Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip – 3 Scenic Driving Routes

Embarking on an Adelaide to Melbourne road trip is an incredible way to explore the diverse beauty of South Australia and Victoria.

Whether you take the coastal route to view the magnificent scenery of the Great Ocean Road and the rocky limestone stacks that comprise the Twelve Apostles or head inland to stunning national parks and through lush, rural landscapes filled with quaint small towns is up to you.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the adventure, exploring the different routes from the capital of Southern Australia to the capital of Victoria. We’ll highlight the must-see attractions, and best activities to do with kids along the way.

So get your travel planner app ready, and let’s get going!

Plan an Australian road trip graphic

What is the Distance Between Adelaide to Melbourne?

If you were to drive Adelaide to Melbourne via the most direct route, it would take you approximately 8 hours non-stop to cover the 750 km distance. Doing this will take you through the heart of rural Victoria and South Australia.

Alternatively, you could detour at Dimboola in Victoria, eventually leading you to the historic town of Bendigo before heading into Melbourne via the A79 and then M79. Going this way will add about 15 minutes to a non-stop drive time.

If you want to stick to the magnificent coastal route of the Princes Highway and Great Ocean Road, a non-stop drive will take at least 10 hours. Although probably longer, because you are sure to want to slow down to enable you to observe the spectacular views.

How Long is the Drive from Adelaide to Melbourne?

While you can complete a road trip from Adelaide to Melbourne in a day via the National Highway route, you should factor at least two or three days into your schedule to make the most of it. Doing so will allow you to experience some of the journey’s main highlights.

At the same time, if you plan to go from Adelaide to Melbourne via Great Ocean Road, you could easily spend a week taking in the delights of the Victoria and South Australian coastlines.

Essentially, whichever way you go, the more time you can set aside for the journey, the better.

Best Time of Year for the Adelaide to Melbourne Drive

With children in tow, the best time of year to drive from Adelaide to Melbourne is during autumn (March to May) and spring (September to November). The summer months are the most popular but also the most crowded and expensive.

During spring or autumn, the weather is milder and more pleasant, and there is less risk of extreme heat or cold weather. Most children locally are also in school, so hotel prices are lower, and traffic on the road is less.

Additionally, it’s a great time to enjoy the changing landscape colours as the leaves turn from green to varying shades of gold, red and orange.

If you go during these times, be mindful that weather conditions can still be unpredictable, so taking different layers of clothing with you is always a good idea.

Best Stops on an Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip

It’s a long drive from Adelaide to Melbourne, so you may need to stop at some point during your journey. Here are some of the best places you should visit depending on which route you take.

1. M8/A8 – Most Direct Route Adelaide to Melbourne

If time is of the essence and you want to take the most direct route along National Highway A8 be sure to stop at the following places:

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Adelaide to Murray Bridge74 kms (46 miles)1 hourMurray Bridge
Murray Bridge to Grampians National Park403 kms (250 miles)4 hours 20 minutesHalls Gap
Grampians National Park to Ballarat147 kms (29 miles)1 hour 40 minutesBallarat
Ballarat to Melbourne116 kms (72 miles)1 hour 30 minutesMelbourne
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Murray Bridge

Although Murray Bridge is only an hour’s drive from Adelaide, it is worth stopping overnight as it provides some of the best opportunities for stargazing in the country.

Blessed with a stunning natural landscape, the Murray Bridge Riverside Caravan Park is one of the best spots for stargazing in the area. It has a terrific platform within its serene, open-air setting to enjoy a stargazing adventure.

AU Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip - Murray Bridge

The kids will no doubt be wowed by the night sky’s clarity, enabling them to see various stars and constellations. For those living in urban areas with more light pollution, it is an exhilarating experience. Visitors can also attend the Murray Bridge Astronomical Society’s public stargazing events, where experienced astronomers provide a guided night sky tour through telescopes and binoculars.

During the day, take the kids to the Murray Bridge Swimming Centre. It has a 50-metre pool as well as shaded children’s pools. Monarto Safari Park is also worth visiting. The largest safari park outside of Africa, it has lions, giraffes, cheetahs, black rhinoceros and the Tasmanian Devils to see!

Grampians National Park

Crossing over into Victoria, The Grampians National Park is a fabulous place to visit for active families with children.

For those into hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife watching, there are plenty of opportunities to partake in these activities – in fact, we’d allow a few days if you can!

AU Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip - Grampians National Park

Children will be fascinated by the ancient rock formations within the park and keen to learn more about its rich Aboriginal history. Some of the easier walks to undertake with kids include Venus Baths and The Balconies Lookout.

You can also take scenic drives to see more of the park’s stunning landscape, enjoy picnics, and go camping.

On a warm summer’s day, there are several swimming pools where you can take a dip, some of which are at the foot of waterfalls. You will also see lots of kangaroos bouncing around on the grasslands!

Nearby, the lovely town of Halls Gap has a beautiful adventure playground for kids to enjoy and there are lots of bakeries and cafes to feed your little ones along your journey.

If you’re making it an overnight stop, try Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park or The Lodges are superbly located in the centre of town.

Ballarat

Ballarat in Victoria is a historic destination that offers plenty to see and do for those with children.

One of its main attractions is Sovereign Hill, which offers visitors the chance to step back in time to the 1850s and experience life as a gold miner.

AU Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip - Sovereign Hill

Kids can watch blacksmithing, candle making, and traditional cooking demonstrations, providing a fascinating living history lesson. They can also pan for gold and keep anything they find!

Another big draw is the Ballarat Wildlife Park, where you can see many native Australian animals, including kangaroos, koalas, and emus. Kids can even feed and pat some of the animals.

Additionally, the Eureka Centre is also worth a visit. There you can learn about the historic Eureka Rebellion and its role in shaping Australian democracy. You can also browse for souvenirs at its gift shop.

Again, if your itinerary permits, we’d spare at least 2 night stopping in Ballarat as there’s plenty for kids to see and do. We suggest Sovereign Park Motor Inn is a good choice for families with in indoor pool,

From Ballarat to Melbourne, it is only around a 90-minute drive to complete your journey.

2. Dimboola Detour – Adelaide to Melbourne Drive via Bendigo

If you take the detour at Dimboola and then eventually get to Melbourne via the A79 / M79. Taking this route, you will visit historic Bendigo.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Adelaide to Bendigo615 kms (382 miles)6 hours 50 minutesBendigo
Bendigo to Melbourne153 kms (95 miles)1 hour 20 minutesMelbourne
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Bendigo

Bendigo is renowned for being a terrific destination for a family holiday. One of the main things to do there is visit the Central Deborah Gold Mine, where you can take an underground mine tour and learn about the history of gold mining in the area.

AU Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip - Lake Weeroona

Another terrific activity is riding on the Bendigo Tramways, which involves journeying on a vintage tram through the city streets.

Your kids should also love exploring the Bendigo Botanic Gardens, which has a children’s playground and a scenic lily-covered lake. 

Picturesque Lake Weeroona is also a lovely spot for a day out in nature. You can enjoy a picnic, paddleboat ride, swim or play ball sports in its grassy areas. In fact, Bendigo is a treasure trove of kids playgrounds!

For those wanting a spot of culture, the Bendigo Art Gallery presents several exhibitions throughout the year.

Make a stop here overnight before continuing the last leg of your journey through the Macedon Ranges. A great spot to stop is at the Woodend Bakery – a must! – before you reach Melbourne.

3. Princes Highway/Great Ocean Road – Adelaide to Melbourne

Although the coastal route takes a little longer, the fact you get to drive Victoria’s iconic Great Ocean Road is the huge drawcard of making this detour.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Adelaide to Mount Gambier 435 kms (270 miles)4 hours 40 minutesMount Gambier
Mount Gambier to Port Fairy154 kms (96 miles)1 hour 45 minutesPort Fairy
Port Fairy to Twelve Apostles Marine NP100 kms (62 miles)1 hour 20 minutesPort Campbell
Twelve Apostles Marine NP to Great Otway NP65 kms (40 miles)55 minutesBarwon
Great Otway NP to Geelong140 kms (87 miles)2 hoursGeelong
Geelong to Melbourne75 kms (47 miles)1 hour 10 minutesMelbourne
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Top Tip: With an extra day at least in your itinerary, we’d head to the Fleurieu Peninsula first, take in the Maclaren Vale Wine Region for some cellar door tastings and the Limestone Coast. Longer again, you could also fit in a few days at Kangaroo Island.

Mount Gambier

Just before you reach the border of Victoria, you will come to Mount Gambier. It is worth stopping at this picturesque city as it offers plenty for families with kids.

One of its main drawcards is its stunning natural wonders, which include the Blue Lake and the Umpherston Sinkhole.

AU Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip - Mount Gambier

The Blue Lake is especially impressive during the summer when the water turns a bright turquoise colour – hence its name. At this time, you can swim, sunbathe and picnic here, and there is plenty of space for little ones to run around safely.

Kids should also enjoy exploring the limestone caves at the Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park and the Engelbrecht Cave. The Mount Gambier Railway Lands is another excellent family-friendly destination, boasting playgrounds, picnic areas, and walking trails.

After the best part of five hours of driving, head to the Mount Gambier Marketplace and Main Corner Complex, which offer several shops and entertainment options for the whole family.

Drive the Great Ocean Road

Driving the Great Ocean Road to see the Twelve Apostles will surely be the major highlight of your road trip Adelaide to Melbourne.

The scenic drive starts from the beautiful fishing village of Port Fairy, and the coastal road hugs the Southern Ocean through to Torquay, a renowned surfing destination in Victoria.

Port Fairy & Warrnambool

Before embarking on this stretch of the drive, it is worth stopping at Port Fairy. It has some terrific beaches, parks and the iconic Griffiths Island Lighthouse to check out, which offers spectacular views of the ocean and the town.

As you drive the Great Ocean Road, make sure you stop at some of the small coastal towns along the way. One of the best of them is Warrnambool, home to The Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground – a must-visit attraction for those with kids, offering a range of activities like mini-golf, giant slides, and flying foxes.

Thunder Point aerial view over Warrnambool, victoria

It also has a lovely beach and between June and September you may even get lucky with spotting Southern Right Whales on their migratory journey.

Other notable towns to pop into include Peterborough and Port Campbell (another cool little playground!). Loch Ard Gorge is also an unmissable stop along the rugged coastline, as is London Bridge (London Arch).

Twelve Apostles Marine National Park

Your next stop must be at the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park on the Great Ocean Road.

AU Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip - Twelve Apostles Marine National Park

As its name suggests, it is home to the iconic Twelve Apostles rock formations (of which there are only actually seven left!).

To see these magnificent limestone rock formations, various hiking trails in the park provide fantastic views and prime photography spots of them and the more expansive coastline.

Children can also enjoy spotting unique wildlife species such as echidnas, kangaroos, and bird species. Plenty of fishing, boating, and swimming opportunities exist on its various beaches.

Once you’ve had your fill of taking in the Twelve Apostles, make sure you head to the nearby visitor centre. There you will find fascinating educational exhibits on the park’s history and ecology, making it an ideal spot for kids to learn more about the natural world.

Great Otway National Park

Another great place for families to visit on the coastal route from Adelaide to Melbourne is the Great Otway National Park.

It features a diverse range of landscapes covering over 100,000 hectares of land, including rugged coastlines, towering forests, and picturesque waterfalls that you’ll find captivating.

AU Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip - Great Otway National Park

Kids will love exploring the park’s many hiking trails, which wind through beautiful forests and lead to stunning lookout points. Some popular trails include the Triplet Falls Walk, the Beauchamp Falls Walk, and the Cape Otway Lightstation Walk. Each showcases the park’s spectacular landscape differently, presenting fantastic opportunities to spot koalas, kangaroos, and wallabies.

For those with teenagers looking for adventure, the park also offers activities such as mountain biking, horseback riding, and canoeing, allowing your family to enjoy a sensational day out in nature.

Nearby Apollo Bay is a quaint town at the foothills of the Otway Ranges, with several good cafes and eateries catering to families. There is also a nice playground there for children to enjoy and makes the ideal stopping point along a Great Ocean Road trip.

We’ve only touches on the highlights of the Great Ocean Road here, stay tuned as next month we’ll be sharing our complete Great Ocean Road itinerary, including fabulous stops at Lorne, Erskine Falls, Airey’s Inlet, Split Point Lighthouse, and Torquay.

Geelong

Just over an hour before you get to Melbourne, you’ll hit upon the vibrant city of Geelong. Although you may be keen to head on to ‘The Settlement’, it is worth exploring what Geelong offers for tourists with children.

AU Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip - Eastern Beach Reserve

One of the best places to visit is the Eastern Beach Reserve, which offers beautiful views of the bay and has a variety of play areas for children to make the most of.

For those who want to stretch their legs, the Geelong Botanic Gardens is another attractive option, as it features a stunning sensory garden and a greenhouse with several plant species. Alternatively, if your children have more energy to burn, a few hours at the Adventure Park – one of the biggest water parks in Victoria –  should do the trick. There you’ll find several water slides and pools.

Animal lovers should head to the Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary, where kids can see and learn about various native Australian animals. Geelong also has excellent skate parks, basketball courts and panic rooms if your kids are into those activities.

From Geelong, you are a little over an hour away from your final destination, Melbourne!

  • Pop over here next for our complete guide to exploring Melbourne with kids – including tips for getting about in the centre of town and suggested areas to stay

More Tips for Road Tripping Adelaide to Melbourne

  • The twists and turns of the road from Adelaide to Melbourne on the Princes Highway and Great Ocean Road are quite sharp. So, pay particular attention to the speed limits and drive sensibly as you approach them – and passengers who suffer from motion sickness may want to be prepared!
  • When visiting national parks, be mindful of the native wildlife as you drive. Kangaroos and wallabies are known to hop in front of your vehicle without warning!
  • For the same reason, we recommend avoiding driving around dusk in country Australia as this is when ‘roo strikes are most likely to happen.
  • Make sure to pop over to our Australia road trip planning guide for all our top tips on driving through country Australia.
Australian City Guides

Don’t miss our complete collection of Aussie city guides for families:

ADELAIDE | BRISBANE | CAIRNS | CANBERRA | DARWIN | GOLD COAST | MELBOURNE | PERTH | SYDNEY

Where to Next? More Aussie Road Trip Adventures

Once you’ve completed the drive from Adelaide to Melbourne, you may also be interested in:

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