Although Melbourne itself is an incredible city, and you'll definitely want to spend weekends checking it out, be aware that there are SO many more great spots round about that we are extremely happy we made the effort to visit. Hiring a car is really easy, via the app 'CarNextDoor'. For day trips it's not too expensive, and the great thing about driving in Australia is that unlike home you insure the car rather than the person. This means you are automatically insured on pretty much anyone else's car through their own insurance.
This post is a list of stories about all the exploring we have managed to get done in our couple of months since we arrived.
PENINSULA HOT SPRINGS
The hot springs are the perfect place to go after a busy week of work, or anytime you feel you may need a bit of relaxation and good old fashioned self care. It takes about two hours to drive from Melbourne CBD, so we rented a car from carnextdoor.com and set off at around 10am. The springs are open until late in the evening, so there’s no rush to leave super early.
There are several different packages on offer, but we opted for the ‘spa dreaming centre’, which costs 75AUD per person (about £40). There is a cheaper option which is for the more public baths, and only costs 30 dollars, however we would highly recommend spending that little bit extra as the difference is extremely notable.
With the spa dreaming centre package, we spent the day unwinding in several different temperature thermal pools. There is also a Moroccan hammam, and two different sauna/steam rooms. You can find plenty of sun loungers, and hanging chairs where you can sit and drink herbal teas and order food. After my late night, long weekend shifts behind the bar this day definitely sorted me out. I returned to Melbourne feeling fully rejuvenated and almost as if we had been on a holiday away from the city.
DAY TRIP TO THE GRAMPIANS
On our first weekend in Melbourne, we went to a music festival called Pitch, and couldn’t quite believe the beautiful setting we found ourselves in. It was in a place called the Grampians, a nature reserve in Victoria. However, due to the nature of the weekend we had zero time to explore the beautiful surroundings, so I promised myself I was going to come back before we left, and I am so grateful I did. We set off early from Melbourne at 7am, and drove straight to the Boroka Lookout.
We started the drive up Mt Difficult Road to one of the best lookouts in the Grampians, the Boroka lookout. From here you can take the very short walk from the carpark to the lookout platform and enjoy the 180-degree views of Western Victoria, looking out over Halls Gap and Lake Bellfield.
Reeds Lookout & The Balconies
Next we headed up Mt Victory Road on our way to the Reed Lookout carpark, from where you can start the short stroll to the summit for views for views of Victoria Valley, Lake Wartook, and the Serra, Victoria and Mount Difficult ranges. If you continue walking you will eventually arrive at The Balconies, the ideal place to watch the sunrise/set, or even just chill out and take a picnic which was what we opted for as we only had one afternoon. We sat ontop of the most incredible rock eating our picnic and taking in the incredible surroundings whilst soaking up the sun rays.
Lastly we went to Mackenzie Falls, a huge waterfall cascading down the rocks beside which you can walk down all the way to the bottom. There are two walks there: MacKenzie Falls Lookout Walk (1.9km return, 40 min) and MacKenzie Falls Walk (2km return, 1 h 20 min). The waterfall is amazing and there are so many flat spaces to relax and spend a couple of hours at the bottom.
The Grampians offers some incredible panoramic views and so much more. You could easily spend a week chilling up there making the most of all that the scenery has to offer, but if you decide to do a one day trip like we did, you must get up early and go. The drive from Melbourne is around 3/3.5 hours, so be sure to make the most of the full day. On our drive back we even saw a couple of kangaroo’s hop in front of the car, making our Aussie day trip all the more authentic.
THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
This was one we really couldn't miss. Although ideally I would have liked to spend a night staying along the Great Ocean Road, my work schedule means that I am never available on weekends, and so this Anzac Day (public holiday) we got up bright and early and set off on our journey. Anzac Day is basically Australia and New Zealand’s version of Remembrance Day, and so luckily for us going on this particular day meant that traffic in the morning leaving Melbourne was minimal. We set off at 8am, however leaving on a normal, non-public holiday setting off at 7am to avoid traffic is probably more recommendable. The first stop on the road is Torquay which you pass through about an hour after leaving the city. There are loads of nice breakfast spots, so stopping for a bite to eat is a good idea and you can watch the surfers catch the waves on the beach below. From here we drove inland straight down to Peterborough, to see the attractions in Port Campbell National Park. Starting with London Bridge and driving up you can see so many beautiful limestone cliffs, offshore islands, towering rock stacks, gorges, arches, and there’s even a blowhole in the Loch Ard Gorge.
From Peterborough you drive about 15 mins on to the famous 12 Apostles (of which now there are only 7 because of the rate of erosion). After this you drive another 1h20mins to Apollo Bay, and from here the drive up the Great Ocean Road is all coastal and has some of the most stunning views. Be sure to stop off in Wye River and have a beer/lunch at the Rookery Nook Pub, and also in Lorne - a beautiful little surf town along the way. We even dared to go in for an evening dip and definitely didn’t regret it, although we got some strange looks as most people there were head to toe in jackets, hats, scarves. From Lorne back to Melbourne is an easy two hours, and the sunsets behind you so you get some incredible views as the sky turns pink in the evening.
On our first weekend in Melbourne we headed down to the Peninsula 2hrs south of Melbourne with some friends we had met previously in Guatemala. It was an incredible introduction to Australia, we stayed in a beautiful house overlooking the most breathtaking view of the Aussie countryside, and had lunch at one of the local wineries called Blue Range Estate Wines. There are loads of wineries down the Peninsula, so be sure to have a google search and book lunch/a wine tour one afternoon. Much to our surprise we even saw a kangaroo hop by as we were eating our lunch!!! Everyone else in the restaurant was looking at us very strangely as we ran out in excitement with our cameras at the ready.
Mccrae beach is nearby and is a beautiful alternative to the city beaches. The white sand is soft to touch and the shallow sea is crystal clear for miles. The pretty seaside town of Sorrento is only about 20 minutes drive from here so it would make sense to visit whilst here!