Header images: road tripping through Castlemaine; Cartel Roasters; Sam Miranda Winery
Snacks at Igni
Distance from Melbourne: An hour to Geelong and an additional 30-40 minutes’ drive to other nearby locations on the Bellarine Peninsula.
What’s to love about it? What’s not to love? Attractions include wineries, extreme sports, beautiful beaches and marine life (dolphins, seals and blue whales).
Add-ons: Take a trip to Queenscliff Harbour to catch a ferry to Mornington Peninsula or Point Lonsdale to enjoy the beachside views of the Bass Straits.
What to eat: For coffee (and cocktails), head straight to Cartel Roasters; for wine, charcuterie and cheese, go to Geelong Cellar Door; and find great beer at Little Creatures and White Rabbit Brewery. Igni is an excellent option for fine-dining fare.
Optional extras: Drive further down south and you’ll even catch a glimpse of humpback whales on the Great Ocean Road in Warrnambool (four hours from Melbourne).
Mornington Hot Springs
Distance from Melbourne: An hour’s drive or a 45-minute ferry ride (cars and bikes welcome) from Queenscliff Harbour.
Key attractions: Hot springs, stunning beaches, golf, wineries, marine life and water sports.
Where to eat and drink: Try Montalto Vineyard for Italian; Main Ridge Dairy for goat’s cheese; Johnny Ripe at Red Hill for mouthwatering apple pie; and for some outdoor fun, try strawberry and cherry picking or horse riding wine tours.
Dominique Portet Winery
Distance from Melbourne: An hour’s drive.
Why go? Art galleries; family fun at Healesville Sanctuary (play with kangaroos and wombats); Puffing Billy Steam Railway (Australia’s oldest steam railway); hot air ballooning; and wineries.
To fill the belly: Dominique Portet Winery; Giant Steps and Innocent Bystander (casual dining and brewery); Yering Station (casual and fine dining); Yarra Valley Chocolaterie (great for family and kids).
Distance from Melbourne: 3 ½ hours’ drive
What’s there: Yet more wine regions; outdoor activities; snow mountains; The Great Alpine Road.
Eating and drinking: Head to Provenance at Beechworth for fine dining; King Valley Wine Region for Italian varietals (Chrismont Winery, Dal Zotto Winery, Sam Miranda Winery and Brown Brothers); Milawa cheese; vineyards at Rutherglen; and the Bright Brewery.
Kazuki restaurant, Daylesford
Distance from Melbourne: Anything from 1 to 2.5 hours’ drive
Why visit? This region encompasses an area of Western Victoria with a rich fascinating history that dates back to the gold-mining era (circa 1850s). Key cities include Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Daylesford.
Must-visit: Pan for gold at Sovereign Hill (an open-air museum); Bendigo Art Gallery; Hot Springs at Daylesford.
What to eat and drink: Fine dining at the Lakehouse at Daylesford; casual dining at Masons of Bendigo; breakfast at the Bendigo Corner Store Café; Apple Annie’s in Castlemaine; Le Petit Gourmand in Creswick.