Top 10 day trips and short breaks in Melbourne

Beyond Melbourne there are spectacular landscapes, historic towns, celebrated restaurants and award-winning vineyards to discover.

They're all brilliant reasons to add a day-trip or short break to your next Melbourne holiday.

As addictive as Melbourne can be, taking a day, a night or even a week away from the hustle and bustle can add a whole new dimension to your visit. Whether you're travelling with kids, living it up with friends or enjoying a romantic break for two, many of best places to visit outside Melbourne are only a short train or road trip away (60 to 90 minutes).

1. Yarra Valley for wine, food, walks and wildlife

Driving or train time from Melbourne: 90 minutes
Recommended duration: 3 days
Explore the Yarra Valley’s famous vineyards, breweries, cider houses, farmers’ markets and cheese makers; dine alfresco or fireside in some of Victoria's finest restaurants; visit the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary to make some furry friends; and wander through majestic forests in the Yarra and Dandenong Ranges. For a special treat, rise early to glide above the landscapes in a hot air balloon or rediscover your happy place at a luxurious day spa retreat.

2. Ballarat for gold mining history and food culture

Driving time from Melbourne: 90 minutes
Train time from Melbourne: 70 minutes
Recommended duration: 1 - 3 days
Historic gold mines and Victorian architecture set the scene for a city that's alive with breakfast cafes, boutique breweries and celebrated restaurants. Sovereign Hill outdoor museum is one of the popular Melbourne day tours. It's a must-visit experience, complete with underground mine tours, a replica main street and live performances. Other top attractions include Lake Wendouree, the botanical gardens and the tram museum. Wine lovers will find delicious micro-climate nuances in the Pyrenees wine region.

3. Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula for beach life and a taste trail

Driving or train time from Melbourne: 75 minutes
Recommended duration: 1 day
For one of the best day trips from Melbourne by car or train, head southwest around Port Phillip Bay to the waterfront city of Geelong. Here you can wander the landscaped north-facing foreshore past public artworks, gardens, cafes and ice cream vendors, then swim in the art deco pool at Eastern Beach. You can also dine with harbour views, explore the emerging laneway eateries or treat yourself to a degustation at the award-winning Igni. Another option is driving the Bellarine Taste Trail to explore the peninsula’s beautiful seafood, vegetables, fruit, cheese and wine.

4. Bendigo for historic architecture and an underground mine

Driving or train time from Melbourne: 2 hours
Recommended duration: 2 - 3 days
Right in the centre of Victoria and 150km from Melbourne, the city of Bendigo was once the richest gold mining settlement in the world. The magnificent historic architecture remains, but today the riches are more about the arts, food and wine. Make sure you see the View St arts precinct, explore the city on the historic tramway and head underground at the Central Deborah Gold Mine. Cycling to Lake Weeroona and visiting The Great Stupa, the largest Buddhist monument outside Asia, are other amusements in Bendigo. You'll also enjoy dining at kitchen garden cafes and paddock-to-plate restaurants.

5. Mornington Peninsula for family fun and marine adventures

Driving or train time from Melbourne: 90 minutes
Train time from Melbourne: 1 hour 45 minutes
Recommended duration: 3 days
A popular holiday spot for Melbournians, Mornington Peninsula offers markets, shopping, wineries hot springs, sheltered beaches, a fertile hinterland and ocean shores. Head up the Arthurs Seat Eagle gondola for spectacular long range views, zip-line tree surfing and state park walking trails. Then get lost in Australia’s oldest hedge maize or explore the beautiful formal gardens at Heronswood House. Other things to do include snorkelling with sea dragons, kayaking in a dolphin sanctuary and cycling in Point Nepean National Park.

6. Great Ocean Road for a legendary coastal journey

Total distance: 250km
Recommended duration: 3 - 5 days
If you like a scenic road trip, with seaside villages and big nature along the way, you'll love the Great Ocean Road. One of the best road trips from Melbourne, it winds for 243km around the dramatic Southern Ocean coastline. You'll see the famous 12 Apostles rock stacks, gaze seaward from enormous cliffs, discover waterfalls and caves, hike ancient forests and wander vast sandy beaches. Each town has its own character and highlights, such as distilleries, seafood restaurants, craft breweries, shipwrecks, cycle trails, seal colonies, wildlife reserves, swimming beaches and surf spots.

7. Daylesford and Macedon Ranges for spa relaxation and wilderness walks

Driving time from Melbourne: 1 hour 40 minutes
Train time from Melbourne: 2 hours 40 minutes
Recommended duration: 1 - 3 days
The natural mineral springs around Daylesford and Hepburn first attracted wellness retreats more than 100 years ago. Today this historic area is known as the 'Spa Capital of Australia' - a place for rejuvenating spa treatments, luxurious accommodation options and some exceptional dining experiences. Be sure to pack a picnic and explore the remarkable Hanging Rock, or head to the Macedon Regional Park around Mount Macedon for walking tracks with stunning views. In the 1800s, Melbourne's elite established summer mansions here with large formal gardens and some are now open to the public.

8. The Grampians for natural splendour

Driving time from Melbourne: 3 hours
Recommended duration: 3 days
The towering mountains of this nature-loving region offer walking trails with feet-tingling lookouts, thundering waterfalls and a striking backdrop from the plains below. You can visit Brambuk - The National Park Cultural Centre to learn more about the local native plants and Aboriginal culture, tour ancient rock art sites and explore the 200km Silo Art Trail. It's also great to call into pioneering wine family vineyards, like Best’s Great Western, and book a table at highly-rated fine dining restaurants such as Wickens in Dunkeld.

9. The High Country for wineries, food culture and national parks

Driving time from Melbourne: 3 hours
Recommended duration: 3 - 5 days
The mountain and valley landscapes of the historic High Country region are heavenly. Thanks to the cooler climate here, you'll discover a huge range of fresh local produce, award-wining wineries and a great foodie culture. Head northeast from Melbourne by car or take a train to Wangaratta. From there, you can drive the scenic Great Alpine Road or cycle the 100km Murray-to-Mountains Rail Trail. If water is more your thing, stop at Lake Eildon to swim, fish, kayak, water-ski or hire your own houseboat.

10. Murray River for a leisurely cruise 

Driving time from Melbourne: 2 hours 45 minutes
Train time from Melbourne: 3 hours
Recommended duration: 2 - 5 days
Famous for riverboat cruises and houseboat holidays, Murray River is also a fun region to explore by car. You'll find plenty of sandy river beaches and forest walks to enjoy. It's known as Victoria's food bowl, so there's no shortage of fresh farm-gate produce, award-winning vineyards and celebrated places to dine. The historic river port of Echuca is a must-visit hub for paddle steamer trips, houseboat hire and discovering the river's fascinating past.

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