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When you think of Australia’s most popular city, what do you first think of? Most would think of Sydney and the iconic Sydney Opera House, but Melbourne is not too far behind as far as popularity goes.

Besides its bustling central business district, a wide array of street art, an extensive tram network, and historical landmarks, Melbourne is also the gateway for unmissable sights dotted around Victoria and neighbouring South Australia. 

Soaking yourself in the city and wandering around is a good way to experience the unique Melbourian culture. 

But there will certainly be times you’d want to escape the hustle and bustle of city and suburban living and venture out into Victoria’s bountiful array of beaches and bushlands.

If you’re looking for some ideas for your upcoming weekend getaway, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s look into six top spots near Melbourne to visit on your weekends.

1. Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is a 243-kilometre road stretching from Torquay to Allansford, and one of Victoria’s top places to drive through. It’s a winding road that overlooks the southern coast of Victoria—and it’s also the world’s largest WWI memorial.

A 2-hour car ride from Melbourne to the start of the route, spending a day or two navigating this scenic route is one activity enjoyed by both Melbournians and visitors alike.

The Great Ocean Road passes through stunning cliffs, coastal towns, and beaches. A quick detour from the main route and you can find yourself immersed in lush rainforest, pristine waterfalls, and jaw-dropping redwood trees.

There are a lot of must-visit landmarks on the Great Ocean Road. The Twelve Apostles, The Gibson Steps, and the London Arch are some spots you should add to your bucket list—and they’re all conveniently a short drive away from each other.

The coastal towns like Apollo Bay are also home to some of the best pubs, breweries, and seafood restaurants. Be sure to grab a hearty meal of fish and chips as you journey through the road trip.

Considering the distance, it’s important to have adequate protection for your car in case things go awry.

Driving in places like the Otway National Park can lead you to unpaved and dusty roads—and many small mountain roads may not be safe for larger vehicles like campervans.

2. Adelaide and Surrounding Regions

The nearest big city to Melbourne is South Australia’s very own capital, Adelaide. Known for its festivals, museums, and wine regions, Adelaide has a unique charm that can make for a very interesting multi-day road trip.

If you swing by Adelaide during March, you’ll be spending your holiday amidst the Adelaide Fringe and Adelaide Cup festivities—which are annual events that boast the cultural flair of the city.

Visit any other month and you’ll still find yourself with lots of other things to see and do. 

A stone’s throw away from the main city centre is Glenelg Beach—a bustling beachside town that’s perfect for catching some waves and spending some quality time with family and friends. 

Located within the city, the botanic gardens in the city centre offer a great opportunity to stroll around and immerse yourself in nature. 

Enjoy museum hopping? You can visit some of Adelaide’s best museums a walking distance away (or through a tram) from the gardens.

And if you’re hungry, there are many (and we do mean many!) pubs dotted around the city centre and surrounding suburbs. There’s also the Central Market and neighbouring Chinatown if you want to enjoy local and multicultural gastronomy.

There are also a lot of places you can hike in Adelaide. Morialta Falls, Mt. Lofty, and Belair National Park all offer great bushland trail experiences. Further afield is the Barossa Valley, a stunning wine region where many of SA’s wines are cultivated and grown.

Driving from Melbourne to Adelaide is approximately a 12-hour trip. If you’re driving an electric vehicle, ensure that you have electric car insurance from reputable insurance providers like ROLLiN’.

3. Dandenong Ranges

Consisting of many hilltop towns, rainforest trails, and wildlife, the Dandenong Ranges is a great nearby escape for nature lovers.

Situated on the Eastern outskirts of Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges have a terrific array of trails that cut through lush rainforests and picturesque landmarks.

You can choose many mountains to conquer—but the most esteemed one in the area is Mt Dandenong, a towering mountain standing over 633 metres tall. If you don’t want to hike all the way to the top, you can drive and park in the observatory deck.

What’s more, there’s a café at the summit, providing a picturesque spot to relax and enjoy the view of Melbourne, both during the day and at night.

One must-do activity in the area is to ride the Puffing Billy Railway. This old railway situated in Belgrave cuts through the mountain ranges and gives riders an intimate peak of the untouched surroundings. 

This tourist attraction is unique because it’s Australia’s oldest steam-operated train, being around since the beginning of the 20th century.

The Dandenong Ranges is an excellent place to visit, featuring over 30km of scenic attractions on the recommended Tourist Road. Be sure to stop by the Yarra Valley as well; if you’re lucky, you can sample some fresh wine grown straight from the vineyards of that land.

4. Phillip Island

Want to soak up some sun and sea? Then consider adding Philipp Island to your bucket list. A two-hour drive south of the Melbourne city centre and a short ferry ride away, this destination is the perfect weekend getaway for beach enthusiasts.

There are a tonne of things you can do on this island. The number one attraction here is observing the unique wildlife in the Phillip Island Wildlife Park—featuring native animals like penguins and koalas. 

Another top-tier attraction is the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, a closed-loop race track that allows you to drive as fast or as slow as you want during selected drive days. Alternatively, you can just sit back and relax as you witness the pros zoom past the track during scheduled events.

Besides that, there are still a plethora of fun things you can do with your family. You can participate in walking tours, museum tours, whale-watching tours, and even cycling tours. You can also go on a gastronomic adventure with the restaurants found throughout the island. 

And if you don’t want to take part in any organised tours, you can also go fishing, boating, and golfing around the island in designated areas. One visit is truly not enough in this island paradise off the coast of Melbourne!

5. Grampians National Park

Suitable as both a side trip for an extended Grand Ocean Road road trip or a standalone visit, the Grampians National Park is a stunning getaway from Melbourne. 

This natural sanctuary features an abundance of stunning sandstone mountains, lush greenery, and a rich array of endemic wildlife.

When in the area, be sure to do the Pinnacle Walk. A walk on this trail allows you to see the mountain ranges in full view. There are also many Aboriginal art sites around the area, making the visit both an enriching natural and cultural experience. 

Some people go the extra mile and do the Grampians Peaks Trail, a 164-kilometre, 13-day hiking experience. While definitely more gruelling than a weekend excursion, it’s a testament to the vast network of walking trails you can visit (or revisit) as you explore this national park.

6. Daylesford

If you’d rather relax in one location rather than visit multiple outdoor highlights, Daylesford presents a sweet side trip opportunity an hour’s drive away from Melbourne.

Daylesford is known as one of the nearest spa towns to Melbourne, featuring pools with mineral spring water straight from the earth.

Besides the abundance of springs, Daylesford also has cosy cafes, quiet gardens, cultural museums, and antique shops—all the makings of a delightful weekend out of busy Melbourne.

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