Are you looking for a country escape from Melbourne’s city life to explore a couple of Victoria’s country towns dating back to the gold mining era, then keep reading.
We love to getaway as much as we can. Whilst we are lucky to have an old Toyota Hiace Camper van which makes an escape hassle free and very easy. Just pack a few clothes, groceries, water and firewood and off we go.
This itinerary from Melbourne is suitable whether you are looking for a camping escape with a tent, caravan or camper van. Even if you are not a camper it has ideas on places to visit In Ararat, Avoca and Maryborough.
Our 3 day escape
- Day 1: Melbourne to Ararat
- Day 2: Ararat to Avoca
- Day 3: Avoca to Melbourne via Maryborough
Day 1 Itinerary Melbourne to Ararat
We headed off from Melbourne after work on a Friday. Our first stop was Ararat where we stocked up on food and necessities in the town. Whilst there we decided to cheat and have KFC for an easy dinner, it’s no where near as good as a camp dinner but it certainly filled the spot!!
With our bellies full, off we headed to Greenhill Lake Reserve which is a free camping area just 5.2kms from the town of Ararat. If you are coming from Melbourne the campground is before you enter the town of Ararat.
The Greenhill Lake Reserve is very easy to find and is a free camping area. There are some parts of the reserve which is not for camping, so ensure you check the signage before setting up camp. If you are looking for a campsite on the lake front ensure you arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Once we arrived we set up camp, with the fire roaring it was time to relax and take in the serenity. This is exactly what we were looking for……What better way to end the working week and to start our getaway. If you arrived earlier, your day could perhaps be spent relaxing along the lake, throwing the fishing line in or walking to Ararat via the walking track.
7 Reasons why you should stay at Greenhill Lake Reserve?
The Greenhill Lake Reserve is a place that caters for all types of interests and visitors. Whether you are visiting for an hour or so, perhaps you are staying for a night or longer, however long we are sure you will love it here. The area is situated around a scenic lake suitable for water sports, fishing or a place to take a dip. With fire pits and BBQ’s it’s a great place to catch up with family and friends.
The below are just some of the reasons to stay here. Click on the link for more details on the Greenhill Lake Reserve which is an awesome place to camp.
- Free camping area
- Flushing toilets
- Warm shower
- Lakeside camping spots
- Boat ramp
- Fire pits provided
- Picnic/BBQ facilities
Day 2 Itinerary
Our road trips are generally spontaneous, whilst we have a destination in mind the rest we make up as we go along. This road trip we knew we were going to stay at Greenhill Lake Reserve and knew we wanted to take a tour of the old Ararat Gaol, J Ward Asylum. The rest was quite spontaneous, this way we have no expectations and our adventures are full of surprises.
Click on the below links to read more about the places we visited.
- Strolling around the Greenhill Lake Reserve
- Exploring the town of Ararat
- Tour of J Ward Asylum
- Lunch at Alexandra Gardens, Ararat
- Road trip from Ararat to Avoca
- Governors Rock Lookout Tower, Pyrenees State Forest
- Free camp at Waterfall Campground, Percydale
Greenhill Lake Reserve
After our typical camp breakfast consisting of egg and bacon sandwiches we strolled around the scenic lake. We checked out the boat ramp, playground and picnic/BBQ areas. Over the small bridge we found people fishing and relaxing lying on the grass. If you are looking for a place to relax then look no further!!
J Ward Asylum
It was then time to pack up camp and drive down the road to Ararat. Here we went on a tour of the J Ward Asylum which was once the Ararat Gaol. This is a great tour if you are interested in the history of Ararat in the gold mining era and to learn about the types of people that ended up in the J Ward Asylum.
Being moved by the stories of the asylum and our bellies grumbling it was time for lunch. For a country town you are spoilt for choice of places to eat. Since we’d already started our weekend on take away food we opted for fish n chips which we took to the Alexandra Gardens which are situated opposite the asylum. Again this is a great place to sit and relax looking at the lake, have a BBQ/picnic with family/friends. With a playground for the kids and plenty of grass areas to kick a footy or play a game of cricket this is a beautiful setting to enjoy the outdoors.
Historical Ararat Township
We explored the town of Ararat. Checking out some of the historical buildings and train station. The architecture on some of the old buildings is stunning. Clocks are included in many of the designs. They really do put the modern buildings of today to shame. To us there is so much more detail that make these buildings stand out.
Ararat to Avoca
The road trip is very scenic and very easy. As we were traveling in Spring time the brightly coloured canola fields were a delight to see. You could see them for miles. There’s a number of small country towns you drive through, we opted not to stop as we wanted to reach Avoca with plenty of time to check out free camping areas to spend the night. Arriving late afternoon on a Saturday the shops were closing. We immediately found a lovely free camping spot, Avoca RV Park (not suitable for tents) which was right along the river within a 5min walk to the town centre. There were plenty of campsites available so we continued our day exploring.
Governors Rock Lookout Tower, Pyrenees State Forest
Knowing there was a scenic camping area right on the river we took off to explore some of the Pyrenees State Forest. We came across a sign advertising a lookout and waterfall. We opted to check out the lookout. The road trip was on an unsealed windy road. Care needs to be taken when driving on these roads. As we drove along we were surrounded by trees. Reaching the Governors Rock Lookout Tower after taking the short uphill walk on an uneven track from the small parking/picnic area. The view was spectacular again with the brightly coloured canola fields standing out. Once we’d taken in the view and serenity we continued driving along the dirt windy roads to see if we could find another free camping ground. The roads started to become a little bumpy and as we were not in a 4WD and it was late in the afternoon we decided to check out the “waterfall” on our way back to the Avoca RV Park.
Waterfall Campground, Percydale
Following the signs to the “waterfall” we ended up at a delightful free camping area, Waterfall Campground, Percydale, which is suitable for tents, caravans or camper vans. The campground was at the same place as the walk to the “waterfall” which was only 500m from the campground.
As the walk to the “waterfall” was so close, we opted to set up camp and enjoy the rest of the afternoon sitting around the campfire sipping on beers as watched kangaroos jumping across the valley in front of us. The birds were chirping and kookaburras laughing. Whilst there was a large group of people already at the campground with music blaring we continued to stay the night. Not all of the group stayed and apart from the music they caused no trouble what so ever and the campground was left clean early the following morning.
Day 3 Itinerary
Sadly this was our last day to explore before heading back to the city and resuming the working week. We like to make the most of our escape and stop where we can on the way home to explore new territory.
Click on the below links to read more about the places we visited.
- Enjoy breakfast cooked on the campfire
- Go on the “waterfall” Valley Walk, Percydale
- Pack up camp
- Explore the historical town of Avoca
- Visit the Avoca Chinese Gardens
- Stop at old gold mining town of Maryborough
- Arrive back in Melbourne
Valley Walk, Percydale
Although this was a nice walk, it was not what we were expecting. On our road trip the previous day the sign post said “waterfall”, there was also a sign next to the Valley Walk sign saying “waterfall” however we did not see a waterfall. It is said after heavy rainfall you can see a waterfall here. When we visited the waterfall rock was damp with a tiny trickle and the stone creek bed was dry.
Don’t be discouraged, if you stay at the Waterfall Campground it’s a pleasant walk to go on and listen to the birds chirping. Nice to stretch the legs prior to hitting the road.
We went back to Avoca where we checked out some of the many second hand shops, there were so many for a country town. On the weekend we visited it was the Avoca garage sale, there were lots of locals/tourists searching for bargains in the shops and at the 32 garage sales!!
It was enjoyable to roam the streets and drive to see the historical buildings including one of Victoria’s oldest standing National Schools dating back to 1872.
If historical buildings aren’t your thing you may want to check out the wineries. On this trip we opted not to visit the wineries, however when we return they will be on our to go to list.
Avoca Chinese Garden
Prior to leaving this relatively large country town we checked out the small but pleasant Avoca Chinese Gardens which represents fire and water. The gardens are also in memory of the Chinese who in the gold rush era came to Australia in search of gold. The gardens are situated opposite the free camping area RV Avoca Park. Being spring time the blossoms looked absolutely gorgeous. The flowering cherry making a beautiful photo with the Chinese Pavilion in the background where the roof top represents “fire”.
With are imagination running wild trying to imagine what life would’ve been like for the Chinese back in the gold rush era we hit the road. It was time to make our journey back to Melbourne.
Before we knew it we reached another country town, Maryborough where back in 1854 many flooded the area in search of gold. It is said that at its peak Maryborough had a population of 50,000. The last gold mine in Maryborough closed in 1918.
For us Maryborough was a quick drive through as we still had a bit of road to cover to reach home. We checked out some of the historical buildings dating back to 1854 before reaching the Maryborough station which we fell in love with!! It was an awesome sight to see in this country town. If you are like us driving through we definitely recommend you stop and explore some of historical buildings that this town has to offer.
We loved our 3 day escape and if we had longer we definitely would’ve spent more time in each place to really soak up the atmosphere. All the places we visited hold so much history dating back to the gold rush era yet they are all so different, and in our opinion well worth the visit.
If our road trip has inspired you to visit these beautiful parts of country Victoria we would love to hear about your experiences. Perhaps our adventure has made you reminisce about one of your journeys? We’d love to hear about it.