Great Ocean Road
When it comes to Australian road trips, there are few better than the Great Ocean Road. Stretching 243 kilometres along Australia's southeast coast, the road is a true driver's delight with plentiful curves that hug the coastline and offer impossibly scenic coastal views of picturesque surfs, breath-taking beaches, seaside towns, and even some genuine Australian bush. Along the way, you'll find many reasons to stop, including the famous surfs at Torquay's Bells Beach, ziplining and hiking at the Great Otway National Park, the postcard-ready lighthouse and Stables tearoom at Aireys Inlet, and ocean fresh seafood at the Apollo Bay Fisherman Co-Op Society.
Must do: There are only a few left, but the Twelve Apostles are a landmark of the area, and no trip is complete without a photo op with these dramatic rock stacks that rise from the depth of the Southern Ocean.
Distance from Melbourne: Just over an hour.
There's something for everyone in the often moody, misty, and mysterious Dandenong Ranges. With canopies of towering Australian foliage and gorgeous local wildlife, nature is the obvious drawcard here, and there are plenty of hiking trails to explore – the 2.4km walk to Sherbrooke Falls is a quick, easy option. Afterwards, drop into one of the many inviting eateries for lunch. In Olinda, try the Pig and Whistle Tavern or the Bavarian chalet-style Cuckoo Restaurant. Over at Sassafras, be charmed by the elegant Fortnum's or quaint Miss Marple's Tearoom for some Yorkshire Gold tea and fluffy scones. There are plenty of cutesy craft stores and antique shops around, perfect for picking up a souvenir or two.
Must do: Take a trip on Puffing Billy, the restored open-air steam train that travels from Belgrave to Gembrook.
Distance from Melbourne: About an hour.
Southeast of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula offers a plethora of experiences. Tramp through the Red Hill markets for quality crafts and delicious snacks, relax by the open ocean at Safety Beach and Point Leo, and explore the shops of the quaint, small-town main streets at Queenscliffe and Sorrento. Gourmands are in for a treat with plenty of wineries to visit – try Red Hill Estate, Crittenden Estate and Hickenbotham of Dromana – and a fully-immersive experience at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm. For the active, Gunnamatta Trail Rides offer beachside horse-riding finished with lunch at the Royal Hotel in Mornington.
Must do: The Peninsula Hot Springs in Fingal is a relaxing retreat with a series of alfresco mineral baths backed with gorgeous views, a traditional Turkish Hammam, full-service spa, and delicious dining.
Distance from Melbourne: 1.5 Hours
Known as Australia's wellness centre, the twin towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs invite you to take a load off. Spas abound here so there are plenty of places for massages and facials, but perennial favourite Hepburn Bath House & Spa also allows you to bathe with the area's restorative mineral water. For something different, check into Shizuka Ryokan for a taste of traditional Japanese hospitality in country Victoria, or get a mindful massage at Body Origami. Poke around The Convent, a charming 19th century mansion, take a stroll down the main street to see the historic post office and quaint shops. On your way out, stop by the postcard-perfect Lake Daylesford, and pop in at the Stony Creek Gallery to check out some contemporary art.
Must do: Book into The Retreat at The Mineral Spa, where you'll enjoy bathing in mineral pools and relaxing in the essential oil-infused European basalt stone sauna.
Distance from Melbourne: 1.5 hours.
For foodies and oenophiles, Yarra Valley is pure heaven. This wine region lets you fill up on lush local produce, enjoy exquisite cellar door experiences, and explore sweeping landscapes. You could put your fate into the hands of a company (and there are plenty) offering day tours to the region, but the best way to experience the Yarra Valley is by doing your own research. Map out a list of four or five wineries you wish to visit and create an itinerary based on where you might want linger over lunch (try Oakridge Wines), drink in the views (Tarra Warra Estate has some good ones), or take a winery tour (Domaine Chandon's is excellent).
Must do: De Bortoli's private wine and cheese paired tastings in their Trophy Room is a decadent experience. Finish by grabbing a glass of wine and a block of cheese and hunker down in one of the secluded gazebos on the estate.
Distance from Melbourne: One hour.
About Gayatri Bhaumik
Always ready for her next adventure, Gayatri took her first flight at 10 days old and hasn't looked back since. After 12 years in Bangkok and seven in Melbourne, she's now based in Hong Kong when she isn't globetrotting. Besides serving as the Travel Columnist for Liv Magazine, she contributes travel and lifestyle stories to a range of publications, including Jetsetter, The Art of Business Travel, and The Loop. Most recently, she was the Deputy Editor at Hong Kong's Artemis Communications, working on titles such as Elite Traveler Asia, Explorer Magazine and Necessity.com. Follow her travels on her blog and Instagram.