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Passing through beautiful Victoria and South Coast NSW, this Melbourne to Sydney coastal drive itinerary will take you on one of Australia’s most iconic road trips.
I travelled the 1,123 km from Melbourne to Sydney by car on a 1-week trip, but 2 weeks would have been ideal. If you have less time, you could easily plan your Melbourne to Sydney coastal drive to take 4 or 5 days, or even 2 or 3 days if necessary.
This Sydney to Melbourne road trip planner includes the best places to stop and stay overnight and the top attractions that I would recommend from my trip, whether you’re driving from Melbourne to Sydney or vice versa.
Melbourne to Sydney Drive Itinerary Overview
Here are my recommended destinations to add to your Sydney to Melbourne 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.
- Car Hire
- Melbourne to Sydney Drive FAQs
- 1. Melbourne: 3 days to 2 weeks
- 2. Phillip Island: 1 day
- 3. Wilsons Promontory National Park: 1 day
- 4. Lakes Entrance: 1 day
- 5. Eden: 1-2 days
- 6. Batemans Bay: 2 days
- 7. Jervis Bay: 2 days
- 8. Wollongong: 1 day
- 9. Sydney: 3 days to 2 weeks
Sydney to Melbourne Car Hire
Make sure you find the best price for car hire in Sydney or Melbourne by using Kayak as a starting point. They compare hundreds of car hire sites to save you hours of research.
Melbourne to Sydney Drive FAQs
The coastline between Melbourne and Sydney is packed with stunning scenery, so it is well worth the drive. Highlights include kangaroos on the beach in stunning Murramarang National Park, sea lions basking in the sun in pretty Eden and the gorgeous Grand Pacific Drive. The Jervis Bay region in South Coast NSW is mind-blowingly scenic too.
The direct Melbourne to Sydney drive time is 14.5 hours along the coastal A1 route, and the total driving distance is 1,123 km. I spent a week on my Melbourne to Sydney self drive, but you can do the coastal journey in 2 or 3 days if necessary. I would recommend at least 4 days on your Melbourne to Adelaide road trip to make the most of the journey.
If you want to get from Melbourne to Sydney in a day, the inland route along the Hume Highway is quickest, at a distance of 879 km and a drive time of around 9 hours.
In my experience, the coastal route between Sydney and Melbourne is more scenic than the inland route via the M31, even though the journey is 150 km longer.
If you’re taking the coastal route between Sydney and Melbourne, Eden would be a lovely place for an overnight stop that is approximately halfway along your journey.
My 7-day Melbourne to Sydney road trip cost $589 in total. This breaks down into $226 for petrol (scale this up to around $365 for 2023 prices), $268 for accommodation, $70 on food and $25 for a tour.
A self-driven trip from Melbourne to Sydney or vice versa is extremely easy. The roads are sealed and there are many populated towns along the way to pick up supplies, such as Lakes Entrance, Batemans Bay and Eden.
For a detailed cost breakdown of all the Australian road trips I have taken, including Sydney to Melbourne, read my blog post on the cost of backpacking Australia.
Melbourne’s a very cool, cosmopolitan city with lots of street art and quirky cafés. I’d spend at least 7 days in Melbourne if possible.
Top things to do in Melbourne include sweeping views at Melbourne Skydeck, funky Hosier Lane street art and fun at St Kilda Beach.
Best Things to Do in Melbourne
- Discover over 10,000 types of aquatic animals at the SEA LIFE Aquarium in Melbourne, as well as enjoy interactive experiences like feeding fish and sitting with penguins.
- My all-time favourite Melbourne attraction was Melbourne Skydeck, which has phenomenal views across the city from the 88th floor of Eureka Tower! This fun Melbourne Skydeck experience includes entry to the Skydeck plus a choice between stepping out onto The Edge, a glass-bottom cube projected out of the building, or a virtual reality film in the Melbourne Skydeck Voyager Theatre. Click here to check prices.
- 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 Melbourne Laneways Tour.
If you’re looking for places to stay in Melbourne at the start or end of your Sydney to Melbourne road trip, here are some of your best accommodation options.
Be aware that Melbourne accommodation gets booked up heavily during summer and school holidays, so make sure you book in advance. I almost spent a night in my car when I arrived, as I hadn’t booked in advance!
MELBOURNE HOUSE SITS
My favourite type of travel accommodation by far is house sitting, especially as Australia is such an expensive country.
House sitting is when you stay in a local person’s home for free while they’re on holiday in return for looking after their pets and home.
I house sat in Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne on my road trip, and now house sit full time in Sydney without needing my own place! Here are my recommended sites to join.
- If you want to house sit in Australia only, Aussie House Sitters is a great option. They’re one of the largest pet-sitting sites in the country, and I got plenty of jobs through them on my travels.
- To have the option of house sitting worldwide, click here to get 20% off an annual membership with Trusted Housesitters. They have jobs in over 130 countries and offer really unique perks, such as sit-cancellation compensation.
Check out my blog post on how to become a house sitter if you fancy free luxury accommodation instead of forking out for hostels.
Use the search box below to search for Melbourne hotels, apartments and hostels.
I’ve personally stayed at the Melbourne hostels below and would recommend both of them!
- HabitatHQ, St Kilda, Melbourne: I 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 also 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.
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
- Book tickets to watch the Little Penguins waddle in at sunset on the famous Phillip Island Penguin Parade!
- This 1-hour Cape Woolamai Nature Cruise lets you enjoy Phillip Island’s spectacular scenery from the water. You’ll also hear commentary about the local marine life and sea birds and watch the daily pelican feeding in San Remo at the end.
- See native Australian wildlife at the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park on this Phillip Island Eco Wildlife Tour. The trip also stops at the colourful Brighton Beach bathing boxes, The Nobbies, Point Grant and Seal Rocks before finishing up at the Penguin Island on this 12-hour tour. Click here to learn more.
Distance and Drive Time
- Melbourne to Phillip Island distance: 145 kilometres
- Melbourne to Phillip Island drive time: 2 hours 15 minutes
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.
The top attractions in Wilsons Promontory National Park include iconic Squeaky Beach, with its turquoise water, squeaky sand and granite boulders. For accommodation in Wilsons Prom, try township Tidal River, which has camping and beautiful walking tracks.
Wilsons Promontory Tour
- This fun Wilsons Promontory Day Tour from Melbourne includes a choice of hikes as well as a visit to Squeaky Beach and transport to and from Melbourne. Click here to learn more.
Distance and Drive Time
- Philip Island to Foster distance: 104 kilometres
- Philip Island to Foster drive time: 1 hour 25 minutes
- Melbourne to Foster distance: 178 kilometres
- Melbourne to Foster drive time: 2 hours 50 minutes
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 very popular coastal holiday town at the northern end of the Gippsland Lakes area and makes 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.
Drive Stops on the way to Lakes Entrance
- 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.
Distance and Drive Time
- Foster to Lakes Entrance distance: 226 kilometres
- Foster to Lakes Entrance drive time: 2 hours 50 minutes
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 was one of my absolute favourite places to stay on the Sydney to Melbourne drive, and I wish I could have spent 2 days or longer there.
Top attractions in Eden include beautiful Lake Curalo and wonderfully serene Aslings Beach. Make sure you check out the lookouts on the Eden Rotary Walk too.
Places to Stop 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.
Distance and Drive Time
- Lakes Entrance to Eden distance: 242 kilometres
- Lakes Entrance to Eden drive time: 2 hours 45 minutes
- 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 of great things to do in Batemans Bay; I ended up spending two nights here as the driving had burnt me out, and I’m really glad I did.
The town of Batemans Bay is lovely, and 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!
Places to Stop 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 scenic coastal detour on your Melbourne to Sydney road trip, 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.
Distance and Drive Time
- Eden to Batemans Bay distance: 197 kilometres
- Eden to Batemans Bay drive time: 2 hours 30 minutes
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
I was lucky enough to return here a few times on house sits after my road trip, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Jervis Bay Attractions
- This Jervis Bay 1.5-Hour Dolphin Cruise takes you sailing through clear, sparkling water to admire stunning white beaches and natural scenery while you spot local dolphins.
- This 2-Hour Cruise of Jervis Bay Passage 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.
Distance and Drive Time
- Batemans Bay to Jervis Bay distance: 108 kilometres
- Batemans Bay to Jervis Bay drive time: 1 hours 25 minutes
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.
Wollongong is the third-largest city in New South Wales and has fantastic beaches, plenty of restaurants and a beautiful mountainous backdrop. It’s a busy city with a big university and plenty to do, so makes great overnight stop between Sydney and Melbourne.
Places to See on the way
- I’d recommend a drive stop in pretty Kiama. This lovely seaside town has beautiful beaches and walks, lots of green scenery and a very famous blowhole!
- This Tandem Beach Skydive will award you with coastal views all the way to Jervis Bay from 15,000 feet above Wollongong!
Distance and Drive Time
- Jervis Bay to Wollongong distance: 102 kilometres
- Jervis Bay to Wollongong drive time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- 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 place to stop on your Melbourne to Sydney road trip is Sydney, Australia’s biggest city!
There are so many amazing attractions in Sydney, including over 100 beaches. I fell in love with the city the first time I visited back in 2001 and moved here permanently in 2016!
I’d schedule in some time to see the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and try a few of the many beautiful Sydney walks.
Places to Stop on the Way to Sydney from Melbourne:
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 on the Grand Pacific Drive. This 665m bridge between Clifton and Coalcliff snakes around the coastline and overhangs the ocean!
If you want to walk across Sea Cliff Bridge, 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.
Bald Hill lookout at Stanwell Tops is also a must on the Grand Pacific Drive.
Royal National Park
There are plenty of great walks in the Royal National Park if you have the time to stop, but the area is 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.
Distance and Drive Time
- Wollongong to Sydney distance: 86 kilometres
- Wollongong to Sydney drive time: 1 hour 30 minutes
If you’re not sure where to stay in Sydney, make sure you read my guide on the best places to stay in Sydney. I runs through the best areas to stay in and the best accommodation options.
SYDNEY HOUSE SITS
Just like with Melbourne, my top tip to save money on accommodation in Sydney is to house sit. It’s so in demand here that I’ve been house sitting in Sydney since 2016 and have saved over $70k in rent so far.
If you’re visiting Sydney around Christmas and New Year, that’s the most popular time for locals to go on holiday and need a house sitter. Remember summer is at Christmastime in Australia, so the kids are off school for the long holidays!
My favourite house-sitting websites are Aussie House Sitters, the largest pet-sitting site in Australia, and Trusted Housesitters, which operates in over 130 countries.
SYDNEY HOSTELS, HOTELS AND APARTMENTS
Browse through Sydney hotels, apartments and hostels using the search box below.
Here are a few of my recommended accommodation options in Sydney.
LUXURY – Park Hyatt Sydney. This 5-star luxury hotel is conveniently located in The Rocks, between Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Amenities include spa treatments, a rooftop swimming pool and a 24-hour gym.
MIDRANGE – The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. Situated at Millers Point, this 3-star hotel is only a short stroll from Barangaroo restaurants and The Rocks at Circular Quay. The accommodation consists of beautiful, individually decorated rooms in a quirky heritage building with an onsite bar and restaurant.
BUDGET – 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.
BUDGET – 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.
I hope you have an amazing time on your Melbourne to Sydney road trip! Happy travels!
Lisa Bull, founder of Dreaming of Down Under, has been living in Australia as a British expat since 2015. After travelling to every state and territory in Australia and living in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, Lisa knows from first-hand experience the best destinations to visit in Australia and the best budget travel tips. Her guides on this blog have been read by over 700k readers and helped thousands of people achieve their dream of living in or travelling Australia.