Cheap Melbourne Day Trips For Everyone
We lived in Melbourne for almost five months. It was actually the place we stayed the longest during our 15 months in Australia, we loved it so much! We arrived with just enough money to rent out a room in an Airbnb for a few days and to put down a rental deposit on a tiny studio flat in East Melbourne. It was a somewhat stressful time in our travelling lives, to say the least, but it meant that we had to be creative with our days out. As such, we ended up going on loads of cheap Melbourne day trips, just so we could escape the city without breaking the bank.
From beaches to rainforests, we’ve included our eight favourites in this blog post. There is even one for all you gin drinkers out there, so read on for more!
Best for Instagram: Brighton Bathing Boxes
This was one of our first trips out of the city. At the time, we didn’t own a car, so we hopped on a train from Richmond station (near where we lived) and in 15 minutes we were wandering down Brighton’s gentrified main street. With cafes, pubs, and boutique stores, Brighton is a haven for middle-class yummy mummies and backpackers seeking the iconic Brighton Bathing Boxes.
If, like us, you’re from the U.K you will know ‘bathing boxes’ as ‘beach huts’. In hindsight, it’s kinda funny that we made an effort to go and see these. There are just as many (if not more) brightly-coloured beach huts near us closer to home, in Brighton, England. Don’t get us wrong though, they’re very pretty and the area itself made it for us.
TOP TIP: If you want to avoid the crowds, head down early. We went mid-afternoon and were able to get some shots in front of a pretty hut at the end of the row, but it gets very popular during the day and around sunset.
Best for an edgy vibe: St Kilda
Renowned for being popular with backpackers, St Kilda is a very multicultural suburb. It has awesome street art, great bars, an amusement park (Luna Park, like the one in Sydney), and a pier you can see penguins from. What’s not to love?
From East Melbourne, it was fastest for us to hop on a bus but from the city, you can get a tram straight there from outside the casino. We went to St Kilda a few times because it was so easy to get to. The beach can get pretty crowded, but the bars all have competitive happy hour deals, making it on of the best cheap Melbourne day trips.
TOP TIP: If you want a quieter beach, head to the right of the pier instead of left. It’s a dog beach, so you may be joined by some furry friends, but it’s generally quieter than the left side.
Best for hiking: Werribee Gorge
Just an hour west of Melbourne, you won’t burn too much gas travelling to Werribee Gorge. We were recommended this hike by someone on Instagram, and we’re so glad we went. Parking is free, and they have an overflow car park too so there is plenty of space.
You can do a circular hike around the rim of the gorge and down into it, which was spectacular. It’s about a 10k hike, but as you can imagine about half of it is uphill so allow plenty of time and bring LOTS of water. Sections of the walk involve rock scrambling and using a rope to clamber around rock faces, so wear proper shoes and you’ll be a-ok.
TOP TIP: The gorge is pretty exposed, so try to start well before midday. Although saying that, we got there at midday after sleeping in (typical us) and we were fine, if a bit sweaty by the end.
Best for feeling the burn: 1000 Steps
This is a short-but-sharp day trip about 40 minutes outside of Melbourne. Popular with the locals, you will be fighting for a parking space if you go on a Sunday which (shock) is exactly what we did.
The path up the hill starts with a fork from the car park. The 1000 Steps (admittedly it’s a little less than this, but everybody loves a round number) is the right fork, and the left fork is a wider access road. It also has steps up the side, but the gradient is less steep. Apparently some insane people RUN up the steps and then down the slope on this side. We took the right hand fork up (because we can’t read signs) and the steps down. We kind of regretted this, as going down lots of steps played havoc with Kez’s dodgy knee and Sam’s dodgy hip. Yep, we’re geriatric already.
TOP TIP: There are loads of BBQ points in the car park, so why not make a day of it and reward all your hard work with a cook up?
Best for views: Dandenong Ranges
We drove up to the Dandenong Ranges a number of times, as there is a fair bit to do here. Admittedly, if you didn’t have a car, it would be a pretty long bus journey, but by car it’s only 45 minutes. 1000 Steps is technically part of the Ranges, but we wanted to include the whole area as we loved it so much.
TOP TIP: The climate can be changeable, so pack a raincoat and a jumper. We went up in shorts and a t-shirt once, and were soon shivering once we got up higher and into the rainforests!
Best for beaches: Mornington Peninsula
This was one of our favourite days out! We were blessed with gorgeous weather, which really helped, but the peninsula itself is full of incredible views, an abundance of wildlife, and pretty towns. In an ideal world, we would have spent a weekend camping down here as there are loads of free/cheap campsites near the sea which would have been perfect.
Instead, we drove to the very end of the peninsular, Point Nepean, and embarked on a walk around there. It’s an area of historical importance, and is the second oldest intact quarantine station in Australia, as well as a traditional Aboriginal birthing place. From the old gun batteries at Fort Nepean, you can see the calm port on one side and the wild open sea on the other, which made for some atmospheric photos.
TOP TIP: We’ve said it already, but stay for a few days if you can. There is so much to explore on the Mornington Peninsula, and we wish we had the time to go back again whilst we were living in Melbourne.
Best for penguin spotting: Phillip Island
This one is a bit of a longer drive than the others, but it’s definitely worth it. The good news is that, despite its name, you don’t need to pay for a ferry to get over to this island. There is a road bridge connecting Phillip Island to the mainland, so it’s very easy to access.
Phillip Island is famous for its seasonal colony of visiting Little Penguins. As you can imagine, there is a pretty hefty fee to see them up close from the visitor’s centre, but there is potentially a cheap work around…
We say ‘potentially’, because we didn’t actually hang around to see if we could see the penguins ourselves. However when we arrived, the car park was very busy so we were directed left along a scenic drive called ‘The Boulevard’. It was a total hidden gem, offering wild views out over the sea and the rugged coastline of the island. Towards the end, the road curves down towards the beach where the seating is for the Penguin Parade ticket holders. If you bring binoculars, or just have fantastic eyesight, you may be rewarded with a free viewing of the penguins returning from the sea from this point. Can someone give it a try and let us know?
TOP TIP: Phillip Island is very popular with families, and has a lot of accommodation options. For that reason, we’d recommend avoiding visiting during school holidays if you can.
Best for gin lovers: Four Pillars Gin Distillery
This one’s a bit of a wildcard, but bear with us. Kez loves her gin, and since we have spent a lot of time at various breweries, Sam decided to play nice and drive us to a small distillery one winter’s afternoon.
Four Pillars Gin Distillery is based in Healesville, a pleasant hour and a half’s drive from Melbourne along country roads. Healesville is part of the Yarra Ranges, and the town itself is adorable. The distillery has some free parking, but there is also street parking nearby.
We came here because we had tried some Four Pillars gin at a friend’s house when we were up in Sydney, and since then Kez had been determined to get to the distillery at some point during our time in Melbourne. For $10 each, we took part in a gin tasting session. We tried something like six gins, and at the end had a discount on any full sized bottles from the shop (which we obviously took advantage of).
TOP TIP: It is very popular on weekends, so to enjoy a more chilled experience try to get there midweek. There is lots to do in the Yarra Ranges too, so be sure to take some time to explore while you’re there.
It’s Possible to Live Frugally and Have Fun With These Cheap Melbourne Day Trips
As Australian cities go, Melbourne isn’t the most expensive to live in. However, that said, city life isn’t cheap in general. We found that making the effort to get further afield and escape the city was a great way to spend the day together, without spending loads of money at the same time.
We knew that the money we saved whilst we were in Melbourne would fund our future travels around Tasmania and the Great Ocean Road. But we also didn’t want to live like hermits, so it was important for us to find cheap days out for us to do on our days off. Things like taking a packed lunch or picking up a lunchtime deal at the 7-Eleven saved us food costs. Taking advantage of free activities like walks and parks and beaches meant we could basically be out for the whole day without spending anything at all.
For more fantastic ideas for things to do in Melbourne, take a look at this handy guide:
Psst! If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Melbourne, check out Booking.com for ideas!
What do you guys like to do when you want to go out for the day but you’re tight on money? We’d love to hear from you!