There’s something for everyone in Australia’s South. Tasmania is brimming with outdoor adventure to satisfy keen explorers. Victoria offers a breathtaking blend of city and coast, while South Australia boasts some of the country’s most impressive wine and wildlife.
By Leah Dobihal
What to expect
- Enjoy sweeping coastal views as you drive the Great Ocean Road
- Encounter breathtaking nature and native wildlife on Kangaroo Island
- Experience enthralling art and lush wilderness in Tasmania
- Time: 14 days
- Distance: 2,131 kilometres (1,324 miles)
- Transport: car and plane
- Nearest major city: Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide
- Price: $$$
Australia’s southern states serve up something for every type of traveller. Laidback coastal towns, enviable wine experiences and forested mountains are just a few of the reasons travellers visit again and again. You’ll experience lively cities, quiet nature and incredible wildlife as you drive, fly and wander through Australia’s South.
Day 1: Melbourne
Known for its coffee and laneway culture, Melbourne is a city begging to be explored. Get to know the “local’s Melbourne” on a Hidden Secrets tour. Choose between tours that will wind through bustling laneways and arcades, coffee shops and rooftops. If you’re after a tour with a focus on food, sample the city’s multicultural cuisine offering with Foodie Trails. Afterwards, wander the laneways on your own and take advantage of the city’s incredible shopping. Visit Block Arcade and Royal Arcade to browse dozens of shops under historic glass canopies.
For dinner, indulge in one of Melbourne’s many renowned restaurants, like Attica, which offers a remarkable multi-course menu. Be sure to book early. For something on the casual side, try Fonda, which serves up simple yet delicious Mexican street food like chargrilled corn, crispy prawn tacos and kingfish ceviche. Don’t forget to check the jam-packed events calendar, too. Hosting everything from live music festivals to theatre performances, there’s always something on in Melbourne.
Day 2: Melbourne to Apollo Bay
If you have time for a worthwhile detour, spend an extra day soaking up the beauty of the Bellarine. Head to Jack Rabbit Vineyard for delectable food and cool-climate wine tasting, swim with rare dolphins with Sea All Dolphin Swims and check into Lon Retreat and Spa for world-class accommodation and sublime relaxation.
Continue your journey along the Great Ocean Road, stopping to see the world-famous waves at Torquay and Bells Beach. Continue your drive for another 50 minutes, stopping for lunch in Anglesea or Lorne, two of the route’s most charming seaside towns; be sure to pack a towel. Drive one more hour to reach your final destination for the day: Apollo Bay. Drop your bags at the Great Ocean Ecolodge, then take the lodge’s guided dusk walk to spot kangaroos and koalas in the wild.
Day 3: Apollo Bay to Port Fairy
Wake up early and hit the road to the Great Ocean Road’s most iconic attraction. It’s about a 1.5-hour drive to the 12 Apostles, but an early start is worth it to beat the crowds. These majestic limestone spires are famous for good reason – the eight pillars rise dramatically from the ocean, leaving just waves, beaches and crisp ocean air where the coastline has long since washed away. Walk along the sand of the Gibson Steps, a beach below the soaring clifftops, and marvel at the bizarre rock formations of the Loch Ard Gorge. The lesser-known Bay of Islands are not to be missed; you can choose from two different viewing platforms to see the jagged limestone stacks standing within the vast Southern Ocean. For an even more memorable view, take a scenic helicopter flight to witness the ancient coastline from above.
In the afternoon, take the 1.5-hour drive to Port Fairy, a charming fishing village on Victoria’s Shipwreck Coast. Visit the natural wildlife sanctuary of Tower Hill to meet more of the state’s koalas, kangaroos and emus. Spend the night at Oscars Waterfront Hotel for a boutique retreat, or at the Merrijig Inn, a delightful reflection of the town’s historic appeal.
Day 4: Port Fairy to the Grampians
After three days driving the coast, it’s time to head inland to one of Victoria’s more rugged destinations. Take the 90-minute drive north to the Grampians National Park for a day of mountains, waterfalls and wooded tracks. There are hiking trails for every level here. Pack sturdy shoes for the Pinnacle Walk, a 2.1-kilometre (1.3-mile) walk that includes some water crossings and rock-hopping. At the top, you’ll get a grand view of Halls Gap and the many peaks of the Grampians. To explore the raw beauty of this place in more depth, visit the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre to learn about the local Aboriginal heritage and explore ancient rock art. Alternatively, take a tour with Absolute Outdoors. They’ll take you on the ultimate nature adventure, from canoeing calm lakes to mountain biking through dense bushland.
After a day full of exploring, spend the night at D’altons cottages or DULC Holiday Cabins in Halls Gap, the gateway to the Grampians. Alternatively, opt for the gourmet offering at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld.
Day 5: The Grampians to Launceston
Gear up for a day of travel to your next destination: Australia's island state of Tasmania. Drive just under three hours from the Grampians to Melbourne Airport, where you'll catch an afternoon flight to Launceston, a small town with a lot to offer. Book a table for dinner at one of Launceston’s top-notch restaurants. Stillwater, Mudbar and Black Cow Bistro are all great options. Visitors with extra time should take advantage of Launceston’s location by driving to one of the nearby attractions, like the breathtaking Bridestowe Lavender Estate (the fields are typically in full bloom from December to early February). If you're eager to explore the Australian wine scene, head to the Tamar Valley, just a 20-minute drive from the city. It’s known for its excellent chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir. Spend the night at Peppers Silo Hotel, a heritage hotel with sophisticated character on the banks of the Tamar River.
Day 6: Launceston to Cradle Mountain
Depart Launceston in the morning for the two-hour drive to Cradle Mountain, which forms the northern end of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. But before you leave, experience the world’s longest single-span chairlift over the green trees of Launceston’s Cataract Gorge. After, drive to Cradle Mountain, where you’ll find jagged mountaintops, ancient rainforest and alpine habitats that reflect the wild nature of the area. Along the way, treat your tastebuds to some of Tasmania's finest produce on the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail. In the afternoon, visit Devils @ Cradle, a wildlife conservation facility where you can see Tasmanian devils. Take the after-dark feeding tour for a rare up-close opportunity to see the devils in a group feeding situation. There are several accommodation options to choose from near Cradle Mountain, including Peppers Lodge and Cradle Mountain Lodge.
Day 7: Cradle Mountain to Strahan
Awake early to breathe in Tasmania’s crisp, clean air on the Dove Lake Walk, a two-hour circuit that leads around the glass-like Dove Lake and beneath the towering spires of Cradle Mountain. After you’ve seen the stunning surrounds from the ground, take to the sky with Cradle Mountain Helicopters. Witnessing the waters of Dove Lake and the peaks of Cradle Mountain from above is an unforgettable experience.
In the afternoon, drive just under two hours to Strahan, a Tasmanian town bordered by beautiful bays and harbours. There’s plenty of adrenaline-inducing activity to discover here. Book a sunset tour with Strahan ATV Adventures to cruise the epic Henty Dunes nearby. The sand hills here lead to a beautiful - and often empty - ocean beach.
Check into the Wheelhouse Apartments for the night, which are perched on the cliffs overlooking Macquarie Harbour.
Day 8: Strahan
Awake early to make an 8.00am check-in at Gordon River Cruises in Strahan. The calm Gordon River snakes through the dense, forested wilderness surrounding this region of Tasmania. This morning, step abroad a wilderness cruise that will move gently down the river, showcasing the tranquil trees and water, which is so still it creates stunning reflections. Enjoy a chef-prepared lunch and two walking tours. The tour takes about six hours, so you’ll return to Strahan with plenty of time to relax and stroll the village streets. Alternatively, partake in a quirky yet exciting live performance of The Ship That Never Was, which tells the story of Strahan’s convict history and an extraordinary voyage. Spend another night at the Wheelhouse Apartments.
Day 9: Strahan to Hobart
Pack some snacks for the road, as this morning you’ll drive to Hobart, 4.5 hours from Strahan by car. Along the way, stretch your legs at Lake St Clair, which the area’s Aboriginal people called Leeawuleena, meaning sleeping water. It’s as peaceful as the name suggests. Nearby, check out the Wall in the Wilderness, where you’ll see intricate carvings depicting the history of the Tasmanian highlands. Wildlife lovers should add Tassie Bound’s Paddle with a Platypus kayak tour to their to-do list. Take a leisurely paddle down the river to spot platypus in their natural habitat, taking in the quiet natural surrounds as you float.
If you arrive into Hobart in time for dinner, dine at the award-winning Franklin restaurant. Expect dishes crafted from seasonal produce, some even foraged from nearby. You might find the menu featuring the likes of wild rocket flowers or Bruny Island sea urchin. Tuck in for the night at one of Hobart’s unique design hotels, including The Henry Jones Art Hotel and MACq 01.
Day 10: Hobart to Adelaide
This morning, take your time exploring Hobart’s inviting town; wander the waterfront of Salamanca Place or get a taste of Tasmania’s burgeoning whisky scene at Lark Distillery. For lunch, head to Mona, a modern art museum famed for its compelling - and sometimes controversial - exhibitions. Have a bite to at one of Mona’s eateries, The Source or Faro, before exploring the museum’s intriguing art.
After experiencing the breadth of Victoria and Tasmania, take an evening flight to the South Australian capital of Adelaide. For the night, choose from Adelaide’s top accommodation options, including The Mayfair Hotel and The Watson.
Day 11: Adelaide city or the Barossa Valley
It’s time to tailor your South Australian adventure. Choose between a day exploring Adelaide’s city centre or venturing to the Barossa Valley, one of the state’s most impressive wine regions.
If you’d rather stay in Adelaide, start your day at Peter Rabbit, a trendy cafe and bar cooking up local ingredients to create hearty, fresh dishes. Next, fill up a few shopping bags in Adelaide’s east end at Rundle Street. Then, make your way to the Adelaide Central Market for a market tour with Food Tours Australia. Stroll through the stalls of local cheeses, native honey and Australian bush foods. After you’ve mastered the markets, head to the Adelaide Oval to begin your Adelaide Oval RoofClimb experience. Over two hours, you’ll make an exhilarating journey across the oval’s unique roofline, enjoying views that stretch all the way to the Adelaide Hills.
For lunch, take a seat at Magill Estate Kitchen at Penfolds Magill Estate. Nestled in the foothills of Adelaide, Magill Estate Kitchen offers not only a stunning dining experience but also views over the iconic vineyards. Tonight, head up to The Mayfair’s rooftop bar, Hennessy.
Alternatively, if your palate is craving the Barossa’s big, bold wines, then start your day with a drive to the famous wine region. Stop at Barossa Valley Chocolate Company before enjoying the Blend by Jacob’s Creek experience. Choose to create either a white or red wine blended specifically to suit your palette, then take it home. Stop for lunch at Hentley Farm, then visit Seppeltsfield Estate, a vibrant Barossa community of wine, food and art. Here you’ll find Seppeltsfield Wines, FINO Restaurant, JamFactory Contemporary Art & Design studios and Vasse Virgin skin care. Indulge in a tasting of top drops before exploring the grounds.
Day 12: Adelaide to Kangaroo Island
Start your day with the two-hour drive to Cape Jervis before catching the Sealink ferry from Cape Jervis to Kangaroo Island. Kangaroo Island is regarded as one of Australia’s best locations to spot wildlife, and this is only rivalled by the island’s incredible scenery. There are endless opportunities to experience both on a day tour. Get a taste of ‘Island Life’ on the full-day Exceptional Kangaroo Island tour. You’ll stroll through tall eucalyptus trees that koalas call home before exploring Lathami Conservation Park, which abounds with cockatoos, tammar wallabies, kangaroos, echidnas and goannas. Next, visit Seal Bay Conservation Park, where you’ll have the chance to walk among adorable Australian sea lions basking on the sand. You might even spot pups playing in the surf.
After your day tour, check in at the exclusive Southern Ocean Lodge, one of Australia’s most beautiful Luxury Lodges. Eat dinner at the lodge for your choice of courses made with fresh, local ingredients.
Day 13: Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island offers not only the opportunity to see native animals, but also interact with them. Embark on an incredible wildlife encounter with Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures. The Island Explorer tour will take you into the island’s shallow, protected waters to encounter wild dolphins in their natural habitat, swimming along as they play and chase fish, and listening to the underwater chatter. Emerge from the water to spot a range of other native wildlife including seals and sea eagles. The tour ends at lunchtime; head to the Oyster Farm Shop to indulge in the local seafood that Kangaroo Island is famous for. Next, head to Vivonne Bay, one of the island’s most stunning beaches, and walk out onto its long jetty for an unparalleled view of the Southern Ocean. Alternatively, follow up your delicious lunch with a wine tasting from Dudley Wines.
For dinner, dine at Sunset Food & Wine, a modern bistro with ocean views and a focus on fresh seafood. After a full day of natural beauty and epicurean delights, rest easy at Kangaroo Island Seafront, located just a few steps away from the ferry terminal in Penneshaw.
Day 14: Kangaroo Island to Adelaide
Rise early to catch the SeaLink ferry back to Cape Jervis, where you’ll be met by your guide from Coast & Co. Depart for the one-hour drive to McLaren Vale, home to some of the world’s oldest grapevines. One of the most enticing attractions of the region is the d’Arenberg Cube, a winery and restaurant shaped like a twisting Rubik’s Cube. Your Coast & Co. tour brings you on an intimate full-day tour of the venue, which includes a private tour of the Cube and its Alternate Realities Museum, an 11-course degustation lunch with matched wine, and a beach drive along spectacular Silver Sands Beach. If you’d rather discover the hidden delights of the Fleurieu Peninsula, take the Fleurieu Explorer tour from Off Piste. After your tour has ended, you’ll be driven just 45 minutes to Adelaide. Dine tonight at Africola, where African-inspired flavours change regularly to reflect the season.
To extend your journey, fly to another of Australia’s major cities, including Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra. Or, dig even deeper into South Australia’s wild nature with a journey to the Eyre Peninsula. It’s a region bursting with jaw-dropping experiences, like swimming with cuttlefish, eating oysters straight from the water and taking in clifftop views.
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