In Melbourne, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to spots where you can be sun-drenched but not scorched, and there’s a crispness in the air that won’t chill you to the bone.
What does this mean for those in Melbourne or visiting? Beer gardens, bike rides around the city and, of course, camping trips worthy of photo documentation. Here are five of our favourite spots to inspire your next weekend getaway.
#1 Alpine National Park
Famous for being the setting for classic Aussie film The Man From Snowy River, the Alpine National Park boasts some of the most stunning mountain peaks and grassy plains Australia has to offer. In winter, it’s a skiing hotspot, with Mount Buller just over the hill. In spring and summer, the wildflower-peppered landscape is prime for bushwalking.
Where: Approximately 4 hours from Melbourne
Stay: Built in the early ‘80s for The Man from Snowy River, Craig’s Hut attracts visitors from far and wide for its incredible 360-degree vistas. The 20 camping spaces are accessible by car or on foot. It’s first in, best dressed, so plan to arrive earlier in the day. If you’re staying overnight, make sure you’re well prepared for cold weather, even in the middle of summer.
Walk: The 12.3km Mount Sterling Summit loop is more of a hike than a walk, so you’ll need a packed lunch, plenty of water, and some good boots. Starting from King Saddle Shelter on Circuit Road, follow the marked track to the 1749m summit. Keep a lookout for the elegant red and grey gang-gang cockatoos in the snow gum forests.
If you’re after a shorter walk, go for the easy 6km loop from Wallace’s Hut car park to Cope Hut. And, if you’d prefer to let a gentle muscly giant carry you up the hills, perhaps try exploring the mountains on horseback.
#2 Wilson’s Promontory
Traditional country of the Boonwurrung, Bunurong and Gunai–Kurnai people, Wilson’s Promontory is Victoria’s pride and joy. As one of the most-loved spots in the south, getting a camping space at Tidal River can be a challenge, but making a reservation for cooler adventures should be easier.
Popular for it’s sprawling beaches, native wildlife and good surf, the Prom offers huts, camping spaces, cabins and lodges.
Where: 3 hours from Melbourne
Stay: Most visitors choose to stay in Tidal River, where there’s a general store, BBQs and picnic tables. Renowned for its cheeky rosellas and hungry wombats, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your snacks at Tidal River. If there aren’t spaces here, neighbouring Sandy Point and Walkerville are beachside and only a drive away.
Walk: The sea-level views of Wilson’s Promontory are postcard-worthy, but they aren’t quite in the same league as those from the Mount Oberon lookout. This walk is about one hour (3.4km) uphill from the car park (accessible by shuttle bus from Tidal River). Bring a picnic and sit on the cliff overlooking the most southern tip of Australia’s mainland. It’s a view you won’t forget in a hurry.
#3 Great Otway National Park
The Otway National Park combines coastline, fern gullies, rocky cliffs, waterfalls and lakes. It’s a one-stop shop for South East Australian natural beauty.
Even when the weather doesn’t comply, the Otway National Park will satisfy any city folk yearning for some bush and beach. Even just driving through the winding forest roads is spectacular.
Where: 2 hours, 50 minutes from Melbourne.
Stay: Blanket Bay Campground is your classic Victorian camping spot: good BBQ facilities, compost toilets and beach access. Because it’s not on the Great Ocean Road thoroughfare, you’re likely to find that Blanket Bay isn’t quite as busy as nearby Lorne, Apollo Bay and Wye River. Still, you need to make a booking, so make sure you get online first to avoid getting a fine from the park rangers.
Walk: Blanket Bay to Parker Inlet is an easy-moderate section (8km return) of the notorious Great Ocean Walk, so you’ll probably bump into some serious hikers in this neck of the woods. If you feel like a bit more of a challenge, continue on for another 7km, past Parker Inlet to Cape Otway Lightstation, where you can look out over the Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean. Spend the day checking out the other attractions at the site, including the Whale Interpretive site and the Indigenous Cultural Centre.
#4 Ben Boyd National Park
Located on Yuin country in the far south coast of New South Wales, this one might be a bit far for a weekend trip, but crossing the border will guarantee you some hangs with the local kangaroos and goannas, and your pick of Ben Boyd National Park’s beaches, rivers and lagoons.
Where: 7 hours from Melbourne
Stay: Saltwater Creek camping ground is a short walk from the nearby estuary where the clear-blue ocean water meets the orange-brown fresh water of the river. Here, you can rig up your fishing line and hopefully catch a Bream for dinner, or keep your eyes peeled for endangered ground parrots and striated field wrens. This campsite is about as close to an open-range zoo as Australia can offer. Make a booking for around $23 per night.
Walk: If you’re up for an overnight hike (9.1km or 3.5 hours one-way), head to Bittangabee Bay from Saltwater Creek on a slight incline through grasslands, bays, beaches and rock formations. At Bittangabee Bay you can fish from the rocks, or bring your binoculars and try to spot a Humpback whale (peak migration season is from September-November).
Alternatively, you can walk from Bittangabee Bay to Green Cape Lightstation (7km or 2 to 3 hours) for an even more spectacular perch for spotting whales, dolphins and seals.
#5 Yarra Valley
You won’t get the same sense of isolation in the Yarra Valley that you do up in the mountains, but you will feel like you’re a character in Fern Gully. With the soundtrack of a zoo and the scenery of a jungle, The Dandenong Ranges are teeming with wildlife, from rosellas to wallabies, and mountain ash forests that will make you feel as small as an ant.
Where: 1 hour, 50 minutes from Melbourne
Stay: Upper Yarra Reservoir Park is a spacious, grassy, family-friendly camping ground located east of Warburton. As the name implies, it’s situated at the highest point of the Yarra River, meaning the water is about as fresh and clean as it gets. Make a booking for about $25 per night.
Walk: The Cumberland Walk starts at Cambarville car park, which is located off the MarysvilleWoods Point Road in the Yarra Ranges National Park. Slightly hilly, this 4km marked track loop will take two hours, give or take. On the way, you’ll have the pleasure of looking up at the 400-year-old, 85m-tall Big Tree: a majestic mammoth reminiscent of the dinosaur days. The Cora Lynn and Cumberland waterfalls will top off this awe-inspiring forest promenade.
(All images: Katie Ellen Wilson)
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