Melbourne, Australia with the city skyline at twilight and balloons in the sky.

Road Trip from Sydney to Melbourne

Updated by Pat Dorri on January 31 2024

A road trip from Sydney to Melbourne is one of Australia's most iconic driving experiences. Taking you between the two biggest cities in the country, you can choose to discover the magnificent coastlines of NSW and Victoria or take a journey through the countryside to some of the most beautiful, historic, and charming rural towns.

The 1,090-km road trip from Sydney to Melbourne will take 14 hours to drive, taking you past Goulburn, Albury, Canberra, Jervis Bay, Eden, Shell Harbour, Kiama Batemans Bay, Namadgi National Park, Royal National Park and Snowy River National Park.

These are just a handful of the many wonderful places, landmarks and points of interest you can visit on this fabulous journey. So you'll want to keep reading until the end to discover more about them.

How to drive from Sydney to Melbourne

The map below shows two great route options for your road trip from Sydney to Melbourne. Click on the star icons for headline details, and scroll down for much more information below.

* Always remember that drive times can be impacted by traffic, closures, weather and other conditions. It's best to double-check while planning and before starting out on your trip.

Comparison of road trip routes between Sydney and Melbourne
RouteDistanceDriving Time
Canberra Route950 km10 hours
Coastal Route 1,090 km14 hours

How far is Melbourne from Sydney and how long will the road trip take?

The fastest and most direct route on a road trip from Sydney and Melbourne is the Canberra Route, which will take 10 hours to cover the 950 km drive without any further detours.

Our alternative Coastal Route from Sydney to Melbourne will take longer, but is adorned with stunning ocean views. This route spans 1.090 km, which will take you about 14 hours to complete.

In theory if you have at least two drivers, a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne can be completed in a day. But regardless of the road you decide to travel, we recommend you break up your journey over the course of at least two or three days.

White lighthouse in front of harbour illuminated by golden sunset light
The sunsets will dazzle you on the Coastal Route from Sydney to Melbourne.
Ryan Peter Frank/

Best road trip route from Sydney to Melbourne

Which route you take will depend on what you want to see - are you looking for historical sights at the nation's capital or do you want to hit the waves and work on your tan on the beautiful Eastern Coast?

The Canberra Route will take you deep into the heart of rural New South Wales and Victoria. Showcasing some of the most incredible countryside scenery, it is the perfect route for those who want to get a taste of what life is like away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

You will see some truly picturesque places if you undertake this route, enjoy some wonderful local produce and also meet some of the friendliest people in the country. You will also get to visit Canberra and have the opportunity to make a detour to Wagga Wagga, if you wish.

If you would prefer a bit of beach action however, the Coastal Route will provide you with plenty of stop off options to go for a swim or surf. It is a longer drive than the Canberra Route, but the stunning stretches of coastline and the plentiful swell should be right up your street.

Doing this will enable you to enjoy some of the many wonderful places, landmarks and attractions along the way. Which will really make your road trip memorable.

Both routes are fairly straightforward to complete and will regularly take you on good roads, through coastal or rural towns, that have plenty of shops, public conveniences and petrol stations for you to use.

The Canberra Route

Leaving Sydney via the M1 and M5, you'll join the M31 at the outskirts of the city and follow it through Goulburn, the nation's first inland city. From here, switch onto M23 to visit Canberra, where you can spend a day or two.

If you have the time, you can take an optional detour to Kosciuszko National Park. Heading directly south from Canberra and driving through Namadgi National Park will take you there.

After your visit, follow A25 out of Canberra and join Hume Highway past Yass. This is essentially one straight road through the heart of the New South Wales and Victorian countryside. It showcases some of Australia's most historic and culturally significant small rural towns.

You can make a detour to Wagga Wagga, known as the 'city of good sports' since it's the birthplace of so many sporting icons, past Gundagai, but if not, simply continue on M31, the Hume Highway to Albury.

Near the border between NSW and Victoria, Albury and Wodonga lie on the historic banks of the Murray River and are well worth a visit before you continue along M31 for the final drive into Melbourne.

Highway passing through open countryside with bright sunset light illuminating the ground
The Hume Highway will introduce you to almost 1000 km of Australia's beautiful landscapes.
Greg Brave/

The Coastal Route

This route is the perfect way to explore the truly magnificent coast between Sydney and Melbourne. The A1 out of Sydney will take you past Royal National Park, a great first stop if you want to stretch your legs after some time in the city.

Soon after this you'll meet the M1, which you'll follow for most of the rest of this route. Wollongong and Shell Harbour are just the first of many spectacular beaches that you'll pass on this trip.

Leave the road at Comberton or Falls Creek to explore beautiful Jervis Bay and the Beecroft Peninsula. Sussex Inlet, another great spot for surfing, fishing, jet-skiing and kayaking, is just a short distance further along the A1.

Eden is a famous spot for whale watching, with regular boat trips and a small museum showcasing this coastal town's history. You might even be lucky enough to see whales from the shore.

After leaving Eden, you'll follow the A1 slightly inland, passing by the Croajingolong National Park, or at Orbost follow Marlow Road along the Snowy River to find your way to gorgeous Cape Conran.

Before following the A1 to Lakes Entrance, you have the option to head inland to the beautiful wilderness of Snowy River National Park. Just leave the highway at Nowa Nowa and follow the C620, then the C628, then return along the same road to continue with the trip.

Pull in at Paynesville, the boating capital of the Gippsland region, for gorgeous views over Wollaston Bay and Eagle Point Bay. From here the highway travels inland again for the last stretch of the trip, and the bustling town of Traralgon makes an interesting stop.

As you hit the outskirts of Melbourne, swing up along the C404 to seek out kangaroos in Dandenong Ranges National Park or to take a heritage train ride around the winding hillside on the historic Puffing Billy. Then all that remains is to return to the M1 which takes you into the heart of Melbourne.

Small boat moored on lake at sunset with pink sunlight reflected on the water and trees shown in silhouette
Only a short way out of Sydney, Royal National Park is a serene place to start your journey.

Best places to stop between Sydney and Melbourne

Given the length of time it takes to drive from Sydney to Melbourne, and how much there is to see in terms of places to visit and tourist attractions, we recommend you make at least one (if not two or more) overnight stops during your trip.

Here are some of our top picks for a refreshing stopover between Sydney and Melbourne.

Vintage yellow tram with blurred background of palm trees and fair ground rides in front of a blue sky
The sights of Melbourne await you on this fantastic road trip from Sydney.
Adam Calaitzis/

Marvel at the nation's capital in Canberra

Canberra, the capital city of Australia, is an excellent stopover on the Canberra Route, located about 3 minutes from Sydney. Known for its elegant parliamentary landmarks, lush green parks, and rich cultural institutions, Canberra is a great place to take a break.

There are many places to visit in Canberra, and one of the highlights is the Australian War Memorial, a solemn and powerful tribute to the nation's military history.

If you have more time, you can also visit the National Gallery of Australia, home to an impressive collection of Australian and international art. You will also find the National Portrait Gallery a short walking distance away.

It is hard to beat A by Adina Canberra when it comes to a chic and equally convenient place to stay, a stone's throw from Canberra's best attractions. This beautiful hotel offers immaculately decorated apartments and rooms.

The amazing sights near the luxurious hotel include the National Museum of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, and the Questacon. You can also easily visit the Australian-American War Memorial on foot. Just make sure to take advantage of the delicious breakfast on offer at the hotel before setting off!

Experience the wonderful white sand of Jervis Bay

If you take the Coastal Route, you will see a lot of sand and get to stop at many beaches. However, nowhere will the sand be as white as at Jervis Bay.

Reputed to have the whitest sand in the whole world, the area is also known for its gorgeous aqua waters, verdant native bushland and fabulous marine life. So it is definitely worth staying here overnight.

White sand and clear waters with gum trees at the edge of a wide beach
Feel the whitest sand in the world beneath your feet at Jervis Bay.
Leah-Anne Thompson/

Perfectly situated, CeeSpray - Accommodation in Huskisson - Jervis Bay, is in walking distance of most of the town's amenities, as well as stunning beach and creek. There is a pretty private courtyard to enjoy, where you can sit and savour your complimentary wine on arrival. It's the ideal place to stay while you're passing through.

If you're planning a splurge of a vacation - and are prepared to extend your stay (and perhaps your budget) - then Bannisters by the Sea Mollymook is an incredible property with unbeatable views, amenities and food. This place is certainly worth a slight detour.

Dine in style at Rick Stein's restaurant at Bannisters, take a dip in your own private plunge pool, and receive all-round celebrity-level treatment at this jewel of a hotel. You'll never want to leave!

Where to stay when you reach Melbourne

Known as Australia's cultural capital, Melbourne is a bustling metropolis with a unique character, blending Victorian architecture with contemporary design.

The city's diverse population contributes to its lively atmosphere, which you can experience firsthand in its lovely neighbourhoods and thriving culinary scene that offers an impressive variety of delicious global cuisines.

High rise buildings reflected in still water, blue sky with cotton wool clouds
Take some time to enjoy Melbourne when you reach the end of this trip.
Gordon Bell/

Two must-visit attractions in Melbourne are the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, offering a peaceful retreat from the city's hustle and bustle, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), a legendary sports venue and a pilgrimage site for cricket and Australian Rules Football fans.

Ever wanted to stay in a truly historic building? If yes, then we highly recommend treating yourself to a stay at the elegant and stylish Interlude. This designer hotel is housed in a heritage building and features equally chic rooms, a manicured garden to relax in and a fabulous indoor pool, which you will love after a long drive.

There is an upscale restaurant on the property, so you don't even have to step out if you don't want to. If you'd rather venture out, though, you will find both Melbourne Museum and Melbourne Zoo short drives from the hotel.

Things to see on a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne

When researching where you can visit on a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne, you'll soon realise there are plenty of places you can go to.

There are far too many to see in one trip, but hopefully the list we have compiled below will provide you with some guidance of the main highlights.

Canberra Route

  1. The Australian Botanic Garden – Explore this botanical paradise in Mount Annan, showcasing Australia's unique flora with picturesque trails and educational exhibits on the nation's diverse plant life.
  2. Bradman Museum – Immerse yourself in the world of cricket at this Bowral museum dedicated to Sir Donald Bradman, featuring a rich collection of memorabilia and interactive displays about the sport's history.
  3. The Big Merino – Encounter Goulburn's giant tribute to Australia's wool industry, a quirky roadside monument symbolizing the region's rich agricultural heritage.
  4. Canberra – Discover Australia's capital, renowned for its iconic landmarks like Parliament House, rich cultural institutions, and picturesque natural landscapes.
  5. Namadgi National Park – Venture into this national park near Canberra, where rugged mountains, diverse wildlife, and ancient Aboriginal rock art sites await exploration.
  6. Blackwattle Alpaca Farm – Experience the charm of alpaca farming in this countryside retreat, offering up-close interactions with these unique animals and insights into their care.
  7. Yass Dam – Enjoy the tranquility of Yass Dam, a perfect spot for fishing, picnicking, and birdwatching, set amidst scenic landscapes.
  8. Murray's Big Hill – Ascend to the summit of Murray's Big Hill for breathtaking panoramic views that capture the essence of the region's natural beauty.
  9. Dog on the Tuckerbox statue – Pay a visit to this iconic Gundagai statue, a symbol of Australian pioneering spirit and a cherished historic landmark.
  10. Murray Art Museum – Delve into contemporary art at this Albury museum, offering a vibrant array of exhibitions and cultural activities in a modern setting.
  11. Lake Hume – Relish the recreational pleasures of Lake Hume near Albury-Wodonga, ideal for water sports, fishing, or simply enjoying the serene waterscape.
  12. Wodonga – Explore the lively city of Wodonga, a hub for community events, lush parks, and a gateway to the Murray River and the region's renowned wine country.

Coastal Route

  1. Royal National Park – Visit the second oldest national park in the world and marvel at its craggy coastal cliffs, remote beaches and verdant eucalyptus bushland.
  2. Shell Harbour – Surf world class waves, as well as go diving and snorkeling at one of Australia's few National Surfing Reserves.
  3. Kiama – Charming seaside town famed for the iconic Kiama Blowhole, a cavern-like fissure situated within volcanic rocks that blasts dramatic 'blows' of water on a regular basis.
  4. Sussex Inlet - Gorgeous coastal region which is a popular spot for fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing and many other water sports.
  5. Jervis Bay - Stunning stretch of shoreline that features the whitest sand in the world.
  6. Bateman's Bay – Surrounded by national park, this wonderful seaside destination boasts stoic turquoise waters and a congenial, relaxed ambience.
  7. Eden - Renowned whale watching spot on the southern coastal fringes of New South Wales.
  8. Croajingolong National Park - Kayak, canoe, or boat through the remote coast of far-east Victoria to discover a fascinating landscape of ancient forests, immaculate inlets, massive sand dunes and abundant wildlife.
  9. Snowy River National Park - Replete with bosky forests, serene river views, massive gorges and cascading waterfalls, this national park is a popular spot for canoeing, rafting, bush walking, four-wheel driving and camping.
  10. Cape Conran - Another option for walking, with waymarked walks of up to 25km in the coastal park as well as more stunning beaches.
  11. Paynesville - Check out the boating capital of the Gippsland region of Victoria.
  12. Puffing Billy - A national treasure, this heritage narrow gauge train makes his way through the Dandenong Ranges on the outskirts of Melbourne, with open sided carriages to help you soak in the best of the views.
Steam train travels over wooden bridge across a gorge through ferny forest
Switch from road to rail to travel through the Dandenong Ranges.

Best time to go on a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne

A road trip from Sydney to Melbourne is one you can do all year round, depending on what kind of trip you have in mind.

The best time to drive the Coastal Route is between February and April, and September to November. This falls outside the winter and the storm season and is usually when the coastline looks its best.

If you time your visit in spring or autumn, you can expect the temperature to be around 15-18 degrees Celsius. During these seasons, you can participate in Canberra Balloon Spectacular in March and Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues in November on the Canberra Route.

White and black tail of a humpback whale breaches the blue ocean, sending white spray into the air
Whales are regular visitors to the coast at Eden.

Visit Eden from May to July or September to November for the best chance of seeing whales - or the time you visit to coincide with the annual Eden Whale Festival in October if you opt for the Coastal Route.

The Canberra Route is generally easy to drive all year round, but with average maximum temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in summer, it's best to be prepared if this is when you make your trip.

Throughout the summer months, school holidays and at the weekends, levels of traffic congestion and hotel prices will generally be higher than at other times of the year. This is especially true in an around the big cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.

That aside you can commence your journey whenever you feel like it. If you visit Melbourne in winter, you can enjoy Melbourne International Film Festival in August.