As Australia’s second smallest state, it can be all too easy to overlook Victoria entirely when planning a trip to the land down under. But there’s more to see in Victoria than just the Melbourne city centre. In fact, the rich Victorian countryside is filled to the brim with hidden gems, ranging from alpine drives to lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls, to coastal highways that’ll have you passing through some of the state’s most adored rural areas.
And with Victoria’s eclectic landscape of regional economies, planning a road trip around this charming, little state is easier and more accessible than you might think. Simply look into cars and car insurance in Victoria, load up your new wheels with all the other travel essentials you may need, and then set off on your auto adventure. But where to begin on your journey? To help you pad out your Victorian road tripping itinerary, we’ve compiled our top 6 essential road trips and scenic drives to experience during your time in the garden state.
1. Great Ocean Road
One of the most iconic Victorian road trips you’ll find, the Great Ocean Road spans a whopping 243 km between the cities of Torquay and Allansford. Located just to the southwest of Melbourne and Geelong, the Great Ocean Road is a popular travel destination amongst Victorian locals due to its accessibility and stunning ocean views year-round.
But it’s not just the Pacific Ocean that you’ll get to bear witness to as you travel across this stretch of coast. You can also expect to see a few key attractions along the way, including the Great Otway National Park and its breathtaking redwood forests, and the Twelve Apostles – a rock formation located in Port Campbell National Park and off the coast of the Princetown Beach.
And speaking of beaches, the Great Ocean Road is also your ticket to some of Victoria’s most serene and secluded swim spots. We highly recommend carving out some time in your trip to visit Bells Beach, Apollo Bay, the Peterborough Beach and neighbouring Coastal Reserve, and the Bay of Islands. And if you see any signs for lookout points along the way, believe us – you’ll want to stop.
2. Great Alpine Road
So you’ve experienced the Great Ocean Road. Are you ready to take on its larger, longer, alpine counterpart? Spanning a whopping 339 km from Wangaratta to the Gippsland Lakes with an ascent and descent of Mount Hotham in the middle, the Great Alpine Road is the quintessential driving experience for travellers who are looking to enjoy all the many peaks and troughs of the Victorian countryside.
Being one of the longest drives on this list, driving along the Great Alpine Road will also see you passing through some of Victoria’s most charming regional cities and townships. We recommend stopping in Bright, Beechworth, and of course the peaceful town of Wangaratta. All of these townships provide the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a good locally brewed beer and a flaky country pie.
And if you’re looking to travel during the winter months in order to do a little skiing, the Great Alpine Road is also your ticket to Mount Buller, Hotham, and some of Australia’s other must-experience ski spots. Who said you had to go to Thredbo to shred?
3. Phillip Island to Wilsons Promontory
Another Victorian road trip destination that’s actually quite accessible from Melbourne (being only just a 90 minute drive away), Phillip Island is renowned for two things in particular: beaches and penguins. Yes, penguins!
Phillip Island is actually home to one of the world’s largest colonies of Little Penguins. Visitors to Phillip Island have the unique opportunity to watch the penguins make their happy, little journey from the foreshore to the ocean every summer evening from sunset to dusk. And despite the fact that Phillip Island is indeed an island, you can actually access it via car thanks to the San Remo Bridge, which connects the island to the Australian mainland from the coastal town of San Remo.
Because Phillip Island is a family-favourite destination, however, it can get a little crowded during holiday periods. So if you want to take the road less travelled, there’s nothing better than making the scenic trek from Phillip Island all the way through to Wonthaggi, Fish Creek, Waratah Bay, Yanakie, and finally to the breathtaking roadways of Wilsons Promontory National Park, or Wilsons Prom as it’s called by the locals.
This fantastic and unique national parkland is renowned for its amazing array of day and overnight hikes, coastal swim spots, and the Tidal River main campsite. We strongly recommend having a dip at Squeaky Beach, named after its unique quartz sands that audibly ‘squeak’ when you walk across them.
4. Black Spur Drive
Have you ever wanted to drive through Jurassic Park? Well a trip down the Black Spur is guaranteed to make you feel like you have been transported to an ancient epoch. This winding roadway is located deep in the heart of the Yarra Valley region, starting from the leafy township of Healesville and all the way through to Narbethong.
The Black Spur Drive is about 30 km long and is characterised by its winding shape, making it an ideal road trip destination for avid drivers who want a little something different from Australia’s expansive range of dead straight roadways. And due to the fact that it runs through the Yarra Valley, the Black Spur is also situated by plenty of the region’s most popular picnicking spots, so be prepared to stop and smell the eucalypts.
Whether you’re driving or picnicking, remember to take plenty of photos and videos, even if just to remember the sway of the towering gum tree forests that line the road and the long and dynamic shadows that they cast as the sun rises and sets. We also highly recommend stopping in the town of Marysville, where you can enjoy a handful of scenic walks, including the Tree Fern Gully Trail. This particular trail will take you straight to Steavenson Falls, known for being one of Victoria’s tallest waterfalls.
5. Yarra Valley Loop Drive
Victoria’s Yarra Valley is home to many different attractions, ranging from wineries to riding and biking trails. Along this stretch of motorway, you can also expect to find some of Victoria’s most beloved regional townships and cities. This includes the idyllic riverside town of Warburton, the cheery Healesville town centre, as well as Marysville, Yarra Glen, Millgrove, and Yarra Junction. You may even be able to go and see some cherry blossoms if you travel during spring.
Despite being hilly (and a little bit chilly in the cooler months), this region is actually highly accessible by car, bike, or even on foot, thanks in part to the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail that stretches all the way from Lilydale in Melbourne’s metropolitan region, and to the sleepy Warburton township which rests at the foot of Mount Donna Buang.
And speaking of Mount Donna Buang, a trip along the Yarra Valley Loop Drive is an absolute must for thousands of Victorians every year – especially in the winter peak. This is because Mount Donna Buang is actually the closest snowfield to Melbourne, being just an easy 94 km drive away.
6. Melbourne to Lakes Entrance
Another highly popular road trip destination for Victorian locals, the beautiful coastal town of Lakes Entrance in Victoria’s southeast is renowned for its vast system of inland waterways. This means that you’ve got a lot more to look forward to when visiting Lakes Entrance than just the scenic drive you’ll get to enjoy when travelling from Melbourne.
Lakes Entrance is also the best Victorian destination for sailing and leisurely water sports. There’s plenty of opportunities to go swimming, surfing, sailing, kayaking, and freshwater or saltwater fishing. You’ll be sure to find plenty of bream, flathead, whiting, and other catches in popular fishing holes around the township. If you’re feeling fatigued by driving, then why not charter your own boat and have a go at navigating the quiet and peaceful waters that adorn this stunning coastal town? After all, they say there’s no better place to watch the sun rise or set than on the bow of your own vessel.
Have any of these Victorian road trips and scenic drives piqued your interest? Then why not ready your vehicle, prepare your luggage, and hit the open road during your next free weekend or holiday period? You can do all these trips in one big go, or you can spread them out over your time in Victoria, if you’re planning to stay long-term or already call the state home.