Melbourne and Sydney are Australia’s two biggest cities. So, if you are planning a trip Down Under, it makes sense to try and visit them both.
While a 90-minute flight is the quickest way to get between the two destinations, the more scenic option – if time permits – is to hire a car and drive to Sydney from Melbourne.
One of Australia’s classic road trips, the two world-class cities are separated by incredible sights and attractions. Depending on which way you go, you can enjoy scenic drives that present amazing beaches and coastal landscapes or charming towns and picturesque countryside that reside inland.
Sound exciting? Then keep reading as we showcase all the main highlights you’ll see on a Melbourne to Sydney road trip.
- What Is The Distance Between Melbourne And Sydney?
- How Long Is The Drive From Melbourne To Sydney?
- Best Time of Year to Drive from Melbourne to Sydney?
- Best Stops On A Melbourne To Sydney Road Trip
- More Tips for Road Tripping Melbourne to Sydney
- Where to Next? More Classic Aussie Road Tips
What Is The Distance Between Melbourne And Sydney?
If you embark on a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney, the most direct driving route is the M31 (aka Hume Highway). The distance from the CBD in both cities is about 875 km (544 miles) and should take about 9.5 hours to complete if you drive non-stop – highly city traffic dependent!
Going this way will take you inland, through the beating heart of rural Victoria and New South Wales, enabling you to gain an excellent insight into what life is like in the countryside, away from the major cities.
For those who prefer to go from Melbourne to Sydney driving along the coastline, the M1/A1 route covers a distance of around 1000 km (621 miles). It may take a little longer depending on how many detours you take, but will give you plenty of chances to hit the beach to top up your suntan and take in the wonder of the coastal scenery.
How Long Is The Drive From Melbourne To Sydney?
If you were to drive from Melbourne to Sydney via the M31, you could set off after breakfast at Federation Square and easily arrive in time for a sunset dinner by the Sydney Opera House – if you didn’t stop. But where would the fun be in that?
With so much to see and do along the way, it would be a missed opportunity if you didn’t take the time to visit some of the more notable destinations on the M31 or M1/A1 route.
Therefore, we recommend taking 2 to 4 days to complete the journey, depending on your available time and what you want to see.
Route 1 – M31 Hume Highway Inland
|Drive||Distance||Est Drive Time||Where to Stay|
|Melbourne to Albury/Wodonga||327 kms (203 miles)||3 hours 30 mins||Albury or Wadonga|
|Albury to Kosciuszko||218 kms (135 miles)||3 hours||Thredbo or Jindabyne|
|Kosciuszko to Canberra||151 kms (94 miles)||2 hours 20 mins||Canberra|
|Canberra to Sydney||387 kms (240 miles)||3 hours 10 mins||Sydney|
Route 2- A1/M1 Princes Highway Coastal Drive
|Drive||Distance||Est Drive Time||Where to Stay|
|Melbourne to Lakes Entrance||320 kms (199 miles)||3 hours 50 minutes||Lakes Entrance|
|Lakes Entrance to Croajingolong National Park||184 kms (114 miles)||2 hours 35 mins||Mallacotta|
|Croajingolong National Park to Batemans Bay||322 kms (200 miles)||4 hours 20 minutes||Batemans Bay|
|Batemans Bay to Jervis Bay||141 kms (88 miles)||1 hour 55 mins||Hyams Beach|
|Jervis Bay to Sydney||201 kms (125 miles)||2 hours 55 mins||Sydney|
Best Time of Year to Drive from Melbourne to Sydney?
You can undertake a Melbourne to Sydney road trip at any time of year.
However, as it is a bustling route that regularly experiences heavy traffic, you might find the best time to do so will be during the school term. In particular, the autumn months of March to May (outside of Easter) and the spring months of September to November are good options, as traffic on the roads at non-rush hour times and not during the Sydney school holidays should be free-flowing.
During autumn, the weather is mild and comfortable, making it an ideal time to enjoy the outdoor attractions along the way, such as national parks, beaches, and wineries. The crowds at these places are usually thinner than during the peak summer season so you can enjoy them in a more relaxed and peaceful way.
Spring is also an excellent time to take this road trip. The weather is mild and comfortable, and the countryside comes to life with blooming flowers and lush greenery. If you are into nature and photography, this is also a terrific time to see and capture stunning landscapes.
If you don’t mind the crowds, the summer months of December to February are also a great time to undertake a Melbourne to Sydney road trip. There is usually plenty of sunshine around, which provides excellent conditions for beach activities and water sports. Remember that accommodation prices are much higher during Australian school holidays than during the shoulder seasons.
The winter period of June to August is generally not the best time to drive from Melbourne to Sydney, as it can be cold and rainy, particularly in the mountainous areas. However, winter can be great for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts taking the inland route, as there are several ski resorts in the Snowy Mountains along the way.
Best Stops On A Melbourne To Sydney Road Trip
Embarking on a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney presents a chance to immerse yourself in Australia’s diverse and stunning landscapes away from the big cities.
Depending on your route, this journey will lead you through the heart of the country or coastal Victoria and New South Wales.
Along the way, you will see thriving small towns that house ‘ridgy didge’ true-blue Aussies, eat food that showcases the best local produce, and witness some of the most incredible scenery you could ever wish to see.
Below are some of the most notable locations to visit.
M31 Route Melbourneto Sydney – Inland on the Hume Highway
Here are some great places to visit if you decide to take the inland M31 route, with some mustn’t miss side detours we recommend from the Hume Highway:
Albury/Wodonga, Victoria/NSW (1 night)
Albury/Wodonga are twin cities that straddle the border of New South Wales and Victoria. Located about a 3.5-hour drive from Melbourne, they are good places for your first stop after leaving it. Both are known for being vibrant regional hubs with rich cultural heritages and stunning natural surroundings.
The Murray River runs through the area, which makes them top spots for fishing, boating, and water skiing. If you stop here, you can also explore the nearby Lake Hume, which offers a range of water activities and scenic walking trails.
In addition, the region possesses some impressive historic buildings, including the Albury Railway Station, a national heritage site. There are also a range of museums and galleries in the area, such as the Albury Regional Art Gallery and the Bonegilla Migrant Experience.
Both towns also have an excellent selection of dining and shopping options and are particularly known for their coffee culture (Campos coffee!)
Kosciuszko National Park, NSW (1-2 nights)
The Snowy Mountains are arguably the major highlight of the M31 route, so they’re worth checking out to see the magnificent landscape.
To do that, you must stop at Kosciuszko National Park, about a 6.5-hour drive from the Melbourne CBD.
Residing in New South Wales, it is named after the very Insta-worthy Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain. Even if you don’t intend to scale the 2,228 metres (7,310 feet), there’s plenty to see and do across the seasons.
Overall, the park covers an area of 6,900 square kilometers and is home to a stunning alpine landscape and a diverse population of fauna, including kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats.
It is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a range of activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and skiing. The latter takes place within the park at The Snowy Mountains, which provides some of Australia’s best skiing and snowboarding during the winter months (yes, you can go skiing in Australia!)
For those who want to stay the night, plenty of accommodation is available to suit all tastes and budgets; try the towns of Thredbo for lodge accommodation or Jindabyne offers several tourist park options including onsite cabins great for road trippers.
Want to include the “Dog on the Tuckerbox” on your Melbourne to Sydney road trip? This small but utterly iconic Aussie landmark statue can be found just north of Gundagai on the M31. It only takes a few minutes at this road stop, or stop in at the tea rooms and gift shop!
(A perfect pee stop too if you’re skipping Kosciuszko and heading straight through to Canberra)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (1 – 3 nights)
Canberra is the capital city of Australia, so it is well worth scheduling a stop there during your journey.
Located in the Australian Capital Territory, the city is known for its stunning architecture, world-class museums, and picturesque natural surroundings.
One of the main attractions in Canberra is the Australian War Memorial, which houses a museum and commemorates the country’s involvement in various conflicts throughout history.
Canberra also offers a range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and kayaking, in its many parks and nature reserves. Visitors can explore the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin in the heart of the city or take a scenic drive through the surrounding countryside, the National Arboretum is another must!.
In addition to its cultural and natural attractions, Canberra is known for its world-class food and wine scene. It currently has over 20 hatted restaurants, so it has an excellent pedigree as a foodies’ destination.
The Canberra to Sydney Drive
From Canberra, you can head directly to Sydney in just over 3 hours, but we’d add in a few more fun roadside stops with the kids, including getting your picture with the Big Merino in Goulburn (yes Aussies are obsessed with “Big Things“), or for a quintessential little Aussie town, make a playground and snack stop at Berrima.
Our detailed guide to essential stops Canberra to Sydney coming soon!
M1/A1 Route – Coastal Drive From Melbourne to Sydney
If you don’t mind the slightly longer drive, there are some simple superb places to stop along the M1/A1 (Princes Highway) coastal route from Melbourne to Sydney.
You could wizz through them all in two days of fairly intense driving, or take a week or two to enjoy these beautiful Australian coastal towns.
Lakes Entrance, Victoria (1-2 Nights)
Situated on the edge of the Gippsland Lakes, the largest inland waterway system in Australia, the scenic town of Lakes Entrance is a paradise for water lovers. Lakes Entrance is a haven for recreational enthusiasts with its breathtaking beaches, crystal-clear lakes, and charming waterways. The place offers a plethora of activities for everyone, including swimming, fishing, boating, and kayaking.
The town’s main attraction is the Ninety Mile Beach, a breathtaking stretch of golden sand that invites visitors to take long walks, soak up the sun, or simply relax by the azure waters. For a unique experience, take a cruise on the Gippsland Lakes and immerse yourself in the tranquility of country Victoria.
Lakes Entrance is also known for its fresh seafood. Indulge in delectable fish and chips or savor locally caught prawns and oysters at the waterfront eateries. It’s the perfect first stopping point on your Melbourne to Sydney road trip.
Croajingolong National Park, Victoria (1-2 nights)
If you love taking in incredible scenery and venturing into the great outdoors, you’ll want to visit Croajingolong National Park.
Situated about a 6-hour drive from Melbourne, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve resides in the far-eastern corner of Victoria and is a terrific base for an overnight stay.
Spanning over 100 kilometers of unspoiled coastline and covering an area of 87,500 hectares, the park is notable for its diverse range of ecosystems. They include pristine beaches, towering eucalyptus forests, and freshwater lakes.
It is also home to rare and endangered wildlife species, including the wonderfully named long-nosed potoroo and eastern bristlebird.
Visitors to Croajingolong National Park can enjoy various outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and camping. The park’s walking trails also offer stunning coastline views, leading to secluded beaches and scenic lookouts, which you will probably have to yourself.
In addition, Croajingolong National Park is significant for its cultural heritage, with evidence of indigenous occupation dating back over 4,000 years. The park contains many sites of spiritual significance to the local Aboriginal communities, which are worth checking out.
Camping within the park is popular, particularly in the summer months. On a family road trip to Sydney, though, you may find more accommodation options in nearby Mallacoota, just before the NSW border.
There are several small towns you could stop in at along the southern NSW coast, including Eden, Merimbula and Wallaga Lake. At the very least we’d plan in a play park pitstop at each of these this smaller towns to break up the journey north along the east coast.
Batemans Bay, NSW (1-2 nights)
Situated on the banks of the Clyde River, Batemans Bay is a charming coastal town located in the South Coast region of New South Wales. It is a popular holiday destination for Aussies because of its beautiful beaches, shimmering turquoise waters, and abundant marine life.
Reached via a 4.5-hour drive from Croajingolong National Park, it is a place you can enjoy a few hours at or, indeed, stay overnight.
The likes of swimming, fishing, and water sports are very popular here. At the same time, visitors can also take a scenic cruise along the Clyde River to explore the town’s natural beauty and spot dolphins and seals along the way.
In addition to its natural attractions, Batemans Bay has a vibrant arts and cultural scene. Plenty of accommodation, dining, and shopping options are also available, with various restaurants, cafes, hotels, and boutique stores in the town center. So, overall, it is an excellent place to eat, shop and stock up for the remainder of your road trip to Sydney.
Jervis Bay (1 to 2 nights)
If you visit only one place on the M1/A1 route, make sure it is Jervis Bay. A stunning coastal region in the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales, it is known for its immaculate beaches and abundant marine life, including dolphins, whales, and seals.
The highlight of Jervis Bay is its famous white sand beaches, including Hyams Beach, which holds the Guinness World Record for having the whitest sand in the world. (Make sure you have your sunglasses, as it’s dazzling!)
Visitors can enjoy swimming, surfing, kayaking, and snorkeling, which is a great way to get active after a long drive. Alternatively, you can relax on the beach and enjoy the breathtaking views.
Jervis Bay is also home to Booderee National Park, which allows visitors to explore the area’s natural beauty and cultural heritage. The park features a range of walking trails, scenic lookouts, camping facilities, and important cultural sites of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community that should be of interest.
Final Drive to Sydney
You easily break this journey up further with stops between Jervis Bay and Sydney including Shoalhaven Heads, Lake Illawara and Wollongong.
Whichever route you take, you’re bound to see some of the most dramatic countryside the country has to offer.
More Tips for Road Tripping Melbourne to Sydney
- If undertaking a road trip outside of the summer months, take a selection of clothes with you for all weather conditions. Temperatures can vary markedly between places and even within the space of a couple of hours.
- Book your accommodation in advance, especially if you are planning on staying in a rural/country area of Australia, to avoid disappointment.
- While you may want to switch off and enjoy the journey, it’s important to stay connected for safety reasons. Make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone before you set off, and don’t forget to bring your charger with you, which you can plug into the car’s USB ports as you drive.
- Throughout Victoria and New South Wales, free Wi-Fi is available at all public libraries. You should also be able to get it at some shopping centers, some cafes, and most fast food outlets like McDonald’s and Hungry Jacks (Burger King).
- Treat these as scenic driving routes, not a race; speed limits in Australia are strictly enforced and penalties stiff if you break the rules.
- Find more of our fabulous tips for road tripping Australia with your family over here.
Where to Next? More Classic Aussie Road Tips
Continue your journey around Australia further with these driving itinerary suggestions:
- You can make a round trip of the southeast corner of Australia; starting from Sydney, you can follow this detailed itinerary from Sydney to Adelaide, via Canberra; then road trip Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road and complete your journey with this Melbourne to Sydney itinerary – we’d allow at least 3 weeks.
- There are plenty of great destinations that can be explored from Sydney by car – we pick out 8 short driving itineraries to try.
- Experience the very best of the New South Wales coast with this Sydney to Byron Bay itinerary, capturing many of Australia’s most popular beach towns – add a further week to 10 days.
- Drive the highlights of the East Coast – Sydney to Cairns along Highway 1, or detour inland to experience the New England Highway and more regional areas of NSW before heading to Far North Queensland – add at least 2 weeks.
- One of the most epic drives, roaming Sydney to the Red Centre – Uluru, will give you a true taste of Australiana and life in the outback – we would only attempt this trip if you have at least a month on your Australian itinerary as there will be a lot of long driving days.
© Family Road Trip