Sydney's opera house and high rise buildings and harbor on a clear sunny day

Sydney To Melbourne- Australia Road Trip Itinerary

Australia’s East Coast from Sydney to Melbourne, explore the best of Australia with our Australia road trip itinerary.

Click here for detailed directions

Summary (click the red pins for directions) :

Sydney to Jervis Bay- 200 kilometers (125 miles)đź“Ť 

Jervis Bay to Batemans Bay- 140 kilometers (85 miles)đź“Ť

Batemans Bay to Narooma- 70 kilometers (45 miles)đź“Ť

Narooma to Eden- 140 kilometers (85 miles)đź“Ť

Eden to Lakes Entrance- 240 kilometers (150 miles)đź“Ť

Lakes Entrance to Wilsons Promontory- 280 kilometers (175 miles)đź“Ť

Wilsons Promontory to Phillip Island- 130 kilometers (80 miles)đź“Ť

Phillip Island to Melbourne- 140 kilometers (85 miles)đź“Ť

1340 kilometers (830 miles) in total

Tags: Travel guide, Drop-off at another location, Australia, Beaches

Pristine sandy beaches, dramatic coastlines, fascinating marine life, and exotic forests await! Explore the stunning natural beauty of the land Down Under during a coastal road trip from Sydney to Melbourne. Kangaroos, koalas, and surfing opportunities are guaranteed, of course!

This travel guide takes you on an epic Australian road trip along the picturesque coast of New South Wales and Victoria. Pick up your rental car in the vibrant city of Sydney, then head south along the picturesque Grand Pacific Drive, one of the most scenic driving roads in the country.

Continue through Jervis Bay, where you can sunbathe with kangaroos on Pebbly Beach. Drive south until you reach Batemans Bay, where you can stay overnight.

Try the best seafood in your life at the famous Narooma Oyster Festival, go on a whale-watching cruise in Eden or stroll down the Ninety Mile Beach, one of the longest beaches on the planet.

Stay overnight near Lakes Entrance, then hike Mount Oberon to admire the panoramic view of Wilsons Promontory National Park. Stop for the night at Phillip Island, where you can peek at the Little Penguins Parade or lap a racetrack in a go-kart.

Later, continue to Melbourne and indulge in the city’s Greek cuisine.

How long does it take to complete this road trip?

Rentalmoose recommends making 3 overnight stops during this Australian road trip at the very least.

This travel guide is designed to take you around the absolute must-see highlights, though expect to make more stops along the way.

To put it into perspective, this road trip took me nearly two weeks to complete, and I would dedicate even more time if I had the chance to do it again!

When is the best time to visit Australia?

Keeping in mind that the seasons in Australia are switched (Summer is between December and February), it’s usually best to go right before the summer or directly after it finishes.

The weather is still warm enough to swim in the ocean, yet the crowds are smaller compared to the summer when the tourist season peaks.

Great Ocean Road Trip Extension

Once you get to Melbourne, consider adding a few extra days to your road trip itinerary to drive down the coastal Great Ocean Road, one of the world’s most scenic driving routes.

Admire the monumental Twelve Apostles (right by the Great Ocean Road) during a helicopter tour, attend the surfing championship in Bells Beach, tour the coast in a World War 2 aeroplane or swim in a volcanic lake in Colac.

Click here for the adventure-packed travel guide around the Great Ocean Road, starting in Melbourne.

Why should I book a rental car in Australia?

Unless you’re planning to stay in a single city, a rental car is definitely the go-to means of transport in Australia. Some of the smaller towns along the way, as well as beaches or hiking trails, can only be accessed by car. Road trips in Australia are the best ways to see the country.

What’s more, the ability to change your itinerary on the go can only be achieved when traveling by car.

Not to mention the absolutely breathtaking views along the coastal roads, such as the Grand Pacific Drive (one of the best driving roads on the planet!).

For extra peace of mind during your road trip, Rentalmoose recommends adding excess coverage when booking your rental car. Once you’ve picked up the car, don’t forget to take photos of the car to qualify for a 50% discount from the excess coverage fee.

Can tourists drive in Australia? 

Yes! You can drive with your foreign driver’s license for up to 3 months in Australia, as long as it’s in English. If your driver’s license is not in English, you need to obtain an International Driving Permit prior to leaving.

Check out this blog post to learn all you need to know about the International Driving Permit.

The traffic laws in Australia are strictly enforced.

Driving under influence is completely unacceptable and can land the offender in jail. 

In terms of speeding penalties, the Department of Transport and Main Roads claims that the average speeding ticket is $210, which equals just below 130 euros. Going less than 13km/h over the limit will cost you $177 (105 EUR).

Traffic in Australia is on the left-hand side of the road.

Once you’re all set, let’s dive into this Australian road trip around the East Coast!

Sydney

sydney downtown opera house during sunset

Your Australian road trip begins in the vivid city of Sydney, the capital of New South Wales. For maximum comfort, pick up your car directly at Sydney Airport.

Find car rental companies that support drop-off at another location and airport pick-up via Rentalmoose. Once you’ve got your car, it’s time to dive into this diverse city!

What can you do in Sydney?

Begin by exploring the busy heart of Sydney. Drop off your car at the Sydney Opera House Car Park just a walk away from the city’s most recognizable landmarks. The car park is open nonstop 7 days a week, the current rates can be found on the official website.

Wander around the waterfront and continue towards the famous Opera House. Admire the unique architecture, photograph the landmark with the Harbour Bridge in the background or step inside and attend one of the daily events (click here for the schedule). Explore the heart of Sydney even further by taking a ferry to other parts of the city.

Continue strolling around the waterfront and enter the colorful Royal Botanic Gardens. Enjoy the refreshing ocean breeze as you examine the exotic flora and observe the colorful birds, admire the monumental Government House or lay down in the vibrant grass and simply watch the ocean.

Those who are curious about the park’s history can take part in one of the guided tours of the park.

The Royal Botanic Gardens are open all year round from 7 AM, admission is free of charge.

No visit to Sydney could possibly be complete without a day at Bondi Beach. Often ranked as one of the best urban beaches in the world, Bondi Beach is the precious jewel of Sydney.

The busy sandy beach is the perfect place to swim or surf in the ocean, lay down and sunbathe or hop inside one of the numerous eateries and cafes along the streets. Hate it or love it, Bondi Beach is a piece of Sydney’s history and shouldn’t be missed when in town. 

Looking for a change of scenery? Drive up to the glamorous Blue Mountains, a National Park less than 2 hours west from the heart of Sydney. Admire the view from viewpoints high above the ground, ride down the world’s steepest railway or explore the eerie Jenolan Caves all within the park.

The winding roads around the park provide spectacular views and are extremely fun to drive around. As we all know, scenic driving is a must on any proper road trip.

aerial view cliff in blue mountains national park nsw australia

Sydney is packed with attractions of all kinds, including a vibrant nightlife scene. That’s why Rentalmoose recommends spending at least one night in town before continuing the journey.

What are the best hotels in Sydney?

Luxury travelers should check out the Park Hyatt Sydney in the heart of town. The modern 5-star hotel offers a selection of elegant rooms and suites overlooking the Sydney Harbour or the city’s landmarks. Relax after a scorching day at the rooftop pool or indulge in fine dining cuisine at the award-winning restaurants.

Sydney is known for being one of the most travel destinations in the world, and the city’s hotels are no exception. In recent years, however, stylish budget-friendly hotels began popping up all over the city. One of the most interesting hotels in town that don’t break the bank has got to be the Rushcutters Bay Vibe Hotel.

The affordable 4-star hotel is located just a 5-minute drive away from the heart of Sydney and offers modern rooms and suites as well as a rooftop pool and a fitness center. A private car park is available at an extra cost. 

Next on your Australia road trip: Jervis Bay, 2 hours 40 minutes

Jervis Bay

jervis bay secluded beach turquoise water green plants white sand australia

Photography by Anna Palinska.

Depart Sydney and head south towards the city of Wollongong. The picturesque coastal road, known as the Grand Pacific Drive, is one of the most scenic driving roads in the country and serves as the perfect introduction to see the natural beauty of Australia. 

Grand Pacific Drive

Don’t hesitate to get off the main road and discover the region more thoroughly, there are hundreds of pristine beaches along the way and it is impossible to mention them all.

To put it into perspective, Wollongong alone has nearly 20 wonderful beaches.

And that’s just one of the cities you’ll be passing!

That said, a must-see on your drive to Melbourne is the famous Jervis Bay. The bay is lined with various unspoiled sandy beaches, safe turquoise water, and hiking trails through the exotic wilderness of the nearby forest.

Don’t skip the Callala Beach, the longest beach in the entire bay.

Pay a visit to Huskisson, the most adventure-packed town in Jervis Bay.

Looking to explore more of the underwater world?

Go on a snorkeling tour with Woebegone Freedive.

Relax at the Shark Net Beach, or rent a kayak next door and make your way around the crystal-clear ocean on your own.

There are plenty of hotels in Huskisson if you decide to extend the trip and stay overnight.

Once you get hungry, drop by Stonegrill Huskisson for a tasty meal. Guests can choose from the a la carte menu or cook on the stone grill themselves. The delicious food paired with welcoming service makes the Stonegrill the go-to restaurant in Jervis Bay.

Open daily from 5:30 PM until 9 PM on weekdays and 10 PM on weekends.

Next on your Australia road trip: Batemans Bay, 1 hour 50 minutes

Batemans Bay

kangaroo looking at ocean pebbly beach australia batemans bay

Is Batemans Bay worth visiting?

Continue south along the highway for around 2 hours until you reach Batemans Bay. The vivid coastal town is one of the favorite getaways in New South Wales, offering breathtaking beaches, delicious fresh seafood, and an overall cool, coastal vibe.

Murramarang National Park

When in Batemans Bay, you can’t skip the Murramarang National Park. The National Park is packed with wild forests full of colorful, exotic birds, as well as secluded beaches.

Don’t know what to see in Murramarang National Park?

Visit the scenic Pebbly Beach. The wide beach is often completely free of tourists. If you’re lucky, you might spot the local kangaroos.

Your rental car can be dropped off by the campground, just a 5-minute walk from the beach itself. 

Cullendulla Creek Nature Reserve

Hikers will enjoy their time in Batemans Bay as well.

Visit the Cullendulla Creek Nature Reserve, a large park near the bay which is absolutely perfect for hiking. The tracks will take you among mangroves, forests, gum trees and beaches.

Choose the Square Head Track 2, as this short trail is just below 2 kilometers round-trip and offers an easy hike between exotic gum trees, finishing with a perfect picnic spot on a secluded beach.

Sunday Market

If you’re looking to observe the local life, take part in the Batemans Bay Sunday Market. The market, held on the first and third Sundays of every month, is full of stalls selling all sorts of antiques, clothing, jewelry, and accessories of all kinds.

Wander around the stalls while listening to live music played by local artists, drink an aromatic coffee or indulge in some local delicacies.

The stalls are open between 8 AM and 1 PM. 

Rally of The Bay

Petrolheads are in for a treat, as Bateman Bay is home to the Rally of The Bay. Watch as powerful rally cars race across 7 different stages around the bay, filled with chicanes, skids and hops.

The adrenaline-packed rallying event takes place annually. Visit the official website for more information including the event schedule.

Where to stay in Batemans Bay?

BIG4

Traveling with kids? Consider spending the night at the BIG4 Batemans Bay. The beach resort offers well-equipped homes, along with a wide array of attractions such as an outdoor pool, a tennis court and a beachfront location.

A private car park is available at no extra cost.

Mariners on The Waterfront

If you would rather stay near the heart of Batemans Bay, book a room at Mariners on The Waterfront. The hotel is situated just a short walk away from local eateries and cafes, and 600 meters from the closest beach. The hotel features modern rooms, an outdoor pool and a free private car park.

Next on your Australia road trip: Narooma, 1 hour

Narooma

ocean waves hitting rocks narooma wagonga inlet australia beautiful beach

What can you see in Narooma?

Hop back on Princes Highway for another hour until you reach the scenic coastal town of Narooma. The serene Wagonga inlet, the town’s famous oyster festival, and heavenly beaches make Narooma an absolute must-see.

Wagonga Inlet

When in Narooma, be sure to visit the Wagonga inlet. The best way to explore the magnificent inlet is from the water.

Drop off your rental car by Riverside Drive and head go for a Walgonga Inlet Cruise. Choose from daily cruises between 1 and 3 hours each. Admire the best views during the sunset cruise, watch the sea life and photograph the scenic surroundings.

Check the pricing and schedules on their website.

Montague Island

Discover Montague Island, one of the most popular tourist attractions in this part of Australia. Choose from a selection of boat tours that best suits your needs, as the only way to access the island is by boat.

Whale watching out in the ocean, snorkeling with seals, or admiring Little Penguins or just some of the activities to choose from. Montague Island itself is known for its natural beauty and plenty of wildlife and should definitely be marked on your itinerary. 

Narooma Oyster Festival

Are you a seafood lover?

If so, you should most definitely visit the town during the annual Narooma Oyster Festival. The award-winning festival is a celebration of the region’s yummy oysters and is perfect for foodies, families, and friends. Indulge in the locally-caught seafood while enjoying live music, purchase local art or simply admire the spectacular views.

Next on your Australian road trip: Eden, 1 hour 40 minutes

Eden

eden australia green fields and ocean dramatic coastline nsw

Continue along Princes Highway for a little over an hour and a half until you reach the charming town of Eden. Eden, famous for its fishing culture, whale watching tours, and of course, immaculate beaches.

Long Beach

Before you reach the city, take a slight detour off the highway and spend some time at Long Beach. The secluded beach (not to be confused with Long Beach in Batemans Bay, or the one in California) is overlooked by monumental Pinnacles.

Drop your car off at the free car park and walk directly to the beach, or hike along the Pinnacles Walk.

Hooked On Seafood

As Eden is known for its fish, it only makes sense to try some fresh seafood while you’re here. Head to Hooked On Seafood, the best restaurant in town. Choose from a selection of fish, shrimps, crab or oysters. Observe local fishermen as you feast on regional seafood right by the ocean.

Open daily between 9:30 AM and 7 PM. 

Whale-watching tours

Go for a whale-watching boat trip with Cat Balou Cruises. The operator offers a selection of sightseeing cruises between 2 and 4 hours each.

See playful dolphins in Twofolds Bay, admire the wilderness in secluded parts of the coast or watch enormous whales. No matter which cruise you pick, each one offers an unforgettable experience. Click here to book.

Next on your Australia road trip: Lakes Entrance, 2 hours 50 minutes

Lakes Entrance

lakes entrance town aerial view on a sunny day from ocean

Photography by Mark Wyld

Drive down Princes Highway and cross into Victoria until you reach Lakes Entrance, another major hotspot that you should visit during a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne.

What is there to see in Lakes Entrance?

Gippsland Lakes

Don’t skip the Gippsland Lakes, the most popular tourist destination in the region. Wander around the wilderness, rent a boat and cross the lakes yourself or have a go at fishing. If you’re lucky, you might spot the endangered Burrunan Dolphins.

Raymond Island

You’ve seen kangaroos at Pebbly Beach back in Batemans Bay, now it’s time for the second animal that’s become an easily recognizable symbol of Australia.

Take the free ferry from Paynesville to Raymond Island, which is home to Victoria’s largest koala population. Hike down the Koala trail and see if you can spot any of the cute furry animals.

You can also rent a bicycle and cycle around the area instead.

Ninety Mile Beach

Did you know that the beach by Lakes Entrance is one of the longest in the entire world? Check for yourself and visit the famous Ninety Mile Beach. Stroll down the golden sands, go for a dip in the turquoise ocean or try to spot whales and dolphins from the shore. 

Waterwheel TAV

Getting hungry? Visit the Waterwheel TAV, a local pub that offers tasty cuisine including steaks and pizza along with a wide selection of drinks. What’s more, guests can enjoy their meals while admiring the lakes at the pub’s outdoor terrace.

Open daily from 10 AM.

Spend the night at the Bellevue on the Lakes. The 4-star hotel features well-equipped modern rooms, an outdoor pool, a heated indoor pool and barbecue facilities available for the hotel guests. A car park is available free of charge.

Traveling on a tighter budget? Consider checking into the Lakes Waterfront Motel. The motel offers either rooms or standalone cottages with retro decor, an outdoor swimming pool, and an incredible waterfront location. Free parking is available.

Next on your Australia road trip: Wilsons Promontory National Park, 3 hours 30 minutes

Wilsons Promontory

wilsons promontory national park sand beach turquoise ocean australia

Photography by Siggy Nowak

Set off from Lakes Entrance and continue near the coast. You will arrive in Wilsons Promontory, one of Australia’s best national parks, in around three and a half hours.

What can you do at Wilsons Promontory?

Norman Bay

Relax at the picturesque Norman Bay. Go for a swim in the ocean, sunbathe on the shore or hike the local trails. Travelers can go for a canoe tour any day between December and January, or rent their own kayaks from First Track Adventures.

Surfing is allowed on one part of the beach.

Sightseeing Cruise

Drive down to Port Welshpool and park your rental car by the old ferry terminal building at the end of Lewis Street. Then, go for a sightseeing cruise to Refuge Cove.

The secluded spot is home to fascinating marine life, including sharks, seals, and dolphins. Cruises are available daily, check the schedule and pricing information here.

Hike up Mount Oberon

Looking for the best photo opportunity in Wilsons Promontory? Hike up to the summit of Mount Oberon. The trek up to the top does get exhausting, but the panoramic views from the 558-meter high summit are absolutely worth the effort!

Admire the Southernmost point of mainland Australia and the islands scattered around the crystal-clear waters. Watching the sunset from high above the ground is that extra touch that completes the magical experience.

Next on your Australia road trip: Phillip Island, 1 hour 50 minutes

Phillip Island

phillip island australia victoria green beach on cloudy day
Photography by Wei Chung Low

Is it worth going to Phillip Island?

Absolutely! Phillip Island is one of the favorite getaways for locals and tourists in Melbourne, and it is clear to see why. The island, apart from spectacular beaches and a dramatic coastline, is the perfect place to experience Victoria away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Don’t forget that it is one of the best places to spot Little Penguins, too.

Surfing

Phillip Island is known as one of the best spots in Australia when it comes to surfing, why not try this exciting watersport for yourself? Experienced surfers can hire equipment from Island Surfboards and hit the beaches.

Never tried surfing? Don’t know where to start? Island Surfboards offers surf lessons for intermediate surfers as well as beginners who have never touched a surfboard. Click here for details.

Cowes Beach

Relax at one of the beaches scattered around the island. One of the favorite beaches for swimming has got to be Cowes Beach, right by the vivid heart of Phillip Island. Go for a refreshing swim in the ocean, walk down the golden sands or wander around the seaside cafes and shops in Cowes.

Phillip Island Circuit

Motorsport fans are in for yet another trip during this road trip. The Phillip Island Circuit is a world-class racing track that hosts events such as the MotoGP, as well as a series of local automobile races and track days.

Watch as powerful cars or motorcycles lap the track, book a passenger hot lap around the track, or have a go at the famous circuit yourself in a go-kart.

Penguin Parade

As the sun is about to set, be sure to head to Summerland Beach. Observe as little penguins return to their home after a day of fishing, known as the daily Penguin Parade. Watch one of Australia’s largest penguin colonies from the viewing platform, or peek at the animals from the underground viewing point.

Click here to book your tickets. 

Phillip Island is packed with adventures, that’s why Rentalmoose recommends stopping here for the night. There are plenty of elegant hotels, villas and holiday homes that offer spectacular ocean views, great service, and an amazing experience overall.

The Clifftop

Get the best panoramic views of the ocean when you check-in at the Clifftop. The hotel is situated by Smiths Beach and offers stylish rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, a beautiful shared space with a pool table and a cozy fireplace, as well as scenic natural surroundings.

A private car park is available free of charge. 

North Pier Hotel

If you’d rather stay in the vivid center of Cowes, consider booking a room at the North Pier Hotel. The budget-friendly, recently renovated hotel features modern rooms with ocean views, a beach just across the street as well as a convenient location in the heart of the Cowes township with lots of nearby eateries, shops, and bars.

Next on your Australia road trip: Melbourne, 1 hour 40 minutes

Melbourne

melbourne skyline aerial view melbourne skyscrapers during sunset victoria australia
Photography by Moerschy

What should you see in Melbourne?

Head to downtown Melbourne and get a photo with the picturesque Flinders Street Station. The main railway station in town has been open since the early 1900s and now serves as a major tourist attraction due to its monumental facade.

The station is present on many Melbourne postcards and souvenirs, despite the fact that what’s inside is fairly uninteresting. Don’t expect to spend too much time here, as pretty as it is to look at it’s not much more than a busy train station.

Cross the street to enter Federation Square, the vibrant cultural heart of Melbourne. Admire the abstract art installations or the magnificent buildings surrounding the square.

Step inside one of the art galleries, such as the Australian Center for the Moving Image, and discover the country’s artistic history. Wander around the trendy cafes and bars, or simply sit down and take in the artsy vibe.

Your rental car can be dropped off at this Wilson Parking multi-story car park. 

For the best view of the city, take the elevator up to the Skydeck on top of the 91-story Eureka Tower. Admire the panoramic views high above the ground, or try The Edge experience and enjoy the view from a glass cube suspended 300 meters above ground level, if you dare.

Open 7 days a week between noon and 8:30 PM.

A private car park is available right beneath the tower.

Great Ocean Road

Though the city itself is packed with attractions and various activities, a 90-minute drive west will take you to the beginning of the scenic Great Ocean Road, one of the world’s best scenic drives. Extend the trip and explore the natural beauty of the western coast of Victoria with our travel guide.

Where is the best Greek food in Melbourne?

Did you know that Melbourne has the most Greeks out of any city outside of Greece? With such a large Greek community, you definitely shouldn’t miss out on trying some authentic Greek cuisine when in Melbourne.

Head to Stalactites, a family-run restaurant with some of the finest Greek dishes in the country. Let the fresh meals take you on a journey to Greece.

Rentalmoose order tip: try souvlakis, grilled meat, or moussaka.

Don’t worry about coming too late or too early, the restaurant is open 24 hours a day, all week.

Where to stay in Melbourne?

Luxury seekers should consider booking a room at the QT Melbourne. The 5-star hotel features extremely stylish rooms and suites, as well as a fitness center.

The highlight of the hotel is its trendy rooftop venue where guests can grab a drink while admiring the city’s skyline. Add in the perfect location in the very heart of Melbourne and you will clearly see why this is one of the top picks in town.

A private car park is available at an extra cost.

Those looking for a more budget-friendly alternative should spend the night at the Plough Hotel. The hotel features well-equipped rooms, a convenient location near the city center and an outdoor terrace, as well as a bar and restaurant.

A private car park is available at no extra cost.

Looking for more attractions and hotels in Melbourne? Check out the Rentalmoose Great Ocean Road travel guide, where you will find more exciting things to do in Melbourne including trendy laneways, vibrant gardens and a local market.

Drop-Off

If you’ve decided to end your journey in Melbourne, Rentalmoose recommends dropping off your rental car directly at Melbourne Airport when you’re leaving. Browse through rental companies that support drop-off at another location, as well as airport drop-off, via Rentalmoose.

Win a free rental car!

The scenic journey between Sydney and Melbourne is packed with incredible natural beauty, secluded beaches, and dramatic coastal views, so I’m sure you will take lots of photos. Post your best photos from this trip with #Rentalmoose. Rentalmoose’s favorites will be rewarded with a Rentalmoose discount or even a rental car free of charge!

kangaroo on green field australia pebbly beach

long sandy beach and wavy blue ocean off the great ocean road on a clear sunny day in victoria australia

Australia Road Trip Itinerary- Great Ocean Road

Australia’s Great Ocean Road by car, a road trip itinerary in Australia.

Click here for detailed directions

Summary (click the red pins for directions) :

Melbourne to Torquay- 100 kilometers (60 miles)đź“Ť  

Torquay to Lorne- 50 kilometers (30 miles)đź“Ť 

Lorne to Kennett River- 20 kilometers (12 miles)đź“Ť 

Kennett River to Apollo Bay- 20 kilometers (12 miles)đź“Ť 

Apollo Bay to Twelve Apostles- 90 kilometers (55 miles)đź“Ť 

Twelve Apostles to Colac- 80 kilometers (50 miles)đź“Ť 

Colac to Melbourne- 150 kilometers (95 miles)đź“Ť 

510 kilometers (320 miles) in total

Tags: Travel guide, Scenic Road, Australia, Short Distance

Drive down one of the most scenic roads on the planet. The Great Ocean Road will take you along the dramatic coast of Western Victoria, located in South Australia. Experience the surf culture, fly in a World War 2 airplane, spot koala bears and admire spectacular natural wonders. This Australia road trip truly has it all!

This travel guide takes you on a South Australia trip starting in Melbourne. Drive southwest until you get to Torquay, the country’s surfing capital. 

Catch the waves at Bells Beach and hop on the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay through Lorne and Kennett River, where you might just spot furry koala bears. 

Next, make your way to the spectacular limestone pillars named the Twelve Apostles. After a helicopter tour of the coast, drive inland across volcanic landscapes until you get to Colac, a quiet countryside town. Relax at the lakes, climb the Red Rock for the best view and head back to Melbourne.

Without a doubt, this is one of the best road trips in Australia you can take.

Planning- Before You Leave

Before setting off on your South Australia road trip, take a look at some of the essential information listed below.

How long does it take to complete this road trip?

The total driving distance of this South Australia road trip is around 500 kilometers (310 miles) and can be covered in two days, with one overnight stop in Apollo Bay.

Of course, if you want to thoroughly explore each town consider adding extra overnight stops in Torquay and Colac.

Personally, I found one overnight stop to be sufficient for this trip.

When is the best time to visit Australia?

Keep in mind that the seasons in Australia are switched (Summer is between December and February).

It’s best to go to South Australia right before the summer or directly after it finishes, when the weather is still warm enough to swim in the ocean, yet the crowds are smaller compared to the summer when the tourist season peaks.

Go during the Easter Weekend if you’re planning to attend the Rip Curl surfing championship in Bells Beach near Torquay.

Extend your Australia road trip to Sydney and New South Wales

Your Australian road trip doesn’t have to finish after driving down the Great Ocean Road. Why not see the East Coast of Australia, too?

In fact, Rentalmoose recommends adding a few extra days to drive up Princes Highway all the way to Sydney in New South Wales. That way, you can see the spectacular East Coast of Australia.

Admire more of the spectacular natural beauty in New South Wales, enjoy whale watching tours or lap a racetrack.

There are plenty of attractions waiting for you, click here for our Sydney to Melbourne travel guide and extend your road trip to see the East Coast.

Why should I book a rental car in Melbourne?

A rental car is the definite go-to means of transport for this trip. The Great Ocean Road is considered one of the absolute best scenic driving roads in the entire world, providing absolutely spectacular views practically anywhere along the way.

Road trips in Australia are great, you will find yourself stopping at overlooks and pullouts practically nonstop along the spectacular coastal roads.

There are various viewpoints where you can stop that would have been impossible to access without a car. Not to mention the ability to alter your itinerary, detour or extend the trip whenever you please, which is only possible when traveling by car. The best way to see Australia is during road trips by car.

For extra peace of mind during your road trip, Rentalmoose recommends adding excess coverage when booking your rental car.

Once you’ve picked up the car, don’t forget to take photos of the car to qualify for a 50% discount from the excess coverage fee.

Can tourists drive in Australia? 

Yes! You can drive with your foreign driver’s license for up to 3 months in Australia, as long as it’s in English. If your driver’s license is not in English, you need to obtain an International Driving Permit prior to leaving.

Where can you get an International Driving Permit? How long is it valid for? Check out this blog post on International Driving Permits that answers any questions you might have about this document.

The traffic laws in Australia are strictly enforced. Driving under influence is completely unacceptable and can land the offender in jail. 

In terms of speeding penalties, the Department of Transport and Main Roads claims that the average speeding ticket is $210, which equals just below 130 euros. Going less than 13km/h over the limit will cost you $177 (105 EUR).

Traffic in Australia is on the left-hand side of the road.

Now that you’re all set, it’s time to jump into this exciting South Australia road trip itinerary!

Melbourne

melbourne skyscrapers modern architecture and trees seen from across river with three parked boats during sunset

Photography by Alf Scalise.

What is Melbourne known for?

Welcome to one of the largest cities in the country and the capital of Victoria, Melbourne! Melbourne is a great starting point for different road trips in Australia.

The vivid city is known for its cultural scene, multicultural diversity, vibrant nightlife, and trendy vibe. Pick up your car directly from Melbourne Airport and begin exploring this fascinating city.

Queen Victoria Market

Observe the daily life of Melbourne at Queen Victoria Market. Wander around the busy stalls selling anything from fresh produce to antiques and precious collectibles, all while catching a glimpse of the historical venue.

COVID-19 Update: The Winter Night Market may return in June 2021.

If you’re in town around the summer, attend the seasonal Night Market held every Wednesday from 5 PM onwards.

Queen Victoria Market is open until 3 PM on weekdays and 4 PM on weekends, closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.

A car park is available along Queen Street between Therry and Victoria streets.

Melbourne’s trendy laneways and arcades

Melbourne is packed with cool laneways and shopping arcades lined with local bars, restaurants, and shops, all of which are just begging to be explored.

Wander around the glamorous shops in The Block Arcade or step inside one of the grungy cafes at Centre Place.

No matter which laneway you stumble upon, you will experience the trendy vibe of Melbourne.

Royal Botanic Gardens

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

Stroll down the colorful gardens, admire the diverse and exotic flora or go for a picnic in the vibrant green lawn. In the summer, catch a movie at the outdoor cinema or dive into the local art scene when you examine pieces at an outdoor exhibition.

Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens are open daily between 7:30 AM and 6:30 PM.

Admission to the gardens is free.

Looking for more attractions in Melbourne? Check out the Sydney to Melbourne Travel Guide, where I highlight some of the best Greek cuisine in town as well as Melbourne’s best hotspot for art lovers.

Melbourne will surely keep you busy for a few days, that’s why Rentalmoose recommends spending at least one night in town before setting off on your road trip.

Where to stay in Melbourne?

Luxury seekers should consider spending the night at the 5-star Park Hyatt Melbourne. The elegant hotel offers over 200 stylish rooms and suites overlooking Fitzroy Gardens, as well as luxurious amenities such as an indoor pool and a spa and wellness center. The hotel’s location in the heart of Melbourne makes it the perfect spot to set out and explore the city. A private car park is available at an extra cost.

If you’re looking for a hotel that offers panoramic views and luxurious facilities without breaking the bank, consider checking into the Imagine Marco Hotel.

The resort features modern serviced apartments with panoramic city views, a convenient location near the city center and extra amenities such as an outdoor pool and barbecue equipment.

A private car park is available at an extra cost.

Next on your Australia road trip: Torquay, 1 hour 20 minutes

Torquay

torquay long sandy beach bright blue calm ocean natural beauty of australia. See it from the Great Ocean road during this Australia road trip itinerary around Victoria.

Your first stop is a coastal town around an hour west of Melbourne. Torquay is one of the country’s hotspots for surfing, and the watersport culture has become a crucial part of the local heritage. It is also the beginning of the Great Ocean Road.

Australian National Surfing Museum

Torquay is known as the country’s capital of surfing, be sure to pay a visit to the Australian National Surfing Museum. Discover the history of Australia’s surfing and beach culture, examine historical surfboards or walk down the Hall of Fame.

The museum is open between 9 AM and 5 PM all week. Admission costs below $15 AUD (8.4 EUR).

Scenic flights

Adrenaline junkies should go to Torquay Airport, where they can book thrilling Adventure Flights over the coast in a vintage WW2 open-cockpit airplane.

Admire the coast from above or get spun around during an aerobatic flight. No matter which flight you pick, it will surely be an unforgettable experience.

Browse through available packages on the Adventure Flights website.

Bells Beach

Head out of Torquay and continue along the coast. After just a couple of kilometers, you will reach the famous Bells Beach.

The beach is a well-known surfing spot, if you’re an experienced surfer you will absolutely love it. The beach is surrounded by cliffs, providing a spectacular backdrop to admire.

Visit Bells Beach during the Easter weekend when the Rip Curl Pro surfing event takes place and spectate as the world’s best surfers ride the enormous waves.

Next: Lorne, 50 minutes 

Lorne

lorne crystal blue ocean view and nearby tree branches seen from viewing point above a cliff. See it from the great ocean road during our australia road trip itinerary.

Drive along the absolutely breathtaking Great Ocean Road, there are plenty of lookouts on the way where you can carefully watch the dramatic coastline.

After around 40 minutes, you will reach the seaside town of Lorne. This tiny town only has around a thousand inhabitants, but during the peak of the tourist season those numbers rise up to over ten thousand.

Lorne is the perfect spot for a lunch break. Go to the Cuda Bar for a delicious meal made from the freshest ingredients. Cuda serves a wide selection of dishes, including local seafood.

Guests can feel the ocean breeze at the outdoor seating area or listen to live music on weekend nights.

Open daily from 12:30 PM.

Teddy’s Lookout

As you drive out of Lorne and get back on the Great Ocean Road, be sure to drop by Teddy’s Lookout.

The viewpoint offers panoramic views of the dramatic coastline, the turquoise ocean and Lorne’s Scenic beach. Drop your car off at the nearby car park and hike for just a couple of minutes to the viewpoint itself. 

Next on your Australia road trip: Kennett River, 30 minutes

Kennett River

cute smiling koala sleeping on a tree in Kennett river, australia. It is one of the must-see spots along the great ocean road in victoria.

Continue along the Great Ocean Road for another half hour until you reach Kennett River. Although not the biggest town along the coast, the area is a popular stop among tourists for one specific reason: wild koala bears.

Where can you see Koala bears in Kennett River?

Spotting wild koala bears is, much like seeing kangaroos, an absolute must if you’re planning one of the best road trips in Australia.

Kennett River is the best place along the Great Ocean Road where tourists can spot koala bears in the wild. The region’s large population of furry koalas can be spotted just a hike away from the main road.

Stroll down the Grey River Road, walk across the Manna Gum forest as the bears will likely be sleeping up in the gum trees. What’s more, the forest is packed with all kinds of exotic birds and colorful parrots that are worth mentioning as well. 

Continue up the Grey River Road, after roughly 5 kilometers you will reach a scenic picnic ground in the Grey River Reserve. The grounds are equipped with wooden barbecues where you can grill your meat.

Keep an eye on the nearby trees, you might spot more furry koalas! The picnic ground itself is often visited by fascinating wildlife, get ready for unique encounters.

Relax after the hike at Kafe Koala, a local cafe near the coast and just off the Great Ocean Road. Enjoy freshly-made delicacies, an affordable and tasty lunch, or an aromatic coffee in the colorful outdoor garden frequently visited by exotic parrots.

Open all week from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Next on your Australia road trip: Apollo Bay, 30 minutes

Apollo Bay

car on scenic coastal road near beach and blue ocean in australia great ocean road apollo bay in background. See the scenic great ocean road during our australia road trip itinerary.

Follow the twists and turns of the Great Ocean Road for another 30 minutes until you reach Apollo Bay, the final stop for the day.

Great Ocean Walk

Hikers will surely enjoy their stay here, as Apollo Bay is the beginning point of the 91-kilometer Great Ocean Walk. The trail leads all the way to the monumental 12 Apostles and takes hikers across sandy beaches, bushlands, and rainforests with spectacular views at every step of the way.

Those who want to experience the walk without dedicating 6 days to hike the entire trail can try out shorter segments.

Cape Otway Lightstation

Be sure to drop by the Cape Otway Lightstation. The station was built back in 1848 and remains the oldest surviving lighthouse in all of Australia.

Learn about the lighthouse’s fascinating history, including why it was named “The Beacon of Hope”, during a daily history talk at 11 AM, 2 PM and 4 PM.

Then, photograph the spectacular views of the ocean from atop the tower.

Book your tickets online right here.

The tower is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Before you decide to call it a day, go to La Bimba for dinner. The restaurant strongly supports local produce, essentially anything on the menu is locally-sourced, freshly-prepared and absolutely delicious.

La Bimba serves dinner from 6 PM to 9 PM, closed on Tuesdays.

Where to stay in Apollo Bay?

Spend the night at the beachfront Seafarers Getaway. The beachfront resort features 20 lodges and units with spectacular ocean views, an outdoor deck, barbecue facilities, and beach access. The convenient location right by the Great Ocean Road is worth mentioning, too. Plus, a free car park.

When you stay in Apollo Bay, you can enjoy the perks of a beachfront location without breaking the bank.

Travelers on a budget should check-in at the Apollo Bay Waterfront Motor Inn, a beachfront resort that features oceanview rooms and villas. A car park is available at no extra charge.

Next on your Australia road trip: Twelve Apostles, 1 hour 20 minutes

Twelve Apostles

twelve apostles limestone cliffs near ocean coast small waves on a clear summer day in australia

Make your way down the Great Ocean Road for a little over an hour until you reach the main highlight of any road trip in Australia, the magnificent Twelve Apostles.

The natural wonder is best admired during the sunrise and sunset when the dramatic light adds to an even more magical experience. During that time you might be able to spot little penguins as well, if you’re lucky.

Admire the Apostles from the main viewing platform and observe as the water crashes into the massive limestone pillars. Some travelers might be surprised when they start counting the Apostles, as only eight of the pillars remain today.

Photographers looking to get the perfect shot will be happy to hear that the viewing platform can be visited nonstop 365 days per year. Admission is free of charge.

12 Apostles Helicopter Tours

Get a view from above during a scenic helicopter tour. Head to the heliport near the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre just across the road from the viewing platform and book your sightseeing helicopter flight.

Guests can choose from a selection of different packages that vary in flight length, the longer tours offer more sightseeing opportunities along the coast such as the Otway Lightstation or the Moonlight Head. Check the official website and book your unforgettable tour.

Port Campbell

As you continue along the Great Ocean Road, stop for lunch at 12 Rocks in Port Campbell, just 10 minutes from the Twelve Apostles.

The family-run bar offers some delicious meals made from local ingredients, a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, and panoramic views of the Port Campbell Foreshore.

Open daily from 9:30 AM, lunch service begins at noon. 

London Bridge

Don’t miss some out on some of the other landmarks around the Twelve Apostles, such as the famous London Bridge.

Drive a few minutes west of Port Campbell to see the monumental landmark. Originally a natural bridge connected to the mainland, the London Bridge collapsed in 1990. In effect, two tourists were stranded on the just-formed island and had to be rescued by air.

Photograph the formation from the viewing platform 24 hours per day, all year. Admission is free of charge.

Next on your road trip in Australia: Colac, 1 hour

Colac

panoramic view of colac lakes and fields in australia on a cloudy day

Photograph from Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons.

Get off the Great Ocean Road and head inland on your way back to Melbourne. This part of the journey, although not as dramatic as the coastal road, is a fascinating look inside the Victorian countryside among volcanic plains and lakes.

Alternatively, you can travel back to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road once again and revisit some of your favorite attractions along the coast.

What is Colac known for?

Colac, a small town around 150 kilometers south-west of Melbourne, is known as “the gateway to the Otways” surrounded by volcanic landscapes.

Lake Corangamite

Be sure to visit Lake Corangamite, the largest salt-water lake in the country. The natural setting is completely different from the dramatic coastline along the Great Ocean Road, hence it is definitely worth a visit for the total change of scenery. Admire the views, observe as local fishermen try to catch fish or go for a dip in the lake.

Red Rock Scenic Lookout

Admire the panoramic view of 30 volcano crater lakes from the Red Rock Scenic Lookout. The green lake-filled landscape makes for a perfect backdrop for photos. There are also BBQ facilities and a children’s playground near the lookout, where you can unwind before continuing on to Melbourne.

Post your pictures from the lookout with #Rentalmoose for a chance to win a rental car free of charge! Click here for details! The lookout is open to the public 24 hours a day, there is no admission cost.

Lake Colac

Relax at Lake Colac, a large lake right by the town itself. The lake is the center for fishing and water activities of all kinds. Swim in the lake (the average depth is below 2.5 meters), sunbathe on the shore or have a go at fishing. The shore near the town is the busiest, head away from Colac to find more secluded parts of the lake.

Colac Botanic Gardens

Wander around the vibrant Colac Botanic Gardens. Hike down the trails, examine the colorful flora or have a picnic in the green lawns. Take your kids to the local playground, spend time with friends at the barbecue area near the east end of the gardens or go to the local Botanic Cafe located inside the historic curator’s cottage from the 1920s. 

The park is open daily between 10 AM and 4 PM.

Next: Melbourne, 1 hour 50 minutes

Drop-off

For maximum convenience, drop your car off directly at the Melbourne Airport when leaving. Lots of car rental companies support airport drop-off, browse through available options via Rentalmoose

Road Trip Extension

Your Australian adventure doesn’t have to finish here! Extend your trip and continue along Princes Highway up to Sydney, seeing the picturesque East coast of Australia along the way. Click here for the Rentalmoose travel guide from Melbourne to Sydney.

Don’t have a car you can take on Australian road trips? No problem!

Don’t forget to book your rental car via Rentalmoose for your next adventure. On our platform, you can find the top rental companies at the best price, along with tens of curated travel guides around the globe. Get your car from Rentalmoose!

We plant a tree for every booking made with our platform.

Post your pictures from your next road trip online using #Rentalmoose! Our favorite ones will be featured in the upcoming blog posts.

12 apostles limestone cliffs near blue ocean coast in australia during sunset

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