Day trips around Melbourne – From Yarra Valley to Phillips Island

On a windy winter morning, I stood below one of the legendary bridges across the Yarra River and gazed upon the towering buildings that dot the skyline of Melbourne. The “land of the Kulin Nation “ was called Naarm by the First People of Australia and the “ever-flowing “ Yarra River was their lifeline. “There is a story here, “ said my guide Martina Jennings as I sipped my cup of coffee while the strong gales knocked me off my feet. “ Yarra was called Birrarung – ‘a place of mist and shadows.’ But the colonial surveyor heard one of the indigenous people saying “ yarro yarro “ meaning it flows and he assumed it’s the name of the river. “ Melbourne, the riverine settlement eventually evolved into a dynamic and vibrant capital of Victoria and the cultural heartland of the state. But for those seeking a dash of adventure, head out on day trips around Melbourne and explore Victoria beyond Melbourne  Lose yourself in verdant valleys and captivating islands where you can spot wildlife, head out on a cruise, relax in a thermal bath, and indulge in wine tasting as we go on several excursions from Melbourne. Several fascinating experiences are awaiting you as we head out on short day trips from Melbourne


A fairy tale train journey

Our first experience began with a nostalgic journey aboard the charming Puffing Billy, one of the fun day trips around Melbourne. We chugged along in the oldest heritage steam locomotive through the verdant tracts of Dandenong Ranges, with our legs dangling in the open as we sat on the sill of the open carriage. Our little journey began from Belgrave, barely 50 km from Melbourne as we quaffed through the rainforests, crossing wooden bridges and reaching Lakeside in an hour. The visitors centre gave us a peek into the story of the iconic rail where we had a quick bite and did a bit of shopping. I was told that there are more joy rides aboard the Puffing Billy including the three-hour return journey to Belgrave or you can enjoy a fairy tale Train of Lights for magical winter nights or take your pets out on the Dog Express.

Wine Tasting at Yarra Valley

Our journey however continued and the winding roads took me on yet another nostalgic route as we drove toward the Yarra Valley for wine tasting. Yarra Valley is the most popular among short-day trips from Melbourne.  There are over 60 wineries here and while Chardonnay, Shiraz, and Pinot Noir are the favourites, you must taste the wines here from the cellars before making up your mind. Most of the estates are family-run boutiques and we sipped some of the most full-bodied wines at Dominique Portet which was founded here a couple of decades ago by a ninth-generation winemaker from Bordeaux in France. Another favourite is Coombe Yaara Estate which was once the home of Australian opera singer Dame Nelie Melba and gave the world the Peach Melba recipe. Yering Station is one of the oldest wineries in the valley. Several wineries are serving farm-to-plate lunches as well.  But it is not just wine. A heady cocktail of tasting sessions greeted me – besides wine, there was beer, cider, and even gin. And before we left Yarra Valley, we had to go to the cheesery and the delicious chocolate factory as well.

Say hello to the kangaroos and koalas

We stayed in the sprawling Yering Gorge Cottages nestled inside a golf course where mobs of kangaroos came knocking right next to our doorstep. But to see endangered and endemic animals up close, a visit to the Healesville Sanctuary is most recommended. Besides wildlife and avian interactions, the sanctuary houses 1,500 animals that have been rescued and they even have a hospital where you can see vets at work.

Penguin Parade at Phillip Island

The next destination on the agenda is a personal favourite – Phillip Island where you get to see one of the most natural and surreal spectacles. As the sun called it a day and the stars looked down, the waves brought a little trophy from the oceans. Standing on the boardwalk on the seashore, I saw colonies of tiny penguins standing one foot tall, emerging from the sea. The Penguin Parade had just begun. The little or fairy penguins gathered together on the beach in a flock called rafts and then they waddled in their little feathered coat, wandering away into the bushes. It’s an adorable sight as they found their way to their burrows and just tottered away into the night. You can watch this little parade from the viewing platforms or an underground hide or walk along the national park with naturalists and guides.

But there is more to Phillip Island than just penguins. Say hello to the koalas at the Koala Conservatory, visit Churchill Farm and even go on a cruise to see seals and colonies of marine birds or look for wallabies in the grasslands.

Finally, before we left, it was time to take to the skies. Feeling a tad bit adventurous, we bid farewell to Phillip Island as we took a helicopter ride over the coast and lost ourselves in the blues. Phillip Island is one of the most popular among day trips around Melbourne.

Head to Mornington Peninsula

We were back on the road, driving along the coast, stopping to admire the colourful beach cabins, heading to farms, and picking strawberries before taking the gondola to Arthur’s Seat Eagle, the highest point in Mornington Peninsula to feast on gorgeous views. Mornington Peninsula is also a haven for farms and farmers and one of my personal favourites was Green Olive at Red Hill, where we explored the farm and had a delicious farm-to-plate experience for lunch.

A visit to Mornington Peninsula is not complete if we don’t visit the laidback spa and seaside resort town of Sorrento. Whether it’s water sports, shopping, or wellness, Sorrento’s charm swept us away as we spent a day in this coastal town . If you have time for just one short day trip from Melbourne, then it should be this one.

Wellness experience at Alba Thermal Springs and Spa

Our last destination was a mind-blowing experience as we had a therapeutic escape into nature. Set against a backdrop of rolling hills and verdant bush landscapes, we were at Alba Thermal Springs and Spa where we soaked in the herbal-infused thermal baths, filled with rich natural minerals. There are 32 pools nestled amidst forests and gardens and even a couple of private baths on the rooftop and terrace and I could spend all day here. The vortex pools showered rain as we immersed ourselves. in the lunar pool and pampered ourselves with massages and spa treatments. We eventually feasted at the restaurant Thyme, where the dishes are prepared with locally sourced seasonal produce before heading back to the city, which was barely an hour’s drive away.

Fact File

Yarra Valley, Phillip Island, and Mornington Peninsula are some of the key destinations that make for fascinating day trips around   Melbourne. While Mornington Peninsula is about 76 km, Yarra Valley is 60 km away and Phillip Island is just 140 km away from the city.  I recommend at least a couple of days at every destination instead of day trips. Singapore Airlines connects to Melbourne from all key cities in India.




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