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While the Great Ocean Road between Melbourne and Adelaide is probably the most famous coastal drive in Australia, the Grand Pacific Drive and Sapphire Coast Drive between Sydney and Melbourne are pretty spectacular too. This coastal Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary includes so many beautiful beaches, national parks and seaside holiday villages, that you’ll never be short of things to do and amazing sights to see.
While tours can be a safe and easy way to travel, a great way to explore this beautiful area is on a self-driven road trip where you’ll have the freedom to stop at any attraction you like on your own timescale. This part of Australia is well-populated, and the roads are sealed and in good condition, so it’s a pretty easy journey to do by yourself or with a group of friends.
This great coastal drive itinerary will highlight the most beautiful places between Melbourne and Sydney, the distance and drive times between stops, plus petrol and accommodation costs. So plan carefully to make sure you don’t miss out on any hidden gems along the way!
Melbourne to Sydney Drive Itinerary Overview
Here are my recommended destinations to add to your Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary, along with the time I’d recommend staying at each place. To skip straight to a destination, just click on the links below, or start by reading about the driving time, distance and actual cost of my road trip.
Melbourne to Sydney Distance, Drive Time and Cost
The total driving distance following this Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary is 1,123km, and the driving time is around 14.5 hours. If you plan to take detours into national parks or Phillip Island, you’ll need to add extra time on. If you just want to get from Melbourne to Sydney as quickly as possible, the inland route is quicker.
The total petrol cost came to around $230, and since it was winter and I was travelling solo, I stayed in a mixture of hostels and cheap motels rather than campsites, which I’ve detailed below.
If you’re doing this journey in winter, note that the temperatures can drop to about 2 degrees overnight in this part of Australia – personally, I don’t think that’s camping weather!
For a detailed cost breakdown of all the road trips I went on in Australia, plus typical costs in the cities, check out this blog post:
I spent a week on this journey, and if you really want to appreciate the sights, I’d set seven days as your minimum timeframe. There are some beautiful national parks and beaches to explore; two weeks would have been perfect.
Melbourne to Sydney Drive Itinerary
Here are the details of each of my recommended drive stops from Melbourne to Sydney, along with budget accommodation options.
Melbourne’s a very cool and popular city with lots of street art and quirky cafés. I’d spend at least a week here exploring if possible. Top Melbourne attractions include sweeping views at Eureka Skydeck, funky Hosier Lane street art and fun at St Kilda Beach. Read the post below for more ideas!
SEA LIFE Aquarium Melbourne: Discover over 10,000 types of aquatic animals as well as interactive experiences like feeding fish and sitting with penguins at this popular aquarium in Melbourne.
Eureka Skydeck Melbourne: This was my all-time favourite Melbourne attraction. The views across the city from this indoor lookout on the 88th floor are astounding.
Melbourne Laneways Tour: Enjoy the best of Melbourne’s secret cafes, hidden shops and funky, off-the-beaten-track galleries with this 2.5-hour, wheelchair-accessible guided laneway tour.
Melbourne accommodation gets booked up pretty fast, particularly in the summer; make sure you book in advance. I almost got completely stuck when I returned from Tasmania and hadn’t booked anywhere to stay that night. I ended up in a homestay as all the hostels were full!
Use the search box below to search for Melbourne hotels, apartments and hostels.
MELBOURNE BACKPACKER HOSTELS:
I’ve personally stayed at the Melbourne hostels below and would definitely recommend them.
HabitatHQ, St Kilda, Melbourne: I also stayed at this modern, beachside hostel, which has won awards for sustainability. The dorm beds are cheap, and the location is great.
The Nunnery, Fitzroy, Melbourne: I stayed at this quirky, converted nunnery and thought it was really unique. The hostel has dorm beds as well as private rooms, and lots of nearby bars, funky cafes and street art.
Airbnb is a brilliant option in Melbourne if you’re a couple or two friends who don’t mind sharing a double bed. It actually worked out cheaper for two of us to share someone’s spare room on Airbnb in Melbourne ($50-$60 per night) than to stay in a hostel dorm.
2. Phillip Island
If you haven’t already visited Phillip Island on a day trip from Melbourne, do add it onto your Melbourne to Sydney road trip itinerary.
It’s a beautiful, rugged place home to over 32,000 little penguins, and the Phillip Island Penguin Parade is a well-known, nightly event where you can watch the little penguins waddle in from the ocean at sunset to set up camp for the night. I’d definitely recommend it!
Phillip Island Attractions:
Phillip Island Penguin Parade Entry: Watch the Little Penguins waddle in at sunset to settle down for the night in their burrows.
Phillip Island Full-Day Tour from Melbourne: This fun day trip includes entry to the Penguin Parade, Koala Conservation Centre, Maru Koala and Animal Park and The Nobbies Centre if time permits.
Phillip Island Penguin Parade Ultimate Eco Tour and Lunch: See native Australian wildlife at the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park, explore Churchill Island, visit Nobbies and Seal Rocks and finish up at the Penguin Island on this 12-hour tour that includes an Aussie lunch.
Melbourne to Phillip Island: 145km – 2 hrs 15 min
Phillip Island Accommodation:
BIG4 Phillip Island Caravan Park: This family-friendly holiday park at Newhaven Beach has all the great facilities of BIG4 accommodation. There’s an on-site games room, playground, jumping pillow, camp kitchen and volleyball and basketball courts. In the summer there’s also an outdoor cinema.
The Island Accommodation – Hostel: A modern eco-friendly hostel with private rooms and dorms from $30 per person per night. I was really impressed with this place.
North Pier Hotel: This 3* hotel opposite Cowes Beach has a swimming pool, on-site restaurant and bar plus free Wi-Fi and parking.
3. Wilsons Promontory National Park
Wilsons Prom, as it’s known to the locals, is a great place to spend a day or two, with plenty of great walks and beaches. Be sure to check out the iconic Squeaky Beach, with its turquoise water, famously white, squeaky sand and granite boulders; and Tidal River, Wilsons Prom’s only township, which has camping, accommodation and some beautiful walking tracks.
Wilsons Promontory Tour:
2-Day Phillip Island & Wilson Wildlife Tour from Melbourne: This overnight trip includes entry to the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park to see native animals, scenic hikes and wildlife spotting in Wilsons Promontory National Park, one night’s accommodation (dorm or private room) and one breakfast.
Philip Island to Foster: 104km – 1 hr 25 min
Melbourne to Foster: 178km – 2 hrs 50 min
Wilsons Promontory Accommodation:
Prom Central Caravan Park: This caravan park in Foster has camping sites and bungalows as well as a laundry and free parking.
Wilsons Promontory Motel: All rooms at this 3* motel in Foster have fridges, flat-screen TVs, coffee makers, free Wi-Fi and furnished patios. There’s also an on-site restaurant and bar.
Tidal River Campground: Camping sites from $57 per site per night. (I didn’t stay here and must say I’ve never seen a campsite so expensive!)
4. Lakes Entrance
Lakes Entrance is a popular coastal holiday town at the northern end of the Gippsland Lakes, and a good base if you want to explore East Gippsland. I only spent one night here – it was pretty cold and windy in the winter – but there are plenty of walks, cycling tracks and water activities such as kayaking available if you want to stay for longer. Find out more in the post below.
Gippsland 2-Day Great Southern Rail Trail Cycling Adventure: This 2-day, 72 km cycling tour takes in panoramic views of Wilsons Prom and Quiet Corner and passes through a number of small towns. Accommodation in Fish Creek in included.
On the way:
Sale: This is a nice city to stop at if you need a coffee break. The Wild Honey Café was lovely!
Shoreline Drive: I took a detour down to the beach at Seaspray and drove along the coastal road to Golden Beach and 90 Mile Beach before heading back inland to head east.
Eagle Point & Paynesville: For another scenic detour, check out the views from Eagle Point and the pretty little seaside town of Paynesville before carrying on to Lakes Entrance.
Foster to Lakes Entrance: 226km – 2 hrs 50 min
Lakes Entrance Accommodation:
Koonwarra Holiday Park: I enjoyed my stay in a cabin at this pet-friendly 4* caravan park. There’s a seasonal outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi and camp kitchen. As well as camp sites you can book budget cabins with one, two or three bedrooms.
The Esplanade Motel: This centrally located motel has rooms starting at $85. The ground-floor rooms have air-con, fridges, en-suite bathrooms, TVs, kettles and even electric blankets!
The Esplanade Resort & Spa: If you’re on a higher budget, this 4* resort has a choice of hotel rooms and apartments, a large swimming pool, tennis court, restaurant and spa.
Eden is one of my favourite places on this Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary, and a place I wish I’d scheduled in more than one night at.
Lake Curalo is beautiful and Aslings Beach has a wonderful serenity to it. This area would be great in summer. Make sure you check out the lookouts on the Eden Rotary Walk too.
On the way:
Cann River: A lovely little town for a lunch break, and the gateway to Croajingalong National Park if this is on your itinerary.
Mallacoota: A small holiday town that’s worth exploring. Head to Panoramic Drive (the coastal road off Allan Drive) for beautiful ocean views; you might even spot a seal basking in the sun like I did! The beach at Bastion Point is great to stroll along too.
Lakes Entrance to Eden: 242km – 2 hrs 45 min
Eden Gateway Holiday Park: You can either camp or stay in a self-contained studio or villa at this holiday park just a 15-minute walk from Aslings Beach. The park has an outdoor swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, children’s playground and camp kitchen.
Eden Nimo Motel: There aren’t any hostels in Eden, but I stayed at this very cheap motel, which has has double and twin rooms starting from $55.
Eagle Heights Holiday Units: Each of these modern, clifftop apartments has a fully equipped kitchen, air-con, TV and DVD player. There’s also a garden overlooking the ocean, hot tub and barbecue facilities on site.
6. Batemans Bay
The drive from Eden to Batemans Bay is particularly scenic, and there’s lots to see and do in Batemans Bay; I ended up having two nights here as the driving had burnt me out, and I’m really glad I did.
The town itself is lovely, set on the entrance to the Clyde River on Australia’s Oyster Coast, with beautiful views from the waterside cafes. It also makes a great base to explore the Eurobodalla region.
I’d thoroughly recommend exploring Murramarang National Park to the north of the town; it’s packed with beautiful beaches. An absolute must-see is Pebbly Beach: it’s not only extremely pretty with the grassy area behind it, but lots of wild kangaroos live there and it’s full of Rainbow Lorikeets and Australian King Parrots. One even landed on my arm!
Durras North Beach was particularly beautiful too, with enviable beachside houses where kangaroos lazed around in the front gardens!
Batemans Bay Attractions:
Mogo Wildlife Park: Check out Australia’s largest collection of endangered and exotic species at this privately owned zoo that supports endangered animal species.
On the way:
Ben Boyd National Park: make sure you check out this national park just north of Eden. The stripy cliffs at the Pinnacles are stunning!
Tathra: for a more scenic journey, leave the Princes Highway and take the Sapphire Coast Drive through the forest instead, starting in Merimbula. Stop by at the Tathra Wharf Lookout for pretty views across Boulder Bay.
Cuttagee Lake: heading north on the Tathra-Bermgui Road, you’ll wind through forest and come to the bridge at Cuttagee Lake. There’s lots of parking spaces here, and it’s a pretty spot to get out and take a few photos.
Bermagui: after a few more bridges you’ll drive right along the coastline for a while before reaching Bermagui, which is lovely around the Fishermen’s Wharf at the mouth of the river.
Narooma: pass by the pretty Wallaga Lake and the road will rejoin the Princes Highway and take you up to Narooma, a popular holiday town in the Eurobodalla region known for its clear blue water.
Eden to Batemans Bay: 197km – 2 hrs 30 min
Batemans Bay Accommodation:
Batemans Bay YHA & Holiday Park: I stayed at this basic, fairly retro YHA hostel with dorms and an adjoining camping and caravan park.
Mariners on the Waterfront: This lovely 4* waterfront hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, on-site restaurant and free Wi-Fi. Most rooms have balconies overlooking the Clyde River, and the accommodation is only a 2-minute walk into town.
7. Jervis Bay
Renowned for its string of beautiful white beaches and clear turquoise sea, Jervis Bay is my absolute highlight of this Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary, and a popular holiday destination for Australians too.
I was lucky enough to return here a few times on house sits after my road trip, so I’ve explored the area really well. To find out what to do there, check out this blog post:
Jervis Bay Attractions:
Jervis Bay 1.5-Hour Dolphin Cruise: Sail through clear, sparkling water and admire stunning white beaches and natural scenery while you spot local dolphins on this Huskisson-based cruise that includes free tea and coffee.
2-Hour Cruise of Jervis Bay Passage: This relaxing cruise from Huskisson passes Point Perpendicular cliffs and Hyams Beach, said to have the whitest sand in the world. Keep an eye out for dolphins and local birdlife.
Batemans Bay to Jervis Bay: 108km – 1 hr 25 min
Jervis Bay Accommodation:
There’s very little backpacker accommodation in Jervis Bay unless you’re camping. The cheap Airbnb I stayed in is no longer running, and it’s mostly pricey holiday cottages and hotels there.
Jervis Bay Holiday Park: This holiday park in Huskisson has budget cabins starting at $90 which would be quite cheap between a few of you.
The Huskisson: For a central location close to shops and restaurant, The Huskisson pub and restaurant has beachfront hotel rooms with air-con, flat screen TVs, private bathrooms, desks and free Wi-Fi
Huskisson Beach Motel: This modern motel near the beach has an on-site restaurants and bar, air-conditioned rooms with fridges, kettles and toasters and renovated private bathrooms.
You can also have a look through Airbnb options.
Wollongong is the third-largest city in New South Wales and has great beaches, plenty of restaurants and a mountainous backdrop. It’s a busy city with a big university and plenty to do, so worth exploring if you’re not in a rush to get to Sydney.
On the way:
Kiama: A lovely seaside town with beautiful beaches and a very famous blowhole!
Illawarra Fly Zip-line Tour and Treetop Walk: Enjoy amazing views of the ocean and rainforest on Australia’s highest zip-lining tour. You’ll be crossing suspension bridges between trees, zip-lining and enjoying the self-guided Treetop Walk on this 2.5 hour tour.
Tandem Beach Skydive: Enjoy coastal views all the way to Jervis Bay with this 15,000-foot skydive over Wollongong!
Jervis Bay to Wollongong: 102km – 1 hr 20 min
Keiraleagh Backpackers: This is the only hostel in Wollongong now (the YHA closed down), and I’ve stayed there a couple of times. It does have a certain charm and the staff are friendly, but parts of it are quite run down. It’s well located though and the garden is lovely.
Helensburgh Hotel: If you don’t mind staying outside of the city, this hotel in Helensburgh has great reviews. There’s a garden, bar and free WI-Fi too.
Wollongong Serviced Apartments: These self-contained 4* apartments with balconies are right in Wollongong city centre, and with fully equipped kitchens, great for those who want to prepare their own food.
The final stop on your Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary! Sydney is an absolutely beautiful city with over 100 beaches, great weather and so much to do. I fell in love with it the first time I visited back in 2001 and now finally call it home!
I’d schedule in some time to see the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, do one of the many beautiful Sydney walks and of course visit the amazing beaches in Sydney. Read about more attractions in the post linked below.
On the way:
Grand Pacific Drive and Sea Cliff Bridge: Make sure you take the coastal route north of Wollongong so you don’t miss the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge, a 665m bridge between Clifton and Coalcliff that snakes around the coastline and overhangs the ocean.
To see the stunning view in the picture below, stop at Bald Hill lookout at Stanwell Tops. To walk across the bridge itself, there are a few parking spaces on the ocean side of the road at Clifton, or a road leading to a carpark at Coalcliff (signed “Sea Cliff Bridge Parking”) – you’ll need to walk to Paterson Road and past Leeder Park and Coalcliff rock pool from the car park.
It is worth getting out of the car to appreciate the bridge as the views from inside the car aren’t great with the railings either side of the road!
For more information about the Grand Pacific Drive and all its beautiful seaside suburbs, read this blog post:
Royal National Park: There are plenty of great walks here if you have the time, but it’s also easily accessible as a day trip from Sydney. There’s a car park at the Otford Lookout on Lady Wakehurst Drive where you can get onto the start of the Royal Coast Walk and head down to Werrong Beach.
Here are some ideas on places to see in the Royal National Park:
Wollongong to Sydney: 86km – 1 hr 30 min
There are hundreds of accommodation options in Sydney. My recommended areas for visitors would be the CBD, The Rocks or Sydney Harbour to see all the well-known city sights; Bondi or Coogee Beach to be in a backpacker beach area; Newtown for cool, quirky nightlife and boutiques (a five-minute train ride to the city); or Darling Harbour for waterside dining walking distance to the city.
Browse through Sydney hotels, apartments and hostels using the search box below.
SYDNEY BACKPACKER HOSTELS
Here are a few of my recommended hostels in Sydney.
Casa Central Backpackers Hostel, Chippendale, Sydney. This small, family-run hostel in Chippendale is close to the CBD and Central Station; it’s great if you’re looking for somewhere quiet. I’ve stayed here a couple of times, and would definitely stay again.
Wake Up! Sydney Central, Sydney CBD. I stayed here years ago, when I did my working holiday. It’s a large, modern hostel with a bar and nightclub, so great if you want to party. It’s also right in the city and has dorm beds as well as private rooms.
Sydney Harbour YHA, The Rocks, Sydney. This amazing hostel has a rooftop terrace looking right out across Sydney Harbour! You can also walk to the city and all the sights like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. I’m a big fan of YHAs in general; the standards always seem to be pretty high compared to other hostels.
Airbnb can be a great option in Australia, particularly if two of you are sharing a room.
SYDNEY HOUSE SITS
I house sat in Sydney full time for over three years, and even got paid for it! Check out my blog post on how to become a house sitter if you fancy free luxury accommodation instead of forking out for hostels. To start house sitting yourself, join one of my recommended house-sitting websites linked below.
Join Aussie House Sitters – for house sits in Australia.
Join Trusted House Sitters – for worldwide house sitting.
All the best for planning your Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary. For more advice on road trips along Australia’s stunning coastline, take a look at these blog posts too!