Which are the best Melbourne Day Trips? Where are the best places to go on a day tour? These are questions that come up a lot in our FB group and one we struggled with when putting our itineraries together. I love all of these day trips; they all offer something unique: the best fit for your holiday depends on your interests, but don’t worry, we have covered all bases.
Victoria may be our smallest mainland state, but she offers a great variety of attractions only a couple of hours from the centre of the city.
Below we have highlighted a few of the most popular Melbourne day trips to help you decide if they would make a good addition to your next Melbourne holiday.
You can use public transport for a couple of these trips or better yet rent a car and explore at your own pace. Are you travelling on a budget? There are plenty of excellent tour operators and some excellent backpacker/small group tours available at affordable prices.
Whether you want to book a tour, take the train or have a car you can visit all these regions easily.
The most popular places to visit on day trips from Melbourne
There are some great tours around – my advice, choose the smaller eco-certified operators for a better experience. Better still hire a car and do it yourself, these are all pretty straightforward drives. Some can even be reached using public transport. Where this is possible I have included details.
- Sovereign Hill Ballarat – the best day tour for history lovers
- The Great Ocean Road – best drive for coastal views
- Philip Island Penguin Experience – best fun for families
- Puffing Billy and the Dandenong Ranges – great for kids and trainspotters
- The Grampians – waterfalls and walks.
- The Yarra Valley – the best choice for food and wine lovers
- Mornington Peninsula – best for beach lovers
Ballarat – Learn about the Gold rushes
Heaven for history lovers
Gold was discovered in Victoria in the 1850s and soon after people rushed from around the world to make their fortune. Some did, as evidenced by the grand hotels and homes, but many went home more impoverished than before.
Included in the influx was many Chinese miners and the area now houses a couple of beautiful old Chinese Joss Houses.
The main attraction here though is Sovereign Hill. I have visited twice in the last few years and enjoyed it. It’s about an hour and a half by car, or you can take a train and shuttle bus. Once there, you can experience what it was like to live in the 1850s, visit the reconstructed campsites and try a little gold panning.
What you find you can keep when fossicking at Sovereign Hill – Sadly all I found was dust 😉
Once you have struck it lucky wander down the old main street and visit some of the shops and village business who will be more than happy to take your money. We loved the blacksmith and the schoolhouse.
Sovereign Hill is the best living history museum in Victoria. Along with the daytime activities they also offer two evening experiences, a tour by lamplight and a show called Aura that tells the story of Australia’s most famous rebellion. These make an overnight stay very appealing.
You can explore Ballarat in a day or stay overnight. Try one of the grand old pubs in the area. We stayed at Craigs Royal Hotel, and it was an outstanding experience. Onsite accommodation is also offered at Sovereign Hill.
Getting there: Ballarat is 115km west of Melbourne and the trip takes about 90 minutes by car or train.
Take the V-line from Southern Cross Station. Bus number 21 will get you to Sovereign Hill in about 10 minutes. They also offer a shuttle bus in the mornings and afternoons.
Prefer someone else drives? This 9-hour tour includes a visit to Sovereign Hill, the Eureka Stockade and the rest of Ballarat.
The Great Ocean Road
It’s the most popular day trip for a reason
The Twelve Apostles – well the eight apostles really as even when they were named there was not a complete dozen, are the most popular day trip from Melbourne.
The Great Ocean Road is breathtakingly beautiful – I was worried that the real sight would not live up to all the beautiful postcard images of rocks bathed in sunlight or beautiful ocean sunsets.
Recommended Tour: If you don’t have a car or are not comfortable driving on the left then I recommend you a day choose a small coach company. We can recommend this one with Autopia Tours I had a fantastic day out with them.
Getting there: You are going to need a car or a tour to visit as public transport just won’t work out.
If you have the time consider a two-day stay and spend the night in Port Campbell.
Puffing Billy, Emerald and the Dandenong Ranges
A must for train enthusiasts and families
The Puffing Billy Steam train runs through the Dandenong Ranges from Belgrave to Glenbrook. It is over 100 years old and very enthusiastic volunteers maintain the whole railway, carriages, engines and station.
Emerald is an easy day trip from Melbourne that can be done by public transport or as part of a long day out if you have access to a car. It’s a fun journey for families but a lovely day out for couples too. As the steam pours from the front engine and the whistle blows, it’s easy to feel like you have been taken back in time to another era.
Once you board the train try to get a seat on the right-hand side as it has the best views. You are allowed to dangle your legs from the train which has no glass in the windows so can get cold in winter.
You can choose to stop at Emerald if you are short of time or Lakeside where the is a lake and picnic area or continue the full journey to Glenbrook where there is a pub and some shops.
Getting there: The drive from Melbourne takes about an hour depending on traffic. There is a train service from Flinders Street to Belgrave.
Take a tour from Melbourne
Philip Island and the Fairy Penguins
Should you go and see the little penguins?
The Philip Island Penguin tour is one of the best known day/afternoon tours out of Melbourne, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. I have been twice, once with young kids and once without.
If you are travelling with children, it’s a fun family day trip however if you are not a huge animal lover or have seen penguins before, then it’s a long way to go to watch them run up the beach.
Don’t get me wrong, they are amazing, and the area is beautiful but if you have limited time I think there are better choices.
If you do want to see the cute little creatures, there are quite a few other sites nearby that can be combined with a visit to the penguins to make it a full day out. Check the official Phillip Island Tourism page to explore more about the area.
Getting there: The journey by car takes just under 2 hours. The trip can be done by public transport but it requires quite a substantial amount of mucking about and only really recommended for the serious budget traveller.
Check out these Phillip Island Tours
Calling all food and wine lovers
Only an hour northeast of Melbourne lay 300 vineyards and 70 plus cellar doors with dozens of great restaurants thrown in. The Yarra Valley is the most popular weekend getaway for locals from Melbourne a trip to the Yarra Valley offers a lot more than pinot noir and sparkling wines. However, these alone are excellent reasons to visit.
Non-foodie stops to consider include TarraWarra Museum of Art and the wonderful Healesville Sanctuary to meet native Australian wildlife. The Yarra is also a popular place to go hot air ballooning.
Stop in at the visitors centre for more ideas on local attractions.
If you don’t have a car or would prefer someone else does the driving check out these highly-rated tours.
Getting there: You can reach Lilydale and the Visitor’s centre in just under an hour by car. You can also take the train from Melbourne Central to Lilydale.
Beaches, boardwalks and wine
The Peninsula is both a playground for suburban Melbournites and home to a pretty large population in its own right. The popular beachside towns of Portsea, Rosebud, Rye and Sorrento are perfect for a day trip out of the city.
Other worthy attractions are:
- Point Nepean National Park
- Arthurs Seat Eagle
- Peninsula Hot Springs
- Two Bays coastal walk
- McClelland Sculpture Park
Getting there: You can drive to the Mornington Peninsular in just 60 minutes from the centre of Melbourne.
If using public transport, take the train from Southern Cross Station to Frankston, from here jump on the 788 bus for beaches further along the coast. It’s not too arduous.
An open range zoo with an African theme Werribee is as close as you can get to being on Safari without leaving the country.
There is also an Australian trail giving international visitors a chance to meet Kangaroos, emus, brolgas and koalas.
Getting to Werribee: You can drive to the zoo in about 40 minutes from the centre of Melbourne. If using public transport take the train from Flinders Street and then join the 439 bus.
Walks, waterfalls and indigenous culture
Head 2 hours south-west of Melbourne to the Grampians where you will find a fantastic landscape with several highlights including Boorka Lookout, Mackenzie Falls, and indigenous rock art.
The area is popular for hiking and climbing and there are lots of local tour operators who can provide activities like these.
Getting to Werribee: It’s a 2-3 hour trip from central Melbourne to the region.
Public transport is possible but you would probably want to be staying overnight to make it worthwhile.
Check out more of our Melbourne content
- Where to Stay in Melbourne
- A Sports Lovers Guide to Exploring Melbourne
- Two Days on the Great Ocean Road
- Explore Melbourne on Foot
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