Driving from Sydney to Melbourne: An Easy to Follow Guide
Considering making the drive from Sydney down to Melbourne? Today we answer all your questions about driving between Australia’s two biggest cities. Whether you are looking for the fastest or the most scenic from Sydney to Melbourne, we have you covered.
Of course, turn the page upside down, and you have a Melbourne to Sydney itinerary ready to go 😉
Updated: 28 December 2021
Easy to follow itineraries for taking the coast or inland roads
There are two main routes between Sydney and Melbourne. The Coast Road via the A1, also known as the Princes Highway and the Grand Pacific Drive or the inland route via the M31, the Hume Highway. Today we will answer the most common questions we have received in our Facebook Group to help you decide which route is best for you.
Frequently asked questions about driving from Sydney to Melbourne
What is the best driving route from Sydney to Melbourne?
How do you determine best? Is the best the fastest, most scenic, easiest drive? Only you can decide that, but we can help by showing you what you can see, do and eat on the road between these two capital cities to help you make your choice.
How far is it from Sydney to Melbourne?
Along the coast road, the distance between Sydney and Melbourne is 1030kms or about 640 miles. Along the inland road, it is 880km or 550 miles.
How long does it take from Sydney to Melbourne?
The fastest route along the inland road with only a stop or two for coffee takes 10 hours. You need to leave Sydney by 6am to make good time and not get stuck in peak hour traffic.
How long does it take to drive from Sydney to Melbourne along the coast?
The coastal route is infinitely more scenic; it takes an average of 13 hours. I would not recommend you attempt this in less than 2 days. Three or more is preferable.
Can you drive from Sydney to Melbourne in one day?
Can you, yes, the inland road can be covered in one long day. Should you do this drive in one day? No, not unless you start early and stop and rest at least two or three times or have two drivers.
How many days should you allow to drive from Sydney to Melbourne?
You can do the inland road in one day – especially if you have two drivers. The coast road requires an overnight stop. Ideally, you should allow two days for the inland road and three days or more for the coast road.
Is it worth driving from Sydney to Melbourne?
Sure is, if you have enough time to stop and smell the roses. This road trip is worth devoting a week to there being so much beautiful landscape, gorgeous beaches and cute little towns to visit. If you are in a hurry, a one hour flight is often a better option than the nine-hour inland drive.
Where do you stop when driving from Sydney to Melbourne?
We have come up with two different itineraries and have listed suggested short breaks and overnight stops and even a couple of detours en route.
Sydney to Melbourne drive via the coast road in 2-5 days
This itinerary is a great choice for nature lovers, with stunning national parks and plenty of chances to see Aussie animals in the wild. The road follows the coast at least half of the way as you head south. At times it goes inland for short periods, but it is still very scenic.
The trip is best enjoyed over 4-5 days although you could do it in 3 at a push or easily spread it over a week or longer to make the most of the natural beauty and wildlife of the region. We do not recommend doing this if you only have two days.
Key highlights on the coastal drive between Sydney and Melbourne
- Sea Cliff Bridge
- Kiama and its famous Blow Hole
- Jervis Bay and its white-sand beaches
- Mollymook and Milton
- Ben Boyd National Park
- Lakes Entrance
Stopping at Ulladulla, Murramarang, Eden, Lakes Entrance, La Trobe Valley, Raymond Island and Wilson’s Promontory. Choose the number of stops based on the time you have. With only two days, do not attempt Wilson’s Promontory. You need a 4-5 day trip for this.
Travel Times and Distances on the Coast Road from Sydney to Melbourne
This itinerary is a bit stop and start at the beginning, but these stops are short and very picturesque. Your camera will get a good workout.
|Mallacoota||Lakes Entrance||202.2 km||2h 19m.|
|Lakes Entrance||Raymond Island||52.5 km||44m.|
|Raymond Island||La Trobe Valley||159.1 km||1h 52m.|
|La Trobe Valley||Melbourne||139.3 km||1h 35m.|
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To help us out creating this epic post, we asked a bunch of our travel writing friends to give us their favourite stops along the way, and we have included these below.
So what are you waiting for let’s get going
Head out of Sydney and into the Royal National Park. If you are taking a week to make this trip, consider stopping off at Wattamolla for a swim.
Next, follow the Grand Pacific Drive signs, which will lead you to Bald Hill lookout at Stanwell Tops. This is a popular hang gliding spot and a great place to get some photos of the coast and the famous bridge in the distance.
Just after Stanwell Tops, you will come to the Seacliff Bridge. The bridge is a result of regular rock falls damaging cars and causing road closures. There is a safe viewing area on the southern side of the bridge. Please wait until you reach this point to stop the car for photos.
Rest stop – Kiama
Kiama makes a pleasant detour off the highway for a morning coffee. There is also the famous blowhole and lighthouse to discover. Photographers should check out Cathedral Rocks, especially if you arrive in the early morning light.
Stay on the coast road as far as Gerroa so you can see Gerringong and the fabulous Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Lookout over Seven Mile Beach.
We are regular visitors to this pretty seaside town and have shared our favourite things to do in Kiama here.
If you want to stop for the night in Kiama it’s probably wise to book some accommodation before you arrive as it’s a popular town, particularly on weekends and holidays.
Rest Stop – Jervis Bay
The next main stop along the highway is Jervis Bay. We are particularly partial to this part of the coast; it’s relatively undiscovered by international travellers, a bit of a secret spot that locals want to keep to themselves.
The beaches and accommodation are bustling in the school holidays, but you can find them relatively deserted at other times of the year. Check out our detailed guide to the area if you have time to stop off for a bit.
Overnight Stop – Ulladulla
Jane and Duncan from To Travel Too have shared why they think you should make a stop in Ulladulla.
Where is it? Just 3 hours 30 minutes from Sydney or 223.5 km is the coastal town of Ulladulla.
Why stop here? Ulladulla is an Aboriginal name meaning ‘safe harbour’. It has been an important fishing port since 1857. The town is well-known for its restaurants and bars offering the best of its local cuisine and seafood.
Tip: One of our favourite restaurants for Brunch is Native, with views over the pretty harbour. It also has the best coffee in town.
One of the interesting things to do is to take a local walk around Warden Head Reserve. It is an easy bushwalk and is suitable for all levels of fitness. The lookouts scattered along the walkway offer breathtaking views out to the Pacific Ocean where you may witness the seasonal migration of whales and enjoy dolphin watching.
There is the aboriginal cultural walk known as the Coome Nujunga track where while you wander down the bush track you can enjoy local aboriginal paintings painted on tree branches and scenic views.
Tip: Free parking is available at the Lighthouse which was built in 1873 and is one of two lighthouses in NSW that is made from wrought iron.
Short stay or longer visit? We would recommend staying overnight and enjoying many of the local cafes and a wander around the Harbour foreshore.”
An alternate overnight stop is just a short drive away at Murramarang.
Overnight stop – Murramarang
Josh Shephard, who blogs at The Lost Passport shares one of our favourite spots along this route, Murramarang.
Where is it? Murramarang National Park is located mid-way down the NSW South Coast, about 20 kilometres north of Batemans Bay, and 270 kilometres south of Sydney.
Why stop here? The area is scattered with beautiful small beaches to explore; Myrtle Beach, Cookies Beach, Deport Beach, Pebbly Beach, and Pretty Beach, among others. It’s an excellent place for swimming, fishing, or just lazing back on the beach in the summer. Some of these beaches are accessible by car, others only by walking track.
There are also walking tracks to locations other than beaches, such as the mangrove walk, the Durras Lake Trail, and the Depot Beach Rainforest Walk. One of the most impressive sights is waking up in the early morning to see a mob of kangaroos feeding on the grass right by the beach. You couldn’t find a spot which sums up travelling Australia any better!
A short visit or overnight? If you’re looking to stay somewhere a little secluded, then Murramarang is the perfect spot to stay a night on your way down the coast from Sydney to Melbourne. The Murramarang Holiday Park, surrounded by the national park, offers cabins and powered campsites right by the beach.
Tip: For those wanting to rough it, bush camping is also available at a few campsites in the national park itself, try the Pebbly Beach, Pretty Beach or Depot Beach campgrounds.
Wherever you decide to stay, Murramarung National Park should be on your list!
Now we head into the Sapphire Coast and with a name like that you know it’s going to be very pretty
Rest Stop – Bega
The South Coast of NSW is dairy country, as you may have already noted from the number of cows you have probably passed along the way. If you are partial to a bit of cheese, consider stopping in at the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre, which has a small cafe and shop. Sadly you can no longer tour the cheese factory but supporting the area by stopping in a never a bad idea.
Overnight Stop – Eden
Jan Wild from Retiring not Shy! explains why a stop at Eden is always a good idea.
Where is it? Once you arrive on the far South Coast of NSW, you are entering Australia’s Coastal Wilderness. The last town on the East Coast of NSW is Eden, settled on the hillside overlooking the ocean and a beautiful harbour.
Why stop here? Eden is a great place to break your journey, and a terrific choice is Sprout Café in the main street – also a good spot to pick up some local preserves and other produce. Enjoy coffee and cake or a delicious lunch.
Historically Eden was a whaling town, and besides the beaches and natural history, the top tourist attraction is the Eden Killer Whale Museum, which is well worth a visit.
After visiting the Museum, continue on down the road to the wharves. If you have the capacity to keep some food cold, you might like to see if the boats are in and selling mussels off their decks. I guarantee these will be the most delicious mussels you will ever eat.
Tip: Just up the hill from the wharves is the Eden Smokehouse, the award-winning purveyor of smoked seafood, including those delicious mussels in several different flavours.
If the smokehouse is closed, the fish shop at the wharf also carries their produce.
A short visit or overnight? This is a great spot to break your journey if you have not done so already. If you are on a longer visit, then I would happily stay a while.
Eden itself doesn’t offer many exciting overnight options, but just south of Eden at beautiful Twofold Bay, you will find the boutique SeaHorse Inn. This is a lovely spot for an overnight stay (or longer) and a good meal in the brasserie or their a la carte restaurant.
An alternate overnight stop is less than 30 minutes away.
Detour – Mallacoota
Jan Wild from Retiring not shy has also shared her love of Mallacoota
Where is it? Leaving NSW and entering Victoria, the first settlement you will come to is Genoa. There is not a lot of facilities here, certainly no petrol or shops, just a pub. There is, however, a very popular free camping spot. But your best option is to turn left towards the township of Mallacoota.
You will then enjoy 23km of narrow winding road so sit back and breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the natural beauty. Around halfway in there is a turn to the left to Gipsy Point. This is another beautiful spot, but again there are no shops or fuel available here. Definitely worth a look though, and if you plan to stay in the area, there are two good accommodation options there.
But keep driving to Mallacoota, a town of just 1,000 people year round that swells to 8,000 to 10,000 in the summer.
Why visit? Mallacoota sits on the beautiful Mallacoota Inlet, and getting out on the water here is a truly delightful experience. Pop into the visitor information centre for advice on your options.
Mallacoota is blessed not just with the lake system but also beautiful beaches, visit the Main Beach at Bastion Point but also take a drive out to walk on Betka Beach, Quarry Beach or Secret Beach. At many times of the year, you might just find that you are the only person on the beach.
From Betka Beach you can also begin walking some or all of the Coastal Walk through forests of tea tree and banksia. In spring, look for the incredible bush flowers along this walk.
An overnight stay or a longer visit? Mallacoota is definitely worth an overnight stay if you enjoy the natural environment. There is less accommodation in Mallacoota than some of the other stops so sort this out before you decide. For breakfast, or lunch try Croajingolong Café where Michelle serves the most innovative food in town as well as coffee, teas, smoothies etc. and of course cakes.
If you are taking a road trip around Australia, then check out Jan’s tips on organising your caravan.
Overnight stop – Lakes Entrance
Tina from Hangry by Nature, highlights an area we hope to spend more time in one day soon.
Where is it? A rough 3-hour drive east from Melbourne, Lakes Entrance is the region’s hub; home to breathtaking lakes, golden sand beaches, quaint little towns and breathtaking nature trails.
Why stop here? Ocean, lakes and forests – Gippsland has got them all. Regardless of what type of holiday-goer you are, a trip to this stunning corner in Victoria when taking the coastal route from Sydney to Melbourne (or vice versa) will tick all the boxes.
Ninety Mile Beach is a must, and as the name implies, it’s a 90-mile long stretch of soft sand that separates Gippsland Lakes from the Bass Strait. The area is popular amongst families and outdoor lovers who come here to enjoy water sports, rent houseboats or simply bask in the beautiful nature that surrounds them.
Tip: Hop on a ferry and explore Gippsland Lakes
You can hike to the top of gorgeous waterfalls, go mountain biking on one of the countless scenic trails, or even descend into the Buchan Caves and gape at the hundreds of stalactites that line the ceiling of this age-old cave.
A short visit or overnight? The activities and natural sights to be found in this region are endless – I would recommend spending, at the very least, a couple of full days uncovering the beauty of this region.
Detour – Raymond Island
Our friend Mark who hails from Gippsland and runs a site Travels in Gippsland recommends a short break to visit Raymond Island.
Where is it? Raymond Island is best accessed from Bairnsdale off the Princes Highway. Follow the signs to Paynesville. You reach the island via a free 5-minute ferry ride from Paynesville across to the island. You can take your car or board as a foot passenger.
Why visit? The sheer excitement when you spot your first Koala in the wild at Raymond Island is amazing. There they are just sitting in the tree sleeping or eating, not a fence around them, not a zookeeper in sight.
This is the experience that awaits you at Raymond Island Koala walk-in Gippsland. The Raymond Island Koala walk is one of the most popular attractions in Gippsland, and it’s free!
The Koala walk is signposted, and you can also pick up a small guidebook for a gold coin donation. We recommend grabbing some food in Paynesville, catching the ferry, having some lunch in the park on the foreshore and then doing some Koala Hunting.
The clearly marked trail is 1.3 km long. The Koalas can be hard to find as their fur mixes in with the colour of the gum trees.
Rest stop La Trobe Valley
Bec from Wyld Family Travel is keen for you to make a stop in the beautiful La Trobe Valley.
Where is it? The Latrobe Valley is located 150 kilometres east of Melbourne. It consists of the largest towns in Gippsland; Traralgon, Moe and Morwell. These are the main places in the region that attract visitors.
Why visit? For those looking for some retail therapy, Traralgon is the place, with a large retail precinct dominated by the Stockland Shopping Centre. For those wanting to stretch their legs, Victory Park is located on the Princes Highway while the popular Gippsland Rail Trail bike path starts in Traralgon. A short 10 kilometres away along the highway is Morwell.
In Morwell, you will find Lake Kernot home of the Gippsland Immigration Museum. The story of immigration to the Latrobe Valley is told as you walk around the lake.
In Moe, Old Gippstown has been a favourite of the region for decades. This historic park brings the history of the area to life with twenty-seven original relocated buildings dating from the 1840s through to the 1930s including a Cobb and Co Inn. You will also find an extensive collection of farm machinery, trucks and cars from all over Gippsland on display.
A short visit or overnight? It depends on the time you have available and your interests. There is a little bit of everything for everyone in the Latrobe Valley, but even a short visit is well rewarded.
So from here, you have an easy 150km drive into Melbourne city.
Have more time to spare? A detour to the Prom is always a good idea.
Detour – Wilsons Promontory
If you have time a couple of days in Wilsons Promontory is time well spent. Check out this article on a short visit from our friend Tara over at Travel Far Enough. If you can manage an extended visit, Neil has a rundown on the best walks in the area.
Sydney to Melbourne Coastal Drive Map
Overnight stops are marked with a star; squares are suggested rest stops or detours.
Two days from Sydney to Melbourne via the inland route
Highlights on the Inland drive between Sydney and Melbourne
- Mary Poppins Statue in Bowral
- Don Bradman Museum also in Bowral
- Canberra – detour
- Dog on the Tuckerbox
- Glenrowan – Home of Ned Kelly
Suggested stops – Bowral, Goulburn, Canberra, Gundagai, Wagga Wagga, Beechworth, Glenrowan.
Travel Times on the Inland Road to Melbourne
|Goulburn||Canberra||94.5 km||1hr 5m.|
|Canberra||Gundagai||162.4 km||1hr 46m.|
|Wagga Wagga||Beechworth||172km||2hrs 10m.|
|Glenrowan||Melbourne||227 km||2hrs 30m.|
Rest stop – Goulburn
Travel writer Christina Pfeiffer from Travel2next suggests your first stop out of Sydney should be in Goulburn.
The 15.2m high Big Merino marks the turnoff to Goulburn along the Hume Highway. The giant sheep is a symbol of Goulburn’s agricultural past and the city’s prominence as a significant centre for Merino wool growing.
Where is it? Goulburn is in the Southern Tablelands, 195 kilometres southwest from Sydney and 90km from Canberra. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive from Sydney and a perfect place for a break when travelling along the Hume Highway to Melbourne.
Why stop here? As Australia’s first inland city, Goulburn has a rich history dating back to 1885, with many Victorian Italianate, Art Deco and Edwardian-style buildings. Highlights include the Goulburn Courthouse, the Post Office, designed by well-known Colonial architect James Barnet, and two majestic churches with lovely stained-glass windows. St Saviour’s Anglican Cathedral is home to an 1884 Fosters & Andrew’s organ and an attraction not to be missed is the 1883 Appleby beam engine, which is housed in the Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum by the banks of the Wollondilly River.
A short visit or overnight? It’s possible to explore a few of the main sights in two to three hours, but if you’re keen on Australian history, an overnight stay will allow more time to explore.
Tips? The Big Merino is not just for show. The gift shop inside the giant ram is an excellent place to shop for pure Merino clothing and other quality Australian souvenirs.
There are electric car charging stations at the Goulburn Visitor Information Centre at 201 Sloan Street.
Overnight Stop – Canberra
If you are not on a time limit a detour via Canberra for a night is a great idea. Australia’s capital city is home to plenty of attractions, and most of them are free to visit. Highlights include Parliament House, The Australian War Memorial and The National Museum of Australia. Canberra is 2.5 hours from Sydney and 6.5 hours from Melbourne.
Related: Check out our recent road trip to Canberra for ideas
You can also take a trip to Gibraltar Falls from Canberra if you decide to stop in Canberra for a while.
Alivio Tourist Park Canberra is a great overnight stop if you need one.
Rest stop – Gundagai
Where is it? Along the road between Canberra and Wagga Wagga.
Why stop here? Home to one of the most iconic statues in Australia, The Dog on the Tucker Box.
Detour – Wagga Wagga and Berellan
Luke from Culture Shock Adventure shares some more fantastic Aussie history with us
Where is it? Barellan is 1.5 hours northwest of Wagga Wagga; 2.5 hours north of Albury. It’s a small town with a country pub and a museum of local history run by amateur historians, all at volley distance from the oversized racquet.
Why stop here? If you like tennis and big things, you will have a grand slam in Barellan, west of Wagga Wagga. The “Big Tennis Racquet” is a tribute to Evonne Goolagong Cawley. Despite discriminative policies at the time, the Barellan townspeople let her play, paving the way for the first indigenous Australian to reach world number one in tennis.
The monument is an exact replica of her wooden racquet, except it’s twenty times bigger. It tells the story of an underdog in a time of racial discrimination. Becoming number one, she replaced another Australian, infamous for pro-apartheid views, so her title is extra special.
A short visit or overnight? You only need a few hours in Barellan, but I recommend spending a couple of days in the Riverina region.
Each town in the Riverina has its own charm and specialty:
- There’s Cootamundra, home of cricket legend Don Bradman and the “Captains Walk”;
- Junee’s liquorice factory at Junee holds the world record for the longest piece of liquorice (now eaten, RIP);
- Temora hosts regular vintage warplane air shows.
- Wagga Wagga is home to Wawi, a Dreamtime spirit living in the Wollundry Lagoon; the excellent Thirsty Crow brewery; and the famous Chiko Roll.
With lots of local legends, great tastes and cool tales, it’s definitely worth the backspin through Barellan and the Riverina region.
Ok, so we are now leaving New South Wales and heading into Victoria.
Rest stop – Glenrowan
Why stop here: History lovers will enjoy a stop at Glenrowan to learn more about Ned Kellys final siege. The visitor’s centre is home to Ned Kelly’s Last Stand, a 40-minute show featuring computerised robots that is not quite high tech, but it is interesting and breaks up the drive.
Overnight stop – Beechworth
Audrey, who runs the website See Geelong, highlights why Beechworth is a worthy stop.
We visited Beechworth on a weekend getaway from our hometown Geelong. But it makes an excellent stopover for those on a road trip travelling the Hume Hwy between Melbourne and Sydney.
Where is it? Nestled in the Victorian High Country, Beechworth is a fascinating town steeped in Australian history.
Why stop here? In Beechworth, you’ll find wide tree-lined boulevards, shady century-old verandah-covered footpaths, and gorgeous historic buildings.
This is “Kelly Country” making Beechworth the perfect stop for anyone interested in Australian history and folklore. Travellers can visit the courthouse where Australia’s infamous bushranger Ned Kelly and his mother were tried. Or take a tour of the gaol where Ned, his mother, and Kelly sympathisers were imprisoned. Other interesting buildings include the 1850s Telegraph Station, the Chinese Burning Towers, and the “Lunatic Asylum” (Yep, that’s what it’s called) that will send chills down your spine.
A short visit or overnight? Gorgeous national parks surround the town with bush-covered ranges, magical waterfalls, rivers and streams and tranquil rural farmlands. There are loads of opportunities to explore the tracks and back roads either on a guided tour or independent exploration. We recommend staying for a night or two to explore the whole area fully.
Tip: Whether you stay overnight or not, you cannot pass through without stopping for a pie and cake at the famous Beechworth Bakery. Known throughout the state this delightful bakery has an old-world charm, traditional recipes, and country hospitality. Treat yourself to the best vanilla slice ever!
Now you are on the home stretch to Melbourne where all the excitement of Australia’s second-biggest city awaits.
Sydney to Melbourne Inland Drive Map
Driving Safety tips
Fatigue – Fatigue is one of the biggest killers of drivers on outback roads. Don’t underestimate how tiring driving long distances can be. Particularly if you are driving on the opposite side of the road that you are used to.
In busy periods Driver Reviver areas, which provide free coffee and snacks, are set up along both routes. Check this map for the best places to pull over and rest.
Speed – Speed cameras and radars are set up along these routes are the spots where the speed you are driving is likely to get away from you. Be extra careful during holiday periods where fines and demerit points are doubled.
Wildlife – Driving at dusk and dawn brings its own dangers. Kangaroos often run into the traffic at these times of the day. Also be extra vigilant in areas known for kangaroos, on these drives anywhere south of Ulladulla along the coast route or Canberra on the inland road. If one runs in your path slow down but don’t swerve, while the roo can do serious damage to your car moving to the wrong side of the road can do much more.
Feel like some more road trips?
- Check out our guide to driving the Pacific Coast Road from Sydney to Brisbane
- Or for a shorter trip perhaps a drive to the Blue Mountains
First published 1/12/2020