Victoria is such a compact state that nothing is very far from Melbourne, making it easy to escape the city on a daytrip. Here are five of our favourite quick escapes.
The Mornington Peninsula - a 100km boot jutting into the ocean on the eastern edge of Port Phillip Bay - is one long beach just 80km south of Melbourne. In the hinterland, rolling green vineyards produce some of Victoria's best cool climate wines, fertile farmlands yield rich crops of olives, apples and strawberries, and artisans produce creamy cheeses, handcrafted beers and melt-in-your-mouth chocolates. The best way to explore the peninsula is to drive along the western shore from Melbourne to Portsea (around 90 minutes via the M1 and M3).
Daylesford and the nearby Hepburn Springs are home to Australia's riches concentration of mineral springs. They are, if you believe the locals, so rich in therapeutic powers that they can relieve just about any ill you'd like to imagine. But one cannot live on hot baths alone. There are plenty of other things to see and do - the main street is lined with eclectic artist's studios and modern art galleries and you're spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat. Daylesford is an 80-minute drive from Melbourne; to get there, take the Calder Highway from the city to Woodend or Kyneton, and then head east to Daylesford from there.
The Yarra Valley has lovely views, great food, fantastic wine and lots to see and do - all one hour from the city. Follow the Yarra Valley Regional Food Trail, marked by the blue and orange signs criss-crossing featured stops across the region. Along it you'll find dozens of producers, orchards, farm gate stalls, eateries, wineries and places where you can pick your own produce. Before you set out, check the opening days of the local markets, where stalls are piled high with local foods, much of it organic. Take the Eastern Freeway from the city and follow the signs to Yarra Glen or Healesville.
Most people head to Philip Island, around a two-hour drive from the city, just to visit the famous penguin parade, but there's much more to the island than waddling seabirds. There are two elevated boardwalks at the Koala Conservation Centre near Cowes that let you get closer to the koalas precariously perched in the treetops, and the island features wild surf and coastlines with spectacular clifftop walking trails, quirky art galleries and some great restaurants. Connected to the mainland by bridge at San Remo, Phillip Island is 142 km south-east of Melbourne, via the Monash Freeway (M1) and South Gippsland and Bass highways.
Australian country towns don't come much grander than Ballarat, an 85-minute drive from the city centre. The legacy of riches poured into the town during the 1850s gold rush is a stunning streetscape of grand buildings and public statuary. The town's most well known attraction is Sovereign Hill, an outdoor museum that recreates what the town was like at the time. Other stops include the original, rather battered, Eureka Flag on display at the brand new Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (MADE), and the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, the country's largest (and oldest) regional art gallery, home to one of the best collections of Australian art outside of a capital city. Ballarat is 117km west of Melbourne, a 75-minute drive, via the M8.