A weekend getaway from Melbourne can encompass everything from luxuriating in a spa, trekking along mountain trails or camping on the site of a volcanic crater. From farmers markets to rainforest strolls the only limit is your imagination, and in autumn the colours are at their blazing best. When we hit the road for a last- minute weekend trip these places are amongst our favourites.
Distance from CBD: 64km
Macedon is beautiful in any season but is spectacular in autumn. Right now you’ll find the streets ablaze with colour. Drive along the magnificent Avenue of Honour and soak up the canopy colours. Continue and head up to Mount Macedon. At the top it’s an easy walk to the 21 metre high Memorial Cross for incredible views. Rug up in winter as it gets mighty cold however even when the fog sets in the mood is still surreal.
You can stop for lunch at the Top of the Range café or at the Mount pub down below. On some weekends many of the grand manicured gardens are open to the public. Back on lower ground, off Nursery Road, there’s a great swimming spot with a walking trail around it, known as “The Res”. It’s somewhat of a local secret but worth seeking out. You can drive or walk through the pine forest right to the waters edge. It’s refreshing and the best spot to swim or laze about in summer.
Distance from CBD: 113km
Rest and rejuvenate in spa and mineral springs country. Daylesford and the surrounding area is decadent, fun, colourful and for many years was our favourite getaway on our wedding anniversary. Visit the Lake House, check out the Mill market, walk around the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve or visit the cute Book Barn by the lake.
Head down to Lake Daylesford and meander around “The Peace Mile” on foot, take a paddle boat out on the water or enjoy a coffee at the Boat House. There’s a world of gourmet and charming cafes and restaurants to enjoy. Visit the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens (and climb the viewing tower) for great views. Campers can stay at Jubilee Lake Holiday park or free camp not far away at Mount Franklin Scenic Reserve, the scenic site of a volcanic crater with sprawling open areas and beautiful in autumn.
Distance from CBD: 77kms
The drive to Warburton is an invitation to slow down. It’s so peaceful in the Warburton Valley and on route you’ll be tempted to stop for fresh fruits, olives, jams, berries… it’s not just scenic but delicious out here.
Throw the bikes in and cycle part of the 40km Lilydale – Warburton Rail Trail. Enjoy a BBQ or picnic by the river or indulge in one of their many places to eat, such as the Riverview Cafe followed by a riverside stroll amongst the ducks.
The Rainforest Gallery, just out of town is nature’s artistry at its best and completely free. Walk on the raised boardwalk high above the treetops canopy then descend to the floor of this ancient rainforest. Not far away, off Cement Creek road, towering giants in the Californian Redwood forest make you feel like you’ve stepped into Jack and the Beanstalk.
4. Healesville and beyond
Distance from CBD: 63 kms
There’s something special about the bustling yet relaxed town of Healesville with the Toolangi State forest and everything in between. There’s an easy vibe and a holiday feel and plenty of cafes to enjoy. Healesville Sanctuary is an awesome day trip in itself. On Sunday’s be a kid and ride on the open trolley rides that run on the Yarra Valley Scenic Railway. Enjoy a picnic at Badger Creek or drive a bit further and visit the magnificent expanse of parklands around the Maroondah Reservoir, particularly beautiful in autumn.
Healesville is the gateway to some brilliant destinations for both day trippers and campers alike. Marysville and beyond, and the scenery through the winding Black Spur will take your breath away. Half the joy is in the driving itself and there’s plenty of camping available along the river at the Murrindindi Scenic Reserve located at the northern tip of the Toolangi State Forest.
5. St Andrews and Kinglake
Distance from CBD: 44kms
This one’s a half day tripper but you can turn it into a full day if you head beyond the market on the winding road to Kinglake National Park. There’s plenty of picnic tables nestled amongst the forest and the walk to Masons Falls is easy and picturesque.
St Andrews Market is a treat for all the senses. This popular bush market is on every Saturday, come rain or shine. It’s eccentric, colorful, hippy, happy and vibrant. You’ll be tempted by the sizzling aromas of Asian food as you stroll through the stalls. Buskers playing violins, tarot readers, masseurs and artists create a relaxed vibe in this oasis of gum trees. Across the road is the St Andrews Pub, known for its regular live music. There’s also a gourmet pizza place next door called A Boy Named Sue.
Close by you’ll find great little wineries that rival many of the bigger ones in the nearby Yarra Valley. For a taste of Tuscany without the airfare visit the Panton Hill Winery, one of a handful of friendly boutique cellar doors in the area. It’s located just five minutes from the rural township of Hurstbridge which offers plenty of quirky cosy cafes. If you’re there on the first Sunday of the month, you can stock up on fresh produce at the Hurstbridge Farmers Market held in Fergusons Paddock. So many treasures and so close to Melbourne.