Melbourne is no stranger to praise or acclaim. The city has been hyped as the world’s most liveable for years, topping lists left and right, and generally garnering a reputation as The Place To Be. There’s festival for every season, a market for every budget, and a restaurant for every taste. (There might not be a café for every hipster, but it’s probably as close as you’re gonna get.)
That said, no one place ever has it all. Luckily, Melbourne is also the perfect base for some fantastic day trips — whether you want to meander nearby, or explore deeper into country Victoria.
Here are my choices for the best day trips from Melbourne, listed from closest to farthest away. (No car? No problem. Other transport options are included below.)
Just Up the Road: St. Kilda
St. Kilda is one of those suburbs, 15 minutes by tram from the CBD. Years ago, it was the underground alternative to the city; these days, it’s a bit more mainstream, and rather scorned by the hipster crowd. (Fine by me; more space on the beach for the rest of us.)
Like many spots around Melbs, St. Kilda is home to cute cafes, quirky shops, and a mellow, laid-back vibe. But wait — there’s more! It also offers a lovely swimming beach, a very Instagram-worthy pier, an amusement park, and a famous colony of little fairy penguins.
From Melbourne CBD: Take tram 16 from Flinders Station or tram 96 from Bourke Street.
Journey to Another Time & Place: Williamstown
The town center sports a slew of historic buildings from the late 19th century, including Victoria’s oldest post office. You can also climb onto the HMAS Castlemaine, a ship built during WWII and the last of its fleet to still be on the water.
For a bit of an abandoned ghost town feel, wander up the road to the old lighthouse. On the right day, the ships sailing by will be the only indication there are other living souls around.
From Melbourne CBD: Take the conveniently-named Williamstown line from Flinders Station and get off at Williamstown (end of the line).
Venturing Inland: Ballarat
If you’re looking for a bit of kitschy fun, head to Sovereign Hill, a “historic experience” that transports you back to the area’s gold mining days. You can bowl in a rickety wooden bowling alley, learn how to make boiled lollies, and travel underground into a replica of an old mine–complete with a recording of an English guy yelling at some other English guys. (You know, like a hostel.)
The employees dress in period costume; most of them are not in character, but given that the entire thing is obviously a farce (no one in 1870s Victoria would be that happy to be mining for tapped gold in a pathetic little creek), it doesn’t really dampen the mood.
From Melbourne CBD: Take the train from Southern Cross Station and get off at Ballarat Station. You can also drive via the M8.
Dawn to Dusk: Great Ocean Road
Sign up for a bus tour, or rent a vehicle to move at your own pace. If driving yourself, get an early start to ensure you have time to stop and see as many viewpoints as possible. And don’t worry too much about the weather; if anything, rainy days just make the crashing waves and stormy skies more fun to see (not to mention, more photogenic).
Aside from its incredible natural beauty, the Great Ocean Road is also an important piece of Victoria’s human history: it was constructed by returning soldiers as a memorial to those killed during WWI, and is the largest memorial of its kind in the world.
(Want more Great Ocean Road? I talk about it a bit more in-depth over here!)
From Melbourne CBD: Take the Princes Highway to Geelong, then the Surf Coast Highway to the town of Torquay. There are also a million and one tours you can join if you don’t have your own car.