and a half hours, however, is best enjoyed over a few days.
The Great Ocean Road kicks off near Anglesea and continues all the way to Port Fairy. There are plenty of great little towns to visit along the way, including Wye River, which is lesser-known but a peaceful spot for an over-nighter.
It takes under two hours to drive from Wye River to the must-see Twelve Apostles. From here, you’re only an hour away from the last stop on the Great Ocean Road, Port Fairy. Whilst there, stay at Victoria’s oldest inn, the Merrijig Inn and try your luck at spotting seals, whales and dolphins by the shore with lunch from East Beach Fish ‘N’ Chips.
The area inland from The Great Ocean Road has areas of lush rainforest and picturesque bushland that make for a wonderful drive (some people like to come back to Melbourne via this route when they have finished exploring the coastal road). If you’re feeling fancy, stop via Birregurra and treat yourself to a degustation at Brae or pick up some local treats from Yield Restaurant and Providore.
Duration: two to three days
Roadtrippers can drive an additional 90 kilometres north from Port Fairy to Dunkeld the gateway to the southern Grampians. If travelling from Melbourne, the drive to Dunkeld takes approximately three hours. Popular with wildlife watchers, outdoor adventurers and history buffs, the Grampians is a series of rugged sandstone mountain ranges, and forests rich with wildlife and home to significant Aboriginal rock art sites.
The stunning twin peaks of Mount Sturgeon and Mount Abrupt provide a glorious backdrop for a beautiful lunch at the award-winning Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld. From here, tackle a challenging but rewarding climb to the summit of Mount Sturgeon or Mount Abrupt for panoramic views of the surrounding ranges and volcanic plains.
Less than an hour north is Halls Gap, where there is an endless choice when it comes to activities: hiking, canoeing, rock-climbing and abseiling, fishing, or spotting a diversity of native birds and animals. Bunk down in a safari tent at Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park or relax in a self-contained cabin at D’Altons Resort in Halls Gap. Find a vantage point from the skies with Grampians Helicopters or descend 30 minutes down a steep trail to witness MacKenzie Falls, one of Victoria’s largest and most spectacular waterfalls, from the ground up.
Duration: three to four days
Rounding out our Melbourne road trips guide is East Gippsland – located three and a half hours from Melbourne, you will fall head over heels for charming waterfront villages award-winning restaurants and superb beaches.
As they recuperate from the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020, the region welcomes the return of visitors who are looking to immerse themselves in the idyllic landscapes, bounty of fresh produce and local talent.
The Riversleigh in Bairnsdale offers Victorian-era lodging with a modern twist, but if your group size is larger, book into La Riva, Eagle Point’s new grand Mediterranean style homestead set within seven acres of beautiful gardens.
Catch the free ferry from Paynesville to Raymond Island, one of the best places in Victoria to see koalas, and take a leisurely stroll along the trails for a chance at spotting some sleepy native marsupials, or for the adventure seekers take a trip down into the 400-million-year-old Buchan Caves for an unreal stalactite experience.
For those who have built up an appetite, book a table at SARDINE or Sodafish, both hatted restaurants, renowned for celebrating local ocean to plate produce. And for the thirsty, visit the Cellar Door at Lightfoot and Sons for a taste of their sustainable and considered approach to viticulture, or enjoy a pint of local brew overlooking the Snowy River from the Marlo Hotel.
Feature Image: Great Ocean Road | @ashhughesphotos
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