Cover Victoria’s highlights in 7 days! Coastal drives along the Great Ocean Road and 12 Apostles, bushwalking in the Grampians and gold panning in Ballarat. You may or may not hit gold but this road trip will leave you enriched.
Day 1 – Melbourne to the Yarra Valley
Drive time: 1 hr
Leave the city behind as you jump into your rental and get ‘straight outta Melbourne’. Your first stop is the lush Yarra Valley, one of Victoria’s premier wine regions and most popular getaways. Head to Healesville Sanctuary, stopping at farm gates to buy local produce for a picnic in the sanctuary’s Aussie bush setting. Before you know it you’ll be getting up close to iconic wildlife – koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, platypus and more.
Then it’s time to make tough decisions. Choose between an afternoon sipping cider made from local apples and experiencing a real Aussie sausage sizzle with a craft ale, or visiting vineyards to taste wines and meet their makers.
Day 2 – Yarra Valley to Phillip Island
Drive time: 1 hr and 30 mins
A sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Yarra Valley followed by a gourmet breakfast with sparkling wine is an unforgettable way to leave the region. It also ensures you’ll be on the road early allowing a slight detour through the fern glades, towering trees and eclectic villages of the Dandenong Ranges.
You’ll meet all creatures great and small on Phillip Island, a wildlife wonderland with quiet sandy beaches and loads of Australian bushland. Jump on a cruise out to the Seal Rocks fur seal colony and greet seal pups as they may their way up to your boat to meet today’s visitors. Stop at the local chocolate factory for delicious treats or let it rip in a go-kart on the Grand Prix Circuit. Laze awhile on Cowes Beach before a seaside meal of fresh seafood. Eat early; you don’t want to miss a moment of the dusk penguin parade.
Talk about a grand finale. Phillip Island is home to over 32,000 little penguins that swim up to 60 miles out to sea each day. The sight of the little creatures emerging from the water and waddling to their burrows as the sun sets is an experience you’ll never forget.
Day 3 – Phillip Island to Mornington Peninsula
Drive time: 1 hr and 30 mins
After you’ve sufficiently explored Phillip Island and made nice with the penguins, head to Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne’s summer playground. Chill on the beach, enjoy long lunches and go on stunning coastal walks through the national park.
Take the new Arthurs Seat Eagle gondola to the top for stunning views over the peninsula. You can travel from top to toe of the Mornington Peninsula in around 30 minutes, or longer if you stop at every winery, farm gate, gallery and garden that takes your fancy. For something a bit different, go tree surfing at The Enchanted Adventure Garden or hit the ocean on a dolphin and seal swimming expedition. End your day relaxing in the naturally heated mineral waters of the Peninsula Hot Springs.
Day 4 – Mornington Peninsula to the Great Ocean Road
Drive time: 4 hrs
In the morning, take your car on the 40-minute ferry crossing across Port Phillip Bay. In no time you’ll arrive at the official start of one of the world’s most spectacular drives, the Great Ocean Road. Your first stop is Torquay, the beautiful surfing capital of Australia. Drop by the iconic Bells Beach and add a little spot of shopping at local brand outlets Rip Curl and Quicksilver. It’s also the perfect place to join a surf lesson and catch some waves yourself.
Magnificent coastal scenery will dominate as you drive to the beach town of Lorne, the perfect spot for lunch – fish and chips on the beach is a must. Another twenty minutes winding along the coastal road will bring you to Kennett River and it’s famous locals: koalas. Take some birdseed for their flighty friends then follow the ‘koala walk’ with your camera ready. Continue along the Great Ocean Road into the lush Otway National Park and on the other side you’ll find the colourful seaside village of Port Campbell.
Day 5 – Great Ocean Road to the Grampians
Drive time: 2 hrs and 30 mins
Get ready for those important Instagram posts at the famous 12 Apostles. A group of magnificent rock stacks rising up from the Southern Ocean. Walk down the Gibson Steps to the wild beach for a ground-level view. Take plenty of time to stop at lookouts over the cliffs of the Loch Ard Gorge and the hauntingly beautiful Bay of Islands. For the best views, take to the skies on a helicopter tour. Unforgettable.
A slight turn north and you’ll find yourself at the foothills of the Grampians National Park. Watch as the landscape slowly changes and the rugged sandstone mountain ranges appear. If you’re feeling fit, stop by Dunkeld and tackle the challenging but rewarding climb to the summit of Mount Sturgeon or Mount Abrupt for stunning views of the ranges. Take the scenic road through the national park to Halls Gap, a haven for hikers, rock climbers and nature lovers.
Tip: Got extra time? Take a slight detour to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. Spot emus, koalas, kangaroos and waterbirds among the hills and lake-filled craters of this extinct volcano.
Day 6 – Grampians
Start your day with a visit to the Brambuk Cultural Centre to delve into the area’s rich Aboriginal history and culture. Enjoy the art, artefacts and activities – try your hand at a boomerang. Join Aboriginal guides on tours to ancient rock art sites and learn more about the landscape’s spiritual significance.
Take a bushwalk on the Grampians Peaks Trail to meet Australian native animals. Don’t forget to add Boroka, Reed and the Balconies to your itinerary, with all three lookouts offering stunning views over the Mount William and Wonderland Ranges. Make time to stop at MacKenzie Falls, one of Victoria’s largest and most spectacular waterfalls!
Day 7 – Grampians to Melbourne
Drive time: 3 hrs and 45 mins
Back out on the open road, stop by Ballarat (once the richest town in the world) and unearth the city’s gold mining history. Visit Sovereign Hill and try your luck panning for gold at this open-air museum. Brace yourself for an underground mine tour and learn about rare 19th-century trades.
Spend the last hours of the trip in Daylesford and the surrounding spa country. Mining was banned here as the area’s natural, mineral-rich spring water was deemed to be more valuable than gold. Treat yourself to a delicious long lunch and book in a spa experience that will have you feeling refreshed and ready to drive back to Melbourne for the end of your adventure – and start planning your next road trip!