Found on the south coast of Australia, Melbourne is the country’s second largest city.
For those who live there and for many who visit, it’s the best city in the country.
Consistently rated as having the highest living standards in the world, Melbourne is a favorite place to visit for anyone traveling the east coast of Australia, especially Victoria.
There’s plenty of culture, food, and history to be found in the city itself, but the real delights of a visit to Melbourne lie in the travel opportunities that are found outside the city.
There are many excellent day trips to be had from Melbourne, from driving the iconic Great Ocean Road and marveling at the unnatural sight of the 12 Apostles rock formation to meeting the many penguins of Phillip Island.
Wine lovers can explore the beautiful Yarra Valley, visiting some of Australia’s best-known wineries along the way, while outdoor lovers will find there are plenty of national parks and areas of outstanding beauty – all just a day trip away from Melbourne.
1. The Great Ocean Road and The Twelve Apostles
The Great Ocean Road is one of the most world’s most iconic and bucket-listed road trips.
For many visitors, this will be the absolute highlight of a trip to Melbourne; it takes you past some of the most fascinating, wild and most photographed natural scenery anywhere in the country.
The drive starts or ends on the coast in Torquay, just to the south of the Melbourne city center.
From Torquay, it carries on west for almost 250 kilometers, until it reaches the town of Allansford.
You don’t have to drive the whole route, of course, but make sure you get as far as the marvelous Twelve Apostles – a stretch of weather-beaten rocks that lie just off the coast.
They are completely unlike any other natural attraction you’ll find anywhere near Melbourne.
This is an amazing tour: Great Ocean Road Day Tour from Melbourne
2. Phillip Island
Phillip Island is found just off the south coast of Victoria and makes for one of the most exciting day trips from Melbourne.
The island is rugged and wild, but it’s not the natural scenery that draws people here, it’s the wildlife.
Phillip Island is home to a huge colony of seals; thousands can be seen basking on the rocks from the appropriately named seal rocks.
More famous than the resident seal population though, is the Penguin Parade.
Visit at sunset to experience hundreds of penguins coming ashore as the sun sets.
As well as penguins and seals, you may also find kangaroos and other uniquely Australian animals across the island.
Suggested tour: Phillip Island: Small Group Eco Wildlife Tour
3. Mornington Peninsula
Found south of Melbourne and just north of Phillip Island, the Mornington Peninsula is a lovely area of spectacular coastline, charming seaside communities, and natural beauty.
Some of the best beaches and bays in the area are found here and you could spend weeks and weeks exploring every hidden cove and stretch of coastline to be seen.
A large part of that natural scenery can be explored within the protected Mornington Peninsula National Park.
It’s so close to Melbourne, but it really is a world away from urban life and the busy streets of the city.
4. Peninsula Hot Springs
Found on the Mornington Peninsula, the Peninsula Hot Springs is really worth an entire day trip on its own from Melbourne.
This is Victoria’s first natural set of hot springs to be turned into a full-on spa and resort.
The setting is wild and scenic, with outdoor bathing areas fed by natural mineral springs, while on site there are all the necessary facilities and services that any spa should have.
It’s an excellent and unique way to relax and wind down, surrounded by nature.
Recommended tour: Peninsula Hot Springs Tour from Melbourne
5. Wilsons Promontory
Wilsons Promontory is a long wedge of land that juts out far into the ocean.
It’s famous because it can claim to be the most southernmost spot on mainland Australia.
When you stand at the southern tip by the dramatic lighthouse and look out to sea, you know there is nothing but ocean for a long way.
It’s a spectacular national park too, with many beaches and some great hiking opportunities through the wild landscapes.
There are large populations of wallabies on the promontory, as well as seasonal migrations of whales that can be seen out to sea.
Ballarat is found away from the coast, around 150 kilometers from the center of Melbourne.
In the mid 19th Century it was the scene of a huge gold rush that led to the proper settlement of Victoria by Europeans, as thousands flooded into the area to find their own fortunes.
Today, Ballarat has grown into a large city, but along the way became famous for hosting the only armed rebellion in Australian history, as gold prospectors tried to win more rights.
It’s as historic as it gets in Australia, and there is plenty to explore in this unique place.
7. Pentridge Prison
Another historic destination to visit from Melbourne is the infamous Pentridge Prison in the Coburg area.
It’s more of a niche day trip to make, of course – this isn’t for everyone.
But you can tour the old prison grounds and even see how it’s being slowly transformed into a new sort of Melbourne-esque village following its closure two decades ago.
This is the prison where Ned Kelly was held prisoner and the same prison where, years later, Australia’s most famous criminal, Chopper, was held too.
Recommended tour: Pentridge Prison: 2-Hour Ghost Tour with Special Access
8. St Kilda
St Kilda is south of the Melbourne CBD, and although originally founded as a separate settlement, it’s slowly become engulfed by the sprawl of the city, to become more of a suburb.
It’s an excellent place to escape the confines of city life.
St Kilda stretches along the coast, overlooking the huge bay Melbourne was founded at the head of.
It’s a place of quirky cafes, backpacker-style bars and excellent day and nightlife, all through the year.
On the western side of Port Phillip Bay, Geelong is the second largest city in Victoria, although it’s less than 75 kilometers to the south of Melbourne.
It’s one of the oldest cities in the state and is a great alternative to Melbourne life, as things here are quieter and slower.
There’s a scenic harbor front, many highly-rated restaurants, and an ever-expanding cultural scene to discover in Geelong.
Daylesford is a popular place to travel north of the city in order to relax and wind down in the green hills.
This is predominantly a spa town and there are a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and hotels – mostly catering to the many tourists who visit.
The town and the surrounding area are the site of an enormous number of mineral water springs – it’s this water and its supposed refreshing qualities that led to many spas popping up in the town.
Daylesford is in a picturesque setting too, built around a lake and surrounded by rugged hills.
A favorite day trip from Melbourne is to take the ferry across Port Phillip Bay to the town of Williamstown, which is slowly becoming more of a suburb as Melbourne expands exponentially.
This is a historic area, being the first site of European settlers in the state to build a harbor.
There’s a rich maritime history here, and you can explore this across the town, including visiting the beach and the old lighthouse.
Related activity: Melbourne City and Williamstown Ferry Cruise
12. Yarra Valley
The Yarra Valley is the perfect day trip from Melbourne for anyone who loves food, wine, and beautiful scenery.
The valley is one of Australia’s most well-known wine producing areas, and there are many tours running to the plethora of wineries found here.
You can self-drive, of course, but if you want to enjoy more than just a tasting, it’s best to join a group.
There are lots of local restaurants, cafes, chocolate and cheese shops, and plenty of hiking opportunities to indulge in here in the Yarra Valley.
Top rated tour: Full-Day Yarra Valley Wine Experience with Lunch
13. Dandenong Ranges
The Dandenong Ranges are just a short drive away to the east of the city but they offer a world of beautiful outdoor scenery to explore.
While there are plenty of hiking and walking trails through the mountain range, the most popular mode of transport is actually on the scenic train.
The Dandenong Railway is a classic train ride – known as the Puffing Bill Railway – because this is an old steam engine.
The route is spectacular, through the mountain passes and in the shadow of the mountains.
Book online: Dandenong Ranges Tour by Puffing Billy Steam Train
14. Grampians National Park
The Grampians are a long day trip away from Melbourne, but an early start is worth it to experience one of Australia’s most iconic national parks.
Aside from spectacular mountain scenery, the national park is also a cultural haven and historic place for the aboriginal people who lived here before the Europeans arrived.
There’s an informative cultural center and some impressive rock art to discover.
Recommended tour: From Melbourne: Grampians National Park Great Escape
15. Lake Mountain Snow Resort
You may not associate Australia with snow, but actually, during the cold depths of winter, some parts of Victoria close to Melbourne are far enough south and at a high enough altitude to experience snow for a short time.
If you are here in the right season, head to Lake Mountain Snow Resort, to see this very un-Australian phenomenon.