Melbourne to Canberra Drive – The Scenic Route

A Melbourne to Canberra drive promises an exciting adventure that takes you through the scenic landscapes of southeastern Australia.

Spanning two of the country’s most fascinating states – Victoria and New South Wales – and the Australian Capital Territory, this journey offers a perfect blend of vibrant cities, charming towns, and breathtaking natural beauty. 

Providing something for everyone, you’ll be able to see iconic landmarks, explore pristine national parks and visit some of the country’s best foodie destinations.

We know planning a Canberra road trip from Melbourne can be daunting, so we have put together this guide. In it, we provide plenty of tips to make your journey as rewarding as possible, showcasing some of the best places to go.

Plan an Australian road trip graphic

What is the Distance Between Melbourne to Canberra?

A distance of around 660 kilometres (410 miles) separates Melbourne from Canberra. If you drive non-stop via the Hume Highway, completing it will take about 7 hours overall and can be done in one day.

However, with so many exciting towns and cities to stop at along the way, what’s the rush? In this road trip itinerary, we take you on a scenic route taking in some of the best of Victoria and southern New South Wales to complete the Melbourne to Canberra drive in around 860 kilometres (535 miles).

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Melbourne to Bendigo245 kms (152 miles)1 hour 50 minutesBendigo
Bendigo to Seymour96 kms (60 miles)1 hour 10 minutesSeymour
Seymour to Shepparton81 kms (50 miles)1 hourShepparton
Shepparton to Wangaratta97 kms (60 miles)1 hour 10 minutesWangaratta
Wangaratta to Albury/Wodonga74 kms (46 miles)50 minutesAlbury/Wodonga
Albury/Wodonga to Holbrook62 kms (38 miles)40 minutesHolbrook
Holbrook to Wagga Wagga80 kms (50 miles)1 hour Wagga Wagga
Wagga Wagga to Gundagai80 kms (50 miles)1 hour Gundagai
Gundagai to Murrumbateman125 kms (78 miles)1 hour 15 minutesMurrumbateman
Murrumbateman to Canberra37 kms (23 miles)35 minutesCanberra
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

How Long is the Drive From Melbourne to Canberra?

If you have the time available, you should devote 3- 4 days to complete a road trip to Canberra from Melbourne. However, there is so much to see between the two cities that the more time you can set aside to travel between them, the better.

While the Hume Highway represents the most direct route, you could go along a coastal path instead. This path gives you the opportunity to visit places like Wilsons Promontory, Snowy River National Park, Merimbula, and Batemans Bay, so you will need at least a week to make the most of this route.

Best Time of Year to Drive from Melbourne to Canberra

A Melbourne to Canberra road trip is one you can complete all year round. However, there are a few factors to consider when planning your journey

The weather is arguably at its best during the spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) seasons when the temperatures are pleasant, and there are fewer chances of extreme heat or cold. At this time, the landscape comes alive with blooming flowers in spring and changing leaves in autumn, which add to the scenic beauty along the way.

If you prefer warmer weather and longer daylight hours, summer (December to February) can be a good option. However, be prepared for higher temperatures, particularly in the inland regions. It’s advisable to plan your activities during the cooler parts of the day and stay hydrated.

Although winter (June to August) can be colder, especially as you travel inland towards Canberra, hotel prices are significantly lower, and queues at the main attractions are much smaller.

Whatever season you go in, remember that school holidays and long weekends lead to more traffic on the roads.

Best Stops on a Melbourne to Canberra Trip

When planning a trip from Melbourne to Canberra by car, there are several places you should visit.

Here is a brief overview of some of the most notable of them.

Bendigo (1 Night)

No Melbourne to Canberra drive is complete without a visit to Bendigo.

A charming city in Victoria, it is best known for its rich history and vibrant arts scene. Whilst there, start by exploring the Central Deborah Gold Mine, where kids can don a hard hat and descend into the underground mine to learn about Bendigo’s gold rush era.

Elsewhere, Bendigo Pottery is another place you must visit. Your kids will love the interactive pottery demonstrations and the chance for them to get creative with clay. 

The Discovery Science and Technology Centre offers hands-on exhibits and educational activities that engage young minds. At the same time, children will also be fascinated by the exquisite exhibits on display at the Golden Dragon Museum’s Chinese Gardens.

To help them get rid of some energy, a stroll around the Bendigo Botanic Gardens or a dip at picturesque Lake Weeroona is an excellent thing to do.

Seymour (Half Day)

Should you drive Melbourne to Canberra, make sure you pencil in a visit to Seymour. A charming Victorian town, it is home to the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre, where kids can marvel at vintage trains and even ride on a heritage steam train.

AU Melbourne to Canberra Drive - Goulburn River

Nearby, the Goulburn River is perfect for leisurely walks, picnics, and activities like fishing, kayaking and boating. Also, Kings Park Adventure Playground has climbing structures, slides, and plenty of space for kids to run around. 

Sports enthusiasts can enjoy a game of mini-golf at the Seymour Mini Golf or catch a local football match at Kings Park. But if you are more into shopping, the Seymour Community Market is a great place to find local produce, crafts, and delicious treats.

For those who enjoy structures of historical significance, The Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk or the Old Courthouse Heritage Centre are worth visiting.

Shepparton (1-2 Days)

Located about a 2.5-hour drive north of the Melbourne CBD, Shepparton is one of country Victoria’s most family-friendly destinations.

Your first stop here should be KidsTown, which features giant slides, a maze, train rides and an adventure playground. Not far from it, Aquamoves also offers a fun aquatic centre with pools, slides, and a splash park. No doubt the kids will want to spend plenty of time at both!

If they are into cars, they’ll also want to check out the Shepparton Motor Museum, which showcases a collection of captivating vintage cars.

The Shepparton Art Museum is another place they should enjoy as it features contemporary art exhibitions designed to engage young minds. Also in town, Victoria Park Lake is perfect for leisurely walks and picnics, while Emerald Bank Adventure Park offers mini-golf, paddleboats, and an animal farm.

Kids will also love the indoor play options at Kids Space Indoor Play Centre and Fun Planet, should they still have the energy to burn.

Wangaratta (Half Day to 1 Night)

An hour up the road from Shepparton is Wangaratta. It is another nice place to stop as its Riverside Precinct features a lovely park with playgrounds, BBQ facilities, and scenic walking paths. 

AU Melbourne to Canberra Drive - Wangaratta

Close by, at the Merriwa Park Adventure Playground, kids can climb, swing, and slide to their heart’s content. Additionally, the Wangaratta Indoor Sports and Aquatic Centre has plenty of opportunities for them to swim or play sports. 

If your children are more artistically focused, The Wangaratta Art Gallery hosts engaging exhibitions that inspire creativity and spark the imagination. The Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre may also be attractive as it showcases entertaining shows and performances suitable for all ages.

Albury/Wodonga (1-2 Days)

Straddling the border of New South Wales and Victoria and separated by the picturesque Murray River, Albury and Wodonga are worth stopping at.

The river is a terrific place to enjoy a leisurely walk along its bank or take a delightful cruise in a paddleboat. At the same time, the Albury Botanic Gardens and the Wodonga Children’s Garden provide ample space for kids to run, play, and explore nature.

The Albury Wodonga Equestrian Centre offers horse riding lessons and trail rides, allowing children to connect with these magnificent animals. For an educational experience, visit the Albury Library Museum, where interactive exhibits and displays showcase the region’s history and culture. 

If you are interested in Australia’s immigration history, the Bonegilla Migrant Experience provides a unique glimpse into it.

Holbrook (Half Day)

Holbrook in NSW is an attractive town known for its unique maritime history.

One of the most popular attractions here is the Holbrook Submarine Museum, where kids can learn about the fascinating story of the HMAS Otway submarine and even step inside to experience life on a submarine firsthand.

AU Melbourne to Canberra Drive - Holbrook Submarine Museum

The nearby Ten Mile Creek Discovery Trail provides a scenic walk along the creek, offering birdwatching and nature spotting opportunities. But should the kids need a runaround, the Holbrook Community Playground features climbing structures, swings, and slides to entertain the little ones.

Holbrook Miniature Railway is another popular attraction, offering miniature train rides around a beautifully landscaped track. The Holbrook War Memorial is worth seeing, too, as it pays tribute to local servicemen and women.

Wagga Wagga (1-2 Nights)

The charmingly named Wagga Wagga is a vibrant regional city which offers a wide range of family-friendly activities and attractions.

An excellent place to visit first up when you get there is the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens. It is a sprawling oasis with beautiful gardens, picnic spots, and a mini zoo where kids can get up close to native animals.

If you prefer aquatic fun, head to the Oasis Regional Aquatic Centre. There you will find water slides, pools, and splash zones to entertain the kids for many hours.

The Adventure Playground is a must-visit if you have kids, as its towering slides, climbing structures, and flying foxes are a lot of fun. Moreover, the Murrumbidgee River is a lovely place for families as you can enjoy riverside picnics and pleasant bike rides.

Elsewhere, The Museum of the Riverina offers interactive exhibits showcasing the city’s history and culture. The Wagga Wagga Art Gallery provides opportunities for kids to appreciate art through workshops and exhibitions.

Gundagai (Half Day to 1 Night)

An hour further along from Wagga Wagga is the delightful town of Gundagai.

Known for its picturesque landscapes and iconic landmarks, it has a rich heritage and oozes character and charm.

AU Melbourne to Canberra Drive - Gundagai

You can discover this heritage at the Gundagai Museum, which houses several exhibits that present stories of the region. The town is also home to the famous Dog on the Tuckerbox monument, a tribute to Australia’s pioneers, where kids can enjoy a photo opportunity and learn about the legend behind it.

Another point of interest is the nearby Prince Alfred Bridge, a beautiful wrought-iron structure that offers a scenic walk with panoramic views of the Murrumbidgee River.

For those wanting outdoor fun, picturesque Gundagai Common is a vast open space perfect for picnics, bike rides, ball sports and flying kites. 

Murrumbateman (Half Day to 1 Night)

Before heading into Canberra, it is worth stopping at Murrumbateman for a final dose of rural charm.

Located in the heart of the Canberra wine region, this small town is known for its vineyards and picturesque countryside. So consider scheduling a trip to one of the family-friendly wineries that offer kids the chance to explore the vineyards, participate in grape stomping activities, and even taste some non-alcoholic grape juice. 

If your kids would rather eat grapes or other delicious foods, The Murrumbateman Village Market is a must-visit. Its stalls showcase a terrific selection of local produce, crafts, and tasty treats.

The region is also home to several farms where children can get close to farm animals and learn about rural life. There are also several nature reserves and parks, such as the Murrumbateman Recreation Ground, where kids can enjoy playgrounds and open spaces to run around.

Where to Stay in Canberra and What To Do

As well as being the nation’s capital, Canberra is an excellent destination to visit with children. Known for its national monuments, museums, and beautiful parks, it offers plenty of attractions and activities to entertain them.

One of the city’s main drawcards is Lake Burley Griffin. A picturesque lake, its surface is perfect for activities like kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and pedal boating. You can also rent bicycles to skirt around its shoreline, enjoy a picnic along the waterfront or explore the nearby parks and gardens.

You’ll want to take your children to Questacon if they are budding scientists. The National Science and Technology Centre is an interactive science museum that enables kids to engage in hands-on exhibits; science shows, and workshops that make learning about science fun and engaging.

AU Melbourne to Canberra Drive - Lake Burley Griffin

Kids will also love exploring the National Zoo and Aquarium, home to various animals, including cheetahs, meerkats and bears. The zoo also offers unique experiences like behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters, providing an up-close and personal encounter with wildlife.

Not far away, the National Arboretum Canberra is a vast parkland featuring thousands of different types of trees and plants. There, kids can explore the extensive playgrounds and ride bicycles around the trails while enjoying panoramic city views.

For a fantastic experience they will love, take them to Cockington Green Gardens. This miniature village showcases meticulously crafted miniature buildings from around the world, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens. Your kids will be fascinated by the intricate details and can even ride on a miniature steam train.

Another good place to visit with your children is the Australian War Memorial. There, they will be able to learn about Australia’s military history through informative displays and exhibitions. The outdoor area also features large war machines and aircraft, which will captivate their attention.

Lastly, if your children are into sports, it is worth taking them to the Australian Institute of Sport. They will enjoy the guided tour of the facilities and learn about the training and development of Australia’s top athletes. At the same time, they can also participate in interactive sports exhibits and test their athletic skills.

Essential Tips for a Melbourne to Canberra Drive

  • Canberra can experience cool weather, even in the height of summer. So make sure you pack warm clothes to avoid being caught out.
  • Continue your journey from Canberra to Sydney with this road trip itinerary through country New South Wales
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