Melbourne to Perth Drive Itinerary: Crossing the Nullarbor With Kids

If you are planning a road trip involving a Melbourne to Perth drive with kids, you are in for an epic cross-country adventure!

Not only will you visit some of the best small towns and cities in Australia, but you’ll also get to marvel at incredible scenery as you make your way along its coastline and through its bush and outback.

You’ll also have some incredible experiences driving along the coastline of the Great Ocean Road to check out the Twelve Apostles, the gorgeous Eyre Peninsula, and the Great Australian Bight. The stunning Gawler Ranges National Park and Grampians National Park are sure to leave a lasting impression on you too.

And what can be more fair dinkum Aussie than seeing kangaroos or wallabies hopping across the road in front of you? Or overnight stops at roadhouses on the Nullarbor?

These are just a few of the hundreds of highlights waiting for you on this road trip adventure. So get your travel planner app ready for some serious note taking!

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What is the Distance Between Melbourne and Perth?

The driving distance from Melbourne to Perth via the most direct route, which includes the Nullarbor Plain, is approximately 3,400 kilometres. 

If you were to drive it non-stop without taking a break, it would take you roughly 37 hours.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Melbourne to Grampians National Park257 kms (160 miles)3 hours Halls Gap
Grampians National Park to Murray Bridge402 kms (250 miles)4 hours 20 minutesMurray Bridge
Murray Bridge to Adelaide75 kms (47 miles)1 hourAdelaide
Adelaide to Port Augusta308 kms (191 miles)3 hours 30 minutesPort Augusta
Port Augusta to Gawler Ranges National Park330 kms (205 miles)4 hoursWudinna
Gawler Ranges National Park to Ceduna260 kms (162 miles)3 hours 15 minutesCeduna
Ceduna to Eucla493 kms (306 miles)5 hours Eucla
Eucla to Norseman709 kms (441 miles)7 hours 15 minutesNorseman
Norseman to Kalgoorlie187 kms (116 miles)2 hoursKalgoorlie
Kalgoorlie to Perth592 kms (368 miles)6 hours 30 minutesPerth
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

This drive time would increase if you decided to detour into rural Victoria’s heart. You can pass through famous country towns like Bendigo and Ouyen before rejoining the direct route on the A1 just after Crystal Brook, should you want to do this.

Another detour you can take is around the Eyre Peninsula in SA. To get there, you must head off towards Whyalla, which will eventually take you down to the gorgeous scenery around Port Lincoln and Coffin Bay, before heading up to Streaky Bay and rejoining the main route a few km from Ceduna.

Once you get to Norseman in Western Australia, you can also veer off towards Esperance to explore the coastline that will take you through Albany, Denmark, Margaret River, Bunbury, and Rockingham before driving to Perth.

How Long Is the Drive From Melbourne to Perth?

For many people, driving the Nullarbor is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So you should give yourself as much time as possible to do it justice during your Melbourne to Perth trip.

Two weeks would be a reasonable amount of time to set aside for this journey, as it would give you plenty of opportunity for sightseeing, transiting and resting.

But, if you only have a little time at your disposal and have two or more people with a licence, driving from Melbourne to Perth can be done in about 3-5 days.

This timeframe will at least give you a flavour of some of the main highlights of the journey.

Best Time of Year to Drive from Melbourne to Perth

The best time to complete a Melbourne to Perth road trip through the Nullarbor Plain is during the Australian winter months of June to August.

Many people don’t realise that temperatures in the Nullarbor fluctuate wildly in the summer (Dec to Feb). The mercury can touch 50°C during the day, only to fall close to zero at night!

These extreme temperatures, particularly the heat, can also impact your enjoyment of certain outdoor scenic attractions. (Really, you should not stand outside for more than 5 – 15 minutes during the heat of the day in the summer.)

If you visit during winter, you can spend more time sightseeing in much safer temperatures.

That said, spring (Sept to Oct) is a nice time to complete the drive, as the season offers pleasant temperatures, which lead to more comfortable driving conditions. It is also a period when wildflowers bloom across the Nullarbor, thus making it an even more beautiful drive.

Best Stops on a Direct Melbourne to Perth Road Trip

It’s hard to narrow down the best stops on a Melbourne to Perth drive because so many deserve mention.

Here are some destinations we consider to be must-visits along the most direct route from Melbourne to Perth:

Grampians National Park

Just three hours from the Melbourne CBD, Grampians National Park is a fabulous destination for families that love stunning landscapes and outdoor adventures.

The park is located in the state’s western part and is renowned for its rugged mountain ranges, ancient rock formations, diverse wildlife and opportunities to connect with nature. 

One of the main highlights of visiting Grampians National Park with kids is the network of walking trails you can explore as a family. They take you to breathtaking viewpoints, such as The Pinnacle or Boroka Lookout, where you can take a group photo against panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and rock formations.

Along the way, kids can spot unique flora and fauna, including kangaroos, emus, and various bird species. They can also learn about the rich Indigenous cultural heritage of the area, as the park is home to significant Aboriginal rock art sites.

Another of the park’s main drawcards is MacKenzie Falls, a magnificent cascade that tips over the edge of majestic cliffs. At the bottom of it are rock pools where you can go for a refreshing dip.

Should your children be older, they might also like to participate in rock climbing. While camping options are available for those, who want to sleep under the stars.

Murray Bridge

About an hour’s drive from Adelaide resides Murray Bridge. You should consider stopping here for several reasons, especially if you have children. 

One of the main reasons is that it is home to some of the darkest skies in Australia. Therefore, it provides outstanding conditions to see the Milky Way in all its glory. Be sure to check out the River Murray Dark Sky Reserve for the best views of it.

AU Melbourne to Perth Drive - Monarto Safari Park

Aside from the skies, its location on the banks of the Murray River provides plenty of opportunities for aquatic fun such as swimming, kayaking, canoeing and SUP. You can also take a leisurely cruise along the river on a paddle steamer, learning about the history and ecology of the region while taking in the picturesque scenery.

Close by, the Monarto Safari Park is a terrific open-range 1500-hectare zoo where kids can observe a diverse range of animals up close, including giraffes, lions, rhinos, and kangaroos. The park also offers unique behind-the-scenes experiences and guided tours that provide educational insights into conservation and animal care.

Plenty of parks and playgrounds in the area provide perfect opportunities for family breaks and playtime. Be sure to check out the Murray Bridge Regional Playground, which has a range of play equipment, including climbing structures, slides, swings, and water play areas.

Additionally, The Murray Bridge Regional Gallery is an excellent place to escape the day’s intense heat while checking out impressive contemporary and indigenous artworks.

Adelaide

It is always worth visiting Adelaide with kids, especially when you have a long drive through the Nullarbor to come.

One of its main highlights is a trip to Adelaide Zoo, located right in the heart of the city. The zoo has diverse animals, including pandas, monkeys, and big cats. It also offers interactive experiences like feeding giraffes.

The Adelaide Botanic Garden is another very popular destination for families. This lush and expansive garden is perfect for a picnic or a leisurely stroll, where you can explore themed gardens, including the stunning Bicentennial Conservatory and the magical First Creek Wetland. The garden also offers nature play activities for children and guided tours.

Adelaide is famous for its expansive green spaces, and the Adelaide Park Lands offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures. Victoria Park is a popular spot for families, with its wide open spaces, playgrounds, and BBQ areas. Kids can enjoy bike riding, flying kites, or playing ball games in picturesque surroundings.

Likewise, Bonython Park is another family-friendly green space featuring a nature playground, paddle boats and a lake for kayaking or canoeing.

Glenelg Beach is a great place to go if you would prefer to hit the sand. This bustling seaside suburb has a fabulous swimming beach, a charming promenade and a range of family-friendly activities, including an amusement park with a Ferris wheel.

Port Augusta

Nestled at the head of the Spencer Gulf, about 3.5 hours from Adelaide, Port Augusta is a charming coastal town that proffers a lovely blend of natural beauty and cultural experiences.

Despite enjoying a coastal location, one of the main reasons to come here is to learn about The Outback. You can do this at the Wadlata Outback Centre, an award-winning interactive visitor centre that takes you on a journey through the history and culture of the Australian Outback.

AU Melbourne to Perth Drive - Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden

Children here can view several exhibits, including a replica underground opal mine and a working sheep station, and learn about the region’s indigenous heritage. The centre also offers a 3D cinema experience that brings The Outback to life.

Port Augusta is situated near the southern end of the Flinders Ranges, making it a gateway to this iconic mountain range. Families can embark on scenic drives through it, enjoying breathtaking views of rugged landscapes and ancient rock formations. 

The area also offers numerous hiking trails suitable for children, providing opportunities to spot wildlife, admire colourful wildflowers, and soak in the serenity of nature.

If you don’t fancy detouring there, the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden is a nice spot to discover native plant species. The garden also offers guided tours and hosts educational programs for children, allowing them to learn about the importance of conserving Australia’s natural environment.

You’ll find the garden on the Port Augusta Foreshore, a scenic waterfront promenade with views of the Spencer Gulf. Children can play at the playgrounds, ride bikes along the shared pathways, or go for a dip in the water here.

Gawler Ranges National Park

After Port Augusta, you should pencil in a trip to the Gawler Ranges National Park.

It is about a four-hour drive away, so it makes an excellent rest stop during the drive. But it is also worth visiting for its incredible rugged and diverse landscape.

One of the main attractions in Gawler Ranges National Park is the Organ Pipes, a fascinating geological formation that resembles a series of towering organ pipes. Kids will be amazed by the natural beauty and unique shapes of these rock formations, formed millions of years ago. If you explore the area around the base of the Organ Pipes, you will also likely see kangaroos and emus.

Within the park, Lake Gairdner is a massive salt lake with vast expanses of white salt flats that create a surreal and otherworldly landscape. Your kids will love to walk on the salt crust and create patterns on it. They may also be able to swim in it depending on the time of year you visit.

Gawler Ranges National Park is also home to Mount Wudinna, an impressive granite monolith with panoramic views from its summit. You can hike to the top, although it is probably not suitable for younger kids.

Should you wish to camp here, some facilities enable you to do so.

Ceduna

Ceduna in South Australia represents the last town before the start of the Nullarbor Drive. So you should take the opportunity to get a good night’s rest here and fill up on petrol and other essential supplies.

AU Melbourne to Perth Drive - Ceduna

If you stay here, the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel Motel is a good option. It offers a giant water slide that provides hours of fun for kids. The venue also features a playground, perfect for younger children to burn off some energy while enjoying outdoor playtime.

Located on the Eyre Peninsula, the hotel is also close to the beach, whose white sandy shores and clear turquoise waters are great for swimming, fishing and snorkelling. Nearby it, you should also take the opportunity to view the colony of sea lions at the Point Labatt Conservation Park.

For a dose of culture and history, the Ceduna National Trust Museum showcases the local heritage, providing insights into the area’s Indigenous culture, early European settlement, and maritime history. Kids can learn about the region’s fascinating past through interactive exhibits, displays, and artefacts.

Eucla

You’ll find several roadhouses within the small towns that line the Nullarbor where you can fuel up. However, should you want to stretch your legs for a while, Eucla is a terrific stop in which to do so.

Providing a unique and off-the-beaten-path adventure, this small town on the Nullarbor Plain offers a glimpse into the vastness and beauty of Australia’s outback.

Blessed with incredible scenery that includes endless horizons, stunning coastal cliffs and rolling sand dunes, it is known for the historic Eucla Telegraph Station ruins. This heritage site showcases the town’s past and role in developing early communication systems.

The Eucla National Park is another must-visit destination. Families can embark on nature walks to scenic lookout points where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Southern Ocean and the rugged coastline. Sandboarding is also popular here, allowing kids to slide down the sandy slopes on specially designed boards in a thrilling experience.

Eucla also offers fantastic stargazing opportunities with its clear night skies. So, set up a blanket or camping chairs and spend an evening identifying constellations, spotting shooting stars, and appreciating the quietness and vastness of the universe.

Be mindful that accommodation options in town are limited, with the Eucla Motel being the primary choice. So make sure you reserve a room well before your visit here to avoid inconvenience or disappointment.

  • The drive from Ecula to Norseman is over 700 kilometres, including the longest straight road in Australia, the “90-mile Straight” (well, in fact, 91.1 miles or 146.6 kilometres without a turn). Stay alert and well-rested before tackling this leg.

Norseman

Norseman is the first town you get to after leaving the Nullarbor Plain. So you should stop here to refuel and rest before completing your drive to Perth.

AU Melbourne to Perth Drive - Norseman

Norseman is known for its rich mining history, which you can learn about by visiting the Norseman Mining Museum. The museum showcases exhibits that provide insight into the mining practices of the past and the significance of gold in shaping the region’s history. It’s an educational and engaging experience that can spark curiosity and interest in geology and mining with your kids.

Other attractions like the Fraser Range Station and the Dundas Nature Reserve offer opportunities for camping, bushwalking and wildlife spotting, while, like Eucla, Norseman is also a fantastic spot for stargazing.

Kalgoorlie

Kalgoorlie is one of Australia’s most famous tourist destinations. Even though it’s only a 2-hour drive from Norseman, you should stop here for a day or two during your drive from Melbourne to Perth.

Known for its rich gold mining history and vast landscapes, Kalgoorlie offers a range of activities that will engage the whole family.

Arguably its most compelling attraction is the Super Pit. In this open-pit gold mine, you can take a guided tour to learn about the mining process and the Super Pit’s history and get an up-close look at the massive machinery used in mining operations. It’s a unique opportunity for kids to witness firsthand the scale of a working gold mine.

Another highlight of visiting Kalgoorlie is exploring the town’s historical sites. Walk through the streets and admire the beautifully preserved heritage buildings that showcase the town’s gold rush past. They include the Kalgoorlie Town Hall, Post Office, and the Western Australian Museum.

Nearby, Karlkurla Bushland Park is a great place to visit for families who like to get active. This expansive park offers walking trails, picnic areas, and a playground where kids can run, play, and discover the native flora and fauna. There are also designated cycling tracks for those who enjoy exploring on two wheels.

Alternatively, the Goldfields Oasis Recreation Centre is another fantastic destination for families. It features an indoor aquatic centre with waterslides and a heated swimming pool. It also has various other sports facilities, including a gymnasium, basketball courts, and indoor climbing walls.

Detours To Consider Driving Melbourne to Perth

The Melbourne to Perth itinerary we’ve shared here is the most direct route. However, there are several detours you could add to make this a much more in-depth coastal driving itinerary. These are some popular detours to add to your Melbourne to Perth drive:

Drive the Great Ocean Road

Setting out from Melbourne, head to Geelong and Torquay instead of heading directly to the Western Highway to take on the world-renowned Great Ocean Road. This 242-kilometre stretch of rugged coastal drive is one of the most beautiful roads in the world.

Loch Ard Gorge on Victoria's Great ocean Road

If this is your only trip Downunder, we highly recommend taking the extra few days to explore this Australian gem, taking in the 12 Apostles, Otways National Park and Loch Ard Gorge before continuing to Adelaide through the Limestone Coast region.

Eyre Peninsula

If you’re seeking even more dramatic coastal beauty, then a detour to South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is a must. From Port Augusta, head south to Whyalla, then Port Lincoln, and explore Lincoln National Park. Adrenaline junkies may be interested in cage-diving experiences from Neptune Island Conservation Park.

Enjoy more stunning cliffs and glorious remote beaches around the Eyre Peninsula. Visit Coffin Bay, famous for its oysters, and onward to Baird Bay, renowned for its sea lion colony. You’ll rejoin the above itinerary at Ceduna to fuel up for your long Nullarbor stretch of driving to Ecula.

Southern Western Australia

Another popular detour to take is continuing on the coastal route beyond Esperance instead of heading north to Norseman and Kalgoorlie. Take in Bremer Bay, famous for its brilliant beaches and orcas, and continue to the port city of Albany and stunningly beautiful Denmark and William Bay on the southern coast.

AU Melbourne to Perth Drive - Nanarup Beach Albany WA

You’ll pass through Walpole and the tall timber of the southern forests and see Australia’s most south-westerly point in Augusta before completing your journey north through the acclaimed Margaret River Region, Bunbury and finishing your journey in the Western Australian capital of Perth.

We’d suggest a further week at least is needed for this detour (did we mention wineries and craft breweries? You’ll want plenty of rest days built in too!)

  • Our Perth-Albany itinerary is coming soon with much more detail on the southwestern corner of WA.

More Tips for Road Tripping Melbourne to Perth

As exciting a prospect as driving across the Nullarbor is, it can also be quite a challenge. Here are some tips to make it as pleasurable an experience as possible.

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  • The Nullarbor Plain is a vast and remote region, so planning your journey is crucial. Decide whether you’ll be driving the Eyre Highway or taking an alternative route, and make a note of fuel stations, accommodations and food options along the way.
  • Petrol stations can sometimes be hundreds of kilometres apart on the drive through the Nullarbor. So make sure you fill up with fuel or recharge your EV whenever you can – even if you still have more than 50% capacity left.
  • If you are driving a petrol vehicle, consider taking some fuel with you, not just for yourself but anyone you see who might have run out along the way.
  • Before attempting the crossing, ensure you stock up on supplies like food, water, and any necessary medications, as there may be limited options for purchasing these items along the route. It is worth taking at least 3-4 days’ worth of supplies with you – as a minimum.
  • The Nullarbor can be a long and monotonous drive, so staying focused and alert is essential. Avoid fatigue by taking regular breaks and switching drivers often to keep yourself fresh.
  • To break up the boredom of the long drive, consider creating a music or podcast playlist you can access offline through apps like Spotify Premium. Doing this will keep you entertained along the way. If you have kids, consider downloading movies onto an iPad and bring lots of toys, games, books and crafts for them.
  • Try to leave as early in the morning as possible – no later than 6 am ideally – to give you as many hours of daylight as possible to navigate the road.
  • Whilst driving, be mindful of wildlife, as kangaroos, emus, and other animals can cross the road unexpectedly. Take extra caution at dawn, dusk, and night when they are more active.
  • If you see birds on the road feasting on roadkill, beep your horn (as opposed to swerving into the opposite lane), as this will make them disperse quickly.
  • Ensure you have an emergency kit in your vehicle, including a spare tyre, tools, first aid supplies and a flashlight. It’s also advisable to carry a satellite phone or a UHF radio for communication in extreme emergencies.
  • When passing through small towns along the Nullarbor, take the opportunity to connect with the locals. They can offer valuable insights, tips, and recommendations for the region.
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Where to Next?

Exploring out west, you may also want to read:

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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