Driving is one of the best ways to see Australia. We're a nation of vast and varied beauty and whilst our cities and vibrant and entertaining, a real Aussie experience requires a road trip, even if only for a day. Whether you want to travel around Australia by car or ditch the tour bus and head out on your own, having a car gives you so much more freedom to explore at your own pace.
Like any country, Australian has its own nuances and rules, so here are some handy tips to ensure your can focus on the journey and enjoying the best that Australia has to offer.
An African safari in Australia? Yes, you read correctly. Located around 40 minutes from the Melbourne CDB lies the Werribee Open Range Zoo. Just one of many things to do in Werribee, the zoo is set on 225 hectares and impeccably themed. You could be mistaken for thinking you'd stepped into the African Savannah. We set off keen to see some of the wildlife, in particular the rhinos that I'd wanted to revisit after a run in with one in Nepal a few years back.
Whilst it's lovely to explore a city, there is nothing quite like a a little break from the hustle and bustle. A day trip will allow you see an authentic Melbourne and the great thing is, there are so many places to visit in Victoria. It's so easy to self drive Melbourne. The roads are well maintained, the signs are clear and if you time it right, the traffic not all that bad. A Melbourne road trip is an essential part of your visit to this city and will allow you to have a unique Aussie experience.
So, if you're looking for the best road trips from Melbourne, or an easy weekend trip from Melbourne, read on to discover 5 inspiring attractions you need to visit from Melbourne.
Hanging Rock is a hidden geological gem, located around 45 minutes north west of the Melbourne CBD. Popular with the locals, its one of those fabulous spots that you'll be lucky enough to visit if you know someone 'in the know' but would otherwise go missed. Never mind, because now you're in the know and can add this spectacular location to your 'to do' list when visiting Melbourne!
It's a little off the beaten track, so you'll need a car to visit Hanging Rock. You'll cruise along City Link for a portion of the ride, which is a toll road, so make sure to organise this with your rental company or buy a pass / make sure the car has an eTag if you're borrowing a car as there are no toll booths along the way.
At over 6 million years old, this magnificent rock formation has seen a lot in its time and is a prominent Aboriginal site in the area. For those keen on geology, you will appreciate being able to see and climb this rare volcanic structure, known as a 'mameleon' or more commonly a 'volcanic plug'. In fact, it is one of the best examples of this kind of natural structure in the whole world.
At only 45 minutes from the CBD, on the Tullamarine and Calder Freeways, it makes a stop on a bigger adventure to the Macedon and Spa Country region of Victoria or a great way to spend part of a day. It is also only around 25 minutes away from the Melbourne Airport, so may make a great pit stop if you've got part of a day free before flying out.
The state of Victoria is split up into many regions, with the Otways being just one. Situated around 2 hours to the west of Melbourne, and encompassing parts of the famed Great Ocean Road, the Otways are a diverse and spectacular destination filled with many wonderful natural attractions.
If you head a little inland from all of the tourists at the 12 apostles, you'll be rewarded with a spectacular sub tropical microclimate that is home to soaring gums and spectacular waterfalls. It is popular with those who love to hike as well as those who enjoy a leisurely stroll and if you really want to experience the diversity of the forest, all the way from forest floor, to the upper canopy, then the Otway Fly is for you!
Located in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, around 1 hour's drive from the Melbourne CBD, lies Puffing Billy, one of Australia's best preserved and most loved steam railways. Featuring a range of locomotives, including the rare wood fuelled Climax steam engine, this scenic railway meanders its way from Belgrave to Gembrook, with a multitude of stops in between.
With soaring trestle bridges and open carts (yes you can hang your legs out!), Puffing Billy has long been a favourite day trip for Melbourne families and tourists alike. It's leisurely pace allows you to fully experience the beautiful sub tropical rainforest that this area is known for and if you are lucky you may even spot a kookaburra or a wombat on the way.
Whether you are visiting for a few days or just for the weekend, Melbourne is a diverse city that offers something for everyone. Whilst we love Melbourne in the Summer, it is hard for us to look past the other seasons, particularly Autumn, which for many, offers more comfortable weather for exploring than the heat that can be experienced over the summer months.
No matter what time of year you come, or what you come to see, finding a well located hotel with great amenities, food and transport options is essential. For us, this was met and exceeded by the Holiday Inn on Flinders, and allowed us to have a fabulous Melbourne getaway.
When it comes to finding a tour, whether that be in your own city or afar, there are a few ways you can go about it. In the past I've searched online myself and booked a tour 'hoping' that it would be good and cover everything that I wanted to see and experience.
Whilst I've often had great experiences, I've also been let down by companies like Expedia, particularly the time in Gibraltar, where my tour was cancelled at 9pm the night prior and it cost me hundreds of Euros to rearrange a private tour so I wouldn't miss out.
Aside from the extreme, sometimes I've found the tours a little underwhelming and with little recourse other than leaving a negative comment online, it left a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
That being said, when it came to undertaking a laneway tour of the Melbourne CBD, I decided to leave it to the experts. With access to hundreds of top level tours available around the world, I knew that I would be in good hands when Freedom Road Travel took care of our booking. Unlike the impersonal service you get online, the experienced consultant at Freedom Road Travel arranged a luxury tour with tour provider Abercrombie and Kent that managed to teach a local Melbournian quite a bit more about her home town.
Often visited in a loop from Alice Springs, alongside Uluru and Kata Tjuta, King's Canyon is one of Australia's most spectacular natural landmarks. Unlike the cavernous swimming holes found in places such as Karinjini National Park in the Pilbara, King's Canyon is a site best explored by foot and air.
Located in the Watarrka National Park, it is easily accessibly with a 2WD and can be explored independently or with a group. We did the 'rim walk' which is the most popular and spectacular option. At a grade 4 walk, you will need to be fit, as your first challenge is a steep climb known locally as 'heart attack hill'. Don't worry, we lived to tell the tale and even had a 70 year old woman in our group who powered ahead of many of us younger folk.
Unlike most countries in the world, Aussies drive on the left. Unlike the UK, which is full of tricky round abouts, most large intersections in Australia operate using a traffic light system, which can make it a little less confusing.
When driving in Australia, you do need to ensure that you are correctly licensed and that you are aware of the road rules. Some basic rules are you need to stay under 0.05 blood alcohol, 0.00 if you are a new driver and on P plates (the first 3 years of driving) and to be aware of the speed limit. There are a lot of police and road traffic cameras on Australian roads, so don't be alarmed if you are pulled over for a random breath test. Speeding fines are issued for any speed over 3kmh (1.9mph) over the marked speed limit, so it is essential that you don't speed, or it can add up very quickly!
Australia has great roads and freeways that connect its cities and there are many interesting places to stop on the way. On popular routes (don't expect it in the outback!) you'll regularly find rest stops with petrol and take away stops to refuel your car and yourself. There are also many interesting towns to visit along the way, giving you an 'authentic' Australian experience.
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