A Melbourne to Adelaide road trip provides unforgettable scenery, idyllic vineyards and a huge variety of opportunities for adventure. One stretch of the journey that is particularly great – especially if you’re an adventurous type – is on the stretch from Warrnambool to Adelaide, stopping off at Mount Gambier.
Our itinerary will follow the route from Melbourne to Adelaide, but you can always just reverse the trip. We have broken this road trip down into five stages.
Distance from Melbourne to Adelaide
All up, the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide (or Adelaide to Melbourne if it suits your plans better) is less than 1,000 kilometres. This does include the detour along the incredible, iconic Great Ocean Road, which runs along the south western edge of Victoria.
How Long Does it Take to Drive From Melbourne to Adelaide?
You could comfortably complete the road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide in just 2 days, if you were so inclined. But why would you want to rush through a region that boasts caves to explore, stunning coastline, national parks galore and adventure around every corner? Feel free to allow yourself a week or more for this spectacular trip.
Selecting a car for your route
Of course, you’re never going to be able to stop at all the incredible stops we’ve got lined up for you, without your own wheels. And if you’re not local to Adelaide or Melbourne, you’re going to want to hire a car.
As road trips go, the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide is extremely fun, but doesn’t require any special off roading equipment. It is still always a great idea to make sure you have enough space in the car to be comfortable, and there could be some gravel or unpaved roads on the route, so SUV hire is popular.
Leg 1: Drive Melbourne to Warrnambool (via the Great Ocean Road)
Recommended time: At least 2 nights, 3 days
Distance: 345 kilometres
Drive time: Around 5.5 hours.
If you’re starting your epic road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide in the city centres, you’re going to want to get out early to beat the morning traffic. If you’re hiring a car, it can actually pay to pick it up the night before to avoid battling your way out of the city. Once you’re on the road, head straight for Torquay and the start of the Great Ocean Road. This could take around 2 hours.
The official start and end of the Great Ocean Road are Torquay in Allansford, but the journey from Melbourne to Mt Gambier and then driving onto Adelaide is much more popular. It’s more efficient, there are more opportunities to see and experience breathtaking landscapes and you would feel like you’re missing out if you only went halfway.
Arguably Australia’s most famous road trip, The Great Ocean Road is a fairly short stretch that sparkles with phenomenal natural attractions, including the Twelve Apostles and London Bridge and Loch Ard Gorge. You can get more inspiration from our dedicated Great Ocean Road Trip itinerary.
Have your swimming gear at the ready and be prepared to stop and get out the car. There are so many opportunities for a swim, to stretch your legs on incredible tracks and to gawk at the incredible rock formations, phenomenal ocean views and wildlife. If you’re not limited by time, you could easily spend a week driving this epic road.
- Bakeries & coffee in Lorne
- The drive from 12 Apostles to The Grotto
- Wild Koalas at Kennett River
- Cape Otway Lightstation
Finish up the first leg of this epic journey in Warrnambool, just 12 kilometres west from Allansford.
Leg 2: Warrnambool to Port Fairy
Recommended time: 1 day, 1 night
Distance: 30 kilometres
Drive time: 1 hour
Warrnambool is a great halfway or stopover point, whichever direction you’re travelling in. After the constant on-the-go and excitement of the Great Ocean Road, it’s a great place to relax, slow the pace down and enjoy your time. If you’re travelling from Adelaide to Warrnambool, you’re likely to have been on other epic adventures.
It’s only a short drive to Port Fairy, so you can spend a day or so in Warrnambool if you choose: Wake up and explore the towns’ cafes. You could go for a lovely coastal walk or drive over to Logan’s Beach. If you’re in the mood to treat yourself and really give over to the relaxation, you must visit the Deep Blue Hot Springs. These natural phenomenons are up and down Victoria’s Southern coast, but there really are so many pools and options at Deep Blue. Soak in a hydrotherapy pool, enjoy an open air bath at twilight or explore the passage, a rainforest inspired pool – you’ll thank us later.
After a great day, hop in the car to continue on the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide. It will only take 30 minutes to arrive at Port Fairy if you choose not to stop along the way.
- A road trip from Adelaide to Melbourne is great at any time of year. In the winter months (June to September) you can see female southern right whales calving at Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool. This has been a nursery for generations and is utterly magical to observe from the specially constructed platform. Not to mention, the roads are quieter, too.
Leg 3: Port Fairy to Portland
Recommended time: 1 day
Distance: 75 kilometres
Driving time: 1 hour
When you arrive in Port Fairy, you’ll have no choice but to stop for a look around. The small town has beaches, water sports, hiking, swimming, golf, horse-riding and whale-watching to offer. One of the best vantage points from which to see these magnificent creatures is the viewing platform at Logan’s Beach where the Hopkins River meets the ocean.
It is a seaside community brimming with charm. There is a large fishing fleet based here, and you may even be lucky enough to spot sea lions or elephant seals lolling about near the shore.
From Port Fairy, you’ll take the A1 – the Princes Highway – west of the city. Admire the ocean views along the way, and it won’t be long before you reach Portland.
Leg 4: Portland to Mount Gambier
Recommended time: 1 day, 1 night
Distance: 110 kilometres
Driving time: Around 2 hours
This is such an incredible leg of the journey, making it all the way from Melbourne to Mt Gambier.
Portland is a lovely coastal town in Victoria. It’s just a few kilometres northeast of Cape Nelson, and it was the place that the first European settlers in Victoria called home. It later became a thriving fishing and whaling town and even today, many of the town’s inhabitants make their living from the ocean.
There are two ways to get from Portland to Mt Gambier. The short and easy way is along the Princes Highway via Heywood, a farming town about 90 km from Mount Gambier and located on the banks of the Fitzroy River. The long way round is to head northwest on a leisurely drive towards Nelson, a small fishing town near where the Glenelg River flows into Discovery Bay. This is the road you might take if you’re doing the inverse trip from Adelaide to Mount Gambier and then onto Melbourne, because it’s one of the best opportunities to get in some beach time. The best spots for swimming here are in the side channels of the river mouth, because the ocean itself has some dangerous undertows. However, there are plenty of beaches to enjoy, fish to catch and trails to hike.
On the drive inland towards Mount Gambier, you’ll notice a change in the landscape, almost immediately after crossing the border in South Australia. One of the major reasons people tackle this Melbourne to Adelaide road trip is to enjoy the Melbourne to Mount Gambier drive in the first place. By now, you’ll have seen just how beautiful the coastal scenery is, so it’s time to explore this incredible South Australian spot.
The city is named for the inactive volcano on whose slopes it was built. Mount Gambier is one of the most important centres in the region known as the Limestone Coast, which stretches from the Younghusband Peninsula at Coorong down to the border with Victoria. As the name implies, the Limestone Coast has geographic features usually associated with limestone: lots of caves and sinkholes.
On the outskirts of town is a sinkhole that is jaw droppingly impressive. Umpherston Sinkhole is overgrown with a garden that appears as if it’s sunken into the earth. Visit at night, when the possums come out to frolic in the garden, for something extra special. If adventure is your middle name, or you’re a bit of a spelunker, head to Engelbrecht Cave (also in town) to go cave diving.
Of course, Mount Gambier is not only about sinkholes and caves. The most popular attraction is arguably the Blue Lake (Warwar), not far from Umpherston Sinkhole. Today this crater lake, one of several in the area, has become the main source of Mount Gambier’s water supply.
For a bit of history, visit the Old Court House. In fact, why not get a group of people together and take part in a mock trial here? Being “sent to prison” is not such a bad idea either, since the Old Mount Gambier Gaol, built in 1866, also provides lovely heritage accommodation where you can spend the night before your final drive from Mt Gambier to Adelaide and complete the epic Melbourne to Adelaide road trip.
Mount Gambier to Adelaide drive
Recommended time: 1 + days
Distance: 434 kilometres
Driving time: Just under 5 hours.
You can continue along the Princes Highway for those coastal views all the way up to Adelaide. Should you take this coastal route, be sure to plan a stop in Robe (roughly 90 minutes from Mt Gambier) to visit the beach and the Sealife Centre. Should you take the slightly quicker inland route to Adelaide (the Riddoch Highway), you’ll be able to make stops in the stunning Coonawarra wine region for lunch, and at the Naracoote Caves for an unforgettable afternoon underground.
When you’re heading west on the M1 and just past Crafers, you’ve basically completed your road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide. Here, you can change up the pace of travel entirely and bask in culture, museums, cafes and markets, or attend any of the hundreds of events and festivals Adelaide plays host to every single year. It’s always easy to find something that’s on around town.
- Adelaide Botanic Gardens
- d’Arenberg winery
- Adelaide markets
- South Australia Museum
If you’re heading straight back to the airport, you can return SIXT hire cars here. If you’re driving from Adelaide to Melbourne, your journey is just beginning. All we can say is strap in, it’s going to be an unforgettable ride.
If you want to keep the road trip going: If you’ve still not got enough of nature, wildlife and all the fun of the road, turn off at Mount Barker (regardless of your direction of travel) and head West towards Cape Jervis and the ferry over to Kangaroo Island.