The south-eastern state of Victoria is packed with quaint villages, bustling rural cities, and, much like most of Australia, an excessive amount of natural beauty.

If you’re studying in the state’s capital, Melbourne – or even visiting the city on a short getaway – it’s well worth planning a trip to one or more of Victoria’s regional destinations. Luckily, the state’s relatively compact size and its excellent public transport network mean the very best locations can be reached by train, bus or coach.

Here are some of the best one-day or overnight trips in Victoria that are easily accessible via public transport.

The Great Ocean Road

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This famous coastal route is about as good as it gets when it comes to natural scenery: you’ll see epic coastlines, stretches of brilliant blue ocean, and plenty of the rugged bushland Australia is known for.

Conveniently, you can catch a morning V/Line train from Southern Cross Station to Geelong Station (travel time approximately 58 minutes) and then a coach to Warrnambool that will take you right along the Great Ocean Road. There are plenty of stops on the bus route that are definitely worth your time, including Torquay, Apollo Bay, and the famous Twelve Apostles.

It’s probably a good idea to stay overnight in one of these locations (there are plenty of accommodation options in each), but if you’re keen to do the whole trip in one day, you can be back at Southern Cross Station that same night. Just take the coach right up to Warrnambool, then hop on a train back to Melbourne (travel time is approximately 3.5 hours).

Healesville Sanctuary

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Your time in Australia isn’t truly complete without experiencing and learning about native wildlife. A trip to Healesville Sanctuary will certainly tick that box, with Australian animals including emus, koalas, kangaroos, brush-tailed rock wallabies, dingos, Tasmanian devils, wombats, platypuses and more homed at this regional zoo.

Healesville Sanctuary is an easy day trip from Flinders Street Station; the entire one-way trip takes around two hours and 40 minutes, allowing ample time to meet the sanctuary’s incredibly adorable residents. You simply need to catch a train to Lilydale (travel time is approximately 59 minutes) and then two buses (total travel time around one hour depending on the time of day).

The Dandenong Ranges

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Situated just east of Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges houses a cluster of cute towns and some of the richest and densest rainforests you’ll see in Victoria. It feels like a world away from the bustle of Melbourne, with its easy-going, laidback atmosphere and very friendly locals.

You can catch a train from Southern Cross Station to Belgrave (travel time just over one hour), Upper Ferntree Gully (travel time around 90 minutes) or Croydon (travel time around 50 minutes) stations, and then choose from a variety of buses that will take you to multiple locations throughout the Ranges. Destinations to consider include the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens in Olinda, the lovely town of Sassafrass (which is home to several charming tea houses), and the famous Puffing Billy steam train.

Puffing Billy is a heritage steam train that will take you on a journey from Belgrave to Gembrook and back again, winding through numerous beautiful landscapes. The starting point is a very easy three-minute walk from Belgrave Station.

Ballarat

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If you’re keen to learn about the history of the Victorian gold rush, look no further than the city of Ballarat. Once a prominent hub for gold miners in the 1850s, the city offers plenty of historic landmarks including the open-air museum, Sovereign Hill. But that’s not all there is to Ballarat; the city is also a flourishing destination full of fantastic restaurants, cafes, bars and fun things to do.

The city is one of the most easily accessible locations in regional Victoria. Getting there takes just over an hour by train from Southern Cross Station to Ballarat’s central railway station. From there, you can walk or catch a bus to almost anywhere in the city, including Sovereign Hill which is just a 20-minute bus ride from the centre.

Geelong

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Geelong really does offer something for everyone: you can visit an art gallery, museum, brewery, cellar door or historic jail, or you can simply fill up at one of the city’s many top-notch eateries. If the weather’s good, you can also take a stroll along the waterfront or hit up the beach.

You could very easily do a day trip to Geelong, as it’s a single train ride from Southern Cross Station to Geelong Railway Station that only takes approximately 57 minutes. But we think it’s well worth staying overnight, if only to pack in more of the delicious food and drink that Geelong has to offer.

Keen to start planning your next trip? Public Transport Victoria‘s handy Journey Planner will figure out the best route to get you there.

Header image and Healesville Sanctuary image courtesy of Zoos Victoria. All other images courtesy of Visit Victoria.