Victoria has so many scenic roads that show the best of the state. Whether you want to delve into Victoria’s rich history or see more of its foodie and art culture, we’ve got the road trip for you.
One of the most iconic road trips in Australia – and Victoria is the Great Ocean Road. Don’t miss our beautifully illustrated wall map of the Great Ocean Road and Geelong in our 100 Amazing Road Trips edition or you can download the PDF version.
1. Great Ocean Road, Vic
With such icons of nature as the 12 Apostles, the Otways and not to mention the sheer undulating splendour of Victoria’s rugged coastline as it wends its way west of Melbourne to prioritise on your Great Ocean Road itinerary, you might forget that one of Australia’s most famous road trips also makes for a pretty great culinary journey. And it doesn’t take long to get going.
Make a date with MoVida Lorne, where Spanish flavours are brought to life with local produce that befits this seaside town with a hint of the Mediterranean about it.
Or meander a further half hour to Wye River, where Wye General Store serves as a dynamic hub for locals and a destination, rather than a pit stop, for road-trippers in itself with its on-trend all-day brunch menu and geographically blessed location.
In colourful Port Campbell, you’ll find Forage on the Foreshore, a heartfelt family-run restaurant that does exactly what it says on the tin; its all-day menu hinges on ingredients that are grown, produced or foraged locally on the Great Ocean Road and surrounding hinterland.
Further west in Warrnambool, Pavilion Café & Bar encapsulates Aussie beach life from its lofty waterfront position in an architectural building: deck poised to soak in the sunshine and sea air, great coffee and an ocean- and paddock-to-plate menu.
Then drop anchor in the historic fishing village of Port Fairy, imbued with the creative spirit of its community: Merrijig is Victoria’s oldest inn, serving up fresh, seasonal fare from its kitchen and quaint accommodation, while the old bluestone Oak & Anchor Hotel has been recently reimagined as boutique accommodation with a bar and restaurant to boot.
Lorne to Port Fairy is 232 kilometres.
2. Victoria’s Silo Art Trail
Peruse Australia’s largest outdoor art gallery on a road trip through the under-the-radar towns of Victoria’s Wild West.
Wimmera Mallee is a prolific grain-growing area that’s home to many small, vibrant communities whose locals are being recognised and celebrated through a 200-kilometre Silo Art Trail.
Brim, Rosebery, Albacutya, Patchewollock, Lascelles, Sea Lake, Nullawil, Sheep Hills, Rupanyup, Goroke, Kaniva and Serviceton are linked through a series of huge murals writ large on the sides of grain silos – many of which date back to the 1930s.
The creators, who are some of the world’s most celebrated street artists, visited and spent time engaging with their respective host towns in order to capture their spirit in a unique art project that is still evolving.
Highlights include Guido van Helten’s iconic mural in Brim depicting a multi-generational quartet of female and male farmers, the first silo artwork to appear in Victoria, and the inspiration for the project itself; Rone’s reflection of local farming couple Geoff and Merrilyn Horman in Lascelles; Russian mural artist Julia Volchkova’s impression of rural youth culture in Rupanyup; and Matt Adnate’s celebration of Wergaia Elder Uncle Ron Marks and Wotjobaluk Elder Aunty Regina Hood in Sheep Hills.
In between eyefuls of art, stop at country pubs for hearty meals, browse in quirky stores and seek out unique heritage and culture at places like Dimboola Print Museum, the site of the former local newspaper with its still-operable printing presses and associated machinery on display.
The Silo Art Trail is 200 kilometres.
After being purchased by a group of locals, the 10-room Royal Hotel Sea Lake has been restored to its former glory.
3. Bushranger Country, Vic
See Ned Kelly’s armour at the State Library Victoria in Melbourne, then drive north on the Hume Freeway towards bushranger country where rollicking tales of folk heroes, murder and mayhem abound.
See art depicting bushrangers at Benalla Art Gallery, take cheesy photos with Glenrowan’s Ned Kelly statue, and visit Wangaratta Cemetery to see ‘Mad Dog’ Morgan’s grave.
Finish at Old Beechworth Gaol, where the Kelly Gang, ‘mature-age’ bushranger Harry Powers and other outlaws did time. Such is life.
Bed down at Marlo Cottage in Beechworth, where the Kelly Gang were once photographed.
Words by Jo Stewart
4. Great Alpine Road, Vic
Linking Wangaratta and Bairnsdale, Australia’s highest year-round accessible sealed road is best experienced in autumn, where there’s no need for snow chains and the landscapes could be mistaken for a watercolour painting.
Travelling along the Great Alpine Road from Wangaratta, you’ll reach Bright in an hour. During autumn, Bright’s many deciduous trees turn warm orange, golden yellow and deep vermillion hues.
Unsurprisingly, this region excels at all things autumn. From a mountain-crafted chocolatey stout at Bright Brewery, to a glass of Rutherglen red by the Wandi Pub fireplace, there’s no better place to dedicate yourself to autumnal pursuits.
The next morning, drive to Bents Lookout at Mt Buffalo National Park to take in blockbuster views and get punch-drunk on alpine air. Afterwards, drive towards Mt Hotham and Dinner Plain, where the mountainous terrain makes for intense driving. Go slow as there are feral deer, super-steep inclines and hairpin turns to negotiate.
Towards Omeo, you’ll notice splashes of autumn foliage and, if the striking Art Deco facade of the Golden Age Hotel Motel doesn’t win you over, the hearty pub meals will.
Overnight in Omeo, then start your final leg. Swifts Creek Bakery is the perfect pit stop for old-school bakery classics. From there, it takes 80 minutes to reach Bairnsdale, the end of the Great Alpine Road where you can enjoy life in the slow lane at the Gippsland Lakes.
Retreat to the Kilnhouses, located on a working cattle stud in the blissfully bucolic Ovens Valley.
Words by Jo Stewart
5. The Grampians, Vic
To make this trip a truly green one, hire an electric vehicle in Melbourne before driving 90 minutes on the Western Freeway to reach Ballarat. Stop for Seven Seeds coffee at Hydrant Food Hall, one of the best places to eat in Ballarat, then continue north-west towards the Grampians (Gariwerd). Got ‘range anxiety’? Ararat’s many charging stations have got you covered.
Drive slowly and watch for roos when you reach the hiking hub of Halls Gap. Hit the ground running and tackle the 90-minute ascent to The Pinnacle lookout from the Wonderland car park. Staggering views await. Unwind at dusk with a locally brewed ale at Paper Scissors Rock Brew Co.
The next day, drive to meditative MacKenzie Falls (Mikunung wira) for a cruisey morning walk infused with birdsong. Next, don your hiking boots and drive north to the less-visited Hollow Mountain (Wudjub-guyan) Walk, where scrambling up rocky terrain will test your fitness.
Before driving home, stop at Mt William (Duwil) car park to take on the steep ascent to the highest point in the Grampians National Park. After a 50-minute slog, you’ll be rewarded with panoramas worth sweating for.
655-kilometre round trip
Book a private room at the award-winning Grampians Eco YHA in Halls Gap. Rainwater tanks, grey-water recycling, solar hot water, a compost system and herb garden make for a low-impact stay.
After a day hiking, get toasty by the wood-fired heaters. In the morning, use the communal kitchen to cook eggs fresh from the resident chickens.
You can also enjoy an eco-conscious stay at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld (pictured below), known for its fine diner, Wickens.
Words by Jo Stewart
6. The Phillip Island Touring Route, Vic
The Phillip Island Touring Route is the perfect weekend itinerary for exploring this perennially popular island escape, located within easy striking distance of Melbourne. While the 297-kilometre round trip from the Victorian capital is achievable in a day, that’s not going to afford nearly enough time to while away an hour or two (or three) dining one of the many great places to eat on Phillip Island, including lunching on local produce at The Cape Kitchen at Newhaven or the plant-based menu at Island Whole Foods in Cowes, sampling the wares at Phillip Island Brewing Co. and browsing the stylish homewares at The Yards at Phillip Island Winery.
Five Acres’ luxury cabins offer up rustic chic and a restive vibe.
7. Daylesford and Macedon Ranges, Vic
If your idea of bliss is a night in watching Antiques Roadshow, then a road trip through Victoria’s delightful Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region will get your blood pumping.
From Melbourne, hit the Calder Freeway and in 90 minutes you’ll be in the thick of Daylesford’s renowned vintage shopping scene. On Vincent Street, Brick Lane Bazaar is filled with movie memorabilia and old-school toys, while Found stocks rustic bits and bobs befitting a French farmhouse.
Just outside the town centre, the supersized Mill Market is a dream destination for crate-diggers and collectors. Brimming with retro milk-bar signage, mid-century barware, West German pottery and crate after crate of vinyl records, set aside a few hours (OK, half a day) to complete your mission.
Overnight in true vintage style at The White House, an 1850s miner’s cottage adorned with antique curios. There’s even a dreamy library complete with 1930s leather club chairs. Sigh.
The following day, drive the bush-fringed road to Kyneton, home to the gold-rush-era Royal George Hotel. Inside this long-standing pub you’ll find Kabinett collectibles for all your timeless homewares needs. Upstairs, the lush Botanik Bar balcony is an inspired spot for a cheeky vino.
Nearby, lose yourself in Long Story Short’s strong collection of obscure pop-culture finds and Red Cart Vintage’s assortment of one-of-a-kind objects and oddities.
Before leaving, pick up buttery pastries at Grist Artisan Bakers, found in the historic Steam Mill. Drive home with a belly full of carbs and car boot crammed with vintage stash – signs of a weekend well spent.
231-kilometre round trip
Words by Jo Stewart
8. Melbourne to Macedon Ranges, Vic
This is more multi-weekend treasure hunt than one-off Saturday spin (unless you want to bunch brunch and lunch). It seems every small-town bakery in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges and its peripheries lays claims to having ‘the best’ baked good of some variety, be it pie or sourdough.
Brothers Ryan and Chan Khun from Kyneton’s Country Cob Bakery regularly sweep the board at Australia’s Best Pie Competition. Trentham’s RedBeard is so confident of its natural wild yeasts and lactose bacteria that it offers sourdough making workshops. North-west of the ranges, the Bridgewater Bakehouse has won the Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph twice (2018 and 2019). Towns like Woodend and Lancefield are just two more towns worth a sweet little pit stop.
90 kilometres one way from Melbourne (route dependent).
9. Melbourne to Gippsland, Vic
You’ll find good food without much fanfare in egalitarian Gippsland. Take the M1 south from Melbourne towards Lang Lang’s Howler Brewing Company for next-level burgers and brews. Further south, Inverloch’s Dirty Three Wines offers top drops. Visit Prom Country Cheese in Moyarra and overnight in Meeniyan, known for its annual garlic festival. The next day, take the windy-yet-wondrous Grand Ridge Road to Warragul to browse the farmers market or splash out on the six-course tasting menu at Hogget Kitchen. Go out with a bang at Farmer’s Daughters, a landmark Melbourne eatery that champions Gippsland producers.
372 kilometres round trip.
Ross Farm’s stripped-back aesthetic is just the tonic.
Words by Jo Stewart
10. Great Southern Rail Trail, Vic
It’s difficult to imagine a better way to connect with the laid-back townlets and the green, green grass of Gippsland than by rolling through on arguably the region’s best multiday cycleway: the Great Southern Rail Trail.
From Leongatha (135 kilometres southeast of Melbourne), the neutral-gradient gravel trail parts dairy-farm fields and leafy peppermint forests. Stop one is slow-food hub Koonwarra; its ethical soft-centre based around Paddlewheel, the local farmers market store, Milly & Romeo’s Artisan Bakery and Cooking School, and The Ethical Food Store (great for a locally-sourced lunch).
Roll on over restored trestle bridges and witness the Strzelecki Ranges emerge from the foliage. Linger in Meeniyan for its galleries and coffee-and-cake options (especially Moo’s) and the Meeniyan Pantry & Cellar, an upmarket deli selling cheese, wine and local smallgoods. Gentle Gippsland ups and downs will then deliver you further along to Fish Creek, an artist hub with a cheeky grin.
A six-kilometre ride from town, The Church House Gourmet Retreat, featured on Grand Designs Australia, is a worthy place to rest your gently throbbing thighs. The shapely Art Deco-style Fish Creek Hotel (with a giant fish perched precariously on its roof) is the spot to shoot the breeze with fun Fish-Creekians.
On day two, with Melbourne seemingly an aloof memory, ‘The Prom’ shows you her wild soul down in the distance all day. Leave the trail at the subtly signed Gurneys Cider (before Foster) to drink in the vistas (after a short, steepish ride up through fields) and head-lightening scrumpy cider made from wild apples. Freewheel through time-warped Toora before your tyres roll onto the long, long Port Welshpool Long Jetty and a rendezvous with your return lift (which can be provided courtesy of Australian Cycling Holidays).
72 kilometres (a gentle ride over two days)
11. Criss-cross Melbourne by tram, Vic
Melbourne is one of the easiest cities in the country to navigate, thanks largely to its network of trams that criss-cross the city, ferrying passengers around the CBD, and delivering them to compelling neighbourhoods and suburbs far and wide. No wonder Melburnians have a cat-that-ate-the-cream satisfaction about living in their very liveable metropolis.
But the good news is that visitors can bask in this reflective smugness by mastering the tram system themselves. It’s as easy as ducking into any 7-Eleven you pass by and purchasing a myki card, the tap-on, tap-off payment system used there. Even with a myki card tucked into your back pocket, chances are you won’t have to use it if you are travelling in the CBD or out to the Docklands area: the city’s Free Tram Zone allows you to jump a tram without having to pay as long as you are within a (slightly wonky) rectangular grid bound by Queen Victoria Market, Docklands, Spring Street, La Trobe Street and Flinders Street, and which encompasses the likes of Bourke Street, Collins Street and Federation Square.
Once you have fine-tuned how to use the tram system, it’s time to decide where to go on it; may we suggest these five top spots:
1. St Kilda
With a thriving cafe culture, sparkling waters and funky late-night drinking spots (and penguins, of course) it’s little wonder the inner-city suburb of St Kilda is a perennial favourite with locals and out-of-towners alike. Browse the abundance of its cake shops on Acland Street, sink a schooner and listen to live music at Hotel Esplanade (or the Espy as it’s affectionately known to locals), and then spend the night at the sleek, recently revamped Prince Hotel.
Tram route: 96
2. High Street Armadale
Melburnians love to shop and High Street Armadale is where they come to do it. Often described as Melbourne’s answer to Rodeo Drive, the shopping strip here is lined with stylish boutiques from a who’s who roster of Australian labels from Zimmermann to Jac + Jack to Dion Lee. And as you’d expect, the area is well stocked with cafes, restaurants and bars too.
Tram route: 6
The residents of Collingwood will never go hungry. The hipster suburb is powered by its stomach with a profusion of destination eateries serving up interesting fare, from the Japanese influences at Cibi to chef Shannon Martinez’s recently relocated vegan emporium Smith & Daughters (including Smith & Deli). Bolthole bars, art galleries and one-of-a-kind boutique shopping keep things interesting.
Tram route: 86
Cafes, cool bars, fine diners and street art (with a side of graffiti) clash and collide to brilliant effect in Fitzroy. Locals converge on Gertrude, Johnston, Smith and Brunswick streets to shop for vintage, listen to live music, meet up for drinks and chow down on everything from crabs to croissants to cookies and cream gelato.
Tram route: 11
Prahran is a mecca for vintage hunters who have enough to busy themselves for hours along Greville Street and Chapel Street, the home of the brilliantly dishevelled Chapel Street Bazaar. Prahran Market, stocked with fresh cheeses, produce, meats and flowers, is a vintage find in itself given it is one of the oldest in Australia.
Tram route: 72
12. Melbourne to Marysville, Vic
Hedged by hundred-metre-high mountain ash trees and tremendous tree ferns, the Black Spur is the kind of road you see in German car commercials promising you a better life. Starting at Healesville, the twisty tarmac is arguably the most exhilarating drive from an Australian capital city. Resilient, enchanting Marysville (horrendously affected by 2009’s Black Saturday bushfires) is worth a lingering lunchtime browse. Check out proudly kooky Bruno’s Art and Sculpture Garden and take in some splendour on the short walk to 84-metre Steavenson Falls. Extend the thrill and chill by winding up the hill to Lake Mountain Alpine Resort (20 kilometres east) and stop by your choice of Yarra Valley winery on the way back to Melbourne.
200 kilometres return from Melbourne.
13. Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula really does have something for everyone. There’s beachside hamlets ranging in style from boho Rosebud to glam Sorrento, a vibrant hinterland food scene (head to Red Hill for olive farms, wineries and pick-your-own strawberries) and artful inclusions, such as the world-class sculpture park at Pt. Leo Estate in Merricks and Jackalope’s behemoth black rabbit/antelope hybrid sculpture at Merricks North. It’s all very Mediterranean really (well, in summer at least).
Take the M1 and the Mornington Peninsula Freeway from Melbourne to get there – watching out for giant roadside sculptures along the way including a quizzical bird and huge silver garden gnome. Then just pootle around from Main Ridge (another foodie hotspot for wine at Main Ridge Estate and goats’ cheese at Main Ridge Dairy) to Mount Martha (cameras ready for the sorbet-hued bathing sheds) to well-heeled Portsea to take it all in.
Where to stay:
If you fancy hanging out a little longer, Mornington Peninsula has lots of choice when it comes to stylish stays.
InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula
Part of the sophisticated new offering at landmark redevelopment The Continental, which includes restaurants, bars and a chic bathhouse, the InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula has been lovingly and lavishly reimagined complete with a glamorous Mediterranean aesthetic.
Lancemore Lindenderry Red Hill
Situated within nearly 14 hectares of gardens and grape vines in the heart of Red Hill, this boutique hotel of 40 rooms has benefited from the signature sophisticated aesthetic of award-winning design studio Hecker Guthrie. It boasts a convivial cellar door and a destination dining experience at the one-hatted (in the 2022 Australian Good Food Guide) Dining Room, with its considered farm-to-plate menu.
Located in Shoreham, this rural retreat, blissfully situated within a working olive farm, offers two chic accommodation options – The Retreat and The Studio – both of which are perfect for a relaxed couple’s weekend away.
Port Phillip Estate
A dramatic modernist concrete facade gives way to a collection of six luxury suites that boast expansive vineyard and coastal views (as well as luxury touches such as Missoni bathrobes and Aesop amenities).
Peppers Moonah Links Resort Mornington Peninsula
Adjacent to two championship golf courses, Peppers Moonah Links’ Open Rooms overlook the 1st Fairway from their expansive terraces and present like funky crash pads complete with retro modernist furniture and shots of orange and brown.
110 kilometres (to Portsea)