1. Dandenong Ranges, VIC
Picture this – rolling hills, stunning views, the smell of clean crisp air. The Dandenong Ranges remind us of why we need to escape city life sometimes. The countess walking trails, amazing eateries, wineries and hidden waterfalls are the highlights of this location. The Dandenong Ranges have plenty of tranquil (and free) camping grounds. My number one pick is The Alfred Nicholas Gardens. Known for their picturesque waterfalls, a stay here will make you feeling like you’re straight out of The Jungle Book in no time. Take advantage of the countless walking tracks that the ranges have to offer, the Kokoda 1000 steps memorial track takes around on hour to complete and offers amazing views. If a lavish few days away is more your style, the nearby Yarra Valley is full of wineries that will have you forgetting about assignment due dates in no time. The De Bortoli Estate is a great one – the family has been in the wine making game more than 80 years, so you can guarantee the wine is top notch.
2. Great Ocean Road, VIC
Ask any non-Victorian and they will tell you that the great ocean road is on their bucket list. That being said, if you have the privilege of living nearby, or even in the same state, it would be an injustice to not make the most of this beautiful corner of the world. From Apollo Bay to Ocean Grove – I’ve got you covered. Not to start your journey on a down note, but you will find that areas from Torquay all the way to Aireys inlet have put a ban on free camping. Boo. Unfortunately, if you choose to camp for free in these areas you can expect a hefty fine from park rangers; so the next best thing is a camping ground. Don’t fret, its still moderately priced. You can find spots for no more than $40 dollars a night. Erskine Falls is a great way to spend a morning. Go right up to the waterfall – this is not for the faint hearted though, take caution! It’s a bit of a walk so make sure you pack plenty of H20.The beaches along the coast are a highlight in them self. Driving or on a bus, these beautiful stretches of ocean all have their own individual beauty, and can occupy you for days on end. If you can, make it all the way to Loch Ard Gorge. You won’t be disappointed.
3. Mornington Peninsula, VIC
Crystal clear water, gorgeous seafood and hydro pools. What more could you want? Fortunately for all you cheapskate students, places like Rye, Sorrento and Dromana are filled with free, beach side campsites. One catch – you can’t book these hot spots, so get in early. They aren’t powered, but I suggest a nice ocean bath. A highlight of the Mornington Peninsula are it's beautiful beaches. One of the most popular spots is the Mount Martha Cliffs. A day here provides a beautiful sightseeing experience and an adventure blast all in one. Although a tough walk back to the top, the cliffs are a must see when visiting the peninsula. BYO band aids. If cliff jumping isn’t your thing, the surrounding bays such as Rye and Rosebud are just as stunning. Driving from Melbourne to the peninsula can be quite costly once you factor in petrol, road trip McDonalds and the inevitable city link fee. The Queenscliff to Sorrento Ferry is an alternative to this – you can take your car on board and literally travel straight across the bay, in a fraction of the time.
4. Sunshine Coast, QLD
Not far from Brisbane, the sunny coast will remind you of everything you love about the warmer months. Picture salty hair, sunrise swims and more ice cream flavours than you know what to do with. Visit Noosa National Park. There are tons of beaches that are perfect for swimming, each with it’s own nooks and crannies. They aren’t patrolled through, so be careful with those pesky currents. For those of you with naughty streak, Alexandria Bay has been dubbed ‘clothing optional’. The park and its beaches provide the perfect setting for rock climbing, fishing, snorkelling and surfing. The perfect Instagram photo is waiting for you here. Aussie Icon Steve Irwin’s conservation centre, Australia zoo, is also nearby. Get up close and personal with some crocodiles and other animals from all over the world. Visit an oldie but a goodie, The Big Pineapple. Stop in for a sundae as big as your head and see how the Queensland pineapples are grown and harvested. And of course, pose for the obligatory photo in front of the giant fruit.