The Most Charming Country TOWNS IN VICTORIA
There are plenty of pretty small towns in Victoria that are just perfect for a short getaway or weekend day trip from Melbourne. Today, we share a collection that in our experience offers a mix of natural beauty, great food, and, of course, country charm!
Before you get started, we know some of these towns are technically cities; however, they still have a small-town vibe and warrant their spot in our collection of some of the best examples of towns in Victoria.
This post contains affiliate links. Our full disclosure policy is here.
Charming towns in Victoria: A guide for travellers
This list of towns in Victoria results from a collaboration with locals and nomads who have taken the time to share their tips for exploring their favourite country towns. If you are planning a lap of Australia, these towns should all be on your list. Don’t worry if you are not sure where they are – we have included google map links on each place a map at the bottom of the page to help you find them.
Where it is possible to reach these towns easily by public transport, I have included all the details you need!
Dunkeld is a beautiful small town at the southern tip of the Grampians/Gariwerd mountain range. If you are planning to visit the Grampians, staying a couple of nights in Dunkeld is a great idea so you can experience the delicious food and gorgeous walks the town offers.
The Dunkeld Arboretum is accessible for all, and wandering around the beautiful space overlooked by Mt Sturgeon/Wurgarri is a lovely walk to enjoy. If you feel more adventurous, a hike up Mt Sturgeon or Mt Abrupt/Mud-Dadjug will provide gorgeous views over Dunkeld. Next to Mt Sturgeon is the smaller mountain, The Piccaninny/Bainggug, perfect for climbing with kids.
If food is more your style, Dunkeld does not disappoint! The well-known Royal Mail Hotel features a range of dining options. The Wickens Restaurant is the ultimate culinary experience, and the Parker Street Project is a casual dining option with some really interesting options at reasonable prices. Koopmans is another excellent choice for yummy St Ali coffee and food, plus you can check out the on-site art gallery while you wait.
Where to stay in Dunkeld
With stunning views of Mt Sturgeon, you can stay at the Royal Mail in a mountain view room or indulge in the restored bluestone cottages at the Mt Sturgeon property, a 5-minute drive from the hotel.
Dunkeld Old Bakery was first established in 1887 and has the most delicious, handcrafted baked goods. The historic bakery also features accommodation in the old baker’s residence, perfect for couples. Other accommodation options in Dunkeld include Salt Creek Cottage, Dunkeld Caravan Park and Southern Grampians Cottages.
Where is Dunkeld
A 3-hour drive west of Melbourne, a visit here is easily combined with a stay in Halls Gap. Don’t have a car? You can take a train to Ballarat then jump on a bus to reach the town.
Suggested by Kate from Travel around Bendigo.
The seaside town of Warrnambool has a bit of everything; history and rugged coastline, wildlife, and family activities. At over 3 hours west of Melbourne, it is far enough away to feel you’re escaping the city, but Warrnambool is still big enough to cater for all types of travellers.
Despite its size, Warrnambool has an untamed feel. It’s in an area known as the Shipwreck Coast. The combination of the town’s maritime history and spectacular coastline are central to many of Warrnambool’s attractions.
Flagstaff Hill Pioneer Village brings to life the area’s history. There are old-style shops, interactive displays and an evening sound and light show. The Thunder Point walk and lookout is a great way to get a sense of the dramatic coastline.
For families, Lake Pertobe is a fun place to explore. There are lakes, playgrounds, a maze, and the kids can even zoom around the lake on little motorboats. The park is just a minute or two from several of the town’s caravan parks.
For nature lovers, between June and September, Warrnambool is a popular whale-watching spot. If you want a fix of cute, you have to meet the Maremmas that guard the penguin colony on Middle Island.
There are lots of day trips you can do from Warrnambool. The Great Ocean Road and Twelve Apostles are less than an hour away. A must-do for foodies is the Artisan Gourmet Trail that starts at Timboon, about 40 minutes from Warrnambool.
Where to stay in Warrnambool
We stay in caravan parks, and there are plenty to choose from in Warrnambool. They are right on the beach and close to the foreshore and Lake Pertobe. Try the council caravan park at the Killarney Beach oval 20 minutes west of Warrnambool if you want something quieter.
Suggest by Natalie from Curious Campers
Ballarat, the second oldest city in the state of Victoria, and while not exactly a small town in the strictest sense, it is a lovely town centre to explore.
Ballarat is home to a wide variety of attractions, including one of our favourites Sovereign Hill, a living history museum that depicts life in Ballarat during the gold rush era.
The buildings, particularly those on Sturt and Lydiard Street, highlight the area’s wealth in the mid-1800s. You could take this self-guided heritage walk or book with the local experts who run Ballarat Heritage Walking Tours.
There are also many art galleries, including the Gold Museum, whose exhibits include rare minerals, fossils, and gemstones.
The region’s history is visible throughout the city and not just at Sovereign Hill, so make sure you allow some time to wander. While the former gold rush town has plenty to offer all travellers, it will delight those with a passion for colonial Australia.
Where to stay in Ballarat
There are some lovely historic properties here and two we particularly like. Firstly the George Hotel (Quality Inn) on Lydiard Street in the heart of town. It was built in 1854, and while the building retains its heritage features, the rooms are modern and spacious.
If you fancy a splurge, then check out Craig’s Royal Hotel, also on Lydiard Street. Their superior suite was lovely, but I would have loved to have booked the Royal Suite, we peeked inside, and it looked fit for a king!
How to get to Ballarat
Only a little over an hour from Melbourne by car, Ballarat can also easily be reached by train from the city. A local bus service connects to Sovereign Hill.
Halls Gap in Victoria’s western districts is a great base for exploring the magnificent Grampians National Park. The Grampians are exceptional, from the flat semi-arid countryside to the step rising mountains with their rock faces and alpine vegetation.
You will find there is no shortage of things to do in Halls Gap and the surrounding area. Despite a permanent population of only 480 people, Halls Gap always seems busy with nature-loving tourists coming and going. Waterfalls, lookouts and hiking are the most popular activities in the region.
Be sure to make a stop at Brambuk: The National Park and Cultural Centre to learn more about the traditional owners of this land where Gariwerd/The Grampians sits.
You will find several wineries, breweries, and farms selling local produce, including olives, jams, and various fruit. While for kids, there is the ever-popular Halls Gap Zoo, Grampians Adventure Golf and the e-bike hire in Halls Gap.
Don’t miss a chance to check out some of the best waterfalls in the state, including McKenzie and Silverband Falls.
Where to stay in Halls Gap
The local YHA Grampians Eco hostel is a fantastic place to stay with a good-sized room, outstanding facilities and close to the centre of Halls Gap.
Where is Halls Gap
Halls Gap and the Grampians National Park are around 3 hours away from Melbourne via the Western Highway. Travel by public transport is difficult and probably best avoided.
Suggested by Bec of Wyld Family Travel
Bendigo was one of the central points of the gold rush back in the 1850s. A stroll around the centre of town will showcase several heritage buildings from this period that give the town a unique character and provide clues to what the town will have looked like back then.
From the imposing Town Hall building in the centre of the CBD to the smaller shop fronts with lattice covered awnings, the variety in the architecture alone is worth the two hour trip from Melbourne. This is one of the most historic small towns in Victoria.
If the town’s history interests you, then the Central Deborah Gold Mine is a great place to start. Tours run regularly each day and take you to depths of 61, 85 and 228 metres below the surface. You will cringe at the working conditions of years gone by, but the stories are equally fascinating. The complex is also at the end of the line for the vintage trams that run through town. So leave the car there and take advantage of the hop-on/off tram line for the rest of your day.
The first stop is right outside the Town Hall building mentioned earlier. From here, you can walk over to the Botanical Garden next door. A small but pleasant space, with the highlight being the large tower at the top of the hill that you can climb to get the best views in the district. Unfortunately, the high wire fences make it hard to get a nice picture up there, but the view is still excellent.
From here, the art gallery is a two-minute walk. If that is not your thing, walk past anyway. The street here is one of the best for that old architecture, and the gallery also has a couple of funny-looking sculptures out the front. The boardwalk at Lake Weeroona and the Joss Temple are the other main stops on the tram line, but you will not miss much if you skip these.
Where to stay in Bendigo
If you want the full colonial experience, you can stay in the Hotel Shamrock. This majestic structure is 150+ years old and is worth seeing from the outside even if you don’t want to stay there. Alternatively, there is also Quest Bendigo, or a lovely vineyard stay at Byronsvale just 4km from the town.
Suggested by James from teamajtravels.com
Sorrento is a lesser-known beautiful small town at the tip of the Mornington Peninsula, just a short drive of an hour and a half from Melbourne, making it the perfect weekend getaway. This is undoubtedly one of the prettiest small towns in Victoria.
The highlights of this small town are its pristine turquoise beaches, the pier and the foreshore area. You could take long walks and if you time it right, photographs of the beautiful sunsets. Both the beachfront and the main street are lined with lovely eating places, art galleries and shops.
There are some lovely options for trails and hikes – popular ones being the Millionaire’s walk and the Sorrento-Portsea Artists’ Trail.
There is a lot of history too. At the furthest tip of this peninsula, Fort Nepean is one of the fortifications that protected Melbourne during World War I and II with a tunnel complex and gun emplacements. You will find several coastal treks and trails with panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay.
Where to stay in Sorrento
We love the Sorrento Beach Motel; it’s more than a motel with ample parking space, helpful staff and a delicious spread of breakfast. If you prefer an apartment, take a look at Carmel at Sorrento or Oceanic Sorrento just a few minutes from the water.
Explore more: There is an hourly ferry service from the ferry terminal at the end of the pier to another small seaside town Queenscliff.
Suggested by Jan from Leisurely Drives
One of the most charming small towns in Victoria, Healesville began as a track to goldfields located in the area in the 1800s. In 1889 the train line arrived, and it was transformed into a tourist getaway. Today, Healesville is a thriving town of just under 8,000 people.
Nicholson Street is the main street and is a beautiful tree-lined street with boutique shops, cafes and pubs. A busy town during the week, Healesville comes alive on the weekend thanks to visitors coming to the markets and riding the historic Yarra Valley Railway. There are also plenty of walking tracks, art exhibitions at the nearby TarraWarra Museum of Art and don’t forget wine tasting at some world-renowned wineries.
However, Healesville is best known for being home to the Healesville Sanctuary, a wildlife reserve and premier Victorian attraction.
The Healesville Sanctuary is located 4km south of Healesville township. It is easy to find; just follow the signs. On a daily basis, hundreds of people visit the sanctuary to interact and discover Australia’s native wildlife. If lucky enough, you can book a swim with a platypus. If not, walk around and enjoy the wildlife presentations and see native animals in their natural habitats. Also, visit the Australian Wildlife Health Centre, where the vets and nurses treat the sick, injured and orphaned native animals in need of care.
Where to stay in Healesville
If you want to stay longer than a day, there is plenty of accommodation ranging from camping to B&Bs and apartments to caravan parks. Check out the Old Mechanic apartments in the centre of town, beautifully decorated with plenty of natural light. We also think the Healesville Hotel is a splendid choice.
Where is Healesville
Located an hour northeast of Melbourne in the Yarra Valley. Known for being a premier Australian wine-producing area, there are also many quaint towns to visit, one being Healesville.
Contributed by Sharyn McCullum from Live Work and Play in Australia.
Glorious Port Fairy is located approximately 4 hours from Melbourne at the far end of the Great Ocean Road. For anyone travelling along the iconic road, adding Port Fairy to the list of places to stop is a must, and you will not be disappointed.
The quaint seaside port town oozes charm and history and boasts being one of Victoria’s most livable towns. There are a great number of cafes, pubs, bars and lovely boutique stores.
There are some fabulous things to do in Port Fairy – historical walks, a popular golf course, learn to surf, SUP or kayak, snorkelling, go to the popular Port Fairy Day Spa, walk around Griffiths Island, buy from the local markets or get yourself a ticket to the world-famous Port Fairy Folk Festival.
Of course, you cannot visit Port Fairy without going to the beautiful beaches. Although known for being a windy location, on a good day, Port Fairy’s East Beach is arguably one of the best along the coast and most family-friendly. Popular for holidaymakers in Summer, it makes for a great place to spend your day swimming and playing some beach cricket. South Beach (or Pea Soup to the locals) is a great spot for a protected swim and some snorkelling – Pea Soup is not patrolled.
Where to stay in Port Fairy
Accommodation is plenty, with options ranging from the Big 4 Caravan Park to the Port Fairy YHA, hotels to luxury stays with river or sea frontage. For something with great location and value, stay at Seacombe House Motor Inn.
Suggested by Erin from Australian Mountains To See
Just two hours from Melbourne, Lorne is blessed with a magnificent beachfront that you can enjoy as you approach along the iconic Great Ocean Road. The main street boasts fantastic eateries, bars, cafes and boutique stores, beach frontage and a grassed area perfect for picnics and kids to run and play.
There is a walking track alongside the water, a fantastic adventure playground for the kids to enjoy, beach car parking in multiple locations, a beachside cafe and a trampoline park.
Be sure to pack your hiking gear, as this pretty beachside town is located on the edge of the Great Otway National Park, and there are fantastic hiking trails and a range of outdoor activities for those looking for some adventure.
Nearby Erskine Falls offers a great family-friendly walk and a popular one for those on a shorter stay.
Where to stay in Lorne
Lorne offers many accommodation options, from camping, backpackers, eco-cabins to high-end luxury hotels and waterfront holiday apartments. Lorne caters for all budgets and styles, but you must pre-book because it is a highly sought after beach holiday location on the Surf Coast. For something comfortable, easily accessible, in and a great location, check out the Lorne Hotel.
To reach Lorne by public transport
It’s a pretty straightforward trip; start by taking the V/Line train service to Geelong Railway Station and then join the V/Line bus service, which departs from just outside the station. It travels along the Great Ocean Road to Lorne; it takes about two and a half hours from Melbourne with good connections.
Suggested by Erin from Go Camping Plus Australia
Metung – Gippsland
Metung is a quant little waterside village on the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria. This small Gippsland town is popular with holidaymakers from Melbourne and beyond. It is envied for its laid back pace of life; you will not find mini-golf, you will not find movie theatres or swimming pools.
What you will find in Metung are yachts sailing on the calm waters of the lakes and people out eating and drinking in the small centre of town. There is still plenty to do in Metung to keep you busy on a quick getaway.
Metung is famous for its pub that sits on the water’s edge and provides magnificent views of the passing boats on the Gippsland Lakes; stop by the local bakery and try one of their amazing pies or traditional Vietnamese Bahn Mi. The Framer and the Cook is a local gourmet grocery store selling delicacies such as fresh oysters and local cheese.
You will find people relaxing, casting a fishing line on one of the jetties around town, playing lawn bowls, swimming, and picnicking in the town’s green spaces. Stroll along the boardwalk into town for a coffee or maybe play nine holes at Kings Cove Golf Course.
The soon to be opened Metung Hot Spring will dry even more visitors to this small waterside location. Day trips to Lakes Entrance, Buchan Caves and the nearby Nyerimilang Heritage Park are popular with visitors.
Where to stay in Metung
Perhaps the best place on the Gippsland lakes to relax and unwind, there are some great options on offer. If you want to stay in town, try The Mooring or McMillans of Metung Coastal Resort.
Suggested by Mark from Travels in Gippsland
Map – Towns in Victoria perfect for a road trip
You could string all these towns together in a nice long road trip!
Other pretty small towns in Victoria to consider include:
- Apollo Bay
Got a question? Head over to our Australia Travel Tips Facebook Group and ask a local.