Gently rolling hills covered in at times dense forest, interspersed by farms, orchards and picturesque villages is what the Dandenongs are all about. There are plenty of things to see and do along the way, just keep your eyes open and follow the signs to wherever takes your fancy. The Dandenong Ranges are on the outskirts of suburban Melbourne, so you'll be able to see plenty in a day - and it's not too far to come back to if you find one day isn't enough.
Port Phillip Bay Circuit
Follow the Bayside Beaches Drive to Portsea, then take the car ferry from Portsea to Queenscliff. Return to Melbourne via the Bellarine Peninsula on the western side of Port Phillip Bay. On the way you will pass through the beachside towns of Barwon Heads, Ocean Grove and Torquay, the peninsula towns of Portarlington and Queenscliff and the City of Geelong on Corio Bay. It's quite a lot to fit into one day (it is best spread over a couple of days) but can be done if you have a limited time for sightseeing.
Bellarine Taste Trail
The Bellarine Peninsula has been building a reputation as a food and wine destination. The Bellarine Taste Trail brings together many of the gourmet offerings of the region including wineries, restaurants and cafes and producers of beer, fresh produce, goats cheese, olive oil and seafood. The Bellarine Taste Trail is a collection of gourmet delights and foodie experiences all within 20 minutes of each other, taking visitors to vineyards that are receiving some of Australia's highest accolades for their wine and farms with fresh produce.
Known for its beautiful gardens, vineyards and plantations that thrive in its rich volcanic soil, the Macedon region is a one hour drive from Melbourne. The ranges were once a haunt for some of Australia's most infamous bushrangers in the goldrush days. Many historic towns within the region have retained their early European influence, offering visitors a unique visual and culinary experience.
The closest wine region to the city of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is Victoria's oldest wine region, with over 3,600 hectares under vine. But there is far more to the Yarra Valley than just wineries, however, it is equally well known for its art galleries, accommodation, restaurants, cafes, antique stores, markets, woodland nature walks and recreational attractions such as the Healesville Sanctuary, Paintball Skirmish, Ballooning, Hedgend Maze, Marysville Salmon & Trout Ponds, Lavender Farm and Tourist Railway.
A short drive (or train ride) from the city of Melbourne on the way to Geelong, Werribee is a rural community with something for everyone. Victoria's colonial story and aviation history can be discovered in Werribee - at Werribee Mansion and Point Cook RAAF Museum nearby. Within the grounds of the mansion is the Victoria State Rose Garden and Werribee Park Sculpture Walk. Down the road is the Werribee Open Range Zoo. On the shores of Port Phillip Bay you can walk or cycle the scenic two kilometre Wyndham Bay Trail.
Heidelberg School Artists Trail
This route is designed to take interested parties to the approximate sites depicted in the paintings of those associated with the Heidelberg School (i.e., Arthur Streeton, Walter Withers, Louis Buvelot, Tom Roberts, Clara Southern, David Davies, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Charles Conder, Tudor St George Tucker). At each such site there is a reproduction of the relevant painting, providing insight into the artist s interpretation of the landscape.
Sunbury Wine Region
Across the strikingly beautiful countryside around Melbourne are some of the major wine-producing regions in Australia, many within an hour, to an hour and a half of the city. However, you barely need to leave Melbourne to experience the Sunbury wine region. Just 10 minutes north of Melbourne airport, Tullamarine, along the C743 lies Sunbury, one of the state's best kept viticulture secrets and well worth discovering.
Ballarat is one of the iconic boom towns of ther famous Victorian goldrush of the 1850s. There is lots to do in and around Ballarat to make your trip an overnight one, or to come back a second time. On weekends, there's is a free music concert at the Ballarat Art Gallery every Sunday afternoon. Day trip activities include Sovereign Hill historic park; Eureka Centre; Gold Museum; Art Gallery; heritage buildings walk; Lake Wendourie walks, heritage tram ride, Botanical Gardens.
Upper Goulburn Valley
In the 1860s the mountainous terrain of the Upper Goulburn Valley was invaded by thousands of miners after alluvial gold was first disovered at Raspberry Creek in 1859. Today the Goulburn and Jamieson Rivers are popular for trout fishing, canoeing, 4-wheel driving and gold fossicking in and around the ghost towns and gold mines on and beyond the Yarra Track.
Picnic at Hanging Rock
You've probably read the book or seen the movie, now go and experience this mysterious place yourself with your own picnic at Hanging Rock. A volcanic creation formed around six million years ago, Hanging Rock is a spectacle in itself and provides a fun forty minute climb to reach the top. Before returning to the city, we recommend a visit to one or two of the many wineries in the nearby Macedon Ranges.
Western Port and Phillip Isld.
This drive, to the south-east of Melbourne, takes in the tranquil waters of Western Port and its islands, including Phillip Island on Bass Strait. Wildlife abounds on Phillip Island. The Penguin Parade - the nightly trek made by Fairy Penguins from the waters edge to their burrows in the sand dunes is very popular. At the other end of the island you can walk down the road and be watched by dozens of koalas sitting in the trees above.
Hepburn Spa Country
Synonymous with mineral baths, the broader area around Daylesford, including Hepburn Springs to the north, is renowned for its natural spring mineral spas where visitors can sample the mineral water. This together with its proximity to Melbourne make it a popular destination for tourists. Daylesford hosts some of the best bodywork therapists in Australia.
Opened in 1934, Healesville Sanctuary is a showcase for more than 200 species of native birds, mammals and reptiles, all viewed in a natural bushland setting just over an hour s drive from the city centre. Permitting visitors to get closer to Australia's wildlife than normal zoos, the Sanctuary has made a feature of the unique experiences visitors can have with kangaroos, koalas and Australia s birds of prey.
Beyond the city of Geelong to the south west of Melbourne is a 55km stretch of coastline from Torquay to Anglesea known as the Surf Coast. It is one of Melbourne's most popular recreational playgrounds and the centre and focus of Victoria's surfing and beach culture. Besides world famous surf beaches and sophisticated beach culture, the region boasts natural beauty, both on the coast and the hinterland.