11 Great Places to Visit Near Melbourne
With mountains to both the east and west and Australia’s most iconic coastline to the south of the city, you can imagine there are plenty of amazing things to do near Melbourne.
Whether you want to go surfing, hiking, camping, or spotting Australia’s unique wildlife, there are plenty of options to keep you busy all year round.
A word of warning though. They say Melbourne has four seasons in one day and this couldn’t be more accurate. You might wake up to a beautiful blue sky, then have thunderstorms and hail rolling over by lunch, only to finish up with a 30-degree afternoon. In any case, don’t let the weather put you off, Melburnians just get used to it.
All these destinations near Melbourne are within a few hours of the city. That makes them perfect for a weekend trip. If you’re short on time, many of these can even be visited as a day trip too.
1. Phillip Island
Phillip Island is one of my favourite places to visit near Melbourne throughout the summer. The island has some incredible surf beaches like Smith’s Beach and Cape Woolamai where you will find both amateur and experienced surfers.
Don’t have your own surf gear? Drop into Island Surfboards just up the road from Smith’s Beach. There are plenty of surfboards and wetsuits available for hire here. The owner will even suggest the right board for the conditions of the day and your experience level.
Remember, there are strong ocean currents around Phillip Island. If you’re a new surfer, then it is best to ask the guys in the surf shop about the conditions before hitting the water.
After a surf, you can go see the famous Fairy Penguins. Every afternoon around sunset hundreds of small Fairy Penguins come ashore to return to their nests. Some penguin nests are as far as 1 kilometre from shore. Note: don’t use any flash photography, it blinds the little penguins!
2. Cape Schanck Lighthouse and Boardwalk
The Cape Schanck Lighthouse and Boardwalk are pretty much located right next to each other. While lots of people just visit the lighthouse, I highly recommend making a trip down the boardwalk too.
The Cape Schanck Boardwalk is one of the most impressive coastlines I’ve seen in Australia. It’s actually more beautiful than the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. The most impressive time to visit Cape Schanck is around sunset.
The boardwalk starts at the top of the mountain near the Cape Schanck Lighthouse. After cutting across the side of the mountain with some epic ocean views, the boardwalk ends down at the ocean where you will find two secluded beaches. This is also a great spot for a swim in the summer.
3. Bushrangers Bay
The waterhole at Bushranger’s Bay down is one of the most amazing places to cool off in summer. While waves crash overhead, the waterhole is entirely enclosed so that you won’t get sucked out to sea. Underwater there is seaweed, lots of fish, and even apparently a secret tunnel which I was previously unaware of.
The hike from the carpark to the coast takes about one hour each way. The trail winds its way through coastal bushland, along small wooden boardwalks, and eventually out onto the beach.
Once you reach the beach, continue southeast until you reach the rocky area. Continue to where the rocks meet the ocean and you will find this discreet but amazing waterhole.
4. Cape Liptrap Coastal Park
If you’re into camping, then the Bear Gully Campground in the Cape Liptrap Coastal Park is the place to be. This is one of my favourite places near Melbourne for an overnight escape from the city.
There are about 30 campsites at the Bear Gully Campground. All campsites are located within a short walk from the relatively calm beach. Though no one talks about this spot, it tends to get busy during the summer weekends. You can check availability and book a campsite here.
This is a national park, so amenities are basic. There is a composting pit toilet and no running water or electricity.
5. Johanna Beach Campground
Johanna Beach is another great camping spot near Melbourne. This beautiful grassy campground is located in between the Great Ocean Road and the secluded Johanna Beach. It is within easy walking distance from the beach.
The ocean currents here seem quite rough. With the lack of lifeguards, I wouldn’t suggest going too far in the water unless you are a confident swimmer. That said, you will find some locals out surfing.
Although Johanna Beach is located within a national park, it is one of the rare campgrounds which permits dogs. So, if you are on the road with a pet, then this might be your campground!
6. The Dandenong Ranges
There are countless hiking trails in the Dandenong Ranges. One of the most accessible walks is the 7 kilometre Sherbrooke Forest Loop. The trail starts nearby Belgrave Station, right near the starting point of the iconic Puffing Billy railway line.
There are two steep hills in the Sherbrooke Forest Loop, however, they aren’t too challenging for anyone moderately fit. You will commonly spot wild kangaroos lazing about in the sun, and if you’re lucky you might even see a rare Lyrebird. In the five times I’ve done this hike I’ve only seen a Lyrebird once but can hear their odd calls every time.
If you’re not a hiker, then hop on the Puffing Billy. This old steam train takes you for an adventure through the forest along an old logging railway line. The views from the train are amazing, especially when crossing the old wooden trestle bridges.
7. Cape Otway National Park
The Cape Otway National Park is one of the best places near Melbourne to see wild Koalas. In fact, I guarantee that if you look in the trees hard enough you will find one. If you’re lucky you might even find a whole family with little baby Koalas!
A few cars parked randomly in the forest on the side of the road is a good sign that a Koala has been spotted. Take the hint, park your car, and have a look around too.
If you continue through the Cap Otway National Park right down to the coast you will also find the historic Cape Otway Lighthouse. Climb to the top for an epic view looking out across the ocean.
The Cape Otway National Park is one of my recommended stops on the Great Ocean Road. I’ve written an entire article on this stunning coastal route which runs from Torquay to Warrnambool.
Every time I revisit Healesville I seem to discover something new. Being a popular weekender destination for Melburnians, there are loads of things going on here.
The Healesville wildlife sanctuary is a family-friendly destination with lots of native Australian animals like Koalas, Platypus, and Kangaroos. On weekends there are also community markets in town where you will find independent merchants offering all sorts of organic produce. Then there are the Gin Distilleries, Four Pillars Gin, and Alchemy Distilleries, which is the perfect place to grab lunch and a drink on a sunny afternoon.
There are also lots of wineries and cellar doors in the area surrounding Healesville. Drop into one of the top-rated wineries such as Innocent Bystander, or Rochford Wines to see what the rage is all about. If you’re not a wine drinker yet, you might just be starting here.
Torquay is the first beach town along the Great Ocean Road coming from Melbourne. There are a few great surfing beaches around Torquay, however, one of the best is simply named Torquay Surf Beach. Go figure, Aussies naming things so conveniently.
If you’re new to surfing, then pick up a surfboard and wetsuit just up the road from the beach. Surfboard rental is typically AUD 20 per hour or AUD 30 for the day.
A few hours of surfing I enough to get anyone hungry. For a great feed, I highly recommend smashing a burger, chips, and a milkshake at the local burger shop “Bottle of Milk.” This epic meal will send you straight into a food coma afterward. You might want to take a rest before hitting the highway back to Melbourne.
Plan to stay in Torquay overnight? Check out the Torquay Caravan Park located right along the Great Ocean Road.
10. Mount Buller
Mount Buller is one of the closest snowfields to Melbourne. Locals may suggest there are better ski fields further from Melbourne, however, Mount Buller does the job if you’re only around for a short time.
The ski season at Mount Buller runs from mid-June through to early October. A one-day ski pass will typically cost you around AUD 70, however, you can save if you book ahead online.
Before planning a ski trip you’re best off checking the snow cams and snow reports. During warmer periods or light snow, several runs may be closed. Australia doesn’t snow all year round.
Throughout the summer months, there are lots of other outdoor activities such as mountain biking and hiking.
11. Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs
The Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs are one of the most popular attractions near Melbourne throughout the winter. Did I mention that winter in Melbourne seems to run for about 10 months of the year?
There are over 50 geothermal pools scattered around the premises. While the hot springs appear man-made, they are still naturally heated. Some hot springs are located in a very natural setting, while others overlook a stage with live music on weekends.
In addition to the hot springs, you will also find a couple of saunas, a Turkish Hammam, an odd stone foot massage walkway, and a restaurant. You could easily stay here al day.
The Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs can get quite busy, especially on winter weekends. Be sure to book a few days ahead in peak periods and remember to arrive within 15 minutes of your booking time or else your booking will get canceled.
As you can see, there are loads of amazing places to visit near Melbourne, and you don’t even need to travel that far from the city.
Most of these places require a vehicle to get to. For the cheapest car rental, I highly recommend going through RentalCars.com as they offer huge discounts over going to the other companies direct.
I suggest planning to spend about one week in Melbourne. This will give you plenty of time to explore the awesome culture in the city itself and see a few of these amazing attractions nearby.
Got any questions on how to get to these destinations? Ask me in the comments section below.