7 special moments on the Melbourne to Sydney route

Driving down the highway, tall gum trees rise above me on either side. The sunlight shines through, creating streaks of brightness. Signs on the side of the road warn of kangaroos but I don’t see any. It’s a peaceful drive – easy and relaxing for mile after mile. During one stretch, I catch glimpses of the coast out to my right.

Behind the wheel of my Maui campervan, I enjoy these quiet moments on the road. I am taking a week to drive from Melbourne to Sydney and there is plenty to see along the way. It means lots of stops and lots of activity at each of the places. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do in Australia. I treat the driving – something that might seem like a hassle in other countries – as part of the sightseeing, as the landscapes change along the journey.

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.

Melbourne to Sydney Route

Michael Turtle is an award-winning travel writer at His website features blogs about more than 50 countries around the world and in early 2016, he visited Melbourne to document the famous Melbourne to Sydney Coastal Drive.

Parliament House, Canberra

Visiting Parliament House in Canberra

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.

Montague Island

Swimming with seals at Montague Island

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.

Croajingalog National Park

Seeing wildlife at Croajingalong National Park

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.

Michael turtle

Gippsland Lakes

Sailing on a yacht on Gippsland Lakes

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.

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Hiking along the beaches at Wilsons Promontory

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.

Long Tunnel Extended Mine

Going inside a mine at Walhalla

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.@

Global Ballooning Company

Hot air ballooning in Melbourne

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.


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