Want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city but don’t have the time or money to organise an expensive weekend away? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.
Here’s our list of top day trips on Australia’s east coast that will fulfil your sense of adventure without making you stray too far from home.
The Macedon Ranges
Take in the tranquility of the rolling hills and sleepy rural villages of the Macedon Ranges, less than an hour north-west of Melbourne. Drive down tree-lined streets, stopping in at one of the many art galleries in the area. The Convent Gallery in Daylesford houses a number of exhibitions year-round. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the spectacular view at iconic Hanging Rock, made famous by the film and novel Picnic at Hanging Rock.
The Black Spur Drive
Passing between Healesville and Marysville north-east of Melbourne, the Black Spur Drive twists and turns its way through lush rainforests. Wind down the windows and savour the fresh air of the Australian bush as you pass the towering trees and ferns around you. On your way home, hop on the historic Yarra Valley Railway or visit the Healesville Sanctuary wildlife park to cap off a fun-filled day.
Overlooking Louttit Bay on the Great Ocean Road, the town of Lorne is the perfect seaside destination for those looking for white sandy beaches and ocean views. Enjoy your day by the sea at the Lorne Beach Pavilion, as you lunch while watching the waves crash against the beach before you. Fishing enthusiasts should head down to the Lorne Pier, a local favourite for catching trevally, barracuda, and whiting. If you have time, the bush trek to nearby Erskine Falls is a challenging but rewarding journey.
Just off Australia’s southern coast, Phillip Island is a favourite destination for those looking to get out of the busy city for the day. Spend the morning strolling The Nobbies boardwalk along the rugged coastline for some impressive ocean views. Then venture down to Seal Rocks for a chance to view one of Australia’s largest colonies of fur seals. Later, join the hundreds of visitors who flock each evening to watch the penguins as they return home at sunset.
New South Wales
Situated in the Southern Highlands, this quaint village is the perfect place for a stroll among historical buildings that are now home to charming galleries and shops. Explore the gardens of the commanding Harper’s Mansion and get lost in its impressive hedge maze. Later, treat yourself to dinner at the award-winning Eschalot. Or, for a more relaxed pub experience, Australia’s oldest continually licensed inn, the Surveyor General Inn, also offers a great feed.
The Hunter Valley
A mecca for food and wine lovers, the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, is a haven of vineyards, farmers’ markets, and gourmet restaurants. Hire a bicycle and tour the many cellar doors and wineries at your leisure or head over to Wollombi and take a guided tour of the area’s Indigenous rock paintings. At sunset, soar over the countryside in a hot-air balloon for a magical moment that you won’t soon forget.
The Grand Pacific Drive
For stunning coastal vistas, it’s hard to go past this gorgeous drive south of Sydney. Take in the stunning views as you weave your way down the coastline dotted with hidden beaches and picturesque seaside villages. One of the many highlights is the Sea Cliff Bridge that dramatically sweeps over the Pacific Ocean. End the day with sunset at Kiama’s famous blowhole for a truly memorable experience.
Enjoy a day full of adventuring, from kayaking to wine tasting, at Kangaroo Valley, only a two-hour drive from both Sydney and Canberra. Stop into the famous Kangaroo Valley Pie Shop for lunch (we love the steak and mushroom!) or, for something sweet, try the Kangaroo Valley Fudge House & Ice Creamery down the road. If you still have time to spare, venture north to visit the spectacular Fitzroy Falls.
If you’re a bit of an early bird, why not be one of the first to see the day’s sunrise at the top of Mount Warning, a two-hour drive south of Brisbane. The 8.8km return hike through the rainforest to the summit opens up to breathtaking views of the valley and coastline below. It’s a must for anyone who loves the outdoors. For a less strenuous affair, take the Lyrebird track through tropical surroundings and pack a lunch to enjoy at the Korrumbyn Creek Picnic Area.
Just north of Noosa Heads, this sunny stretch of sand along the Noosa River has been dubbed by locals ‘The Golden Mile’. With an abundance of grassy picnic areas, playgrounds, and eateries, it makes for a terrific family day trip. Bring your bikes and cycle along the foreshore or rent a paddleboard or kayak for some fun in the water. Later, grab some fish and chips, sit under a tree, and enjoy the peaceful river views before you.