If You Have 3 Days
On the first morning after leaving Melbourne, head for the town of Belgrave. Here you can ride the Puffing Billy train through the fern gullies and forests of the Dandenongs. In the afternoon, travel to Phillip Island for the endearing sunset penguin parade. Stay the night, and on the third morning meander along the coastal roads of the Mornington Peninsula through such stately towns as Sorrento and Portsea. Stop at a beach, or pick a Melbourne neighborhood or two to explore in the afternoon.
If You Have 5 Days
Make your way west from Melbourne, stopping at Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula, before setting off down the Great Ocean Road. (If you are starting from the Mornington Peninsula, you take the Sorrento-Queenscliff car and passenger ferry, which crosses Port Phillip Bay in 45 minutes.) The Great Ocean Road is one of the world's finest scenic drives, offering stops at some irresistible beaches. Overnight in Lorne, beneath the Otway Ranges, then drive west to Port Campbell National Park. Here you can view the Twelve Apostles rock formations and stroll along the beach. Continue to Port Fairy for the night, making sure that you check out the wonderful Bay of Islands and Bay of Martyrs rock stacks (in the sea) along the way. On Day 4 wander along the banks of Port Ferry's Moyne River and amble around Griffiths Island. You can then drive northeast to the Goldfields center of Ballarat. That evening you can explore the town's 19th-century streetscapes, then catch the sound-and-light show at Sovereign Hill. Spend the night here, and in the morning head to the wineries and spas around Daylesford before returning to Melbourne.