Melbourne has a very special place in our coffee-drinking, food-loving hearts, and while there ain’t nothing that can replace the experiences you’ll find in this beautiful city, sometimes we all need to escape for a little bit. Besides, there are heaps of incredible experiences you can find by travelling a mere hour or two outside of the metropolis, into Victoria’s vibrant regions.
From horse-riding to pasta-making, deep-sea diving to fine dining, we’ve selected the very best reasons to leave Melbourne and have yourself an epic adventure in its beautiful surrounds.
#1: See The Sights From Sky-High
One of the most incredible ways to absorb everything that Victoria has to offer is from the air. If you’re looking for a leisurely soaring experience, taking a balloon flight over the Yarra Valley (and pointing out the wineries you’ll end up in later that day…) is one of our #1 sight-seeing recommendations, as well as making for a breathtaking date. Feel like heading the other direction? Try a helicopter flight over the Great Ocean Road’s Twelve Apostles—one of nature’s most incredible creations on the Australian coastline.
#2: Check Out Cooking, Cheese & Cider, DIY style
Breaking out of the city to sample some of the local eats means getting up-close and personal with the techniques and ingredients that go into your brunch. Keen for a masterclass? Try your hand at sausage-making, pasta-making, pickling, baking and more at these incredible venues:
- Locavore Studio, Yarra Valley: contemporary cuisine
- Yarra Valley Dairy, Yarra Valley: cheese tastings
- GelAperia, Yarra Valley: gelato
- Napoleone Ciderhouse & Brewery, Yarra Valley: cider and beer tastings
- Green Olive, Mornington Peninsula: sausages, pasta, pickles, butchers, woodfire pizza
- A Tavola, High Country: pasta, gnocchi and baking
#3: Hang Out With Your New Besties
Half the reason we head out of the city is to get back in touch with nature, and when we say ‘get back in touch,’ what we really mean is hanging out with super-cute animals, such as the penguins at Phillip Island, meerkats at Halls Gap Zoo, the resident emus at Narana Aboriganl Cultural Centre, and Mulloka Cruises’ seafaring pup! I mean, where else does every café have a resident farm dog?!
#4: Indulge In Farm-Life Luxuries, From Paddock, To Plate, To Pillow
Knowing where Victoria’s most delicious produce comes from doesn’t mean becoming a farmhand for a week (although that’s a great way to get a flavour of it!). In fact, you’ll find some of the most luxurious regional restaurants and accommodation offering ‘ paddock, to plate, to pillow’ experiences.
- Bendigo’s ‘From Market To Paddock To Plate’ experience includes farm visits, dinner and accommodation in The Schaller Studio – Art Series Hotel.
- Our top pick for the Dandenong Ranges is Shannon Bennett’s luxury food and hotel hub, Burnham Beeches.
- Fowles Winery in Goulburn Valley really nails the wine and food thing, combining tastings with historical tours.
- Mornington Peninsula’s Woodman Estate brings together delicious food, spa treatments, and local wines, all in a picturesque stately home.
#5: Regional Adventures Are Waaaaaay Better On Horseback
Well, they are, aren’t they? Galloping across some of Victoria’s most stunning scenery only to be met with a glass of a juicy pinot noir or crisp chardonnay is the only way we want to travel from now on.
The Mornington Peninsula is a great place to do it—if you want to go galloping along Victoria’s beaches, the team at Gunnamatta Trail Rides has an intricate knowledge of the area’s most incredible beach, bushland and hidden coastal trails. For a horseback winery adventure, we love Horseback tours, who will guide you and a hooved friend from cellar door to cellar door. Take my money AND all of my free time, now.
#6: Discover Drool-Worthy Dining Gems
Decadent degustations aren’t just enjoyed in the city, you know. There are chef’s hats aplenty to be discovered across Victoria, with some of the most exciting culinary creations to come out of Australia originating from these rural kitchens.
Go west and you’ll find Gladioli, a beautifully quaint fine dining institution in Inverleigh, inland from the Great Ocean Road, just past Geelong.
Just over an hour away a Mornington Peninsula favourite, Ten Minutes By Tractor, celebrates local produce in stunning eight-course and five-course degustations, as well as offering AN ENTIRE MENU OF CHEESE, matched to the on-site winery’s delicious drops.
And, if you’re keen to dine in the shadow of a jaw-droppingly beautiful mountain range, the twice-hatted Royal Mail Hotel at the foot of the Grampians can’t be missed. Book in for the chef’s tasting menu and why not stay a night in one of the mountain-view private suites? Don’t mind if we do.
#7: Get Up-Close & Personal With Nature, Even If It’s Under The Sea!
Why not take a dive into some of Victoria’s incredible nature-filled coasts and waterways?
Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula offers breath-taking scenery and exciting aquatic adventures, where you’ll find everything from dolphins to weedy sea dragons frolicking in the ocean.
Travel the Great Ocean Road where you can scuba dive, exploring shipwrecks at Apollo Bay, dive with crayfish at Warrnambool, or discover underwater caves at Port Campbell. And if the open waters aren’t your thing, try your hand at river kayaking with wild birds and platypus at Lake Elizabeth, thanks to Platypus Tours.
Or simply kick back and wile away your days in a luxury houseboat along the magnificent Murray River. Nature, hell freakin’ yes.
#8: Sip On Mouth-Watering Wines
Victoria is dotted with some of the tastiest wine, beer and spirit producers in Australia, making for excellent sipping no matter what region you’re in. Our wine must-visits are in the High Country, where you’ll find All Saints Winery in Rutherglen, Brown Brothers in Milawa, and Dal Zotto in the King Valley. Our top tip: Buy one to drink, one to age, and one to sell—that way, your own bottle will pay for itself!
#9: Slip Away On A Luxe Spa Day
If indulging in a day of massages, facials and—let’s be honest—lashings of sparkling wine sounds like your idea of the dream weekend, then Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges is the getaway that you need to lock in, stat.
One of Victoria’s most picturesque areas, the region is home to two of the best spas in the state: Salus Day Spa and Hepburn Bathouse, which has been nominated for a 2016 World Luxury Spa Award. With packages that allow you to slip into bliss for days at a time, the luxurious venues set the bar for relaxation and wellness treatments in Victoria. You know where you’ll be spending that next long weekend…
#10: Take In Victoria’s Incredible Landscape On Two Wheels
Cycling has many advantages: You can stop and start when you wish, you don’t need a designated driver, and it’s just about the only thing on this list that will help you work off all that cheese! Our picks of the bunch are the Pedal To Produce rides throughout High Country (scenic and food-focused), mountain biking at Mount Buller (warning: not for the faint-hearted), Pedals in Healesville (wine + bikes = good times) and scenic cycling trails in Gippsland (wait till you discover the Noojee Trestle Bridge!).
#11: Snap Insta-Worthy Sights Around Every Bend
Once you break away from the city lights, take a moment to survey the magnitude of your rural surroundings and we can guarantee you’ll be blown away by what you see. Whether it’s sunset at Phillip Island, discovering waterfalls in the Grampians, incredible woodlands in the Otways or the snow-topped sights at Mount Hotham, you’ll never be stuck for an Insta-worthy shot.
Melbourne’s an incredible city, but sometimes we all need to get out of town for a weekend. The Urban List has partnered with Visit Victoria to bring you our Get Out Of Town! Series—the ultimate guide to Victoria’s regional gems. For more ideas about where to wander in Victoria, click here.