Melbourne To Sydney Road Trip
Whether you’re looking for an alternative to flying or are just looking to embrace some of the best views and vibes Australia has to offer, you won’t do better than the Melbourne to Sydney road trip!
Picture this: starting your morning with a scenic hike and ending your day watching the sunset from a boat on a clear water bay. No two days behind the wheel need be the same, and this itinerary will take you where you need to go to embrace nature’s best.
This is what you can expect when travelling along and around the south eastern tip of mainland Australia, on the drive from Melbourne to Sydney. Follow this itinerary for an epic (and iconic) road trip.
How long is the road trip from Melbourne to Sydney?
If you’re driving up the Hume Highway, you can expect to get from point to point in 8 – 9 hours without a stop. But if you’re doing a Melbourne to Sydney road trip following this itinerary, the driving time will be around 12 – 13 hours. How much you break that up – and how long you spend at each stop is up to you.
Most of the day trips on this list are an hour or so away from Melbourne’s CBD, with Phillip Island the farthest at 140 kms. If you’re hitting the road on the weekend, traffic can be congested coming out of the city but should ease as you make your way towards the highways. Leave early, and you’ll definitely be rewarded; plus there’ll no doubt be a great brunch place where you’re going.
Is the drive from Melbourne to Sydney worth it?
In this itinerary, we have called out stops where you could spend a little longer, but if you had all the time in the world, you still wouldn’t get bored taking the scenic drive from Melbourne to Sydney.
It’s an incredible part of mainland Australia, where you can literally go from snow to surf in the same day. It’s full of hidden gems as it isn’t as well known or well trodden as the likes of the Great Ocean Road.
Highlights to look forwards to are:
- Wilson’s Promontory – Put your hiking boots on early in the morning and be rewarded with a Mount Oberon sunrise.
- Peninsula hot springs – Relax and unwind in the natural geothermal mineral pools
- Lakes Entrance – Learn to paddleboard on calm lake water and end your day with a stroll along the sand.
- The Penguin Parade – Head to Phillip Island in the summer to witness a magical showcase of wildlife
- Merimbula – Spot whales in the wild and then share your stories over burgers and beers.
- Narooma – Snorkel with seals on Montague Island and capture amazing photos of the emerald water.
- Jervis Bay – Take a morning dip in the crystal blue sea of Hyams Beach before heading to Berry for a famous hot donut.
Packing for your Melbourne to Sydney road trip
If you’re planning on a hike, pack a change of clothes so you can reward yourself with a visit to a winery or cafe afterwards. For those heading towards the coast or hot springs, a towel and some thongs are a good idea to get you to and from the water. We also highly recommend taking an empty esky or reusable shopping bag to carry all the local goodies you’re going to want to bring home with you.
Make sure to pack a few swimsuits, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and a picnic blanket for impromptu stops when the scenery demands it.
Ready, set, drive!
Now that we’ve got all the basics out of the way, you’re almost ready to hit the road. The great news is this road trip itinerary allows you to soak up some of the best nature Australia has to offer without having to head down any dirt roads or rough terrain.
Throughout Victoria, you’ll be cruising along the South Gippsland Highway before switching to the Princes Highway in New South Wales between towns. Both are smooth and well-maintained roads, so your choice of vehicle can be left to your personal preference.
A real highlight of this trip is the scenery you’ll spot simply by looking out the window. From the huge granite mountains of Wilson’s Promontory to the sparkling waters of the Sapphire Coast, nature lovers will find a new slice of paradise at every slowdown and turn.
Ready to start? Let’s go…
Day 1: Melbourne to Wilsons Promontory
3 hours 49 minutes
*based on leaving from Melbourne
Before embarking on your Melbourne to Sydney road trip, you first must consider if you’ve experienced the best of the area you’re moving on from.
Mornington Peninsula is a little hard to reach from the city, without the use of a car. It’s an hour and 20 minutes drive from the CBD, but if you’re hiring a car in Melbourne, it’s absolutely no problem and entirely worth the drive!
Start your morning early to escape the busy traffic, the nearest SIXT location is in Frankston, but if you’re staying in the city, you can always pick up a hire car in Melbourne itself. Alternatively, SIXT has branches at Tullamarine and Avalon airports.
Head first to The Boyz 4 Breakie in Mornington to fuel up for the day. Then down the road a further 20 minutes to Arthurs Seat base station. Take the aerial gondola, or the eagle, up to the highest point on the peninsula. The views over Port Phillip and towards the city are sensational from the treetops. Once you’ve soaked up enough of the views, head over to Flinders Blowhole for a gawk and be dazzled by sparkling water.
It will have been a busy and bustling start to your Melbourne to Sydney road trip, so you should complete your time on the peninsula at the Peninsula Hot Springs for a soak in geothermal waters. If you have plenty of time on your hands, you might want to consider a spa treatment and a stop over right here.
If you’re keen to be on the move, get back on the road and head to “The Prom”, a must visit in Victoria. This is the southernmost point of Australia and is the pinnacle of everything you will see on this drive from Melbourne to Sydney; forest, beach, granite mountains and rock formations.
If you have followed our itinerary, it’s likely to be mid afternoon. Stop off on your way in to pick up some supplies in Meeniyan, so you don’t get stuck if the shops are closed when you arrive. Tidal River is the main area (and a completely natural playground) where you’ll find plenty of camping and accommodation options, as well as easy access to some of the best spots in the park.
Because The Prom is the southern tip of Australia, you can choose between sunrise or sunset. If you’re an outdoor lover, we recommend you indulge in both. This evening, head to Whisky Bay. It’s a 10 minute drive from the Tidal River, where surrounding islands are silhouetted with a golden glow as the sun reaches the ends of the earth.
Day 2: Wilsons Promontory to Lakes Entrance
3 hours 30 minutes
Depending on the time of year, gear up for another early start and catch sunrise at the top of Mount Oberon. From up there, you’ll have a vantage over most of the Prom. It can be steep in parts, but most people seem to manage the 6.8km return hike, with chairs placed for rest (or a coffee) along the way. The path is a wide-graded road for the most part.
When it’s time to leave The Prom, ease your sadness by stopping in Sale for a bite to eat or go via Agnes Falls to see the tallest waterfall in Gippsland.
It’s just over 275 kilometres from Tidal River to Lakes Entrance, your next stop. The drive should take around 3.5 hours, but enjoy and go at your own pace. It’s the joy of driving from Melbourne to Sydney.
Once you arrive at Lakes Entrance, you can relax after a busy and early morning, or you can take your pick of water activities; head out on a boat to explore marine life with the locals, or rent your own kayak or stand-up paddleboard and slowly cruise into all the different bays yourself.
Lakes Entrance can be quite a tourist attraction in summer, so if you prefer the quiet life, you could also stay in the neighbouring town of Metung for some tranquillity. From there, you’ll still have access to boating and fishing activities, as well as plenty of scenic walks to choose from.
Whatever you do, this area is known as the Seafood Capital, with so much to choose from vast waterways, calm surface lakes and so much more. You must absolutely try the fresh seafood shops whilst you’re in town. Wild Catch Fish & Chips is a crowd favourite, but you can hardly go wrong in this coastal town. Better yet, catch your own dinner and cook it straight from the sea on a campsite BBQ.
Day 3: Lakes Entrance to Merimbula
3 hours 10 minutes
The next leg of your journey will bring you even closer to the ocean, away from the calmer lakes as you head further East. If you’re taking things slow, it’s very easy to find a beach to pitch and surf for the day.
Halfway along your journey, you will find the pinnacles loop walking track. This a rugged and stunning stretch, with incredible, rich rock faces that contrast with the coastal path you can walk along. It’s a fantastic spot for photographers, nature lovers and travellers of all kinds. It’s only a 20 to 40 minute walk, but you’ll remember it forever.
Continue on your journey to Merimbula. If you’re taking your Melbourne to Sydney road trip in the months of September to the end of November, you’re in luck. Merimbula is a whale watching hotspot due to their natural, deep bays. It is well worth a night or two to stop and make the itinerary work, just to fit this in.
If you’re travelling outside of spring, you can still venture out onto the water whilst in Merimbula or Eden to spot playful pods of dolphins.
Another fantastic thing to do when you arrive in Merimbula is to take a stroll along the Merimbula Boardwalk, which hugs the shores of the lake and winds through mangrove forests and eucalyptus canopies. It’s a 3.4km return trip and takes about an hour and a half to complete if you’re walking leisurely.
Whether you stop for a night or a week, you absolutely have to make Dulcie’s Cottage a priority on your hit-list also. Head to this local-favourite for burgers, beers and good times in their delightful garden. There are plenty of locally sourced ingredients on the menu, and on some nights, there’s live music to enjoy. With the shortest drive of the trip coming up next, you can afford to stay out a little later.
Day 4: Merimbula to Narooma
1 hour 30 minutes
At this point, you’re half way through your road trip from Melbourne to Sydney – well, in terms of distance travelled anyway. You will have crossed the border into New South Wales, just after Maramingo Creek on the last stretch of the road trip.
This is a much shorter leg of the trip and if you’re in a hurry, you can treat this part of the drive as a stop off rather than a dedicated leg. The drive from Merimbula is stunning on all sides. You’ll traverse the Princes Highway with snippets of coastal views on your right, and incredible, dramatic mountains on your left.
You’ll pass through quaint small towns on your way to Narooma. Head straight to the waterfront for a gawk at the unbelievable Australia Rock – an eroded section of headland with an Australian-shaped hole in its middle. You won’t believe it’s all completely natural, especially when you’re standing in front of it and see the detail and the similarities.
Continue on your walk along the rocks as you’re very very likely to come across a colony of seals bathing in the sun, frolicking in the water or calling out to one another.
If you’re keen to be on the move, grab a pastry from abc bakery and rejoin the Princes Highway. If you’re stopping a while, why not witness those seals and the rest of this infamous part of coastline on a boat tour.
Day 5: Narooma to Jervis Bay
2 hours 41 minutes
Just as you start to think the coastline on this trip couldn’t get any better or bluer, Jervis Bay appears on the horizon. Located in the Shoalhaven region of the NSW South Coast, Jervis Bay is home to the whitest sand beaches in the world.
Be dazzled by the sparkling aqua blue waters of the famous Hyams Beach before comparing it with other local favourites such as Murrays Beach and Blenheim Beach. The beauty of having a car is you can flit between them to find your perfect stretch of sand.
We highly recommend early starts when in this region, particularly on the weekends before the Sydney crowd arrives. 5 Little Pigs in Huskisson has one of the best breakfast menus in the area, and the coffee is well worth sacrificing a sleep-in for.
The day is yours to do with as you please: venture out around Beecroft Peninsula to look back at the white sands of the bay or, if you’re not yet tired of the water, head out on a Dolphin watching adventure. Jervis bay is renowned for being one of the best places to spot various pods in the wild.
Day 6: Completing your drive to Sydney
2 hours 47 minutes
It’s the final leg of the road trip from Melbourne to Sydney, setting off from Jervis Bay.
Once you’re plenty salt and sun-soaked, there are some incredible pit stops to make on the final leg of the drive to Sydney. Don’t miss ducking into the charming town of Berry to pick up any local gifts and grab yourself a hot donut from the famous Berry Donut Van (make sure to eat it while it’s still warm). What a fantastic breakfast!
And if the timing is right, book yourself a table for lunch at The Scarborough Hotel. This buzzy pub is perched on a cliff edge with incredible views.
However, the most important part of this final drive is to make sure you’re taking the Sea Cliff Bridge, just north of Clifton on the coastal road. This is an incredible stretch to drive; make your final pit stop at the top of the hill to look back over the jutting out bridge and the beautiful, blue water. If you’re arriving around sunset, you’ll be treated to beautiful colours in the sky and some fish and chips if you fancy.
It’s then just an hour (with light to moderate traffic) into the heart of Sydney’s CBD, where there is just too much to do to list all in one place. Alternatively, if you’re still craving more nature – head into the Sydney Royal National Park through to Maianbar. Check into cottages or the camp ground for a couple of nights to spend the rest of your week exploring waterfalls, swimming, climbing and trekking through this infamous park.
You’ve completed your Melbourne to Sydney road trip.
It will have been an incredible drive and a wonderful experience. Nature is such a huge part of this drive and really what makes it so special. That’s why it’s so imperative you have your own vehicle and drive from Melbourne to Sydney or vice versa.
Of course, you can return your rental car in Sydney or start the itinerary from this destination and do the road trip the other way around, from north to south. It’s easy to find a branch with a car you like the look of in Sydney, or just make your life so much easier and pick up a hire car from Sydney airport.
Why not make this drive even more special and hire an electric car for the journey?