The Coastal Drive from Melbourne to Sydney
If you plan to travel from Melbourne to Sydney, a great way of doing it to go on a road trip. Of course it will take a few days to get there. Among all route options, the coastal drive from Melbourne to Sydney is the best.
The South East Coast of Australia connects Sydney to Melbourne with a coastal stretch of over 1000 km. It boasts the most varied coastal landscape with some of the prettiest beaches of Australia. From forests, national parks, abundant wildlife, walking trails, surf beaches, to fishing and whale watching spots, picturesque villages and breathtaking lookouts on the ocean.
Benefits of travelling from Melbourne to Sydney by car
While flying from Melbourne to Sydney may be convenient if you are on a tight schedule, if you can add 4-5 more days than it is really worth driving from Melbourne to Sydney. Being an easy route with a variety of activities and accommodation options it makes to one of my favourite road trips of Australia.
There are two main drive routes: the inland route on the highway and the route through the East Gippsland and along the South East Coast of Australia. The coastal drive is the nicest route and I can highly recommend it.
For hiring your car in Melbourne this is the site I use for my bookings: DriveNow
While I first visited the South East Coast from Sydney to Melbourne by bus in 2004, it's only last year that I went on a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney and explored the East Gippslands in Victoria as well as new places of the South East Coast.
There are also may options for great day trips from Melbourne by car that you may consider adding to your trip itinerary, if you want to explore more of Melbourne's surroundings.
Here are my recommendation of the best places to see on the Melbourne to Sydney coastal drive.
Discovering the East Gippsland – Walhalla historic township
I had heard a lot about Walhalla. Being nestled in the Gippslans's wilderness, the drive from Melbourne is about 2,5 hours. Walhalla was once a major gold mining township with over 6 thousands people, today's population is 20. With its beautiful location offering a good mix of things to do: from the ride on the heritage train to a visit of the long tunnel extended gold mine to the mountain rivers trail and many walks in the deep forest, Walhalla draws people from all over the world.
Walhalla is definitely a place worth adding to your Melbourne to Sydney road trip.
Visit the Buchan Caves
On your way to the eastern coast of Australia another place worth stopping by is Buchan. Famous for its unique underground caves, it offers a very relaxing environment. If you love walking in the nature and seeing native animals in the wild, this is a great place. I spotted many native birds: galahs, lyre birds, wallabies and kangaroos. Plan one day for visiting Buchan.
Yarringon is a small and picturesque village in the Gippslands. With its quirky shops and an excellent bakery it's worth stopping by for a walk and a coffee break.
Places to see when driving from Melbourne to Sydney
There are a dozen of little villages and townships along the South East Coast of Australia. Here are my favourite places for a road trip.
A Map of the South East Coast Australia with the Drive from Melbourne to Sydney
Eden and Merimbula in New South Wales
Eden and Merimbula (means two lakes) are the first coastal towns that you will be driving through after crossing the border between Victoria and NSW. They are very popular among the locals for whale watching, fishing, golfing, surfing, or just a relaxing holiday on the school holidays.
Merimbula is nestled on soft hills, lakes and ocean inlets, with a varied landscape, it has long sandy beaches, a rugged coast as well as sheltered tranquil beaches in the bay.
There are lots of things to do and see here, but for a short visit, go to Short Point to view the red rocks, soak in the ocean breeze and marvel at the glowing red (at sunset).
From Short Point walk or drive to Middle Beach for a walk on the beach and take in a very pristine environment. This is also a good vantage point for spotting whales and dolphins. In Merimbula I stayed at the Sapphire Motor In.
Tathra picturesque wharf on the South East Coast Australia
Tathra is the next location you pass through, after leaving Merimbula. With its lovely picturesque wharf overlooking the rugged coastline and a few lookouts along the coast is truly a hidden gem worth stopping by. Don't miss out on the Michael Lerner Lookout just before arriving to Tathra on the right hand side of the road. Walk the rocky path down a few steep cliffs to take in the amazing view of the ocean.
Bermagui – The blue pool
Bermagui (means canoe with paddles) Blue Pool is the pearl of this small coastal town. Built on the edge of a cliff with a smaller pool for children and a few banks and benches to chill out it creates a safe swimming area with a hint of adventure (beware of the waves crashing into the pool). It was not really the right weather for a dip (cold + windy) however the sunny day with the rough sea made it to a picture perfect scenery.
Narooma – the idyllic place
Narooma is a fascinating little town with a beautiful mountain backdrop. There are two main lookouts the Glasshouse Lookout and the Bar Rock lookout from which you can view the Australia shape carved into the rocks by low tide and the tranquil sandy beaches of the bay. Don't miss out on the soldier crabs beach to view hundreds of little silver crabs marching onto the beach.
Batemans Bay – Surf, Swim and Sunset
Batemans Bay lies on the South East Coast Australia between Narooma and Jervis Bay and it is very popular among camping lovers. The town stretches along large coastal national parks, and the Clyde River inlets. Batemans Bay is also known for its walking tracks in the forest, Pebbly Beach with grazing kangaroos on the beach. I haven't been able to see this again, since my first visit in 2004, but was happy to discover new places like Surf Beach on the southern part, a popular beach for a stroll and a swim. I stayed overnight in Batemans Bay at the BeachHouse Resort and was rewarded with this ocean view at sunset colours.
Jervis Bay – White sandy beaches
Jervis Bay is a jewel on the South East Coast of Australia and its natural beauty is unique. It has some very pretty beaches, pure air and beautiful walking tracks in the national parks. This is not a place for a touch-and-go visit, to do justice to this place you need at least 3-4 days. Last year I spent a few days there on a solo road trip to Jervis Bay.
Kiama and the blowhole on the South East Coast of Australia
Most known for the Kiama Blowhole and the lighthouse, this little township is perfect for a day out from Sydney to see the Sunday Market. The blowhole is the main attraction but it is often over crowded and I prefer the Bombo Headland, which I discovered on this trip, just out-of-town towards Wollongong. The view is simply magnificent.
Wollongong – The old and new Lighthouse
Only 90km south of Sydney lies Wollongong, the largest town on the south-east coast and the last stop of this road trip. It's popular among the locals but less known about international travellers. It hosts interesting events and has a very nice boardwalk along the coast to the Marina, encompassing the old and new lighthouse, worth a stop and a photo or two! 🙂 More info about Wollongong here.
How to organize your road trip from Melbourne to Sydney
This is only a taste of the best places to visit on the South East Coast Australia. There is much more to explore inland and along the coast.
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Updates: This post was last updated in January 2018