As cool days start to turn warm, excuses not to explore Victoria’s rich but compact coastline all but diminish. No matter how long you’re in town for, there’s always time to hit the road and follow the freeway for a daytrip to one of the many idyllic towns within easy driving distance of Melbourne—whether that be along the iconic blue-fringed stretch leading down to Mornington Peninsula or further inland towards lush green Victorian mountain country. Here are some of the most beautiful places you can visit near Melbourne.
The obvious place to begin any feature on roadtrips from Melbourne is Mornington Peninsula. The drive down—not to mention the destination—is so beautiful that many Melburnians have chosen to do it every day, buying property along the beach and commuting into town for work. Aside from its picturesque beaches, the peninsula is known for its wide-open country roads and wealth of wineries, art galleries and restaurants. For the best views over the Port Phillip Bay coastline, take the Arthurs Seat Loop Scenic Drive, which takes you past the countless seaside villages between Frankston and Portsea. Portsea, Mornington and Sorrento are the more popular towns for café culture and shopping, while smaller destinations such as Mount Martha are ideal for slow-paced, nature-focused escapes.
Arguably the most iconic coastal drive in the country, Great Ocean Road is home to many treasures, but Lorne is foremost among them. Starting from Melbourne, this easy drive will take you along meandering clifftops, past world-famous surf beaches and beside lush rainforests. If you’re lucky enough to be a passenger, you can spend your time on the lookout for the region’s abundant wildlife, including koalas, kangaroos and, if the season is right, whales. In Lorne, you’ll find the best of the Great Ocean Road combined into one tidy package. The region’s undisputed culture capital, Lorne is home to white-sand beaches, the ancient forests of the Otways, spectacular hiking trails, a spirited arts community, great food and a charming shopping village.
First settled in the 1850s, the seaside resort town of Queenscliff spent a large chunk of its history as a strategic defence post. Today, the town retains much of its history, which comes to life on the main drag of Hesse Street, home to rows of heritage shopfronts and the ornate Vue Grand Hotel. Aside from this rich history, the town has long been attracting visitors for its unique geographic position. Queenscliffe is hemmed in on three sides by water, giving it a disproportionate share of picturesque views. Days could be spent wandering along the edges of town, taking in scenes of sandy beaches, rocky outcrops and historic piers and refuelling as needed at the broad selection of harbour-facing cafés and restaurants.
An easy drive from Melbourne, Port Phillip is one of the most popular recreational destinations in Victoria. If you choose to linger on the shore for the duration of your visit, you’ll find a mix of cultural and natural attractions. An unmissable experience in the area is the Penguin Parade when, each night at sunset, an army of Little Penguins returns to shore after a day out fishing. The spectacle can be best appreciated from the main viewing platform at Summerland Beach, which has tiered viewing platforms and even an underground viewing area that allows you to see the penguins pass by at eye level. Should you choose to venture out to sea, the area surrounding Phillip Island is dotted with shipwrecks, marine reserves and abundant marine life—perfect for avid scuba divers and fishermen.
Healesville is first and foremost a destination for foodies. As the main port of call in the wine-growing Yarra Valley region, the town harbours an unashamed obsession with local produce and fine wine. Days could be spent hopping between cellar doors of notable wineries such as Coldstream Hills, Rochford Wines and the luxurious Domaine Chandon, but if you need a break from tippling, there’s also much to be seen on the nature side of things. Wild encounters are all but guaranteed at Healesville Sanctuary wildlife park, where visitors can get up close and personal with more than 200 species of native animals and birdlife.