There are several ways to get from Melbourne to Sydney by road. I’ve chosen to take the coastal route, although with a few diversions inland to see some extra places that interest me. In total, the distance will be about 1000 miles and I’ve spread it out over almost a week, meaning an average of 3 hours driving each day. It’s a good balance, I feel, of making progress but still seeing the best on offer between the two cities.
And there is certainly plenty on offer. From the beaches to the bush, from big cities to small country towns, from history to nature, there is amazing diversity along the way. Here are my favourite moments of the coastal drive from Melbourne to Sydney.
My last stop before Sydney is the nation’s capital, Canberra. While the coastal route doesn’t go near the city, I’ve decided to make a little detour to see some of the interesting sites here like the National Gallery and the Australian War Memorial Museum. The highlight for me, though, is Parliament House. I don’t know how many countries would give you such easy and free access to the heart of the country’s government. You can wander through much of the building by yourself and even get into the public galleries of the main rooms and see the politicians argue over the laws they’ll create.
Just off the coast of a town called Narooma is Montague Island. It’s home to a large colony of seals. They’re friendly animals and so you can jump in the water and swim with them. They come right up to me under the water and do twists and turns, almost like they’re performing. I’m convinced they enjoy it when I do the same back to them. Those that aren’t swimming sit on the rocks and watch me with casual interest. It’s such a wonderful experience and it’s hard to get out of the water and jump back on the boat at the end.
There are lots of opportunities to see Australian wildlife on the drive between Melbourne and Sydney. My favourite is at Croajingalong National Park. I stay at a place called Gipsy Point and, right in front of my room, a group of Eastern Grey Kangaroos is spending the afternoon eating the grass. Colourful birds fly around overhead. On a small walk through the bush, I see koalas sitting in gum trees. Towards dusk, an enormous goanna appears out of nowhere and walks towards me. There is something very special about seeing these animals in the wild.
Gippsland Lakes is the largest inland water system in Australia that’s navigable. I decided to explore the area on board a yacht, sailing across the lakes and into the small bays along the way. There are so many waterbirds here and I love watching them fly past as the sails pull me along. One of the reasons that Gippsland Lakes is so popular is because it’s only separated from the ocean by a small strip of land. The yacht stops at a jetty and I jump off, and walk for just a minute until I’m on the beach, the sand stretching out in both directions as far as I can see.
Just 120 miles southeast of Melbourne, Wilsons Promontory National Park offers so much nature and so many ways to explore it. I choose to spend my afternoon hiking along a stretch of the coast between small beaches. A few times, I venture off the path and climb amongst the rocks as the waves crash near me. The cool mist from the sea is refreshing on such a warm afternoon. In the end, I cover only a small distance and it makes me realise you could spend days here, walking the different trails and exploring parts of the park that are inaccessible by car.
In the late 1800s, the town of Walhalla had a thriving economy as one of the most important gold mining centres around Melbourne. These days, it has less than 20 permanent residents but it’s maintained the charm of that era. One of the things you can do in Walhalla is go deep inside an old mine where gold was once extracted. The narrow tunnels, cut painstakingly by hand more than a century ago, are cold and damp but safe enough for visitors, even if there’s still a bit of a sense of adventure. It’s a fascinating insight into an industry that had a huge effect on the development of the whole country.@
To get a good sense of Melbourne, I start my stay in the city with an early morning hot air balloon ride over the city.
Taking off in the suburbs just before dawn, the sun rises with me. It’s a beautiful clear day and there’s an orange glow on the horizon in one direction. Looking the other way, towards the city, I can see Melbourne starting to bask in the morning sun. It’s so quiet in a hot air balloon and I love the feeling of drifting over the houses in the suburbs towards the central business district. After about an hour, we land in the middle of a park amongst locals on their way to work.