If you are travelling to Australia Melbourne is likely to be on your itinerary. With so many places to visit, you will have to make hard choices if you only have a few days to travel around. I can recommend planning day trips from Melbourne City, on your visit, because there are many exciting places to see and things to do worth adding to a trip itinerary. Melbourne has such beautiful and varied surroundings that you can easily explore on self-drive trips.
The Best Day Trips From Melbourne City By Car
I have been driving around Australia on a good dozen road trips of which eight as a solo traveller. A good thing about Melbourne is that most places are within a short drive of 100 km or less. These are Melbourne day trips that you can do without worrying about staying overnight along your way.
Here is my list of ideas for easy day trips from Melbourne that you can do solo or with friends.
1. Mornington and Cape Schanck Lighthouse
Mornington is one of those unusual places to visit near the city. Only one-hour drive Southeast of Melbourne, it truly makes you feel on holiday, even if you are a local. The street cafes, the laid-back atmosphere, the lovely beaches and walks. You can spend a few hours or half-day in Mornington and from there you can easily explore all the Mornington Peninsula attractions and make a relaxed day trip from East Melbourne.
Start with a scenic coastal drive from Mornington to Sorrento to witness some of the best views of Port Phillip Bay, then take an inland detour to Arthurs Seat Summit through the beautiful hills and wineries. Finally descend on the other side of the peninsula, to Flinders, a pretty historic seaside town, from Flinders keep driving along the rugged scenic coastline to view some picturesque rock formations and don’t miss out on visiting the Cape Schanck Lighthouse. Don't miss out on the boardwalk down to the Rock Pulpit, a lovely spot for taking photos and taking in the views on the ocean.
If you love to get active with a more energetic walk, there is also a 100km Mornington Peninsula Walk that combines four shorter and hinterland hilltops walks. But you can also choose the 30km from Cape Schanck to Portsea Surf Beach. Also, another thing to do on this fun day trip is to stop at the Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs.
Road Trip Distance: 120-150 km from Melbourne to Cape Schanck via the coastal highway, Brighton, Mornington. If you add Sorrento, and Flinders, is a bit longer. But this is all doable on a day trip.
My Tip: Prefer going on a weekday-trip, over weekends it gets busy with locals and usually is crowded.
2. The Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary
I love the Healesville Sanctuary. It's a unique wildlife sanctuary in Australia. If you want to see Australian animals, this is a first choice place that should be on your bucket list. Located 70 km in East Melbourne, within the Yarra Valley, it's an easy drive from Melbourne. It is a great idea for a day out in nature. Plan 4-5 hours to be able to take part in some of the educational shows. I attended the platypus show and the birds of prey. I can highly recommend combining this beautiful day trip to Healesville with a Yarra Valley Tour, if you are into food-and-wine, to make the most of your day.
Road Trip Distance: 60 km from Melbourne to Healesville Sanctuary via M3.
My Tip: Leave early to get there by 9.00 am, if you want to take part in the various shows.
3. The Yarra Valley
The Yarra Valley is one of the top wine and food regions in Australia. If you like food and nature, this is another fabulous short day trip from Melbourne and an easy drive from the city. There are over 70 wine cellar doors, microbreweries, award-winning restaurants and some of the best farmers markets in Victoria. You will have to make choices if you are touring the region in one day because there is a lot to see. Next, to top wineries like Chandon, De Bortoli and Yering, Yarra Valley.
Don't miss out on the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery Factory; I'd dare say the best ice cream I had in Australia. Another great experience is boarding the 100-year-old Puffing Billy steam train at Belgrave and a walk around the artisan shops.
Road Trip Distance: 58 km drive from Melbourne to Yarra Valley and 20 km from Healesville via M3.
My Tip: From Yarra Valley, you can also go a hot-air balloon ride for a superb bird-eye view of the area.
If you plan to visit Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary, then the best way to do it is to optimise your time and add a visit to Marysville to it. Ideally, I would start your road trip from Melbourne early to be sure you have access to the morning's birds of prey shows and more animal feeding shows. The drive from Healesville to Marysville is a short distance, and a truly scenic drive among dense fern tree and tall eucalyptus forests. Marysville is a beautiful mountain village in the Yarra Valley region, which was completely rebuilt after the tragic black Saturday in 2009 when the extended fire destroyed most of the houses and surrounding bushland. There are both natural and artistic attractions to see.
The Steavenson Falls is only 4 km away from the visitor centre and from there are a few lookouts and walking trails in the forests leading back to town. Make sure you also visit Bruno's Sculpture Garden showcasing over 100 handcrafted characters made of clay. Very beautiful and witty, I can recommend it.
Road Trip Distance: 107 km from Melbourne to Marysville and 38 km from Healesville.
My Tip: Best if a combined trip with a morning trip to Healesville first.
5. The Kokoda Memorial Walk (1000 Steps)
If you love walking in nature, the 1000 Steps walk must be on your list. It's my favourite nature walk in Melbourne because it's a short hike up to the hill surrounded by a beautiful fern tree and eucalyptus forest. It's easy to get there, for this energetic Melbourne day trip you will not even need a car, as trains from Flinders Street or Southern Cross take you there. You can see wallabies, echidnas and many more native Australian animals in the wild. It is something you can not take for granted, and most of the times are tricky to see wildlife in its natural habitat. If you plan to drive to the Dandenong National Park entrance, it's about 40 minutes drive. Over weekends parking spaces are difficult, and you are likely to park along the road with additional 1-2 km to the entrance.
Read more about this beautiful nature walk near Melbourne.
Road Trip Distance: 41 km from Melbourne to the 1000 Steps Carpark via M1. You can also travel by train from Flinders Station, about 45 minutes to Upper Ferntree Gully and 10 minutes walk.
My Tip: Get there in the morning and possibly avoid weekends as it gets too busy with locals.
6. The William Ricketts Sanctuary
William Ricketts Sanctuary is a unique attraction nestled in the ferny region of the Dandenong Ranges, only one hour drive from Melbourne. At first, it reminded me of an Asian spiritual temple, by walking through its green alleys you can admire over 90 clay sculptures of the famous explorer William Ricketts whose art represents his vision of Aboriginal culture and heritage. A must-do stop is the Mount Dandenong Lookout (5 dollars entrance to the car park) to witness a majestic view of the Dandenong Ranges and on a bright day, a superb vista of Melbourne Skyline. On your way to William Ricketts Sanctuary, there are more attractions, like the legendary Miss Marple's Tea Room in Sassafras, which is a must, if you love tea and love to taste some of best cakes in the region.
If you are a nature lover, I would suggest exploring the beautiful Dandenong Ranges.
Road Trip Distance: 48 km from Melbourne to The William Ricketts Sanctuary.
My Tip: Perfect if combined with the 1000 Steps Walk.
7. Phillip Island
Phillip Island is probably the most known attraction in Melbourne's surroundings. The famous little penguin's parade is the highlight that attracts thousands of visitors 365 days a year. I have been to Phillip Island and toured the island on a two-day road trip. While I liked the penguin parade, seeing penguins is not something you can take for granted. See more of what the island has to offer like Nobbies Point and the Koala wildlife Sanctuary to name a few. While you can visit Phillip Island on a day, a multi-day trip from Melbourne in combination with a visit to Wilson Promontory or Cape Paterson.
Road Trip Distance: 140 km from Melbourne to Phillip Island, via M1. You can also get there by bus.
My Tip: There is no public transportation on the island, so self-drive is the best way to visit. Booking the Penguin's parade ticket in advance is necessary.
8. Wilsons Promontory National Park
While all the above trips are doable in one day, if you want to explore Wilsons Promontory, I would not plan only one day. Wilsons Prom is ideal for a two or three day trip around Melbourne. To get there, it's an easy 3-hour drive, and you will love this road trip journey. Tidal River Nation Park offers top scenic walking trails coupled with the best wilderness area for seeing wildlife. If you like hiking and nature, it makes it for a great trip to Melbourne. Wilsons Prom is my favourite region, and in my opinion, it should be on everyone's Melbourne bucket list.
Road Trip Distance: 220 km from Melbourne to Wilsons Prom, via M1.
My Tip: A day trip is possible, but it will be a long day. Plan your time and stops along your way efficiently. I suggest staying overnight to make the most of your trip.
9. Walhalla Goldfields
Another great Australian destination in Victoria worth adding to your itinerary is Walhalla. I'd dare say the top fascinating heritage township I have ever seen in Australia. I recently visited last year for the first time, and I hope to go back again. As Walhalla lies 200 km in the Eastern Gippsland, this is ideal when planning a road tour from Melbourne to Sydney along the South East Coast of Australia.
Road Trip Distance: 185 km from Melbourne to Walhalla.
My Tip: A day trip is perfect but tiring. I suggest staying overnight if you want to enjoy the stunning landscape and beautiful forests.
10. The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road (approx. 200kms from Melbourne) is one of the most beautiful and scenic coastal drives in Australia. This amazing drive will take you through sea cliffs, scenic beaches, and some amazing rock formations. The Great Ocean Road Trip is one of the most iconic road trips you can take, not just in Australia, but in the entire world. The drive from Melbourne carries on the west for almost 250 kilometres, until it reaches the town of Allansford. The Great Ocean Road is more popular by the name of 12 Apostles. We have an entire blog post dedicated to the Great Ocean Road Trip, as it is a must-visit in Australia.
Road Trip Distance: 290 km from Melbourne to Port Campbell.
My Tip: A day trip is possible but very tiring. I suggest leaving early at 5 or 6.00 am from Melbourne city to be able to enjoy it and not feel rushed. At least one-night stopover is recommended.
How to plan efficiently your Melbourne Day Trips
The best way to organise your day trips from Melbourne CBD is to hire a car. You may prefer self-driving than guided Melbourne tours if you are travelling with a friend or companion. Road tripping alone is good fun, and driving in-and-out of Melbourne is easy. If you are on a tight schedule, you may combine a guided-tour with some trips by public transport or by train too.
These are my favourite day trips from Melbourne that you can do also by travelling solo around Australia.
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Updates: This post was last updated in March 2020
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