Learn to surf on the Sapphire Coast and eat and drink your way through the Gippsland. You’ll see ocean, bushland, forest and lakes in these 5 must-stop spots from Sydney to Melbourne.
What to expect
- Fantastic Beaches
- Craft beer and boutique wineries
- Soak in hot springs
- Time: 5 days
- Distance: 1,176 kilometres (730 miles)
- Transport: car
- Nearest major city: Sydney and Melbourne
- Price: $$$ - $$$$
This 5-day road trip starts in Sydney, and will take you along the Sapphire Coast and through the Gippsland region, finishing in Melbourne. Expect to see some of Australia’s best south-coast beaches, taste delicious modern Australian cuisine and indulge in a soak at Peninsula Hot Springs. The road from Sydney to Melbourne is one of the most travelled. We’ve found 5 spots to stop along the way; you may find some new favourite places to come back to.
Day 1: Sydney to Jervis Bay
Start your road trip by leaving Sydney via the Princes Highway. Drive south for a little under 3 hours to Jervis Bay. We recommend spending the morning at the beach or on a boat.
Jervis Bay has great beaches for learning to surf, so if you’ve ever been keen to pick up a board, Jervis Bay and Sussex Inlet Surf School is the place to do it. If you’re more in the mood for a morning of relaxing and reading by the water, try Moona Moona Creek. Home to crystal clear, shallow water and soft, gentle sand. It’s a friendly place, so be prepared to make new friends.
You could also depart the shore for whale and dolphin watching. You can spot migrating humpback whales from mid-May through to late November and bottlenose dolphins all year-round.
Spend the afternoon experiencing traditional Koori culture and food at Booderee National Park. Booderee, in the Dhurga language of the region, means 'bay of plenty'. It is the name chosen by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community, the traditional and current land holders.
Finish the day with a unique modern Australian dining experience at the Gunyah Restaurant. Nestled in the treetops of the bush, savour food like gin-infused trout gravlax, twice cooked pork belly and native lemon tart, all by candlelight. The restaurant is located at the Paperbark Camp which you can conveniently stay at. If you’re after something more budget friendly, Dolphin Shores is also an option.
Day 2: Jervis Bay to Bega
Today you’ll be leaving the ocean and heading inland to Bega – known as the agricultural hub of the Sapphire Coast and home to the iconic Bega cheese.
Bega Cheese Heritage Centre is the place to visit for cheese lovers. Sample a wide range of fresh cheese whilst learning about the company’s history and cheese-making practice in the Bega Valley. There’s also a fabulous on-site café, perfect for lunch (and a dairy-liscious dessert).
After lunch, drive 30 minutes east of Bega to Mimosa Rocks National Park. Here you can swim in the calm waters of Moon Bay, catch a wave at Nelson Beach, kayak in Nelson Lagoon or embark on one of the many bushwalks. If you’d rather a swim in a waterfall, take a dip at Mumballa Falls, just west of Mimosa Rocks.
Bega is also the regional spot for art on the Sapphire Coast, with the Bega Valley Regional Gallery situated here. It is the region’s only publicly funded gallery and an important site for art and culture. Entry is free and the gallery is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 4 pm and Saturdays from 9 am to 12-noon.
Spend the night at Stony Creek Farm, a luxury B&B in the Bega heartland. You’ll wake up to rolling hills, mountain views and picturesque gardens.
Day 3: Bega to Orbost
Depart Bega for Orbost, a peaceful and charming rural town on the river flats of the Snowy River. Located within the Gippsland region, the town is surrounded by stunning natural scenery and is graced by mild and pleasant weather year-round.
Your first stop in Orbost will be a visit to the Snowy River National Park. Home to lush forest and rushing waterways, the park offers endless natural enjoyment. Drive through the dense alpine trees to view the spectacular Little River Gorge, Victoria’s deepest gorge and Little River Falls, a 600-metre high waterfall.
If you’re in a motorhome, the park can be difficult to navigate but McKillops Bridge is a pretty safe option for those in larger vehicles.
All the wilderness-exploring will surely have worked up an appetite, so grab a bite to eat from Cabbage Tree Café, located about 20 minutes out of town. Offering great coffee and homemade burgers and pies, this eclectic little spot is perfect for a late lunch and is open nearly every day of the week.
After lunch, satisfy your thirst by visiting Sailor’s Grave Brewery back in Orbost. The brewery plans on setting up a taproom in the future, but for now, you’ll need to call ahead to arrange a tasting – we promise it’s worth it. Just quietly, we suggest you try the morbidly named ‘Drowned Man IPA’ and the tangy ‘Grapefruit & Marigold Saison’.
We recommend staying at the Orbost Motel for a restful night’s sleep.
Day 4: Orbost to Wilsons Promontory National Park
Wake up bright and early this morning for a 4 hour drive south-west from Orbost to Wilsons Promontory. Wilsons Promontory National Park is one of Victoria’s most exquisite sites. At the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, this diverse national park is home to spellbinding rainforest, soaring forest treetops and sweeping coastline views.
Before reaching the park, make a pit stop at Waratah Hills, a small wine maker known for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Visit their cellar door on the weekend between 11 am and 4 pm to treat yourself to some lunch and wine tasting.
Dedicate the afternoon to ‘The Prom’, the national park contains a number of diverse ecosystems and has many different types of wildlife to spot. Look out for the wombats, kangaroos, emus, echidnas and many different species of birds that call this place home. Bring your camera to capture all the natural beauty present.
It’s important to note that Wilsons Promontory is super busy in summer, so if you plan on staying in the park, book ahead.
Wilsons Promontory is ideal for camping, however if roughing it isn’t your style there are quite a few accommodation options nearby. We suggest Llarrinda Bed & Breakfast for an unforgettable and comfortable stay.
Day 5: Wilsons Promontory National Park to Mornington Peninsula
Today you’ll be travelling to the final stop before Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula. This is a beautiful Victorian region and has been a popular holiday destination for Melbournians for years. There’s a lot to see and do here, so we’ve picked our top 4.
At the very tip of the Mornington Peninsula lies Fort Nepean. These battlements are over 130 years old and were active until the end of World War II – making this site a truly historic piece of Australia’s military past. Perfect for history buffs.
If this step back in time has worked up an appetite, drive over to Mornington Peninsula Brewery. Here you can grab a bite to eat and taste their range of fantastic Australian craft brews. Open from Thursday through to Sunday – make sure you give these guys a visit. Pro tip, they do a free brewery tour on Saturdays at 4 pm.
Finish the day at the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park. Contrary to the name, you can visit this wildlife park during the day; however, the night is when it is most alive. Take part in a lantern-lit evening tour which journeys through the homes of the park’s nocturnal animals. You can expect to see feather-tailed gliders, Tasmanian devils, potoroos and owls. You can thank us later.
If you just want to relax, go for a soak in the Peninsula Hot Springs. The award-winning establishment will soothe your soul and body and is open until 10 pm every night.
As the Mornington Peninsula is a well-established destination, you’ll find a range of accommodation options to suit your style. Jackalope Hotel, set amid the picturesque vineyards, combines luxury and creativity in equal measure. For something family-friend and close to nature, head to RACV Cape Schanck Resort. A great affordable option is the Bay Motel Safety Beach.
Stay a few nights in the Mornington Peninsula, there is loads to do here. When it’s time to drive to Melbourne, take the M1 road – the city is only about a 1 hour drive north of the Peninsula.
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