Studying in Melbourne sure has its perks. Epic food and coffee? Check. Thrift shops galore? Check. More bars and pubs than you could probably manage to visit? Challenge accepted.
But even with so much to see and do within walking distance of your Melbourne student accommodation, sometimes it’s just nice to get out of town for a change of scenery. Bit o’ fresh air, a break from your computer screen, and a good little reset before getting back into the daily grind.
Of course, student life can be crazy busy. Between classes, assessments, revision, exams, part time work and maintaining a social life, it can seem unreasonable to drop it all to take a holiday… especially on a student budget (or lack thereof)!
Lucky for you, Melbourne is actually perfectly located for quick little getaways. There are amazing stretches of coastline, picturesque country landscapes and mountain ranges only an hour or two’s drive away, which is totally manageable to squeeze in on a free day or weekend when you need a break.
Have a read through, see what tickles your fancy, and get out and explore!
Less than an hour’s drive from the CBD, the Yarra Valley is a must-do Melbourne day-trip (and you might want a designated driver for this one!). Think rolling hills covered in vineyards, cow paddocks, wholesome food and rustic charm. For the wine lover, the appeal is obvious – there are dozens of amazing, world-renowned wineries to check out, and it’s actually not as expensive as you might think! And even if you’re not big on drinking, the region is so beautiful it’s definitely worth a visit.
Domaine Chandon offer free tours. Yes, free. Though mind you that’s just to check out the domain and learn about the winemaking process; you’ll have to pay if you want to taste any of their delicious bubbly. There’s a splash tasting option that’s $12/person, otherwise a sparkling selection for $20/person. (That’s only just more than the price of a goon sac, you cheapie!).
TarraWarra Estate should definitely be on your Yarra hit-list. It has its own art gallery and restaurant on site, a $5 wine sampling option, and the views from the hilltop winery are just breathtaking! Otherwise, Yering Station is a local favourite and offers complimentary wine tastings for groups under 10 people.
Make sure you get a decent lunch in (especially if you’re having a boozy day!) – Innocent Bystander is the wood-fired pizza go-to, the Gladysdale Bakehouse is the perfect drop-in spot for brunch and affordable baked goodies, and the Yarra Valley Dairy is a must for any cheese-lovers.
If you’ve got the time, maybe pop by Healesville Sanctuary to meet some Aussie wildlife, from koalas to kangaroos to platypus and wombats. Perfect bit of tourism for any international students studying in Melbourne!
For a lovely day out by the sea, head down to the Mornington Peninsula. Under an hour’s drive from Melbourne, it’s a very pretty region of breezy beaches, coastal villages and local boutique wineries. The Peninsula lifestyle is really relaxed, and the best way to visit is to take the time to meander through the local galleries, spas, cafes and restaurants.
Arthur’s Seat is the highest viewpoint and worth the 304m ascent to see the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas stretching out, with Melbourne way off in the distance. Sorrento and Portsea are perhaps the more well-known towns and worth a visit, especially if you’re after a bit of beach time. Don’t miss the vanilla slice at Just Fine Food if you’re in Sorrento!
For the wine lovers, it’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir country – check out Ten Minutes by Tractor and Montalto, which both also have amazing restaurants alongside their wineries. The Boyz 4 Breakie and Lilo Cafe are also great brekky and lunch options that aren’t too pricy.
If you’re super fancy and golf is your thing, there are a bunch of different courses to choose from. Otherwise, the Peninsula Hot Springs are $35 entry for students off-peak and include a sauna, hammam, hydrojet therapy, and cold plunge pools. Super relaxing – perfect for your exam period! – and all in a beautiful natural setting.
A fun thing to do if you’re a still kid at heart and you love activities (so… basically all of us) is the Enchanted Adventure Garden. It’s $30 entry for an adult, and you can run around mazes (including a 3D spooky one), try tube slides, do a tree canopy walk and a bunch of activities. You can also pay a little extra to do a big zip line or a high ropes obstacle course.
If you’ve got the time, you can always take the 40-minute car ferry out from Sorrento and spend an hour or two exploring Queenscliff. It’s a gorgeous little sea resort town with a lot of history and there’s a cute historic railway and old museums to keep you occupied.
PENGUINS. That is all.
No, but seriously – Phillip Island is a great day trip to do if you want fun activities and are a fan of animals. To get there you’ll need to drive to San Remo, a cute little fishing village about two hours south of Melbourne. We recommend getting there before 12pm in time to see the daily pelican and stingray feeding!
You’ll drive over the bridge to Phillip Island from there, and there’s a bunch of things to do before sundown. Cape Woolamai is a really popular surf beach and there are four coastal walking tracks you can choose from, one of which gives you an epic lookout over the Pinnacles. Walk along The Nobbies boardwalk, from where you can see a natural blowhole, nesting sea birds, and look out over Seal Rocks where Australia’s largest fur seal colony lives.
Cowes is the main hub of Phillip Island where you can stop for a bite to eat. Try Harry’s on the Esplanade, Cheeky Goose Cafe or The Fat Seagull. There are extensive cycling trails all over the island and you can go go-karting or watch motor sports at the Grand Prix Circuit, or you can head to the Koala Conservation Centre to get a glimpse of Australia’s furry lil’ tree bears.
If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, check out the Pannys Phillip Island Chocolate Factory for fun activities and – obviously – buying some chocolate for those late-night study cravings. There’s also an award-winning theme park called Maze’N Things that deals in all things puzzles, mazes and magic. Entrance to the main attractions for students is $30.60, or you can play a $14 round of maxi mini golf or even try your luck at the high ropes obstacle course for $20.
Either way, that’s loads to keep you busy until sunset and the main attraction – head to Penguin Parade and take a seat to watch hundreds of little penguins coming in from sea and waddling up the beach to their sand dune burrows. Absolutely adorable. General self-guided viewing ticket cost is $26.20 and can be booked online.
Great Ocean Road
Although it’s best to explore the Great Ocean Road over a few days, you can actually easily do the most famous sights in a day. Great one to tick off your Australian tourist bucket list!
The first stop about 90 minutes from Melbourne is Torquay; the birthplace of Rip Curl and Quiksilver, home to the world famous Bells Beach, and arguably the surfing Mecca of Australia. Take your board along for sure if you’re a keen surfer, or plan ahead and book in for a surfing lesson first thing in the morning if you’re curious to give the sport a go.
Next, drive another 45 mins through charming towns Anglesea and Aireys Inlet through to Lorne, which is a great place to stop for lunch. Kafe Kaos is pretty cute and The Bottle of Milk does mean burgers. Both can be found on the main strip, else the iconic Swing Bridge Cafe can be a good option. You can take a little 15 min detour to see Erskine Falls if you’ve got the time, which is really lush and pretty, and don’t miss Qdos Arts if you’re a fan of art.
Onwards to Apollo Bay. If you’re making good time and want to deviate to see the Cape Otway lighthouse, go for it. Otherwise stay on track and continue to the Twelve Apostles, the highlight of the Great Ocean Road. There’s a great lookout boardwalk to do along the top of the cliffs, which will give you the best view of the rock formations. You can also go down the Gibson Steps and walk along the beach beside them if you like.
Just don’t miss the Loch Ard Gorge before you jet back to Melbourne! It’s worth a visit and only a five minute drive south of the Apostles. Or if you’re loving life and don’t want to go home yet, find a cheap AirB&B (or set up your tent if you’re prepared) and continue on down the Great Ocean Road the next morning.
An hour from Melbourne’s CBD, the Dandenong Ranges are a vast expanse of mountains, forests, waterfalls, gardens and charming villages. As far as escaping the big smoke goes, a day trip here will get you your fill of nature in no time – and, perhaps more importantly, your fill of scones.
With the Dandenongs, its gardens are seasonal so it’s great to plan your day trip accordingly for the most spectacular sights. A great place to start in the Spring is with the National Rhododendron Gardens to see the blooming azaleas, cherries, rhododendrons, daffodils and the like. In the Summer, George Tindale Gardens is the place to be, and Alfred Nicholas Gardens is your best option for Autumn with its rich earthy tones.
Then, if walking through forests filled with ferns, mountain ash trees, cockatoos and kookaburras sounds like your cup of tea (or you’ve been slacking off on your gym membership), head to Grants Picnic Ground in Kallista to start the 6.6km walk through Sherbrooke Forest. No, not the Robin Hood one. That’s Sherwood Forest.
Make sure to also go through Belgrave and visit the 100 year old steam train there, endearingly named Puffing Billy. You can book tickets in advance if you want to go for a ride ($46.50 for students) and stop at Emerald Lake for a picnic, or stay on board through beautiful landscapes to Gembrook.
Mount Dandenong is worth the drive and offers epic views of Melbourne. The William Ricketts Sanctuary there is a perfect place to have a cuppa and read a book or relax, and SkyHigh Mt Dandenong is a cool place to have some lunch if you’re starving when you get there.
Otherwise, one of the nicest things to do in the Dandenongs is to pop into small local eateries in the villages and sample some local scones and Devonshire tea. It might seem overly quaint, but it’s honestly the best. Check out Watsons Creek Antique Cafe, Kalorama Kitchen or the famous Miss Marples Tea Room.
So there you go. Five little getaways that are easily achievable from Melbourne and well worth making the time for out of your student timetable.
We know binge watching Netflix and getting UberEats is the life, but you’ve gotta admit frolicking in wine country with a good glass of red, eating fresh scones in a lush garden sanctuary, and catching waves at some of Australia’s most iconic beaches sounds pretty damn good too!
So hustle your slow-moving mates, put aside a day for it, and get exploring. Or if you’re on semester break and have more time up your sleeve, maybe plan a bigger trip along the coast or to the Outback!