Parks & Gardens Touring Route
Scented gardens and peaceful parks
301 km/187 miles, about 3.5 hours
Wander through the tall trees and fern-filled gullies of the Dandenong Ranges, discover historic sites in national parks, and while away the days in manicured public gardens – all within an easy 60-minute drive of Melbourne.
Known for many as Australia's garden state, Victoria has hundreds of beautiful public gardens and peaceful national parks. Explore the countless gardens of the state's south east. Visit the National Rhododendron Gardens, play with the kids in a hedge maze, or meander through the lavender gardens, sculpture parks and nature reserves that are home to a wide range of Australian fauna.
One of Melbourne's many charms is the many gardens that are within walking distance of the city centre. The 90-acre Royal Botanic Gardens are adjacent to the Yarra River. The historic gardens are 160 years old and home to massive trees and 12,000 species of plants.
In Fitzroy Gardens, near Melbourne's historic Parliament House, see Cook's Cottage, which was transported from the Yorkshire village where explorer Captain James Cook was born. There is also a conservatory filled with indoor plant displays, a mini Tudor village and a tree carved by a local artist.
North of the city centre, Carlton Gardens surround the grand Royal Exhibition Buildings, which were erected for the Great Exhibition of 1880, and the Melbourne Museum is nearby.
Other green spaces include Birrarung Marr, located beside the Yarra River and home to the huge Federation Bells that were commissioned to celebrate the centenary of Australia's federation in 2001. Wander along the grassy, tree-shaded paths that follow the river, past popular public barbecue spots. Flagstaff Gardens on the west of the city were the first public gardens in Melbourne.National parks & reservesBoard one of the many river craft at Southgate or Princes Walk or travel along the Yarra in your own boat to visit attractions such as Melbourne Park for...Parks & gardensBreathe deep and fill your lungs with the goodness of the freshest air from the heart of Melbourne's city centre at the Royal Botanic Gardens.Parks & gardensMarvel at the tiny doorways of historic Captain Cook's Cottage, the carved Fairies Tree, the model Tudor Village, and myriad fountains and statues.Parks & gardensListen to the ringing of the eye-catching Federation Bells and browse the open-air collection of artworks to discover Melbourne's indigenous culture.Parks & gardensEnjoy the wildlife, majestic landscaping and ornamental features of these heritage-listed gardens, a popular picnic area for locals and museum visitors.
Melbourne to Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges
56 km/35 miles, about 1 hour
One of Victoria's great drives is through the Dandenong Ranges, where huge mountain ash trees tower over lush fern-filled gullies. Walk along quiet forest tracks and you may see the elusive lyrebird, famous for its mimicry and the male's courting performance which includes spreading his tail like a dancer's fan.
In spring, the National Rhododendron Gardens are filled with the colour of 27,000 rhododendrons and azaleas. Enjoy a picnic by the lake with a backdrop of distant mountains that form part of the Alpine National Park.
Once a private estate, the Alfred Nicholas Gardens boast a mix of native and exotic trees, including maples, rhododendrons, liquid ambers and mountain ash. Watch out for king parrots and red rosellas, listen for the call of the kookaburra and wander down to the lake.
Wander through the tranquil William Ricketts Sanctuary to see 100 mystical sculptures of people and wildlife hidden amongst ferns and trees.
Book a suite in the green and peace of Amarant Retreat, an accredited eco lodge surrounded by forests fill
HighlightsWildlife, zoos & farmsWatch for waking koalas and peek at a joey in a kangaroo's pouch, meet keepers or observe vets in the animal hospital, all in an Aussie bush setting.History & heritageAll aboard for a ride on Australia's oldest steam railway, through thick forests and lush fern gullies, or travel first class for olden-times romance.
Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges to Phillip Island
140 km/87 miles, about 1.5 hours
Phillip Island is a small island with a big international reputation. The best way to see how it earned that reputation is to buy a 3 Parks Pass. It includes entry to the nightly Penguin Parade up the beach, the boardwalks that take you past the treetops at the Koala Conservation Centre, and tiny Churchill Island with its 1850s working farm, bird-filled wetlands, beautiful gardens and historic buildings.
The fourth aspect of the Park, the Nobbies, home to the world's largest fur seal colony, is free. Head for the marine centre, where interactive cameras give you a close-up view of the frolicking seals.
Catch a rainbow trout at Rhyll Trout & Bush Tucker Farm. Choose from indoor and outdoor pools, cast a line and hand your catch to the chefs to be cooked and served up to you.
HighlightsParks & gardensRoyal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Cranbourne GardensDiscover the astonishing beauty of 170,000-plus individual native plants in settings that capture the essence of Australia's diverse landscape.Wildlife, zoos & farmsMaru Koala and Animal ParkGet in touch with wildlife at Maru Koala and Animal Park. Enjoy hand feeding and patting the koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, which includes rare albino...Wildlife, zoos & farmsPhillip Island Nature ParksSee Phillip Island's little penguins emerge from the sea, peek at life inside a burrow, and spot other Australian animals at this wildlife wonderland.
Phillip Island to Mornington Peninsula
105 km/65 miles, about 1 hour
En route to the Mornington Peninsula, visit Maru Koala and Fauna Park for great photo opportunities of koalas, kangaroos, wombats and Tasmanian devils. Stop at the Australian Garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne, an award-winning garden that is a microcosm of Australian landscapes, with seven distinctive garden areas.
Point Nepean is at the end of the Mornington Peninsula, where the waters of Bass Strait meet Port Phillip Bay. Walk through this important historic site, where a colonial cemetery and quarantine station stood in the 1850s, military fortifications were built from the 1880s to World War II, and the area was closed to the public for more than 100 years.
Stroll around the 1850s Cape Schanck Lighthouse and museum. This is also the start of the Bushrangers Bay walk, which takes you through coastal and bush landscapes in the Mornington Peninsula National Park.
The Peninsula is famous for its grand gardens. Explore Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens and the Enchanted Maze Garden. Keen vegetable gardeners should head to Heronswood, renowned for its heritage and organic seeds, abundant vegetable gardens and thatched roof cafe.
McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park is home to some of Australia's most noted sculptures. Every two years the $100,000 McClelland Award biennial outdoor sculpture exhibition is installed in the natural bush and garden setting.
HighlightsHeritage buildingsBook ahead for a half-day guided tour of this stunning 1863 Italianate mansion and its gardens, with lunch and shuttle bus transport provided.Parks & gardensGet lost in Australia's oldest hedge maze, the world's oldest circular rose maze, the Lavender Labyrinth or seek gnomes in the 25 acres of gardens.Art galleriesMeander through 16 hectares of bush and landscaped gardens and see works by major artists, from Norma Redpath and Anthony Pryor to Geoffrey Bartlett.