Lucinda Starr

by Lucinda Starr

posted on November 16, 2023

Ready to experience one of the best driving routes in Australia? A road trip from Sydney to Melbourne is a must for travellers and locals alike. Whether you zip along the Hume Highway’s inland route or take the scenic coastal route, get ready to encounter sprawling national parks, stunning beaches and abundant wildlife.

The key to picking the best driving route is to plan ahead and decide what Sydney to Melbourne itinerary suits your travel preferences and timeline. While it’s possible to head south from Sydney and reach Melbourne in one day (I recommend tackling this with two drivers), there are so many quaint coastal towns and must-see attractions for nature lovers that you won’t want to miss along the way.

Driving this route in reverse? If you’re starting your journey in Melbourne, check out our Melbourne to Sydney road trip itinerary here.

This guide covers:

An overview of the Sydney to Melbourne road trip

While it’s possible to fly from Sydney to Melbourne in 1 hour and 30 minutes (not including airport hassles), a Sydney to Melbourne road trip unlocks the best towns, national parks, beaches and historic sites across NSW and VIC. Plus, driving gives you the opportunity to level up your adventure with Sydney car hire on Turo – why not make the trip in a luxurious SUV or a sports car?

Take your time and extend your road trip across multiple days (we’d recommend two to five days, depending on how much time you have up your sleeve), ensuring you can stroll along white sandy beaches, tackle lush walking tracks and even take a dip at pristine beaches.

  • Driving time: 9 to 13 hours
  • Driving distance: 877km to 1040km
  • Route options:
    • Coastal Route (via the A1/Princes Highway and Grand Pacific Drive): 1040km, 13 hours
    • Inland Route (via the M31/Hume Highway and National Highway): 887km, 9 hours

The best time to drive from Sydney to Melbourne

Although you can road trip from Sydney to Melbourne any time of year, the best time to drive will depend on what you’re looking to do and see along the way.

If you’re opting for the scenic coastal route, aim to hit the road during the warmer months of spring (September to November) and late summer into early autumn (February to April). This will ensure you miss the winter storm season and help you beat the summer holiday crowds and long traffic queues.

Looking to enjoy a spot of whale watching? Hit the road in May to July or September to November for the best chance of catching whales migrating off the south coast. You could even try to time your time to line up with the annual Whale Festival, held in Eden, during October each year.

Driving conditions are pleasant for most of the year if you take the inland route. Our tip? Steer clear of driving in the hot summer months (December to February), as temperatures are likely to exceed 30 degrees, and road congestion will likely be at its peak.

What you need to know before driving from Sydney to Melbourne

If you’re planning a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne, you’ll be treated to smooth, scenic driving conditions and plenty of spots to stretch your legs along the journey.

Head inland and enjoy a shorter drive with abundant mountain biking and bush walking opportunities. Prefer to journey along the NSW South Coast? The coastal route offers a leisurely multi-day itinerary, taking you from the Royal National Park all the way through the far south coast and into the historic gold rush towns of Victoria.

Skip the hassle of air travel and hit the road for an unforgettable road trip that’s well worth the drive.

Sydney to Melbourne road trip essentials

One of the best things about the Sydney to Melbourne drive is this: you won’t be far from civilisation during your journey. But before hitting the road, it’s best to stock up on a few road trip essentials, including:

  • GPS and map: While you should have reception during the entire drive, a GPS and physical map are always handy in case of emergencies. If you’re booking a car through Turo, why not add a GPS navigation device to your booking?
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent: Protect your skin against the harsh Australian sun and beat the bug bites from mosquitos with bug spray.
  • Playlist and audiobooks: With plenty of time on the road, make sure to download your favourite albums, a few playlists and even an audiobook to keep you entertained during the drive.
  • First aid kit: Make sure this kit is stocked with bandaids, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, painkillers and anything else that might be useful.
  • Torch: Planning to pitch a tent or camp overnight? A torch is a must and will definitely come in handy during your Sydney to Melbourne road trip.
  • Snacks and drinks: While you’ll find plenty of petrol stations and takeaway food spots dotted along the drive, it doesn’t hurt to come prepared with bottled water, fruit and plenty of snacks.
  • Hiking gear: If you’re taking the inland route, a hat and a pair of hiking shoes will be useful if you explore a nearby walking track.
  • Swimmers and beach towel: If you’re taking the coastal route, make the most of the beaches and swim spots by coming prepared with swimwear and a towel (you never know which coastal town you might visit during your drive!).
Bonus tip: Level up your Sydney to Melbourne road trip by booking Mohammed’s BMW M3 in Sydney

Petrol stations and EV chargers along the way

Most petrol cars will come with a 400 km range, meaning you’ll likely have to refuel at least two to three times during your drive. Luckily, plenty of 24/7 petrol stations are dotted along the way, with stops to refuel every 50km to 100km on the Hume Highway. If you’re taking the coastal route, make sure to pull into bigger cities (such as Kiama, Batemans Bay and Eden) to refuel.

If you’re driving an EV (such as a Tesla or BYD), you can find plenty of charging stations located along the drive from Sydney to Melbourne. Use this free interactive map from PlugShare to plan out your charging stops, and make sure to confirm your car’s range before hitting the road so you don’t get caught short on power.

Staying safe during your road trip

When driving through more rural sections of the drive from Sydney to Melbourne, be aware that wildlife tends to be most active at dawn, dusk and after dark. If you choose to drive at night, avoid driver fatigue, make sure to exercise caution and be vigilant for animals that might be on the road. Using your high beams will help you spot any wildlife early, but avoid swerving suddenly if animals enter the road during your drive.

Expert tips and things to remember before you go

Take it from me: tackling the entire road trip from Sydney to Melbourne in one day isn’t a smart move (even if you have multiple drivers). While it is possible to tackle the inland Hume Highway route in one day, you’ll miss the chance to sample fresh oysters, spot wild koalas and explore lush national parks during your trip.

Before you set off, make sure to keep these top tips in mind to enjoy the best road trip possible:

  • Take breaks every two hours: Beat fatigue by taking advantage of the rest stops dotted along the Sydney to Melbourne drive. Pull over, stretch your legs and take at least a 15-minute break for every two hours of driving.
  • Share the drive: Better yet, why not split the driving with a mate? By sharing the drive, you can stay sharp behind the wheel and ensure you keep yourself and other drivers safe on the road.
  • Plan your overnight stays ahead of time: If you’re planning to travel during the peak summer months (December to February), be sure to book accommodation before you depart, as spots can fill up, particularly in small towns and regional cities.
  • Shop local and support small businesses along the way: Many towns and areas along the NSW South Coast and East Gippsland in VIC were severely impacted by the Black Summer Bushfires in 2019-20. After this significant natural disaster, you can support these communities by stopping in at small coastal towns and purchasing handmade goods and local produce.

Sydney to Melbourne road trip itineraries

Route 1: Sydney to Melbourne Coastal Drive

Take your time and explore the east coast of Australia with the scenic coastal drive from Sydney to Melbourne. This route will take you along the A1/Princes Highway and features several stunning driving roads (including the Grand Pacific Drive and Seacliff Bridge).

  • Driving time: 13 hours (ideally spread over five days)
  • Driving distance: 1040km
  • Day-by-day itinerary:
    • Day 1 – Sydney to Kiama (123km, 1 hour 46 minutes)
    • Day 2 – Kiama to Ulladulla (105km, 1 hour 24 minutes)
    • Day 3 – Ulladulla to Eden (251km, 3 hours 9 minutes)
    • Day 4 – Eden to Lakes Entrance (242km, 2 hours 44 minutes)
    • Day 5 – Lakes Entrance to Melbourne (319km, 3 hours 50 minutes)
  • Best for: Nature lovers looking to explore national parks, quaint coastal towns and sweeping coastal vistas. While this trip is longer and requires more days on the road, it offers a memorable road trip through the best of the NSW and VIC South Coast.

Route 2: Sydney to Melbourne Inland Route

Looking for the fastest way to drive from Sydney to Melbourne? The Inland Route takes you along the M31/Hume Highway and National Highway, cutting through inland NSW. This itinerary only requires one overnight stop, making it a smart road trip for a quick weekend getaway between Australia’s two biggest capital cities.

  • Driving time: 9 hours
  • Driving distance: 887km
  • Day-by-day itinerary:
    • Day 1 – Sydney to Albury (549km, 6 hours – make sure to stretch your legs at Goulburn!)
    • Day 2 – Albury to Melbourne (325km, 3 hours 30 minutes)
  • Best for: Travellers looking for a time-efficient way to drive from Sydney to Melbourne while soaking in lush bushland and national parks.

Top places to stop between Sydney and Melbourne

There’s no shortage of great spots between Sydney and Melbourne, with New South Wales and Victoria offering incredible sights, attractions and must-see destinations. Depending on which route you take and how much time you have, here are a handful of the best places to stop between Sydney and Melbourne.

Best spot to visit along the inland route

Goulburn

Venture to the historic town of Goulburn (Australia’s first inland city), the perfect inland city to explore during your first day driving between Sydney and Melbourne. Snap a photo at The Big Merino, visit the Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum and grab award-winning baked goods from Trappers Bakery. Expect the perfect blend of country charm and gold rush history in Goulburn.

Yass

Another must-see heritage town, Yass offers an unmissable blend of wineries, delicious dining destinations and outdoor attractions. Perfect for foodies and history buffs alike, don’t miss the Cooradigbee Fossil Tours, where you can uncover fossils dating back 400 million years.

Jugiong

Perched on the Murrumbidgee River, turn off the Hume Highway and pull into the quaint country town of Jugiong, situated in the Hilltops Region. Located an easy 90 minutes from Canberra, this New South Wales town boasts a main street filled with local businesses (including the Jugiong Wine Cellar and historic Sir George bar and kitchen).

Wagga Wagga

Nearly halfway between Sydney and Melbourne is the regional centre of Wagga Wagga (located in the heart of the Riverina region). Expect bustling dining options, art galleries, riverbank walks, lush gardens and a town brimming with rich history. Take a stroll through the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens, grab a bite to eat at Coolamon Cheese and enjoy a drink from Tumut River Brewing Co. (as long as you’ve got a designated driver in the car!).

Holbrook

Experience naval history at its best in Holbrook. Rubbing shoulders with the sprawling Woomargama National Park, Holbrook is known as ‘Submarine Town‘ (and even boasts a fascinating Submarine Museum waiting to be explored). Enjoy a meal at The Ten Mile eatery or Holbrook Bakery and swing by the Holbrook Agricultural Show (if you visit the region during March).

Anthony’s Genesis GV80 in Sydney – Take the whole fam with you and drive from Sydney to Melbourne in comfort.

Albury

Albury is the perfect place to stop for the night, a major regional town between Sydney and Melbourne. Enjoy water sports along the Murray River, cycle along the scenic Wagirra Trail, visit the Murray Art Museum Albury or enjoy a meal by the water at the River Deck.

Beechworth

Need to take a break on your second day of driving? Beechworth is a historic gold rush era town bringing with history, famed wineries, epic mountain biking trails and plenty of short bush walk trails. It’s a perfect place to explore before tackling the final three hours of driving to Melbourne.

Best spot to visit along the coastal route

Royal National Park

It might be just on the outskirts of Sydney, but the Royal National Park is a must-see location for nature lovers. As one of the world’s oldest national parks, expect sweeping coastal views from Bald Hill Lookout, pristine beaches, lush rainforest and impressive ancient rock formations.

Once you’ve explored this national park, hit the road from Sydney to Wollongong along Grand Pacific Drive, which takes you across the scenic Sea Cliff Bridge.

Kiama

From the world-famous Kiama blowhole to the neighbouring Seven Mile Beach, Kiama is a must-see destination just over an hour south of Sydney. Take a swim at the beach or ocean pool, recharge at a coastal cafe or explore the stunning volcanic rock formations lining this charming seaside town.

Jervis Bay

Located in the Shoalhaven Region of the NSW South Coast, Jervis Bay is best known for its white sand beaches and sparkling blue waters. The area is a hot spot for families and beachgoers during summer (don’t miss a trip to the iconic Hyams Beach) and is perfectly positioned for spotting whales as they migrate down the coast between May and November.

If you’re planning on stopping in Jervis Bay, be sure to check out our more detailed Sydney to Jervis Bay road trip guide.

Mollymook

Rubbing shoulders with historic Milton and the regional hub of Ulladulla, Mollymook is a picturesque coastal town on the NSW South Coast. Dine at the renowned Rick Stein at Bannister’s restaurant, learn to surf at Mollymook Beach Surf School and enjoy fish and chips on the grassy knoll at Mollymook Beach. Best of all, Mollymook is just a short 45-minute drive to the lush Murramarang National Park.

Batemans Bay

Travelling with kids? Don’t miss Batemans Bay, a classic beachside region filled with snorkelling trails, cycleways and sparkling beaches. Learn about the area’s history at Batemans Bay Heritage Museum and experience the best of Australia’s oyster coast with a fresh catch from Pearly Oyster Bar and Farm. Batemans Bay is another fantastic spot for whale watching too.

For a more detailed drive guide, check out this Sydney to Batemans Bay itinerary.

Tilba

Historic Tilba offers a quaint village best known for the Tilba Dairy (producers of pure Jersey milk, cream, cheese and artisan dairy products). While once a gold mining town, Tilba is now home to award-winning cheese and dairy makers. Plus, you can make the easy 45-minute drive from Tilba to the must-see Mimosa Rocks National Park.

Eden

Located on the Sapphire Coast of NSW, Eden is a coastal town brimming with marine life, pristine coastline and rich heritage. Make sure to visit the Beowa National Park (formerly known as Ben Boyd National Park) for incredible coastal walking tracks.

Croajingolong National Park

On the remote coast of far-east Victoria, you’ll find the ancient forests and giant sand dunes of Croajingolong National Park. Th

is rugged parkland is perfect for anyone looking to get off the beaten track in nature.

Lakes Entrance

Boasting Australia’s largest inland network of waterways, Lakes Entrance is situated in the Gippsland Region of VIC. It’s a perfect family holiday spot, home to Ninety Mile Beach and the Lakes Entrance Beach.

Wilsons Promontory

Want to visit the southernmost tip of mainland Australia? Head to Wilsons Promontory and explore the coastal bush trails of Wilsons Promontory National Park. You might even spot a wombat, kangaroo or emu if you pitch a tent at the r

emote campsite.

Phillip Island

Just 90 minutes outside Melbourne, Phillip Island offers unmissable wildlife experiences for families and adults alike. Don’t miss the Phillip Island penguin parade and the sparkling beauty of the Victorian coastline. Phillip Island nature is something you have to see and experience firsthand.

Sydney to Melbourne drive: frequently asked questions

Can you complete the Sydney to Melbourne drive in reverse?

Absolutely. Whether you take the inland or coastal route, this road trip between Australia’s two largest capital cities can be completed in either direction. If you are starting your journey from Melbourne, be sure to check out our Melbourne to Sydney road trip guide.

How long is the Sydney to Melbourne drive?

The exact drive time and distance between Sydney and Melbourne depends on your route. The shorter inland route is roughly 877km or 9 hours of driving (with at least one overnight stop). The scenic coastal route spans over 1040km (13 hours of drive time), with at least five days recommended to soak in the best of this journey.

Is it safe to drive from Sydney to Melbourne?

The roads between Sydney and Melbourne are sealed and well-maintained, making for a smooth, safe trip. This clearly marked route is easy to navigate and offers plenty of rest stops along the way, along with small towns to refuel and grab a bite to eat.

What is the most scenic route from Sydney to Melbourne?

The coastal route offers some of the most scenic vistas of the NSW South Coast. You’ll be treated to the incredible driving experience that is Sea Cliff Bridge, the white sand beaches of Jervis Bay and the pristine beaches of the Sapphire Coast.

What is the quickest route from Sydney to Melbourne?

The most direct route from Sydney to Melbourne is the inland route, taking you along the Hume Highway.

Should you rent a car to drive from Sydney to Melbourne?

If you’re visiting Australia from overseas, hiring a car is the best way to tackle the Sydney to Melbourne road trip. Even as a local, hiring a car allows you to get behind the wheel of your dream ride and road test your next car purchase.

Whether you’re starting your trip in Sydney or Melbourne, local Turo hosts are able to arrange delivery of your ride to any location that works for you. Plus, you can even score a discount if you make a long-term booking and enjoy free cancellation up to 24 hours before the start of your booking.

What is the cost of driving from Sydney to Melbourne?

The cost of driving between Sydney and Melbourne depends on the vehicle you’ve booked, its fuel efficiency and how many stops and detours you make along the way.

Generally speaking, if you’re driving a car that consumes 10 litres of fuel per 100km (and you’re paying $1.50 per litre), you’d be spending upwards of $132 in petrol each way.

Is it worth driving from Sydney to Melbourne?

In short, yes! The journey from Sydney and Melbourne is best explored by road, allowing you to weave along the coastline or country towns of NSW and VIC. Get off the beaten track and make your journey as much fun as your final destination by hiring a car and tackling this great Australian road trip.

Final advice for the Sydney to Melbourne drive of a lifetime

Ultimately, driving from Sydney to Melbourne (or vice versa) isn’t about getting from A to B as quickly as possible. It’s about soaking in the best historic towns, coastal scenery and sweeping vistas of the East Coast.

Skip the highway’s direct route and get off the beaten track by tackling one of the most scenic journeys (the detour is definitely worth your while).

Want to secure the perfect ride for your Sydney to Melbourne road trip? With Turo, you’ll find unique cars you can’t find anywhere else, ready to be delivered to you from a local Turo host. Find your perfect ride on Turo.

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Lucinda Starr

Lucinda Starr

Lucinda is a Sydney-based content specialist and avid road tripper. Having travelled across Asia, North America and the South Pacific, she's experienced everything from glamping in a Yurt in -30 degrees in The Yukon, snorkelling in the open seas of Vanuatu and hiking the rocky alps of Kamikochi in Japan. She's currently planning her next overseas adventure, a toss-up between a classic #EuroSummer or a multi-day trek through Nepal.

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