Melbourne to Gold Coast Drive – Inland Route Through NSW Riverina & Western Plains

When it comes to Australian road trips, the Melbourne to Gold Cost drive is not to be missed!

Promising an exciting adventure full of stunning landscapes, vibrant cities, and unforgettable experiences, you can experience some of the country’s biggest draws.

As you hit the open road, you’ll journey through diverse regions, passing through coastal towns, scenic hinterlands, charming rural areas, and thriving cities, depending on which way you go.

From the cosmopolitan charm of Melbourne to the sun-soaked beaches of the Gold Coast, this road trip offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and family-friendly activities. 

So fasten your seatbelts, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable Melbourne to Gold Coast road trip that will create lasting memories for your entire family!

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What is the Distance Between Melbourne and the Gold Coast?

A distance of about 1700 km separates Melbourne and the Gold Coast. If you were to go via the most direct route (M31), it would take approximately 17 hours of non-stop driving to travel between the two destinations.

However, should you decide to go the coastal route along the M1, the drive from Melbourne to the Gold Coast would take about 20 hours direct and cover a distance of around 1850 km.

For those who would like to explore the back roads of Victoria and New South Wales, the inland route provides a fascinating insight into country life. This route incorporates about 2000 km of roads and should take 22 hours of non-stop driving for you to complete.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Melbourne to Shepparton190 kms (118 miles)2 hours 8 minutesShepparton
Shepparton to Jerilderie140 kms (87 miles)1 hour 39 minutesJerilderie
Jerilderie to Narrandera108 kms (67 miles)1 hour 8 minutesNarrandera
Narrandera to Forbes240 kms (149 miles)2 hours 35 minutesForbes
Forbes to Parkes33 kms (21 miles)26 minutesParkes
Parkes to Dubbo120 kms (75 miles)1 hour 21 minutesDubbo
Dubbo to Coonabarabran144 kms (89 miles)1 hour 43 minutesCoonabarabran
Coonabarabran to Moree220 kms (137 miles)2 hours 27 minutesMoree
Moree to Goondiwindi125 kms (78 miles)1 hour 22 minutesGoondiwindi
Goondiwindi to Toowoomba222 kms (138 miles)2 hours 30 minutesToowoomba
Toowoomba to Coomera160 kms (99 miles)1 hour 52 minutesCoomera
Coomera to Gold Coast28 kms (17 miles)24 minutesGold Coast
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

How Long Do I Need to Allow Driving From Melbourne to Gold Coast?

At a minimum, you must set aside two days at least for a Victoria to Queensland road trip. However, as most of this time will be taken up with you driving, adding an extra day to the journey time would be prudent.

Whether you go via the coastal M1 route, the M31 route via Canberra, or the inland route through country Victoria and New South Wales, you should ideally schedule at least a week to make the most of your journey.

Best Time of Year to Drive from Melbourne to Gold Coast

Regardless of your chosen course – M1, M31, or A39 inland route – a road trip from Melbourne to Queensland is one you can complete all year round.

However, summer is an excellent time if you plan to go the coastal route and stop off at a few beaches. During this period, from December to February, the weather and water should be at their warmest. But you can expect heavier traffic, busier crowds, and more expensive hotel accommodations.

If you prefer to avoid crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (September to November) or autumn (March to May). During these times, the weather is still enjoyable, and you’ll have a better chance of securing affordable accommodations and experiencing a more relaxed atmosphere.

In the winter, from June to August, you will be subjected to colder temperatures, especially at night in some parts of Victoria, New South Wales, and Canberra. However, accommodation is at its cheapest at this time, and there is usually a lot more availability.

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Best Stops on a Melbourne to Gold Coast Trip

As mentioned, there are several routes you can take on a Melbourne to Gold Cost drive. 

If you love the feel of the sand on your toes, you’ll definitely want to take the opportunity to swim, surf and sunbathe on a host of incredible beaches along the M1 route. They include Mallcoota, Merimbula, Batemans Bay, Coffs Harbour, Ballina, and Byron Bay, not to forget the likes of Bondi and Coogee in Sydney.

Should you fancy popping into the nation’s capital of Canberra, the M31 route takes you through historic country towns like Wangaratta, Albury/Wodonga, Wagga Wagga, and Goulburn, where you can meet friendly locals and see several outstanding areas of natural beauty and cultural significance.

Most people who embark on a road trip from Melbourne to the Gold Coast take one of these routes. But for those with a keen eye for adventure and taking the road less travelled, the inland route takes them on a journey of discovery into the heart of the Victorian and New South Wales Riverina, the Western Plains, and beyond. 

If you want to travel on the inland route during your Melbourne to Gold Coast drive, these are the places you should stop.

Shepparton  (1 Night)

After leaving Melbourne, one of your first stops should be Shepparton.

If it’s a hot day, your kids will love visiting Shepparton Adventure Park, a sprawling outdoor playground with water slides, splash zones, and mini-golf. The KidsTown Adventure Playground will be another highlight for them, boasting giant slides, a maze, and extensive play areas.

If you are a family of animal lovers, you should pencil in a trip to the Shepparton Animal Park. It is home to various native and exotic animals, including kangaroos, emus, and reptiles.

For a more educational experience, head to the Shepparton Motor Museum, where vintage cars and memorabilia showcase the history of automotive design. Additionally, families can explore the Shepparton Art Museum, which features engaging exhibits and interactive art activities. 

Jerilderie (Few Hours)

Jerilderie is a small country town in New South Wales, famous for where Ned Kelly and his gang robbed a bank on 10 February 1879 and locked the police in their own jail cells.

AU Melbourne to Gold Coast Drive - Ned Kelly Raid Trail

It is one of the main destinations on the Ned Kelly Raid Trail, a self-guided tour featuring the 16 sites he and his gang visited during a crime spree. You can still see the building they held up today and a few other related points of interest at the Jerilderie Museum.

Elsewhere, nature enthusiasts can explore the nearby Jerilderie Common, a beautiful parkland with walking trails, picnic areas, and ample space for kids to run and play. You will also find good fishing at Billabong Creek and Lake Jerilderie, while the Jerilderie Skate Park is perfect for kids who love skateboarding, rollerblading, or scooter riding. It has ramps, rails, and a smooth concrete surface to practice tricks and enjoy outdoor fun.

Narrandera  (1 Night)

An hour further up from Jerilderie is the charming town of Narrandera.

It’s worth coming here alone for the Narrandera Koala Reserve, which enables you to see these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. You can stroll along the boardwalks and spot koalas resting among the eucalyptus trees. 

For a fun and educational experience, head to the Tiger Moth Memorial, where you can learn about the town’s aviation history and even take a joy flight in a vintage aircraft. Families can also enjoy a picnic and aquatic activities like kayaking and boating at picturesque Lake Talbot or explore the surrounding parklands with playgrounds and walking trails.

You should also check out the Narrandera Fisheries Centre, where you can learn about the region’s aquatic life and even try fishing in the stocked ponds. 

Forbes (Few Hours)

Offering a nice blend of history, nature, and family-friendly attractions, Forbes in New South Wales is worth stopping at.

AU Melbourne to Gold Coast Drive - Forbes Platypus Nest

One of its main attractions is the Forbes Railway Arts and Visitor Information Centre, where families can discover the town’s railway heritage through fascinating displays and exhibits. If you are more into cars, the McFeeters Motor Museum showcases a remarkable collection of vintage cars and motorcycles. While history enthusiasts can explore the Forbes Historical Museum, showcasing artifacts and stories that bring the town’s past to life. 

Nature lovers will appreciate visiting the Forbes Platypus Nest, a unique conservation area where you can spot these elusive creatures in their natural habitat. Additionally, stunning Lake Forbes boasts scenic walking trails and picnic areas perfect for enjoying a day outdoors with the family. 

Parkes  (Few Hours)

Just a stone’s throw from Forbes is the town of Parkes. 

It is best known for the iconic Parkes Observatory, which features a famous ‘Dish’ that played a vital role in the Apollo 11 moon landing. Families can explore the interactive exhibits, take guided tours, and learn about the wonders of space and astronomy.

For a dose of outdoor fun, head to Cooke Park, a spacious parkland featuring playgrounds, picnic areas, and a miniature railway that kids will love. If it’s a hot day, you should cool off at the Parkes Aquatic Centre, which features pools, water slides, and splash areas. 

For those who want to know more about the town, The Henry Parkes Centre showcases the region’s history, culture, and natural heritage through interesting displays and exhibits. Alternatively, animal enthusiasts can visit the Parkes Wildlife Park, home to various native Australian animals, including kangaroos, emus, and wombats. 

Dubbo  (1 – 2 Nights)

Dubbo is a vibrant city that is a great destination to top up on fuel, supplies, and other services you may require.

It is also known for accommodating several family-friendly attractions and activities, including its primary drawcard, the Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

AU Melbourne to Gold Coast Drive - Taronga Western Plains Zoo

A must-visit destination for those who love animal lovers, you can embark on an exciting safari adventure, witnessing a wide range of wildlife up close, including giraffes, lions, elephants, and kangaroos. The zoo also offers behind-the-scenes experiences and interactive exhibits for an immersive learning experience.

Another popular attraction is the Old Dubbo Gaol. This fascinating colonial-era prison offers guided tours and interactive displays showcasing the experiences and conditions of those incarcerated there.

If you plan to stay overnight, The Dubbo Observatory is worth visiting. It provides an opportunity to gaze at the night sky and learn about the wonders of the cosmos. The Dubbo Aquatic Leisure Centre, which has excellent pools, water slides, and a fun splash area, should also be on your radar.

Coonabarabran  (1 Night)

If you didn’t get to go to the one at Dubbo, consider visiting the Sliding Springs Observatory at Coonabarabran. It is home to the largest optical telescope in Australia and provides incredible, crystal-clear views of the stars at night.

Coonabarabran is also an excellent base for visiting Warrumbungle National Park, known for its breathtaking landscapes and hiking trails, suitable for all ages. Families can embark on gentle walks and picnics whilst marvelling at the scenery. 

With its extensive collection of minerals and fossils, the Crystal Kingdom is also a must-visit destination. Kids can participate in gemstone fossicking and take home their discoveries.

You should also try to go to The Coonabarabran Visitor Information Centre, which offers interactive displays and information about the region’s natural and cultural heritage. Likewise, the spectacular Pilliga Nature Reserve is somewhere you should also pay a visit to. 

Moree (1 Night)

Moree, in New South Wales, is another destination sure to keep everyone entertained.

The primary reason to come here is the Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre, known for its natural hot springs. Families can relax and rejuvenate in the thermal pools with water slides and play areas for kids.

AU Melbourne to Gold Coast Drive - Moree

For a unique experience, a visit to the Moree Plains Gallery is a must. This art gallery showcases local and regional artworks, allowing children to appreciate and explore their creative side. Another destination you should go to for a relaxing afternoon is Jellicoe Park, a beautiful parkland with playgrounds, picnic areas, walking paths, and plenty of green space for ball sports and running around.

Additionally, the Moree Solar Farm provides a fascinating and educational experience about renewable energy.

Goondiwindi (Half day)

Heading into Queensland, Goondiwindi is the kind of place you’ll want to linger in.

One of the first places you should go is the Goondiwindi Botanic Gardens, which offers beautifully landscaped gardens with gorgeous flora, playgrounds, and BBQ facilities. You should also check out the Goondiwindi Natural Heritage and Water Park, which houses a large water playground with splash pads and slides. 

For an educational experience, the Goondiwindi Border Bridge Interpretive Centre provides insights into the history and significance of the border between Queensland and New South Wales. Kids can learn about the local Indigenous culture, early settlement, and the engineering marvels of the bridge. 

Additionally, the Goondiwindi Golf Club welcomes families and offers a chance to enjoy a round of golf together on a beautiful course with an excellent child-friendly practice area.

Toowoomba (1 Night)

Toowoomba is known as the ‘Garden City’ of Queensland.

Once there, start by exploring the beautiful parks and gardens, such as the iconic Queens Park, with its expansive lawns, floral displays, playgrounds, and picnic spots.

AU Melbourne to Gold Coast Drive - Japanese Garden

Additionally, the Japanese Garden offers a tranquil atmosphere, complete with a lake, bridges, and traditional Japanese architecture.

If you visit in September, check out the famous Carnival of Flowers. Australia’s longest-running floral event showcases world-class displays that attract people from all over the country. 

Kids should also find the Cobb+Co Museum interesting as they can learn about the region’s history through interactive exhibits, including vintage carriages, horse-drawn vehicles, and indigenous artifacts.

For an afternoon of fun in the sun, head to Picnic Point, where you can take in panoramic city views, enjoy an al fresco meal and let the kids burn off some of their energy at the playground.

Coomera (1 – 2 Nights)

After all that sightseeing, the kids will want to have some fun. So be sure to stop at Coomera, home to several world-class theme parks.

One of the most popular parks in the area is Dreamworld, a massive amusement park featuring thrilling rides, live shows, and wildlife encounters. From adrenaline-pumping roller coasters to interactive exhibits where kids can get up close with native Australian animals, Dreamworld has something for everyone.

Just next door is WhiteWater World, a water park with exhilarating slides, lazy rivers, and splash areas, perfect for cooling off on hot summer days. For those who love marine life, Sea World is also a must. This marine park combines exciting rides with captivating animal shows and interactive experiences, allowing kids to get an up-close look at the likes of dolphins, penguins, and sharks.

Another popular attraction is Warner Bros. Movie World, where visitors can step into the world of their favorite movies and TV shows, with exhilarating rides, live performances, and character meet-and-greets.

  • To finish up your drive from Melbourne to the Gold Coast, next up, you’ll want to dive into our guide to visiting the Gold Coast with kids – we have plenty more tips on where to stay, how to get around and tip family activities to enjoy around Southeast Queensland.

More Tips for Road Tripping Melbourne to Gold Coast

  • Some of the hotels, restaurants, and attractions in the small towns of rural Victoria and NSW might be closed in the off-peak season. So always phone up before your visit to ascertain if they are open and available.
  • If visiting any of the theme parks, booking ahead and organizing fast passes that enable you to skip the line is advisable.
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Where to Next?

Extend your trip through Queensland, you may like to read next:

Alternatively, if you are looking for some great drives closer to Melbourne, why not try:

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

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