Weekend Getaways - Our top day trips from Melbourne
Formerly known as 'The Garden State', Victoria boasts a huge number of tourists flocking to its cities every year, lured by world-class coffee and a vibrant arts scene. Melbourne's central location means most of regional Victoria's beauty can be accessed in just a few hours by car, whether it be down the Great Ocean Road or up into pristine alpine country.
We've pulled together our top do-it-in-a-day trips.
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Quite simply, Werribee Gorge State Park is a trail walkers paradise around an hour's drive west of the CBD. There are walking tracks for all fitness and experience levels across the expanses of the 575-hectare landscape.
The popular River Walk is ideal for novice hikers and families as it's only a three-kilometre return trip across primarily flat terrain. Beginning at the Meikles Point Picnic Area, the walk follows the Werribee River up towards the Circuit Track. There's no signage telling you that you've reached the end of this walk so once you get to the rock formation with a rope to assist in climbing around it, this is where you head back to your starting point for a nice family picnic by the water.
The more experienced hikers will want to tackle either the Centenary Walk or Long Circuit Walk as they cover much harder territory including steep climbs, undulating steps, slippery rock faces and even a cable assisted rock climb that curls around the river bend.
Don't forget: Merrell 'Moab' Low Hikers
Venture an hour east of Melbourne for a day of wonderment and adventure amongst the sweeping valleys, rolling hills, flowing streams and leafy surrounds that is the Dandenong Ranges.
From cool climate botanic gardens to historic steam railways, fascinating nature walks to remarkable mountainous lookouts, there is an abundance of outdoor things to do and see whether you're travelling to the ranges alone or with family and friends.
Head to the Bunyip Park Mortimer Nature Walk for a meander through the 1.2km woodland circuit. For the more experienced hikers, tackle the 9.5km round trip journey of the Tree Fern Nature Walk.
Grants Picnic Ground within the Sherbrooke Forest offers up an amazing opportunity to see some of Australia's native birdlife soaring through the surrounds of the lofty Mountain Ash while the scenic Mount Dandenong Tourist Road drive will lead you to a number of panoramas including the Melbourne cityscape from the Mount Dandenong Observatory.
Tour the Warratina Lavendar Farm, hike the famous 1000 steps, take a ride on the historic steam train that is Puffing Billy, explore aboriginal culture in the tranquillity of the William Ricketts Sanctuary, gaze upon the cascading Steavenson Falls in Marysville, discover the floral beauty of the Cloudehill Gardens, there really is something for everyone at the Dandenong Ranges
Don't forget: Tasco 8x32 Focus Free Binocular
Merri Creek Trail
The Merri Creek Trail is a fascinating inner-city path for walkers and cyclists alike. The 21km trail in the northern suburbs of Melbourne begins at Dight Falls in Abbotsford and follows the creek for most of the way until it finishes at the meeting point with the Western Ring Road.
There are picnic spots scattered throughout the trail along the water making for ideal rest stops. Despite the central location of the trail, the lush greenery and natural surrounds makes you feel like you're miles away.
It's a great place to take the family for a nice day out, even dogs are allowed but must always be on a leash. Be careful on weekends as Melbournians of the inner-north flock to this urban hotspot for their active needs
Don't forget: Fluid Mountain Bike
The coastal inlet of Barwon Heads is situated on the Bellarine Peninsula around 90 minutes from Melbourne's CBD. This seaside haven straddling the mouth of the Barwon River alongside Ocean Grove is a water sporting paradise.
The aptly named 13th Beach (it sits adjacent to the 13th hole of the Barwon Heads Golf Course) stretches down the coast for almost five kilometres and is a popular location for surfing enthusiasts. Play a little beach cricket on the expansive white sandy beach or even take in a spot of fishing along the shore.
Those interested in a coastal walk or hike will want to explore The Bluff Circuit Walk. Once atop the bluff you'll be treated to idyllic viewpoints of the local townships as well as sweeping views across Bass Strait. You may even see the local birdlife performing some aerial calisthenics on slightly windier days.
Don't forget: Wahu Beach Cricket Set
Lerderderg State Park
Even though the Lederberg State Park is just an hour north-west of Melbourne, you'll feel as though you are thousands of miles away amongst the rugged greenery and hordes of wildlife inhabitants. Escape the hustle and bustle of city life for a day of hiking, kayaking, four-wheel driving and mountain bike riding.
Many of the hikes in the Lederberg State Park are not for beginners so best to build up your fitness and experience levels before tackling some of the tricky terrain. The walk along the Lederberg River provides some stunning scenery and animal sightings as you leap over fallen logs and scramble over some tricky rock placements.
Mackenzies Flat Picnic Area to the south end of the park is a great spot for a picnic or BBQ lunch amongst the wilderness. Take the 4x4 on a drive to Blackwood via O'Brien's Road and get a glimpse out over the incredible Lederberg Gorge. There are a variety of four-wheel driving tracks scattered throughout the park for those that are wanting to experience some of Victoria's most thrilling off-road adventures
Don't forget: Dune 4WD Recovery Tracks
You can find this storage reservoir a little over an hour outside of the city centre towards Ballarat. Forming part of the Moorabool River Basin, the Bostock Reservoir is generally teeming with a wealth of trout and redfin within its waters. This gem in Melbourne's north-west is hidden by surrounding vegetation and farmland making it perfect for a quiet days fishing.
The areas surrounding the reservoir are great for bushwalking and mountain biking whilst there are also several picnic areas to enjoy.
Don't forget: Tasmanian Devil 7g Lure
Sorrento is one of the more prevalent coastal tourist destinations in Victoria. The seaside escape is just shy of two hours from Melbourne as you curl your way around the western tip of the Mornington Peninsula towards Portsea.
The Sorrento Front Beach makes for a supreme day on the water as you swim, snorkel, kayak or paddle board the pristine waters of Port Phillip Bay, whilst the foreshore hosts playgrounds and barbecue areas for families to enjoy a bayside feast. Sorrento Back Beach is in complete contrast to this as it is oceanside looking out to the vast expanses of Bass Strait. This is where you'll find the serious surfers trying to catch a wave. The back beach is also famous for its rockpools which are accessible at low-tide.
Millionaire's Row is a leisurely kilometre long walk that concludes at the Point King foreshore. The waterside wander will take you past the mega mansions cuddling the coastline as you look over the serene waters out toward the inviting Bellarine Peninsula.
For those interested in cycling their way along the coast, the Bay Trail is a stunning shared walking and cycling path that spans approximately 25 kilometres along the winding esplanade from Safety Beach to Sorrento overlooking the bay.
Keen fishermen wanting to hook some whiting, snapper or trevally can set themselves up somewhere along the 250m Sorrento Pier amongst the other budding anglers. Be careful casting off though as the pier is generally crowded with people wanting to venture to the end. There are numerous local fishing charters also available if you'd prefer to participate in a more exclusive fishing experience.
Don't forget: Shimano Sienna Quickfire Combo
Warrandyte State Park
Drive 45 minutes east of Melbourne and you will find yourself in the Warrandyte State Park. Entrenched within the coils of the snaking Yarra River is the spacious woodlands home to copious amounts of native Australian wildlife.
There are some truly astonishing foliage-filled walks throughout the Warrandyte State Park. At around five kilometres long, the Mounty Lofty circuit trail will take you through towering gum trees to the Mount Lofty summit providing ample views over the neighbouring valleys. Some of the paths throughout the park do not allow for pets or bikes so you can walk along uninterrupted.
Rest and relax in the shade by the river at the spacious picnic grounds of the Pound Bend Reserve. Despite being quite close to the inner suburbs it's surprisingly tranquil and quiet and an ideal way to close out your day.
Don't forget: CamelBak Chute Magnetic Water Bottle