Phillip Island, Victoria © Visit Victoria
9-day Sydney to Melbourne coastal drive
Between Australia's two biggest cities you'll find relaxed seaside towns, national parks teeming with wildlife and long beaches where your feet are the only ones on the sand.
Written by Sydney-Melbourne Touring
Embark on a Sydney to Melbourne Coastal Discovery road trip and along the way stop to explore the tranquil villages and delicious oyster farms of the New South Wales South Coast, stretch your legs in some of Victoria's most spectacular national parks and enjoy gourmet produce in Gippsland. Spot tiny penguins waddle up the beach on Phillip Island, then finish this iconic road trip in the food and culture mecca that is Melbourne.
What to expect
- Taste fresh oysters along Australia's Oyster Coast
- Spot wild koalas and echidnas on Raymond Island
- Take an epic wilderness cruise in Wilsons Promontory
- Time: 9 days
- Distance: 1,540 kilometres (958 miles)
- Transport: car
- Nearest major city: Sydney and Melbourne
Day 1: Sydney to Jervis Bay
Start your journey in Sydney and travel south to the Royal National Park. Stop at Bald Hill Lookout and take in dazzling coastal views before driving over the dramatic Sea Cliff Bridge. You'll soon arrive in Wollongong, where you can walk along the waterfront promenade, aptly named "The Blue Mile."
Drive another 1.5 hours south to the idyllic seaside town of Kiama. Be sure to watch the famous Kiama Blowhole shoot water 60 metres (200 feet) into the air.
Another one-hour drive and you will reach Jervis Bay. The rest of the day should be devoted to the town's white-sand beaches. Choose from Callala Beach, Hare Bay, Chinamans Beach, Murrays Beach and – the most famous of them all – Hyams Beach. If you are a wildlife lover, be sure to book onto Jervis Bay Wild's dolphin watching cruise.
Finish the day with some tasty fish and chips; sit by the bay and enjoy it with a beautiful sunset.
Spend the night in a three, two or one-bedroom cabin at The Cove Jervis Bay.
Day 2: Jervis Bay to Tilba
Take a morning cruise from Huskisson to spot resident dolphins, seals and even whales (during migration season between May and November).
After returning from your cruise, continue about 1.5 hours south to Batemans Bay. Foodies should visit The Oyster Shed or join the Oyster Tasting Kayak Tour to indulge in the freshest oysters from Clyde River. If you are looking for a thrill, take a scenic flight over the coast or hit the tracks and explore the area on an e-bike tour.
Day 3: Tilba to Merimbula
Start the day with a wander through the main street of Central Tilba, lined with preserved weatherboard shops full of local art and crafts, antiques and gourmet produce. You might also like to visit the enchanting Foxglove Gardens in the nearby village of Tilba Tilba.
Hop in the car and take the scenic route south and stop at Wallaga Lake to view the ancient Camel Rock and Horse Head Rock; be sure to stay on the elevated walking track. A short drive away is Bermagui. Take a dip at the Blue Pool and taste the freshest catch at Bermagui Fishermen's Wharf.
Continue driving about 45 minutes through Mimosa Rocks National Park to another quaint coastal town, Tathra. Visit the heritage-listed Tathra Wharf, a prime spot to watch the whale migration in spring (September to November).
Your final stop of the day is Merimbula, where you can take a relaxing lakeside stroll along the Merimbula Boardwalk. Check into your accommodation at Merimbula Lake Apartments.
Day 4: Merimbula to Gipsy Point
Start the day with a morning splash at Spencer Park Beach. The shallow, waveless water makes this a popular spot for families with small children.
Merimbula and nearby Eden boast some of the best whale watching in the country. You can learn about these giant mammals at the Eden Killer Whale Museum, which is a part of the Killer Whale Trail, comprising five popular whale watching spots dotted from Twofold Bay to Ben Boyd National Park.
Travel further south and you will enter East Gippsland in Victoria. Discover walking trails and Gabo Island’s historic lighthouse before hiring a boat at nearby Gipsy Point to explore the waterways.
Spend the night at Gipsy Point Lodge, choosing between guest rooms and self-contained cottages.
Day 5: Gipsy Point to Lakes Entrance
Today you will be travelling through Croajingolong National Park, an ecologically significant coastal reserve. Keen hikers should explore popular trails including Genoa Peak Walk, Point Hicks Lightstation Walk and Thurra River Dunes Walk.
After driving for about 1.5 hours, stop and stretch your legs at Orbost. If you have time to spare, take a side trip to see limestone formations inside Buchan Caves, one of the eleven Indigenous sites of significance on the Bataluk Cultural Trail.
Continue your drive until you arrive at the Gippsland Lakes and get ready to explore the largest inland lake system in Australia. You can hire a boat, kayak or cruise to explore the waterways from popular towns such as Lakes Entrance, Metung and Paynesville. Feel the golden sands between your toes on Ninety Mile Beach, or take the free, five-minute ferry ride from Paynesville to Raymond Island. This place is famous for its wild koala population, as well as echidnas and colourful native birds.
Finish the day in Lakes Entrance, checking in to The Esplanade Resort & Spa for the night.
Day 6: Lakes Entrance to Walhalla
Depart the Gippsland Lakes and head inland. A 1.5-hour drive will bring you to Sale. Stop to explore wetlands, gardens and galleries, then continue to the photogenic gold rush village of Walhalla.
Embrace the charm and history of Walhalla. Follow the tramline walk to get postcard-worthy views, venture deep underground on a gold mine tour or take the scenic railway through stunning Stringers Gorge, over trestle bridges and across the impressive Thomson River Bridge.
Enjoy country dining and stay overnight at Walhalla's Star Hotel, with decor that subtly reflects the town’s gold rush mining past.
Day 7: Walhalla to Wilsons Promontory
Head south from Walhalla this morning, and explore Tarra Bulga National Park, one of Australia’s southernmost temperate rainforests. Stop at Fern Gully Nature Walk and Tarra Valley Rainforest Walk to find fern-filled gullies, towering trees, trickling mountain streams and sparkling waterfalls.
Continue to Yarram and view the stunning Heesco murals before another one-hour drive to reach the ruggedly beautiful Wilsons Promontory National Park. "The Prom," as it’s affectionately known to locals, boasts incredible walking track and trails, stunning beaches and abundant wildlife. Climb to the summit of Mt Oberon for a 360-degree vista, follow a wildlife walk to say hello to kangaroos, wallabies, emus and wombats, or wander through the bush from Tidal River to Squeaky Beach. A Wilsons Promontory cruise along the rugged coastline is a must-do.
If you're eager to spend the night within the park, you'll find a range of options from Parks Victoria.
Day 8: Wilsons Promontory to Phillip Island
Just another 30-minute drive and you’ll reach Phillip Island, which boasts a long list of incredible experiences. See one of Australia’s largest wild fur seal colonies on a tour with Wildlife Coast Cruises, take a scenic helicopter flight to view the entire island from above, or get your adrenaline kicks at the Grand Prix Circuit.
Then wrap up the day at the world-famous Penguin Parade, where you can watch hundreds of little penguins waddle ashore as they return from a day at sea.
Spend the night at Five Acres luxury coastal cabins.
Day 9: Phillip Island to Melbourne
Enjoy a relaxing breakfast while deciding how to spend your final day along the Coastal Discovery Drive. Families should marvel at the optical illusions, mazes and magic at A Maze’N Things, or indulge in the sweet treats at Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate.
About halfway through your two-hour drive to Melbourne, stop at Moonlit Sanctuary to meet endangered Australian native animals in a natural bushland setting, during the day or on their magical evening walks.
Make your final drive to Melbourne, a city of café culture, fashion, art, sport and an amazing array of cuisine to please any palate.