9 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways from Melbourne

Written by Karen Hastings
Mar 11, 2019

Surrounded by picturesque peninsulas, beautiful sparkling bays, and rippling peaks, Melbourne offers plenty of places for rewarding and relaxing weekend getaways. A couple of hours' drive from the city center, one of the world's top road trips, the Great Ocean Road, reveals the raw, rugged beauty of the continent's cliff-fringed Southern coastline. In nearby national parks, waterfalls tumble into fern-fringed gullies, and golden beaches rim crystal-clear bays in some of Victoria's best seaside resorts.

Animal lovers will find plenty of opportunities for exhilarating critter encounters, and winter brings its own fun, with snow-cloaked peaks within easy reach of the city. Whether you're an active family looking for outdoor adventure; a beach lover seeking some sun, sand, and sea; or a couple looking for romantic escapes with gourmet dining, you'll find plenty of places to escape the city buzz. For ideas on short trips, see our list of the best weekend getaways from Melbourne.

1. Great Ocean Road

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

If awe-inspiring scenery is high on your list of things to see, Great Ocean Road is the ideal weekend getaway. Less than a three-hour drive from Melbourne, this spectacular road trip is also one of the most popular day trips from Melbourne. Wind and water sculpted this dramatic seascape, and you can witness it all from the 300-kilometer scenic road, which skirts the southern edge of this ruggedly beautiful continent from Torquay to Allansford.

The prime attraction is Port Campbell National Park, where the soaring rock spires, known as the Twelve Apostles, erupt from the sea, as well as other fantastical rock formations, such as London Arch and Loch Ard Gorge. Outdoor adventures abound along this rugged coast. You can hike the trails at Great Otway National Park, zipline at Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, and surf big waves at Bells Beach.

Wildlife is also a top draw. During winter, look for whales from the shore at Warrnambool and at any time of year, you can spot koalas at Kennett River and see Aussie wildlife, including kangaroos, koalas, and emus at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.

If you're short on time, the best way to appreciate the power of nature is to book a helicopter ride and view the coast from above. You can also walk part of the Great Ocean Walk, one of the top hikes in Australia.

For an intimate getaway, Drift House in Port Fairy marries eco-sensibility with sleek, minimalist design, and if you're traveling with the family, RACV Torquay Resort offers a family-friendly restaurant, children's playground, and stunning views through floor-to-ceiling windows.

2. The Mornington Peninsula

Colorful beach boxes on Mills Beach, Mornington Peninsula

In less than a 90-minute drive from the city, you can explore charming seaside villages and bask on the sun-soaked shores of the magnificent Mornington Peninsula. With Port Phillip Bay on one side and the ocean on the other, it's no surprise that beaches are a top attraction here. Summer is the most popular time to visit, when you can make the most of these enticing slices of sand and sea and take a dip in the crisp, clear waters. Bayside beaches are great for families, and the oceanside beaches are best for more active pursuits like surfing.

You can also hike along cliff-hugging trails with glorious ocean views in Mornington Peninsula National Park and Point Nepean National Park, soak in soothing hot springs at Peninsula Hot Springs, swim with wild dolphins, and browse inspiring art galleries. Kids will love the Enchanted Adventure Garden, with hedge mazes, giant slides, and themed gardens.

The Mornington Peninsula is where the well-to-do from Melbourne escape to their fancy holiday homes, and you can see them on Millionaire's Walk, a five-kilometer cliffside trail between Sorrento and Portsea. Across from Rye Beach, Moonlight Bay Apartments is a perfect base for families, with one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as spa studios and a heated pool.

3. The Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley

Beautiful native forest in the Dandenong Ranges

Wilderness, wildlife, and wonderful food are the top draws of weekend escapes at the delightful Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley. Posh Melburnians have been visiting this area for more than a century, and it still makes an invigorating two-day trip. Hike through mountain ash forests and fern-fringed trails; feed cockatoos and crimson rosellas at Grants Picnic Ground in Sherwood Forest; and enjoy a picnic near picturesque waterfalls in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, about 40 kilometers east of Melbourne.

The Yarra Valley is a haven for foodies, with farm-fresh produce and creamy cheeses, and you can top off your day of sightseeing with a delicious Devonshire Tea at one of the region's cute villages, like Olinda. Kids will love getting up close to local wildlife like dingoes, wombats, platypuses, and echidnas at Healesville Sanctuary and looking for hidden outdoor sculptures in the delightful William Ricketts Sanctuary.

Art studios, lush parks and gardens, and farm-to-table restaurants are other top tourist attractions, and don't miss a ride on the 100-year-old Puffing Billy Steam Railway. You'll find plenty of bed-and-breakfast accommodations in this scenic region, including the lovely Linden Gardens Rainforest Retreat, which makes a romantic getaway for couples, with gas fireplaces, rainforest views, and tubs for two.

4. Lorne

View from Teddy's Lookout

Lovely, laid-back Lorne, on the iconic Great Ocean Road, is a favorite seaside getaway - especially during summer. Overlooking Loutit Bay, this picturesque town lies less than a two-hour drive from the city. The beautiful golden beach is the focal point here, and top things to do include swimming, surfing, and fishing. Head to the local pier to buy fresh-caught fish for dinner.

Away from the beach, you can wander through the outdoor sculpture garden at Qdos Gallery, sip a latte at a sidewalk cafe, dine out at one of the fabulous restaurants, and learn about the history of the Great Ocean Road at the Lorne Visitor Centre. Teddy's Lookout affords inspiring views over the dramatic coastline.

Lorne is also a gateway to Otway National Park, with scenic hiking trails and beautiful waterfalls cascading into fern-fringed creeks. Erskine Falls is a favorite. For zipline fun, sign up for Otway Fly Treetop Adventures.

Mantra Lorne makes a great weekend base for families and couples, with a delightful day spa, a heated indoor mineral pool, family-friendly eateries, and even a mini putt-putt course for the kids.

5. Wilsons Promontory

Wilsons Promontory

If you're a nature lover, photographer, or a beach babe, you can't go past "The Prom" for a rewarding short break. About a three-hour drive from Melbourne, this sliver of land at the southernmost tip of Australia's mainland is the state's largest coastal wilderness area, with squeaky white-sand beaches, soaring granite peaks, cool-climate rainforests, and breathtaking vistas.

Top things to do include diving in the crystal-clear waters, which are part of a marine national park, and hiking the many scenic trails. Don't miss the hike to the summit of Mt. Oberon for the best views over the Tidal River and the coast. Squeaky Beach is also a highlight with its blindingly white quartz sands, and Whiskey Bay is a beautiful spot to take some photos, with its weather-beaten boulders. Fishing, swimming, camping, and canoeing are other popular activities.

Kangaroos, wombats, and emus make their home here, and the park is home to an impressive diversity of birds. If you have time up your sleeve, you can explore the park on the Great Prom Walk, which passes through fern-filled forests, threads along the coast, and also takes in Wilsons Promontory Lightstation. Camping here is the best cheap accommodation option and one of the best budget romantic getaways in Victoria.

6. Grampians National Park

Boroka Lookout in the Grampians National Park

Craggy cliffs, wildflowers, waterfalls, wildlife, and stupendous vistas of rocky sandstone peaks and bush-cloaked valleys are highlights of gorgeous Grampians National Park (Gariwerd), about a three-hour drive from Melbourne. Nature lovers can immerse themselves in the rugged grandeur here, and active visitors can hike the scenic trails, climb the cliffs, and abseil into the valley.

Start your visit at Brambuk the National Park & Cultural Centre for an overview of the park's top features and cultural heritage. You can also book an aboriginal bush tucker walk or rock art tour here. Then venture out onto the vast network of scenic hiking trails. Venus Baths Walk is a favorite.

MacKenzie Falls are the highest waterfalls in the state, and other picturesque cascades are Fish Falls and Beehive Falls. For breathtaking vistas, head to Boroka and Reeds lookouts, as well as the Pinnacle and the Balconies. Wildlife is another highlight. Kangaroos, emus, echidnas, red-necked wallabies, koalas, and possums are some of the species found here.

"The Grampians," as it's commonly called are beautiful year-round, but a particularly lovely time to visit is in the spring, especially October, when the colorful wildflowers are in full bloom. Stay in Halls Gap at The Grampians Motel on 12 acres of parkland with free-roaming wildlife.

7. Phillip Island

Baby koala on Philip Island

Wildlife lovers and families will find a host of exciting animal adventures at Phillip Island, less than a two-hour drive from the city. The highlight is the famous Penguin Parade, when these loveable creatures waddle up the beach at dusk. You can also take a self-guided tour of the coast at the Nobbies, where a wooden boardwalk weaves along the coastline, with breathtaking sea views and possible sightings of silver gull chicks and more penguins.

But penguins are not the only attraction at Phillip Island. Spot koalas at the Koala Conservation Centre; get up-close to wallabies and kangaroos at Phillip Island Wildlife Park; and hop aboard a wildlife cruise to Seal Rock, home to Australia's largest fur seal colony (bring your binoculars).

You can also catch a car race at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit and step back in time at Churchill Island, a heritage working farm with plenty of farmyard animals and lovely gardens. After all the sightseeing and animal action, top of your day with a sweet treat from The Chocolate Factory.

On the beachfront, Comfort Resort Kaloha makes a great base for a last-minute family weekend getaway, with a range of guest rooms, cabins, and townhomes close to all the top attractions. Kids will love the palm-lined saltwater swimming pool and Jacuzzi. Couples can hide away in one of the romantic spa suites.

8. Daylesford: Day Spas and Mineral Springs

Autumn colors at Lake Daylesford

Known as the spa capital of Australia, this pretty little village about a 90-minute drive northwest from Melbourne, is the perfect destination for a girls' quick getaway or romantic weekend escape. Healing hot springs, day spas, and wellness centers lure stressed-out city folk here, who come to unwind and relax in the peaceful surroundings. Stroll around Lake Daylesford; admire the views and centuries-old trees at Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens; browse works of art in the local galleries; visit organic farms; and shop for vintage clothes, art, and antiques at the Mill Markets or Daylesford Sunday Market.

Food is also a highpoint here, and feasting on the region's farm-fresh organic produce is the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing weekend away. Daylesford is particularly lovely in the autumn, when the late golden light reflects off the lake. For the ultimate relaxing weekend retreat, stay at the luxury Lake House on the shores of Lake Daylesford, where you can feast on a degustation menu for two at the highly-acclaimed restaurant and succumb to pampering at the Salus Day Spa.

9. Falls Creek, The High Country

Falls Creek, Victoria

Snow-cloaked peaks lie within a short drive of Melbourne, making weekend ski vacations an enticing option in the winter. Skiers and snowboarders with a long weekend up their sleeves, can leave the city and be carving up the slopes at Falls Creek, one of Australia's top ski resorts, within five hours. Mt. Buller is only a three-hour drive, but it gets super busy on weekends. Located in the Victorian High Country, Falls Creek also has better snow coverage and a lovely pedestrian-only alpine village.

Ski and snowboard the slopes during the day with more than 1,000 skiable acres, and snuggle up with your sweetheart by a cozy fire at night. Cross-country skiers can also stay fit on more than 65 kilometers of trails, and kids will love the terrain park. During prime conditions, many of the resorts here are ski-in ski-out, maximizing your time on the slopes. Snuggled at the base of the slopes, QT Falls Creek with one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments and a luxury day spa, is ideal for families.

Spring and summer in the High Country bring a riot of colorful wildflowers, as well as sports like horseback riding, mountain biking, and fly-fishing. Drive the scenic 230-kilometer Bogong Alpine Way through the towns of Bright, Mount Beauty, and Mount Hotham to soak up the alpine scenery.

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