Don’t have a car? Refuse to pay for the exorbitant costs of petrol? You can still go on plenty of adventures around Victoria by taking public transport to visit one of the state’s many charming towns. Beyond Melbourne’s bustling cityscape lies a tapestry of regional gems, just waiting to be discovered by trains and buses. And, with regional fares capped at the same price as metropolitan tickets, travelling by public transport is also an affordable option.
From seaside towns to historic locations, there’s lots of places around Victoria for you to explore by public transport. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite places to go, but if you’re keen for more, you can find more destinations via the V/Line website. As it is public transport, be sure to plan your trips in advance, and keep an eye out for those pesky bus replacements.
Hop on the V/Line train from Southern Cross, and travel 90 minutes away to the historic town of Ballarat. The train will take you to the centre of town, where you can hop off and explore the area. Perfect for day trips and weekend getaways, there’s plenty to see and do all year round.
Take a stroll past the picturesque Lake Wendouree and through the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, explore the Art Gallery of Ballarat, treat yourself to a drink from one of their distilleries and more. Journey back in time and check out Sovereign Hill and the Eureka Centre. For some family fun, check out Kryal Castle and Ballarat Wildlife Park.
Throughout the year, there’s plenty of festivals to check out, such as the Ballarat Begonia Festival, Ballarat Winter Festival and Ballarat Heritage Festival. If you’re staying overnight, why don’t you relax at Hotel Vera, a luxurious getaway set within a 19th century mansion? For more ideas, see here.
Bendigo is roughly 2 hours away from Melbourne by a V/Line train. The train station is just a few minutes walk away from the city centre, so you can explore some picturesque landmarks on foot, including Rosalind Park and the historic gold rush buildings. Hop aboard a Vintage Talking Tram for easy access to top attractions around the city, including the Central Deborah Gold Mine, Bendigo Art Gallery, Golden Dragon Museum and Sacred Heart Cathedral, Australia’s second largest church.
Bendigo is also a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, which means you can’t miss its vibrant culinary scene. Visit one of their many cafes, dine in heritage-listed buildings, go wine tasting, and hop into one of the bars for a taste of local craft beer. Check out their gastronomy guide here.
If you’re visiting in spring, you can’t miss the Bendigo Annual Tulip Display. Walk around Pall Mall, the Conservatory Garden and more to see thousands of tulips in a whole range of colours and sizes.
The Great Ocean Road is one of the best scenic drives in the country, but if you don’t have a car, don’t worry. You can still access some of its charming towns by public transport. A trip to Lorne, for example, takes roughly 3 hours, and involves a train to Geelong, followed by a coach to the coastal town.
Explore stunning natural wonders, such as the beach and nearby waterfalls, and take in the view from Teddy’s Lookout. Grab a bite to eat from Totti’s, see a movie at the historic Lorne Theatre and go shopping along Mountjoy Parade. For a bit of adventure, try surfing, kayaking or go ziplining at Live Wire Park. Find more ideas here.
For more wonders along the Great Ocean Road, take the train from Southern Cross to Warrnambool. This journey should take anywhere between 3 and a half hours to 4 hours.
Explore the town by going for a walk or riding a bike through some stunning locations, including the Botanical Gardens, around Lake Pertobe and along the beach. Take a moment to relax at the blissful Deep Blue Hotel & Hot Springs. Experience a bit of history at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, and stick around in the evening for their spectacular Sound and Light Show. There are public buses to help you get around, as well as private bus tours to help you get to attractions further out, like Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. If you visit in winter, keep an eye out for whales!
You’ll find this bustling town in the Goldfields region between Melbourne and Bendigo. The train from Southern Cross to Castlemaine is just under 90 minutes, making it great for day trip adventures. There’s plenty of history to discover in this town, with heaps of gold rush architecture, museums and vintage treasures. Take a trip to the nearby town of Maldon on the Victorian Goldfields Railway, an authentic steam train.
Don’t miss The Mill Castlemaine, an 1870s woollen mill filled with fresh produce, a coffee house, an ice cream store, a tap room, a bakery, vintage stalls and more. If you like shopping, there’s farmers markets and artists markets to check out on a monthly basis. For something outdoors, there’s plenty of tranquil walks to try, as well as the picturesque Botanical Gardens.
The delightful village of Woodend in the Macedon Ranges is only an hour away from Melbourne by public transport. You might need to take a taxi to visit the famous Hanging Rock nearby, but if you’d prefer to stay in town, there’s lots of things to see and do on foot. Woodend has plenty of bakeries, cafes and pubs to keep you well-fed. Once you’ve had your fill of food and drink, check out the quaint bookstores and shops. Then, go for a leisurely stroll along the Five Mile Creek Walk.
Need to get to Phillip Island? There’s a couple of ways for you to get to its central town of Cowes via public transport. You could take a Metro train to Dandenong Station, and from there, hop on a V/Line coach to Cowes. Or, you could take a coach from Southern Cross to Koo Wee Rup, and then take a coach from there to Cowes. The trip can take anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
Once you’re there, go on an adventure and search for seals and more via Wildlife Coast Cruises. For something inland, check out koalas in their natural habitat at the Koala Conservation Reserve. Take a walk along the beach, and find something to eat at one of the buzzing beachside cafes and restaurants.
If you’re keen to see the Penguin Parade on the other side of the island, there are taxis and tours available to help you get around.
The train from Southern Cross to Sale lasts about 3 hours. This port town in Gippsland has plenty of things to see and do, such as the Gippsland Art Gallery, the Botanic Gardens, the Sale Common wetlands and the Bataluk Cultural Trail. Drift back in time on the Port of Sale Heritage Cruises, and see sights from the water like the oldest swing bridge in Australia. Grab a bite to eat from one of the many cafes and restaurants, then take a moment to relax at the Element @ Mansi wellness centre.
The train to Shepparton from Southern Cross normally takes around 2.5 hours. At the moment, trains to Shepparton are being replaced by buses, so you should allow extra time for the journey.
Located in the Goulburn Valley, you’ll find plenty of cafes, pubs, restaurants and local produce. For a bit of art and culture, check out the Shepparton Art Museum, Bangerang Cultural Centre, the Moooving Art Cows and more. Walk along the banks of the Goulburn River, and explore the Australian Botanic Gardens.
Travel north to the historic town of Echuca. Nestled on the banks of the Murray River, the train to this town takes just over 3 hours. One of the key things to do is to hop aboard a paddle steamer, journey along the water, and imagine life along the river in the late 1800s. You can also explore the Murray with a canoe, kayak or other kind of boat. When you’re not on the water, go shopping, grab a bite to eat or cross the border into the twin town of Moama. Don’t miss the spectacular Moama Lights, which illuminates the region every winter.