Head away from the city limits to discover beautiful
districts boasting stunning beaches, fascinating history, rolling hills of vines and sensational dining.
Geelong and the Bellarine
Take the V/Line train to Geelong (or hire a car from Redspot Enterprise) and get set for summer fun. Check out the winners of prestigious portrait competition, the Archibald Prize, on show at Geelong Gallery (until 10 December). Head to Little Creatures, where you can tour the brewery before kicking back at the canteen for share plates, pizzas and beer. No trip to Geelong is complete without a waterfront stroll. Check out the famous Baywalk Bollard Trail, where the timber structures are painted to look like characters from history, the vintage carousel and the enclosed sea baths, a fantastic place for a dip. Jump back in the car and head to Queensliff’s 360Q, overlooking the harbour, to watch the sun go down and enjoy a special dinner.
This is the perfect day trip from Melbourne. Taste some of the region’s wines at TARRAWARRA Estate, then lunch at the charming Healesville Hotel. Sample the award-winning gins at contemporary Four Pillars Distillery. On the way back to Melbourne stop at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery for a sweet treat.
Everyone loves penguins and you can catch these little cuties on their nightly sunset penguin parade at Phillip Island Nature Parks. They come out of the water after a day’s fishing and waddle up the beach to their burrows in the dunes. There’s also an underground viewing area that allows visitors to be at ground level to watch the penguins pass by. Book a trip with a tour company to get there and back easily.
A trip to this beautiful gold rush-era town is easily negotiated in a day, whether you travel by train or car. Take in all the sights when you arrive on the vintage Talking Tram — you can hop on and off as you please, and the commentary tells stories of the mining days. Taste the best of local produce and wine over a long lunch at Masons of Bendigo. Later, check out the exhibitions at Bendigo Art Gallery. The Costume Designer: Edith Head and Hollywood, which features more than 70 costumes from movies like Vertigo and The Ten Commandments, is the blockbuster show on until 21 January. Before you head back to Melbourne, stop at the very cool Brewhouse Cafe & Coffee Roasters for a caffeinated pick-me-up.
While there are a number of postcard-perfect beach towns along the Gippsland coast — Venus Bay, Metung and Lakes Entrance among them — the jewel in this pretty crown is Wilsons Promontory. You’ll need a car to get here, so hire one from Redspot Enterprise, then prepare to be inspired by this 50,000-hectare nature reserve. Camp at Tidal River or book one of the nearby cabins at Wilderness Retreats, then get back to nature. Walking trails, wildlife and gorgeous beaches are all waiting to be discovered.
Jump on the V/Line train to Ballarat and explore the colourful history of this gold rush town. The
Art Gallery of Ballarat is a good place to spend an hour or two. Romancing the Skull (until 28 January) examines this bony structure’s use in art and why we continue to be enamoured with it. The exhibition includes Shaun Gladwell’s virtual reality work, Orbital Vanitas, which debuted at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Just around the corner, tuck into a tasty lunch at the funky Fu Man Lou Dumpling Bar. History is on show at one of Victoria’s best-loved attractions, Sovereign Hill, a re-creation of a gold-mining town from the 1850s. If you feel as though you haven’t scraped Ballarat’s surface, stay for the night at the majestic Craig’s Royal Hotel.
Great Ocean Road
It’s the greatest drive in Victoria, so hire a car from Redspot Enterprise and head towards Lorne. Stop at Swing Bridge Cafe & Boathouse, a simple beach shack where tasty burgers and toasties are served with a view of the water. The ultimate destination is the 12 Apostles, best observed as the sun goes down. Book a cabin at Bimbi Park, where you’ll be amazed at the koalas in the trees overhead. Bespoke Harvest, where produce is sourced from the neighbourhood, is the perfect spot for dinner before you head back to Melbourne the next day.
Get ready for gourmet adventures. Hire a car from Redspot Enterprise then head towards Milawa. Here, you’ll find Brown Brothers. Try the different varietals at the cellar door before lunch at the casual Epi. Curious. Drop into Milawa Cheese to stock up on farmhouse cheddar, then drive to Beechworth. Check into the romantic Freeman on Ford B&B before indulging in a multicourse dinner at Provenance.
This beautiful region, just 90 minutes’ drive from Melbourne, blends rolling countryside and stunning beaches. Hire a car with Redspot Enterprise to get you there. Jump into the saddle for a winery tour of a different kind with Horseback Winery Tours. Soothe any aching muscles with a soak at
Peninsula Hot Springs. Then, on the way back to Melbourne, stop at Red Gum BBQ for slow-cooked, American-style meats in a beer hall atmosphere.
Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges
Plan a romantic getaway. Set the GPS in your Redspot Enterprise hire car for the Lake House for an amazing lunch on the deck. Stroll along Daylesford’s Vincent Street exploring the excellent boutiques and antique stores. Check into the outstanding villas at Clifftop at Hepburn before heading to the Argus Dining Room for inventive modern Australian cuisine. In the morning, relax in the mineral waters at the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa then return to Melbourne.
The Murray is the longest river in Australia, and Mildura (it’s best to fly there) is one of the biggest towns on its length. On arrival, take a historic cruise with Mildura Paddlesteamers, or hire a kayak from Wild Side Outdoors and do your own paddling. Stay the night on the water with Mildura Houseboats and treat yourself to dinner at the famous Stefano’s Restaurant.
This region is a nature lover’s paradise. Base yourself at Halls Gap — the Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park now has glamping accommodation — and take on the many hikes in the area. Start at Brambuk – The National Park & Cultural Centre to tackle the eight-kilometre Boronia Peak walk that offers great views of
Lake Fyans. Kids will love visiting the animals at the Halls Gap Zoo. The family-friendly bistro at the Kookaburra Hotel serves up great country pub meals.
12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road
TarraWarra Estate, Yarra Glen
Baywalk Bollard Trail, Geelong
Word on theStreetDaniel (53) from Port MelbourneWe’d seen Geelong’s Restaurant Igni had won a number of prestigious awards, so we decided to book dinner and stay in town for the night. It was well worth it. Aaron Turner’s eight-course menu with matched wines was sublime — it’s like he creates art for the tastebuds. It’s a meal my wife and I won’t ever forget.restaurantigni.comBendigo Art Gallery
Did You Know?Dan Hunter’s restaurant Brae, in Birregurra, entered the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in2017 at number 44?Wilsons Promontory
Wilderness Retreats, Wilsons Promontory
Argus Dining Room, Hepburn Springs
Peninsulaeninsula Hot Springs, Fingal
Brambuk – The National Park & Cultural Centre, Halls GapWord on the StreetRod (37) from YarravilleFor a few years, I’ve been exercising on a climbing wall, but I always wanted to try the realthing. Mount Arapiles in the Grampians is a premier rock-climbing destination, so I booked aguide through The Climbing Company. They’re all locals and really helped me find my feet. I’m now a convert and can’t wait to get back there.climbco.com.au