By MEGAN HOLBECK
1. POINT NEPEAN NATIONAL PARK
Perched at the end of the Mornington Peninsula, this national park has it all – views, walks and history. Port Phillip was once one of the most heavily fortified areas in the Southern Hemisphere, with shots fired from here in both World Wars. Kids will love exploring the tunnels and guns of the army fort, as well as the slightly spooky Quarantine Station, which operated from 1852 to 1980. The tracks are perfect for cycling and walking, and the Peninsula Hot Springs are pretty much on the way home…
2. CATHEDRAL RANGES
This national park of gum trees and jagged rock outcrops is 115km north of Melbourne. There are peaceful strolls along gentle streams or more strenuous hikes up the peaks, as well as several camping options if you want to make a weekend of it. The drive takes you through beautiful forests of tall, straight mountain ash and past Healesville with its great pubs, cafes, vineyards, breweries and distilleries.
3. YARRA TRAIL
Melbourne’s main Yarra Trail stretches 18km from Fairfield in the city’s north to Federation Square. Meander along the river on foot or bike, past waterfalls, creeks and parks, stopping at historical buildings and interesting kid-friendly destinations: feed the animals at Collingwood Children’s Farm or explore the art, food and history at Abbottsford Convent. Divide the trip into shorter stages and soak it all in, or enjoy as a full-day adventure.
Daylesford is a magnet for foodies and couples, but there’s plenty for families as well, all within 110km of the city. Kids of any age will love spotting birds, and playgrounds, on a lap of Lake Daylesford, or take a short saunter around Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve to sample water from five of its famous springs. The Domino Rail Trail from Trentham to Lyonville is a 6km track through lovely bushland suitable for walking or cycling. Leave time to explore the towns at either end: the gorgeous cafes, cute shops and spectacular waterfall of Trentham and old-school magic of Lyonville’s Radio Springs Hotel.
5. PHILLIP ISLAND
It’s got surf, sand, seals and cliffs, as well as birds galore, all within a couple of hours’ drive of Melbourne. The island is bigger than you think: Cape Woolamai is its most southern point, with cliff-top walks showcasing crashing waves, sea stacks and bird life. The west coast is home to The Nobbies, a fabulously named headland with dramatic scenery, a blowhole, and Australia’s largest fur seal colony. Wildlife Coast Cruises offers two-hour trips to the offshore Seal Rocks, before you cap off your day by watching hordes of waddling penguins.