Three places to holiday by train from Melbourne

If you’re planning a weekend getaway near Melbourne soon, why not leave the car at home?

For starters, you can enjoy a more relaxed journey without having to be behind the wheel — and with fuel prices the way they are, you might end up saving money, too.

Whether you’re looking for a day trip, or a night or two away, we spoke to train enthusiast Marcus Wong to find out three of the best train holidays near Melbourne.

Art and history in Castlemaine and the Goldfields

Castlemaine was once a bustling gold-rush town. These days, it’s known for its vibrant art scene and cafe culture.

Located in Victoria’s Goldfields region, Castlemaine’s rich history can be seen in the old buildings in town which date back to the mid-19th century.

A popular spot for Melburnians looking for a tree change, Castlemaine is sometimes referred to in the big smoke as “north Northcote”.

Getting there

Castlemaine is about 90 minutes by train from Melbourne. You can jump on the V/Line service to Bendigo, which runs regularly from Southern Cross Station.

Off-peak fares are available on weekends and when departing Melbourne before 4:00pm or after 6:00pm on weekdays.

A one-way off-peak trip to Castlemaine costs $17.64 for adults and $8.82 for travellers with a concession. If you’re a parent of young children, keep in mind children under five travel free on V/Line trains.

The Castlemaine Art Museum is one of the town’s many artistic attractions.(Wikimedia: James McArdle, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Getting around

The train station is close to many of Castlemaine’s attractions. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the Castlemaine Art Museum and cafes and restaurants on Barker Street.

If you’re in the mood for walking, there are guided tours available on Saturday afternoons.

Mount Alexander Shire runs a bus service in Castlemaine and there are taxis available too.

Where to stay

There are plenty of short-stay accommodation options in Castlemaine and surrounds, including bed and breakfasts, hotels, and self-contained apartments.

Penguins, seals and surf at Phillip Island

Phillip Island is a well-known holiday spot for Melburnians, but many wouldn’t know it’s accessible by train.

You’ll need to jump on a train to Frankston, and then switch to the Stony Point line. Once you arrive at Stony Point, you can catch the ferry to the island.

“Once you get to Stony Point, the pier is right there. That’s where the ferry departs from,” Mr Wong says.

At sunset on the island, you can camp out to see the famous penguin parade, which draws tourists from all over the world.

If you keep your eyes out, you might also spot migratory birds, seals and even whales swimming nearby.

Phillip Island is home to as many as 40,000 penguins.(Supplied: Phillip Island Nature Parks)

Getting there

This is the longest trip of the three and it’s too far for a single-day trip.

The trip to Stony Point will take about two hours from Southern Cross Station.

From there, you can catch the ferry, which takes another 30 minutes. Be sure to check the ferry timetable, because there are only four services running each day

The ferry costs $13.50 each way for adults, but there are cheaper fares available for concession card holders and children. The train trip will set you back about $4.60 each way, and $2.30 for a concession card holder.

There is a bus service on the island and you can also book taxis.

The Penguin Parade on Phillip Island is a popular tourist attraction.(Supplied: Phillip Island Nature Parks)

Where to stay

There are plenty of accommodation options near the ferry terminal in Cowes, the island’s main town.

The penguin parade is on the other side of the island, which is not serviced by bus or train. If you’re keen to see the penguins, and you don’t have a car, you’ll need to book a taxi or arrange other transport from Cowes

Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula

Geelong is Victoria’s second-largest city, and it’s very accessible from Melbourne via train.

“If you get off at Geelong station itself, you can walk over to the waterfront,” Mr Wong says.

“It’s not a surf beach or anything, but it’s a nice place to go for a walk and have lunch on a sunny day.”

During the warmer months, Geelong’s Eastern Beach is a great spot for a swim. There’s a large park with barbecues and a playground to keep children entertained.

Geelong’s waterfront is a short walk from Geelong train station. (Supplied: Regional Development Victoria)

Getting there

The trip from Southern Cross station to Geelong station on the V/Line takes just over an hour.

Again, if you’re travelling on weekends or depart Melbourne before 4:00pm and after 6:00pm on a weekday, you can use an off-peak fare. The fare will cost $9.66 for an adult, or $4.83 for a concession fare. Travelling during peak periods is more expensive.

Where to stay

There are hotels and other accommodation options close to Geelong station.

The Bellarine Peninsula is home to several popular beach towns, including Torquay and Barwon Heads, which have plenty of holiday accommodation options and are accessible from Geelong or Marshall Station via bus.

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