7 of the best road trips and scenic drives in Victoria

car driving through a leafy road with a tree canopy


Posted March 19, 2024

Keen to head on a road trip for some fresh air? These road trips and scenic drives celebrate the diversity of the Victorian landscape, with many not far from Melbourne.

Victoria might be Australia’s second smallest state geographically but that hasn’t stopped it packing some must-see locations into a pint-sized package. Every corner of Victoria offers something new, from desert landscapes to magical rainforests and spectacular ocean vistas, all of which are easily traversed by car and some just a few hours from Melbourne.

Before you leave, ensure that your car is prepared and safe for your road trip, pack an emergency car safety kit, and check that you have emergency roadside assistance in place.

Seven of the best road trips in Victoria

If you take Melbourne as the starting point, freeways in all directions have you out in open country in no time, and you’re never more than five or six hours from any part of the state.

Here are seven of the best, and most contrasting, drives in Victoria.

The Black Spur

  • Where: Healesville to Narbethong
  • Distance: 20 kilometres 
  • Time: Half/full day.
  • Because: It’s the perfect Sunday drive. 

The Black Spur section of the Maroondah Highway connecting Healesville to the Central Highlands isn’t long, but don’t think you can do it in the blink of an eye. 

On its hairpin turns, the winding road allows you to take your time on this drive, and that’s to your advantage, as the majesty of the mountain ash forest you’re enveloped in needs to be absorbed slowly and deeply. 

The towering Mountain Ash trees found here are the highest flowering plants on Earth, and are so tightly packed together, the sun barely penetrates through to the forest floor. And the fern gullies are something else. 

This stretch of road has virtually no places to pull in and admire these giants up close. To do that, simply keep going to Marysville, loop back via the Acheron Way to Mount Donna Buang (a sealed but very narrow road) or return to Healesville and then up into Toolangi State Forest. Glory awaits at every turn. 

Don’t miss: Marysville. It has regrown from the devastation of Black Saturday, and the forest is slowly but surely doing the same.

The Twelve Apostles are just one of the reasons to drive the Great Ocean Road. Photo: Visit Victoria.
Travel the Great Alpine Road in autumn to Bright to be rewarded with magnificent foliage. Photo: Visit Victoria.

The Great Ocean Road

  • Where: Torquay to Peterborough
  • Distance: 202 kilometres 
  • Time: One to two days.
  • Because: Show off your state to visitors. 

The popularity of this unique stretch of Victorian coast shows no sign of diminishing; the Great Ocean Road is almost as famous as Uluru or the Great Barrier Reef. 

And that’s because the journey itself is the destination. On one side, the Southern Ocean is spectacular no matter what season or time of day. On the other, you’re against sheer cliffs, but only for as long as it takes to round a promontory and dip into holiday havens such as Lorne and Apollo Bay, or pull up at beaches in the likes of Wye River, Skenes Creek or Princetown. And there are those amazing rock formations and coves near Port Campbell. 

But try pulling away from the splendour now and then, for hidden treasures off the main road. 

The region has the best waterfalls in Victoria, so seek out Beauchamp, Triplet or Hopetoun Falls (all near Beech Forest) or Carisbrook (near Apollo Bay). 

When the tide is right, walk out to old anchors embedded in the rocks at Wreck Beach. 

And try the great variety of cheese at Apostle Whey, near Princetown. 

Don’t miss: A unique stand of Californian redwood trees planted near Beech Forest in the 1930s. Their size and colour are remarkable. 

The Great Alpine Road

  • Where: Wangaratta to Bairnsdale
  • Distance: 310 kilometres. 
  • Time: Two to four days.
  • Because: It’s Victoria’s highest road. 

For a good part of the year most traffic on the Great Alpine Road uses only a fraction of it, the goal being the ski resorts of Mount Hotham and Falls Creek. 

For the rest of the time, it’s the ultimate Victorian road trip that needs several days to taste its variety. 

Leaving the Gippsland Lakes behind, the road north from Bairnsdale is a steady climb, the bubbling Tambo River an almost constant presence on your right. 

Omeo is a well-preserved gold town, and you’ll find other touchpoints of Victoria’s golden heritage as you approach Mount Hotham, from where the trail to Mount Feathertop is a great walk for the well-prepared hiker. 

The descent to the Ovens Valley is short but steep and winding. If it’s autumn, the foliage colour in Bright is the reward. 

Don’t ignore the side trip up Mount Buffalo, with its array of wondrous rock formations, trails and panoramic views. 

The final stretch flows through classic eucalypt country to Wangaratta. 

Don’t miss: Milawa, the gourmet capital of the north-east, for its wine, cheese, honey and mustards.


The drive to Wilsons Prom can be just as spectacular as the destination itself. Photo: Visit Victoria.
Be sure to detour to some of the Silo Art Trail murals while driving between Bendigo and Mildura. Photo: Visit Victoria.

South Gippsland Highway

  • Where: Lang Lang to Wilsons Promontory
  • Distance: 140 kilometres. 
  • Time: One day.
  • Because: It’s a beautiful route to a beautiful spot. 

Gippsland is rarely less than captivating, and the road to Wilsons Promontory starts off along the prettiest section of national highway in the state. 

At first you roll through gentle green hills dotted with dairy cattle. The major towns of Korumburra and Leongatha are easily negotiated, and if you haven’t brought your picnic lunch, the Koonwarra Store is renowned for food and wine, or sample the lip-smacking Trulli Woodfire Pizzeria’s fare in Meeniyan. 

Turn off the highway here and head south through Fish Creek and Yanakie as the hills gradually give way to low coastal scrub. At every turn you’re anticipating that first view of the haunting peaks of Wilsons Promontory, the southernmost point of the mainland and one of Victoria’s great natural icons. 

Don’t miss: Fish Creek, for its great array of art and craft outlets.

Calder Highway

  • Where: Bendigo to Mildura
  • Distance: 400 kilometres. 
  • Time: One to two days. 
  • Because: A drive just for the sake of driving. 

You don’t need to go to central Australia to see the Outback. The Mallee is wide, flat and open, just not as red. Along the Calder Highway you’ll find unique traits in each community. 

Inglewood has the intriguing eucalyptus museum, with a working still. Wedderburn’s old general store is a step back in time. At 148 metres above sea level (and just 43 metres above the surrounding town), Mount Wycheproof is the lowest official mountain in Australia. 

Whether in daylight or when the stars are out, Lake Tyrrell, near Sea Lake, produces mesmerising reflections off its salty surface.

In between, count all the grain silos (and go looking for all the huge Silo Art Trail murals) and just enjoy the vastness of this fabulous part of Victoria. 

Don’t miss: The Bridgewater Bakehouse in Bridgewater on Loddon, where you can find an award-winning vanilla slice.

The rugged coastline of Mt Martha will take your breath away. Photo: Matt Harvey.
Get lost in the forest covered winding roads of the Dandenong Ranges . Photo: Anne Morley.

Mornington Peninsula

  • Where: Mount Martha to Portsea
  • Distance: 40 kilometres. 
  • Time: Half day.
  • Because: It’s a beautiful blend of coastal and woodlands 

Setting off from Mount Martha, you are greeted by sweeping views of the azure waters of Port Phillip Bay, framed by rugged cliffs and golden sandy beaches. As the road winds its way along the coastline, each twist and turn reveals new perspectives of the natural beauty that characterises this region. Passing through quaint coastal villages such as Safety Beach and Dromana, you are enticed by inviting cafes, boutique shops, and pristine stretches of shoreline, perfect for a leisurely stop to soak in the coastal ambiance. 

Continuing along the scenic route, the landscape transitions to the rugged splendour of the Mornington Peninsula National Park, where towering cliffs and windswept coastal heathlands offer a dramatic backdrop to the journey. Arriving in Portsea, the drive culminates in the iconic Portsea Pier, where you can marvel at panoramic views of the coastline and watch as boats bob gently in the harbour.

With its blend of natural beauty, coastal charm, and scenic vistas, the drive from Mount Martha to Portsea epitomises the quintessential Australian coastal experience, leaving indelible memories of the stunning Mornington Peninsula landscape.

Don’t miss: Authurs Seat, on a clear day, the view stretches out as far as the Melbourne city skyline, the You Yangs and Mount Macedon.

More: The best free things to do on the Mornington Peninsula

Dandenong Ranges 

  • Where: Dandenong Ranges National Park to Silvan Reservoir
  • Distance: 21 kilometres. 
  • Time: Half day.
  • Because: It’s filled with moments of serenity and awe-inspiring vistas at every turn.

Embarking on a scenic drive through the Dandenong Ranges is a journey of discovery, offering a captivating blend of natural beauty, lush forests, and charming hilltop villages.

As you wind your way through the meandering roads of this picturesque region, you are enveloped by the tranquillity of towering mountain ash trees, fern gullies, and cascading waterfalls. The drive presents an ever-changing landscape, with panoramic vistas opening up to reveal sweeping views of the surrounding valleys and distant city skylines.

Along the route, you encounter quaint villages such as Olinda, Sassafras, and Emerald, each boasting unique boutiques, art galleries, and cafes serving up delicious treats. A highlight of the journey is the opportunity to explore the enchanting gardens and parks that dot the landscape, including the renowned National Rhododendron Gardens and the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens.

As you traverse the winding roads, keep an eye out for native wildlife, including colourful parrots, lyrebirds, and wallabies, adding to the magic of the experience.

Don’t miss: Spare some time to take a ride on Puffing Billy - one of Australia’s oldest and best-preserved heritage steam railways.