Fill up the car.
With warm, blissful summery days ahead of us, there’s no better time than to put your pedal to the metal and speed out of the city’s concrete clutches. Zoom along steaming freeways and into wide open still spaces and cool water-lapping shores. Whether you want to set off on a long drive or just a short one, there are more than a few magical spots to enjoy those long, lazy summer days outta the city.
After enjoying the drive along the blue coast, squinting at the Twelve Apostles and getting ocean wind-swept hair, Port Fairy is the last and crucial stop along the iconic Great Ocean Road. Once a town of Moby Dick-like seal and whale hunters in the 19th century, Port Fairy is now a chilled out seaside town with a quirky artist scene offering R&R to all visitors. Take a walk along the beach and you might spot frolicking seals, dolphins and whales. Fish and chip greasies are best enjoyed here with your feet in the warm sand.
How far? 385km via the Great Ocean Road.
Although the description of Lakes Entrance as the ‘largest inland network of waterways’ may not invoke much fist pumping, the stunning sparkling waters surrounding the town make for a wonderful laid back summer adventure worth travelling four hours for. From lazy swims on the endless Ninety Mile Beach, casting a line out in one of the lakes or testing out your kayak skills, there’s heaps to do — or not do. Just make sure you treat yourself to the freshest seafood cuisine, direct from the sea to your mouth.
How far? 317km via the Princess Highway.
This quaint little town at the bottom of the Victorian Alps is home to top-notch eateries with delightful homegrown tucker and local wines plucked from the backyard vines. While snow season is long gone, the hills make for some decent hiking with Sound of Music sing-a-long sceneries. The chilly river is also perfect for a refreshing splash and a kayak when things get a bit steamy, and the Bright Brewery is your go-to drinking hole for quality craft brew. It’s a three and a half hour drive combined of easy freeways to picturesque, winding country roads.
How far? 322km via the Hume Freeway and Snow Road.
FRENCH ISLAND NATIONAL PARK
With a secret paradise of mangrove salty marshes, eucalyptus-munching koalas and a 15km coastline, the relatively unknown French Island National Park is a peaceful haven for campers and nature lovers. It’s a short hour-long road trip to Stony Point on the Mornington Peninsula and, unless your car has Chitty Bang Bang abilities and can transform into a boat, you’ll need to take the 15 minute passenger ferry from Stony Point to the island. Explore the island by bus, bike or foot. Bush style camping is also available for those wanting a longer taste of island life.
How far? 81km via the M1.
For a walk on the wild side head north-west for three hours, stopping at country towns Beaufort, Ararat and Moyston perfect for ice cream stops along the way. When at the Grampians, scrabble along one of the rugged cliff face walks, or plunge under one the cascading waterfalls in this heritage-listed national park. Camping is as cheap as chips and available under the twinkling stars, surrounded by the most awesome of rock formations and culturally-rich indigenous rock art sites. Foodies and wine snobs can celebrate with the Royal Mail Hotel at Dunkeld and the plethora of excellent cellar doors in the surrounding towns.
How far? 252km via the M8 and National Highway A8.
Singing Icehouse’s ‘Great Southern Land’ seems fitting for mainland Australia’s most southern tip. Only two and half hours from Melbourne, The Prom is a magical world of rainforests, granite mountains and spectacular beaches. It’s also a popular bushwalker haven, with meandering tracks suited for the keen jungle trekker looking for a three-day stint, to the easy one-hour wander along coastal beach spots such as Squeaky Beach (which lives up to its name). Keep your eyes peeled for some members of Australia’s coat of arms: roos, emus, wombats and echidnas call this great southern land home.
How far? 196km via the Gippsland Highway.
DAYLESFORD AND THE MACEDON RANGES
For the ultimate short road-trip in relaxation, take the Calder Freeway out of Melbourne and head for the hills for an instant temperature drop — possible one even making you reach for your woolies. Daylesfield and Hepburn Springs are famous for their luxurious spas, but the natural beauty and swimming holes are also local favourites. Surrounding Macedon Ranges towns such as Kyneton, Macedon and Woodened serve hearty pub meals and fresh local produce at weekend markets to delight foodies and gourmet enthusiasts.
How far? 112km via the Calder Freeway.
Reconnect with your inner hippy and head for the cooling and lush arms of the rainforests past the windy bends of the Yarra Valley. Hit with the devastating Black Saturday fires back in 2009, Marysville has been completely rebuilt and the surrounding beauty through the Great Dividing Range continues to rejuvenate. Not far from the heart of the town is Steavenson Falls, a 350m drop waterfall which is one of the highest in Victoria. To escape the tourists, take a short drive to Lady Talbot Drive for relaxing walking tracks through moss-covered forests and calming flowing creeks.
How far? 98km via the Maroondah Highway.
Home to hundreds of little waddling penguins, Phillip Island really should be renamed Penguin Island — the cuties attract thousands of visitors each year, after all. But aside from penguins, the island has beautiful sandy white beaches with turquoise water perfect for days of swimming, floating, surfing and snorkelling and other seaside shenanigans. It’s an easy 90-minute drive from Melbourne along the freeway to penguin wonderland.
How far? 148km via the M1.
For a Marty McFly DeLorean Back to the Future experience, take yourself for a cruise to the historic town of Beechworth. Here, wise old trees and architecture from the gold rush era still stand, and old-school pastries from the Beechworth Bakery remain classically tasty. Take a peek at the original gaol that hosted Australia’s first bearded crim Ned Kelly, who, we hope, would be pleased at the surrounding award-winning restaurants and boutique shops. It’s a three-hour stint along the relatively mundane Hume, but for an extra 30 minutes, you could take the greener, much more picturesque Melbourne-Lancefield Road route.
How far? 286 km via the Hume Freeway or 311 km via Melbourne-Lancefield Road
First published on Concrete Playground