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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.

The Princes Highway (A1) route is packed with scenic drive stops and detours to picturesque holiday towns, pretty beaches and amazing national parks.

I travelled the 1,000 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 on your journey, 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, 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 direct Melbourne to Sydney drive time is 14.5 hours along the coastal A1 route. The driving distance is 1,123 km. If you plan to take detours into national parks, you’ll obviously need to add extra time and kilometres on.

If you want to get from Melbourne to Sydney as quickly as possible, the inland route along the Hume Highway is quicker, at a distance of 879 kilometres and a drive time of around 9 hours.

My total petrol cost from the Melbourne to Sydney coastal route by car was $230.

For a detailed cost breakdown of all the Australian road trips I took, including Sydney to Melbourne, read my blog post on the cost of backpacking Australia.


1. Melbourne

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.

Stunning view across Melbourne from Eureka Skydeck

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, carbon-neutral Melbourne Skydeck tour includes entry to the Skydeck as well as a visit to some of Melbourne’s laneways and street art plus lunch and coffee.
  • 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.
Melbourne laneway cafes with patrons sitting at outdoor tables.
Coffee culture in the Melbourne laneways

Melbourne Accommodation

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!

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 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.
Cosy lounge area at Melbourne hostel The Nunnery.
Communal area at The Nunnery, Melbourne

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!

Craggy coastal scenery at Cape Woolamai, Phillip island This is a fantastic first drive stop on a Melbourne to Sydney road trip.
Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

Phillip Island Attractions

  • 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.

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.
  • 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.

Glassy water and a bridge at Tidal River, Wilsons Prom.
Tidal River

Wilsons Promontory Tour

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.

Main Beach, Lakes Entrance on a cloudy day.
Main Beach, Lakes Entrance

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.
A flock of birds in the air looking out over the hills and water at Eagle Point, Gippsland.
Eagle Point

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.

5. Eden

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.

Lake Curalo in Eden on a beautiful sunny day. Eden is a must-see place on a Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary.
Lake Curalo, Eden

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.
A seal basking in the sun in Mallacoota, Victoria.
Seal in Mallacoota

Distance and Drive Time

  • Lakes Entrance to Eden distance: 242 kilometres
  • Lakes Entrance to Eden drive time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Eden Accommodation

  • 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!

 Wild kangaroos at Pebbly Beach, Murramarang National Park.
Wild kangaroos at Pebbly Beach, Murramarang National Park
A yellow kayak on streaky wet sand at North Durras Beach, Murramarang National Park.
North Durras Beach, Murramarang National Park

    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!
    Unique white and orange cliffs at The Pinnacles, Ben Boyd National Park. A great attraction on a Sydney to Melbourne road trip.
    The Pinnacles, Ben Boyd National Park
    • 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.
    Bridge over Cuttagee Lake on the Sapphire Drive, Australia.
    • 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

    • 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

    Jervis Bay is my absolute favourite Melbourne to Sydney drive stopover. There are so many beautiful attractions in Jervis Bay, and famous Hyams Beach is said to have the whitest sand in the world.

    I was lucky enough to return here a few times on house sits after my road trip, and I can’t recommend it enough.

    Gorgeous transparent water at shallow Moona Moona Creek in Jervis Bay, NSW.
    Gorgeous Moona Moona Creek in Jervis Bay

    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.

    8. Wollongong

    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.

    Plan your road trip with this coastal Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary. Includes distance and drive time between stops, petrol costs and budget accommodation. See stunning photography of NSW and Victoria, Australia on this Melbourne to Sydney road trip, including the Grand Pacific Drive, Batemans Bay, Eden and Jervis Bay.
    Wollongong Beach

    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!
    Plan your road trip with this coastal Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary. Includes distance and drive time between stops, petrol costs and budget accommodation. See stunning photography of NSW and Victoria, Australia on this Melbourne to Sydney road trip, including the Grand Pacific Drive, Batemans Bay, Eden and Jervis Bay.
    Kiama

    Wollongong Attractions

    • 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

    Wollongong Accommodation

    • 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.

    9. Sydney

    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 now finally call it home!

    I’d schedule in some time to see the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and try a few of the many beautiful Sydney walks.

    Sydney lookout at Bondi Beach
    Bondi Beach

    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.

    Plan your road trip with this coastal Melbourne to Sydney drive itinerary. Includes distance and drive time between stops, petrol costs and budget accommodation. See stunning photography of NSW and Victoria, Australia on this Melbourne to Sydney road trip, including the Grand Pacific Drive, Batemans Bay, Eden and Jervis Bay.
    View of Sea Cliff Bridge from Bald Hill

    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

    Sydney Accommodation

    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 are great backpacker beach areas. Newtown is top for cool, quirky nightlife and boutiques, and Darling Harbour is lovely for waterside dining and an easy walk to the city.

    SYDNEY HOTELS

    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.

    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, you can either join Aussie House Sitters for house sits in Australia or join Trusted House Sitters for worldwide house sitting.


    I hope you have an amazing time on your Melbourne to Sydney road trip! Happy travels!