Places To Visit Outside Melbourne
Explore Victoria With A Weekend Away
Victoria may be one of Australia’s smallest states, but it’s packed with enough things to see and do to last a lifetime. Victoria’s crown jewel, Melbourne is one of the top destinations in the state, but the places to visit outside Melbourne offer a wide variety of activities and sights. Because the state is so small, there are loads of places to go near Melbourne, only an hour or so drive away. From 19th century historical sights dating to Victoria’s ‘Gold Rush’ era to Aboriginal landmarks and landscapes dating back even further, from quaint towns like Warburton to pristine natural landscapes like the Yarra Valley and the Victorian Alps, the places to visit around Melbourne are endless. If you want to explore Victoria and check out the best places to visit in Victoria, you’re in luck. With so many different options, figuring out where to go in Victoria can be tricky. Check out our listing of the best holiday destinations Victoria has to offer below to find out where to go in Victoria and all the coolest things to see in Victoria.
Warburton is a scant 75 km from Melbourne’s downtown, but a visit to Warburton is like stepping back in time. It may only be an hour’s drive from the biggest city in the state, but it feels like a world away. From the plethora of walks and hiking tracks to the town’s local shops and restaurants to the historical sites, there are things to do in Warburton to make a fun weekend away, whether for couples or families.
If you’re wondering what to do in Warburton, the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail (also known as the “Warby Trail”) is an easy option. This historic railway line runs for 38 km through surrounding settlements to Lilydale, following the route of a rail track from the 1900s. It’s perfect for cyclers, walkers, or runners. Other great Warburton Walks include the Warburton River Walk, Morley’s Track, and the Big Pats to Starling’s Gap Walk. A summit of Mt. Little Joe (469 m) is great for hikers looking for a more robust route. Warburton also has plenty of shops and restaurants on its main street, such as CJs Pizza Cafe and Symphony36. The Warburton Rainforest Gallery, with a 40 m long observation deck, is great for checking out local flora and fauna.
If you’re looking for Warburton accommodation, the Warburton Motel is an excellent spot to lay down your head for a long weekend. It’s beautiful gardens and balcony views, as well as its central location (only 5 minutes walking from the Warby Trail), make it an excellent choice for accommodation in one of the best places to go in Victoria.
There are loads of things to do in Ballarat, which sits an hour west of Melbourne, by road or rail. It made its fame during the gold rush of the 1850s and still retains its former glory today. For history buffs, Ballarat is a great place to visit, with evidence of its rich gold heritage on every street corner. From Ballarat’s Town Hall (built 1870) to Her Majesty’s Theatre (1875) and Craig’s Hotel built starting in 1853), Ballarat holds a veritable slew of historical sights. Definitely check out Sovereign Hill, a restored gold mining settlement. For the more nature-inclined, Lake Wendouree, a 200 hectare lake with beautiful botanical gardens on its shores, is a must see, as is its electric tramway.
The Beechworth Bakery is the perfect stop for pastries and breakfast, and Harry Limes, a Mediterranean restaurant with locally sourced ingredients and daily made desserts, is a great pick for fancier dinner. Be sure to grab a drink at the bar at the historic aforementioned Craig’s Hotel (1853), or check out the extensive offering of craft beers at the Mallow Hotel. The Blue Bell Hotel has great family friendly dining options, as well as a sports bar.
For lodging, check out the Quality Inn Bakery Hill, with a great centralised location, daily housekeeping, and free WiFi in all rooms. This property is top rated for cleanliness, and deluxe studios, which include a kitchenette, can accommodate longer stays.
Around 85 km southeast from Melbourne, there are plenty of things to do in Somers, a quiet seaside town. One of the most noteworthy attributes is its large koala population, many situated on the beautiful Somers Koala Reserve, which takes up over 17 acres, and the Coolart Wetlands.
Go for a swim, surf, or just soak up the sun at Balnarring Beach, then check out the Coolart Mansion, a 27 room Victorian property built in 1897, which has a large collection of paintings and portraits, English gardens, including a beautiful circular rose garden, and a wetlands area on the property, which houses several species of birds and quite a few koalas. The Somers General, right on the beach, is great for a quick bite to eat. The Tulum Store, in nearby Balnarring to the west and right on the beach, offers excellent vegetarian options (and tasty food all around).
If you’re looking for accommodation, stop in at the Barrima – Somers Beach holiday home. This 100 square metre, four bedroom home has a fully stocked kitchen and is situated on a spacious property. It’s a great choice for large families and groups of friends alike. Better yet, it’s a stone’s throw from the beach.
Alexandra is 130 km to the north and east of Melbourne, is another settlement which dates to the gold mining days of the 1850s. A lot of the things to do in Alexandra revolve around the historic gold rush times, but there’s plenty more to do and see here. Check out the McKenzies Flora Reserve for orchid and wildflower viewing, and the Lucky Mine Lookout for an excellent vista north towards Alexandra, and views of the surrounding landscape.
The Alexandra Hotel and the Corner Hotel are both mainstay lodges and eateries, with local produce driven menus at the former and a large offering of chicken parmas at the latter. Both offer a bar to boot. For a more casual atmosphere, hit the Yarck Hotel for some pub food, and check out the Grant Street Grocer for local produce.
Alexandra Farmstay is a tremendous place to stay in Alexandra if you’re looking to get a local, down to earth feel. This three bedroom cottage is around 5 km north of Alexandra and is situated amidst beautiful gardens and farmland. A games room with table tennis, board games, and toys, along with a croquet lawn outside make this a great lodging option for families looking for the best places to visit in Victoria with kids. There are also farm animals on site, and guests can help to feed and brush them if they so choose.
Woodend is one of the lesser known settlements on this list, but definitely one of the best places to see in Victoria. This 19th century resort town is just an hour from Melbourne as well. Check out the historic clocktower and buildings on the main street, or head out for a trip up the iconic Hanging Rock Woodend has. The Peter Weir film, Picnic at Hanging Rock, was filmed here, and you can have a picnic yourself on top of the rock. Bring some food from The Brahms & Liszt Cafe or the Blue Bean Love Cafe. Stop to enjoy a beer at the Holgate Brewhouse, but don’t forget to check out the Hanging Rock Winery and try their trademark drink, the Macedon Sparkling. There are plenty of other things to do in Woodend, like go hiking in the Wombat State Forest or trek up Mt Macedon.
The Woodend Old School House is great for a romantic getaway. This property holds three double beds, and serves as a bed ‘n breakfast, with an excellent continental breakfast in the mornings. A roaring fireplace keeps guests warm on cold nights. It’s a great property for guests with an eye for the historic, as this converted brick schoolhouse was built in 1876.
Olinda is a great little town, the highest settlement in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne. From the Olinda shops to its cafes and pubs, there are plenty of things to do in Olinda, and it’s one of the most unique places to visit in Victoria. The famed artist Arthur Streeton made his home here, and many of his works depict the village and its surroundings. There is a bustling arts community here, and for art lovers, this is a great spot to visit.
Just half a kilometre away, the stunning Rhododendron Gardens are home to nearly 300,000 flowers, and the Pirianda Gardens and R.J. Hamer Forest Arboretum are two other excellent botanical spots. Spas and wellness centres abound here,
One of the coolest spots for Olinda accommodation is the Koko Guesthouse, a 210 square metre apartment just under a kilometre shy away from the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden. Don’t worry about breakfast here, a free continental meal is included each morning, which can be enjoyed on the property’s wonderful terrace. There is even a beautiful garden on site. This is a great spot for couples.
Marysville is one of the best places to visit in Victoria because it’s just a skip and a jump away from Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, which boasts the closest snow to Melbourne. At a mere 90 minutes outside of the city centre, Marysville is perfect for a weekend away from the city, but is a worthy destination on its own, even outside of the snowy season.
Marysville is a must see for the outdoors enthusiast. This tiny town of fewer than 400 people boasts 30 km of single track mountain biking trails, a picturesque 18 hole golf course, and lots of river fishing, as well as a few trout farms. Check out Fraga’s Cafe for warm baguettes and Black Spur in for a refreshing drink.
The highlight of Marysville, however, is its close proximity to the stunning Cathedral Ranges State Park, which offers dozens of wilderness trails for all comers and in all ranges of difficulties, as well as quite a few sublime views of the surrounding Yarra Ranges. While in Cathedral, be sure to check out the Mountain Ash, the world’s tallest flowering tree, which can grow over 90 m in height! There is also a lot of opportunity for rock climbing here, from bouldering to sport routes and more.
The Cross Ways Country Inn is a great spot to lay your head for a few nights while sampling all that Marysville has to offer. It has a garden, a restaurant on site serving traditional Australian food, and a playground. This isn’t the most swank establishment, but it’s a surefire choice for families or budget travellers in the region.
Visit Inverleigh to sample the food at one of Victoria’s top regional dining establishments, Gladioli. It was awarded two Chef’
s Hats in The Age Good Food Guide a few years back. Try the Western Plains Pork and Great Ocean Ducks in this elegant and refined dining establishment, perhaps the best place to visit in Victoria if you’re looking for a high quality meal in unassuming digs.
Check out the historic Inverleigh Hotel as well, one of the oldest buildings in town, and home to a delightful little bluestone pub built in 1856. Be sure to check out the cake and coffee special, and enjoy the pub’s two beer gardens. The baked beans at the nearby Red Door Cafe are another local classic. You shouldn’t visit the town without a stop at the Inverleigh Bakery, either, and dig into their excellent soups, pork rolls, and pies.
For accommodation, Barbie May’s is an excellent four bedroom house that can accommodate up to eight guests in its six beds. It’s brand new, and the classic Inverleigh train runs right behind the property. You can walk to the Inverleigh Hotel Pub from here, as well as the local biking and hiking trails. This is a great spot for a party of friends or family looking for a weekend away in the country.
The coastal town of Portarlington is an hour and a half by car (105 km) from Melbourne, but feels like entering a whole different world. The things to do in Portarlington vary, from swimming and boating to the Portarlington Miniature Railway to wine tasting at the Basils Farm. Try some beachside camping at Wrathall Reserve or Anderson Reserve, or go bird watching at Point Richards Flora and Fauna Reserve. The 32 km Bellarine Rail Trail is great for a walk or bike ride, and the Portarlington Pier is ideal for a romantic evening watching the sunset over the water.
The highlight of town may be the Portarlington Mill, however. This 150 year old flour mill, which was repurposed into a seaweed based upholstery processing factory and then an ink printing factory and finally a producer of artificial fertiliser, now functions as a fascinating museum, offering visitors a glimpse into Victoria’s past, and is one of the most understated Victoria tourist attractions. Tickets are only $5.00.
For lodging in Portarlington, stay at the Portarlington Beach Shack, a mere 50 metres away from the ocean. “Shack” is a bit of an understatement, however. This 50 square metre property may be small, but it offers three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a flat screen TV. A barbecue and garden are also on site, and the views from the terrace are perfect for a quiet evening. This “shack” accommodates up to six guests.
An hour and a half to the northwest of Melbourne, it’s not hard to figure out what to do in Castlemaine. The town has a vibrant arts community, a plethora of antique shops and historic buildings, and more. The historic botanical gardens, built in 1856, were just recently refurbished and renovated. The Mill precinct is a must see stop for all arts fans, with its slew of artisanal and vintage goods. The Mill Castlemaine and Boomtown Winemakers Co operative are both great wineries to check out, and the Victorian Goldfields Railway, connecting Castlemaine and Maldon on an authentic vintage steam engine train, is a great daytime activity for families.
Grab a box of popcorn and catch a movie at the Theatre Royale, peruse the art at the Falkner Gallery or the Castlemaine Art Museum, or go hiking on the Goldfields Track outside of town. The Buda Historic Home and Garden is a great activity for a mellow day. This mansion was home to the silversmith Ernest Leviny and was constructed in1863.
Throw down your bags at the Union House (c.1861), a three bedroom cottage built over 150 years ago, just a few minutes walking distance from essentially everything in town there is to see. This property used to be home to a group of miners, but is now decked out with a top notch sound system, flat screen TV, and all the latest amenities. A gas fired log heater is the icing on the cake.