The second most populated city in Australia, and definitely vying for the top spot as the country’s most popular, Melbourne is one of our favourite travel destinations. A few days here will have you wandering down animated laneways, sipping cocktails in secret bars, shopping the retail and market precincts and dining out daily to make the most of Melbourne’s epic food scene.
Once you’ve digested all there is to eat, drink and see in Melbourne’s CBD, you might find yourself craving an escape from the concrete jungle for a bit of natural scenery, which is why we’re bringing you our five top picks for natural escapes outside of Melbourne city.
Great Ocean Road and 12 Apostles
The obvious number one choice for a Melbourne city escape is to take a road trip along Great Ocean Road. One of the most beautiful drives on offer in the Land Downunder, Great Ocean Road is a sought after destination for Australians and visiting travellers alike. There are a few ways to steer yourself along this scenic route depending on the time you have to tackle it. If you only have a day, we recommend locking in the top sights like Loch Ard Gorge and the Twelve Apostles, only four hours from Melbourne. Stop in at Lorne on the way there or back to check out Teddys Lookout and get amongst the fern gullies at Melba Gully State Park. If you have days to cruise the coast, take your time journeying along the road, stopping in at towns like Torquay (home to the annual Rip Curl Surfing Competition), Apollo Bay and Port Campbell. If you’re driving all the way to the end of the road, make sure you visit Warnambool and Port Fairy too, ideal coastal towns for an overnight stopover before journeying further towards South Australia or turning back for Melbourne.
Grampians National Park
If too much time in the city has you feeling claustrophobic and craving greenery, lace up your hiking boots and head for the Grampians National Park. The Grampians (Gariwerd) refers to the mountainous ranges and thick bushland located around three hours west from Melbourne. If you consider yourself an outdoor explorer, you’ll relish in this Park’s bounty of camping, climbing and hiking spots. The Grampians is also rich in culture and history, home to the largest number of significant and ancient Aboriginal rock art paintings and shelters in southern Australia. Be sure to visit Brambuk (the cultural centre) if you want to learn more about the traditional custodians of the land. MacKenzie Falls is one of the most visited spots in the park, with options to take in the scenery from the lookout platform or climb to the base. If your trip out there is for hiking purposes, make sure you put the Pinnacle Lookout, the Balconies and Boroka Lookout on your list if you’re after something moderately strenuous, and Mount Sturgeon, Mount William and Mount Rosea Loop Walk if you have the time and energy to conquer bigger Grampians peaks.
Wilsons Promontory National Park
A three-hour drive from Melbourne CBD is one of Victoria’s most loved national parks, Wilsons Promontory National Park, also simply known as ‘The Prom’. Spanning 50,000 hectares, this nature reserve is positioned at the southernmost tip of Australia, a place once connected to Tasmania. Now long removed from its island neighbour, what remains on mainland Australia is a region of impeccable beauty and epic natural surroundings. Travellers who revel in outdoor activities and getting closer to nature will love a stay at The Prom, dipping in and out of secluded coves, wandering over granite mountaintops, hiking through forested valleys and saying G’day to the Aussies in the area - kangaroos, emus, wombats and echidnas.
Image thanks to Visit Melbourne
If you’re feeling a little starved of wildlife in Melbourne’s urban environment, Phillip Island is the place to get your fix. Only 90 minutes from Melbourne, the most famous animal attraction on the island is undoubtedly the Penguin Parade. Each day, hundreds of little penguins waddle back to the shore after a long day spent out at sea fishing. You can watch these cute, flightless birds make their way home from viewing stands and boardwalks, all the while enjoying spectacular coastal scenery. It doesn’t stop with the penguins either, Phillip Island is one of the best spots in Victoria to spot humpback whales and southern right whales from May to October. You can do this on the water with a whale-watching boat tour, or walk, ride or drive along the Bass Coast Whale Discovery Trail. You can see koalas in their natural habitat at The Koala Reserve and even pat one at the Maru Koala and Animal Park. The list of wildlife park experiences and encounters could go on, but the bottom line is, animal lovers won’t be disappointed with a trip to Phillip Island. Not fussed on furry friends? There’s plenty of alternatives to occupy your hours on the island, including fishing, boating, walking, cycling, markets and golf.
Image thanks to Hello Blossoms
Fill one or a few days with a bit of fun to Melbourne’s south-east with a trip to the Mornington Peninsula. While this might seem like just another one of Victoria’s captivating coastal regions, there’s a lot going on here for travellers to get around. If you really want to lose yourself (and maybe your travelling companion for a few hours), visit Australia’s oldest hedge maze, Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens. If you appreciate art, you’ll love the Peninsula’s McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, home of Australian sculpture, and the Mornington Regional Art Gallery, showcasing contemporary and seminal works. Wash away the city’s stressors at Victoria’s only naturally heated geothermal springs - the Peninsula Hot Springs. Here you can resolve to relax in Australia’s first geothermal resort, featuring mineral spring baths, hot springs and modern treatment rooms for massages and pampering. Wine aficionados will feel spoilt for choice at the Peninsula, with 170 vineyards and over 50 cellar doors around the area, including Red Hill, Merricks, Main Ridge, Balnarring and Moorooduc. Pair this with locally sourced produce from the region and you’ll be taking your tastebuds on holiday in no time too. If you’ve journeyed from Melbourne for the scenery and panoramic views, make sure you spare some time for Arthurs Seat, accessed by a 304-metre hill climb or a leisurely recline in Arthurs Seat Eagle, a gondola ride above the trees.
Want to find out more about our favourite destinations, sights and spots in and around Melbourne? Get in touch! We've got plenty more to add to your "must-see" Victoria itinerary.