Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne
Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Explore the Mornington Peninsula's Breathtaking Coastline
With its rugged cliffs, secluded beaches, and aquamarine waters, the Mornington Peninsula offers some of the most scenic coastline within reach of Melbourne. Located just an hour’s drive from the city, this peninsula is a nature-lover's paradise waiting to be explored.
A drive along the Mornington Peninsula’s coast reveals one postcard-worthy vista after another. Sheer cliffs plunge down to pounding surf,golden beaches stretch as far as the eye can see, and quaint seaside villages offer a glimpse into a simpler way of life. Stop at one of the many lookouts along the Great Ocean Road for panoramic views of the shoreline dotted with giant rock formations. Don’t miss landmarks like London Bridge, Eagle Rock, and the Twelve Apostles rising majestically from the sea.
For a close-up look at the Mornington Peninsula’s natural beauty, take the stairs down to the secluded beaches tucked beneath the cliffs. Sheltered coves like Mothers Beach and Fingal Beach are perfect for swimming and snorkeling in the calm turquoise waters. Or try your hand at surfing at the legendary breaks along Gunnamatta Beach. Portsea’s scenic back beaches feel a world away from the city, with marshes, coastal tea trees, and quiet stretches of sand.
After working up an appetite adventuring outdoors, stop for lunch overlooking the ocean at one of the Mornington Peninsula’s casual cafes and restaurants. Relax on a deck with fish and chips or wood-fired pizza as you watch for dolphins frolicking offshore. Many eateries offer fresh, locally-sourced seafood straight from the daily catch.
Don’t forget to allot some time to explore the peninsula’s charming seaside villages like Sorrento and Portsea. Boutiques sell coastal-inspired fashions and homewares while ice cream shops beckon for an afternoon treat. Take a nostalgic ride on the colonial-era carousel in Sorrentoor or admire the luxurious waterfront mansions in Portsea.
Seeing the Mornington Peninsula from the water provides an even more spectacular vantage point. Climb aboard a sightseeing cruise to get up close to the famous coastal rock formations and spot dolphins, seals, and seabirds. For an adventure, try sea kayakingto access remote beaches and hidden sea caves. Scuba diving and snorkelingreveal the undersea wonders beneath the waves.
What else is in this post?
- Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Explore the Mornington Peninsula's Breathtaking Coastline
- Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Savor the Wine Regions of Yarra Valley
- Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - See Iconic Wildlife at Phillip Island
- Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Hike the Spectacular Dandenong Ranges
- Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Relax in the Hot Springs of Peninsula Hot Springs
- Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Take a Foodie Tour of the Yarra Valley
- Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Ride the Puffing Billy Steam Train Through the Dandenongs
Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Savor the Wine Regions of Yarra Valley
Just an hour's drive from Melbourne lies one of Australia's premier wine regions, the Yarra Valley. With over 100 wineries nestled amongst rolling green hills, this area provides the ideal escape for oenophiles and foodies alike. Meandering country roads wind past vineyards and orchards, leading to cellar doors offering award-winning cool climate wines and farm-to-table dining experiences.
The Yarra Valley's proximity to Melbourne makes it an easy day trip, though many visitors opt to spend a night or two at one of the region's cozy cottages or luxury retreats. This allows more time to savor the lush scenery and sample the valley's diverse varietals, from fruity Chardonnays to earthy Pinot Noirs.
Start your wine tasting adventure at Rochford, an elegant estate perched on a hilltop overlooking vines set against the backdrop of the Great Dividing Range mountains. After sampling their range of still and sparkling wines, indulge in a long lunch on their airy terrace. Next, head to Yering Station, one of Victoria's oldest wineries, for a guided tour of their historic grounds followed by a structured tasting paired with handcrafted cheeses.
For a more intimate experience, visit a boutique family-run winery like Mac Forbes or Giant Steps. Their passionate winemakers will walk you through the subtleties of each vintage. Or drop by a charming cidery like KellyBrook, set on a working apple orchard. Sip crisp ciders under the shade of a sprawling old tree.
Of course, no trip to the Yarra Valley is complete without visiting Domaine Chandon, one of Australia's premier sparkling wine producers. Tour their state-of-the-art facilities and sample fine vintages that rival the best Champagnes. Don't miss their deli serving platters of locally-sourced artisan meats and cheeses.
Work up an appetite with a long walk through Medhurst's vineyards, then satisfy your hunger at their farm-to-fork restaurant. Chef Daniel Wilson sources the freshest regional produce to create seasonal dishes designed to pair perfectly with Medhurst wines. Outdoor tables dotted amongst the vines provide the ideal ambiance.
Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - See Iconic Wildlife at Phillip Island
Located just a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, Phillip Island is one of the top destinations in Victoria for encountering native Australian wildlife in their natural habitat. Home to a large colony of Little Penguins, the island provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe these adorable seabirds up close as they waddle ashore after a day spent fishing.
Each evening at sunset, hundreds of Little Penguins emerge from the sea and cross the beach to return to their burrows. Seeing these tiny creatures - the smallest penguin species in the world - make their way up the sand is an unforgettable experience. "Watching the Little Penguins come ashore was the highlight of our trip," shares Janet S., a visitor. "We loved sitting just feet away as they flipped, waddled, and slid on their bellies back to their nests - so cute!"
The island's Penguin Parade attracts visitors from around the world eager for a glimpse of the Little Penguins. Rangers provide educational commentary as you watch the penguins come ashore under the glow of spotlights set up to allow optimal viewing. For an even more intimate encounter, book the Ultimate Adventure Tour to observe them in an underground hide at eye level as they move about the boardwalks.
Yet penguins are not the island's only claim to fame. Phillip Island is also home to a large colony of Australian Fur Seals that lounge about upon the rocks at Seal Rocks. Watch them frolic in the water and laze in the sun, barking loudly to each other. Early morning is the best time to observe them.
"Seeing the seals in their natural habitat was an awesome experience," says Lucy T., an eco-traveler. "We were able to get so close and watch them swimming, playing, and interacting."
For four nights each year, Phillip Island also hosts the Penguin Parade's viewing of the "Penguin Proms" where Little Penguins seem to dance about to classical music designed to evoke their natural sounds. This light and sound show draws large crowds eager to see the penguins' adorable reactions to the tunes.
Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Hike the Spectacular Dandenong Ranges
Just 45 minutes from Melbourne lies the magnificent Dandenong Ranges, an emerald oasis of towering mountain ash forests, fern-filled gullies, and cascading waterfalls. This patch of pristine wilderness provides the perfect backdrop for hiking, allowing you to get back to nature without venturing far from the city.
Lace up your boots and head out on the walking tracks winding through the national parks of the Dandenong Ranges. One of the most scenic hikes leads through Sherbrooke Forest, where you'll be enveloped by hundred-year-old mountain ash trees covered in softly swaying fronds of moss. Rays of sunlight filter through the canopy, landing on massive tree ferns sprouting along the forest floor. The sounds of bellbirds chime through the air as you breathe in the crisp eucalyptus scent.
"Hiking through Sherbrooke Forest was pure magic - like wandering through the pages of a fairy tale," shares Amelia D., an avid hiker. "It's incredible how you can find yourself immersed in such unspoiled nature so close to Melbourne."
For panoramic views over the Yarra Ranges, hike up to the summit of Mt Dandenong. At 633 meters high, it's the tallest peak in the region. The rugged trail winds through dense forest before breaking out above the treeline. Catch your breath as you take in views stretching all the way to Melbourne's skyline shimmering in the distance.
"Reaching the top of Mt Dandenong felt like such an accomplishment," says James R., an outdoor enthusiast. "We couldn't get over the 360 degree views - easily one of the best hikes we've done around Melbourne."
One of the most rewarding day hikes takes you to Steavenson Falls, a majestic waterfall tumbling over a rocky cliff. Hop across the stepping stones at Keppel Falls as you follow the trail through the river valley before reaching the base of the falls. Feel the fine mist against your skin as you admire the incredible force of the cascading water.
"Seeing Steavenson Falls up close absolutely took my breath away," raves Mia G., an intrepid traveler. "It was powerful yet beautiful at the same time. Definitely a must-do hike in the Dandenongs!"
Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Relax in the Hot Springs of Peninsula Hot Springs
After a day spent hiking in nature or touring wineries, unwind in the healing geothermal waters of the Peninsula Hot Springs. This award-winning spa destination lies just 90 minutes from Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula, providing the ideal spot to relax body and mind.
More than 20 open-air thermal pools offer an otherworldly escape, surrounded by native flora and fauna. As you soak in the mineral-rich waters heated to varying temperatures, you'll feel your tension melt away.
"I'm addicted to the serenity I feel floating in the hilltop pool at Peninsula Hot Springs," shares Rebecca T., a devotee. "The panoramic views transport you, while the soothing warmth works out every knot and kink."
This bathing ritual taps into ancient traditions of utilizing natural hot springs to promote wellbeing. Studies show soaking in geothermal mineral waters can increase blood flow, reduce stress, relieve muscle soreness, and improve sleep. The sulfates and bicarbonates found in the springs also benefit skin conditions.
In addition to hilltop and valley pools tucked into the landscape, a large bathing complex houses over ten indoor pools. Relax in the meditation cave or try massage waterbeds and walk-through aquatherapy. The bath house also features reflexology footbaths, steam rooms, and saunas for the ultimate rejuvenation.
After achieving full-body relaxation, refuel at the nearby Spa Dreaming Centre. Their menu of organic fare caters to a variety of diets so you can savor tasty, healthy meals. Dine alfresco amidst the trees or relax fireside and gaze up at the stars.
"The Spa Dreaming Centre's wood-fired pizzas and garden salads tasted so fresh after a day at the springs," says James D., a recent visitor. "It was the definition of farm-to-table dining."
As evening falls, make your way down the tree-lined path to the mesmerizing Fire + Ice experience. As you progress between the Ice Pool, Cold Plunge Pool, Fire Pool, and Warm Pool, the contrasting temperatures invigorate the senses. Gazing up at the starry night sky in between dips enhances the surreal atmosphere.
Accommodation options range from glamping tents to spacious villas, allowing you to extend the spa experience. Wake up amidst nature, enjoy breakfast on your balcony, and stroll over in your robe for morning dips before the crowds arrive.
"Staying overnight at the hot springs let us enjoy the bathing rituals at their most tranquil," explains Naomi R., a recent guest. "Waking up to birdsong then soaking in the mist-shrouded dawn pools was magical beyond words."
Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Take a Foodie Tour of the Yarra Valley
For food-lovers, a mouthwatering experience awaits in the Yarra Valley's flourishing farm-to-table scene. This fertile region provides the ingredients for farm tours and cooking classes that offer a delicious taste of the Victorian countryside.
"Taking a foodie tour was the highlight of our trip to the Yarra Valley," shares Angela P., a self-described foodie. "Learning about how local farmers cultivate the incredible produce and seeing it transformed into unforgettable meals exceeded all expectations."
At Rochford Wines, you can take a leisurely stroll around their orchard groves and vineyards during the Springtime Harvest Walking Tour. A guide will explain how they grow fruits like apples, pears, and berries as you pluck ripe offerings straight from the branch to enjoy. Meander through the vineyards learning about the terroir that lends unique characteristics to their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz. Afterward, a winemaker leads a structured tasting paired with local cheeses and artisanal breads.
For an in-depth look at farm-to-table cuisine, join acclaimed guest chef Annie Smithers of du Fermier cooking school for a hands-on Yarra Valley Artisan Food Tour. "Annie's tour opened my eyes to the unbelievable local food and wine available in the Yarra Valley," explains James R., a previous attendee. You'll forage for wild mushrooms in the forest, harvest ripe veggies from the garden, and collect eggs from the henhouse. Then head into the kitchen to turn your gleanings into a gourmet feast, learning cooking techniques from a pro along the way. Enjoy the fresh, seasonal meal you created accompanied by local wines.
At the Orbost Farm Gate Kitchen, you can try your hand at making cider and jam or learn to smoke meats and fish. "We loved participating in the workshops at Orbost Farm," says Naomi D., a recent visitor. "It was so cool to see how hands-on and small-scale their production is." Taste the artisanal cider you pressed or sample velvety smoked salmon smoked that morning. Their welcoming cafe serves up hearty country fare showcasing ingredients sourced from their orchards, smokehouse, and kitchen garden.
Hit the Road: The 6 Best Car-Free Day Trips From Melbourne - Ride the Puffing Billy Steam Train Through the Dandenongs
Step back in time with a nostalgic ride on the Puffing Billy, an historic steam train that chugs through the scenic Dandenong Ranges. This century-old locomotive transports you to a bygone era of travel aboard vintage railway carriages. Led by a tooting steam whistle, the Puffing Billy traverses towering mountain ash forests and fern-filled gullies as it winds its way up gradients and around hairpin turns.
Since 1900, Puffing Billy has been plying the narrow tracks from Belgrave to Gembrook, passing tranquil valleys and cascading waterfalls along the route. In the 1950s, this relic from the Victorian Railways' narrow gauge lines faced the chopping block. Luckily, a band of enthusiasts rallied in its rescue. Saved from demise, the train was lovingly restored for tourists to experience this vintage mode of transport.
Now operated by the Puffing Billy Preservation Society, a fleet of historic steam locomotives pulls restored wooden carriages accommodating up to 1000 passengers per day. The old-time locomotives burn eco-friendly recycled motor oil to fuel their boilers, minimizing environmental impact.
Climb aboard your carriage outfitted with classic tongue-and-groove paneling and sliding windows inviting the forest scents. Find a spot on a varnished wooden seat to admire ever-changing vistas of giant tree ferns and lush valleys or stand out on the platform for the full open-air adventure. The ride takes you across trestle bridges, through a historic rail tunnel carved out of rock in 1900, and past road crossings where waiting cars pause for the iconic train to pass.
At selected stops, you can alight to hike nearby trails through the forest or venture down to a cascading waterfall before reboarding. Those with mobility issues or small children can opt to ride just a portion of the full route on a shorter return trip.
For train buffs, an added delight comes from spotting remnants of original infrastructure like antique safework sheds and water towers. The Lake View Crank is a highlight where the train reverses direction using a rotating triangle of track.
"Riding the Puffing Billy took me back to a simpler time. It was so cool to experience this vintage steam train that's been running for over a century," shares Amelia D., an avid traveler. "Chugging through those lush forests where there's no mobile reception or wifi was so peaceful. A world away from the city."