Melbourne and Sydney are by far the most populated cities in Australia, and arguably the most exciting. If you’re staying or living in Melbourne, I highly recommend doing the return road trip from Melbourne to Sydney. Not only will you get to experience both of these vibrant cities, but you will be able to see all of the amazing places between Melbourne and Sydney

Some people might think that a week is not a long enough time for this trip. While I agree that it is a long way to drive, the truth is that there is so much to do along the way that the driving rarely gets tiring.

A snapshot of your return road trip from Melbourne to Sydney:

Total distance travelled: 2200km

Total time spent travelling: 24 hours

Duration of trip: 7 days

Places you’ll go:

  • Lakes Entrance, VIC
  • Snowy river national park, VIC
  • Croajingolong national park, VIC
  • Eden, NSW
  • Batemans bay, NSW
  • Jervis bay, NSW
  • Sydney, NSW
  • Canberra, ACT
  • Snowy mountains, NSW
  • Buchan caves, VIC
  • Blue rock lake, VIC


Here is my recommended itinerary for a one week return road trip from Melbourne to Sydney:

DAY 1: Melbourne to Lakes Entrance, Victoria

Distance: 400km

Time: 5 hours

What you’ll see along the way: beaches, lakes, and Victoria’s glorious eastern coastline!

If you leave Melbourne around midday, you’ll make it to Lake’s Entrance by dusk, a perfect time to relax at Lakes Entrance beach or have some dinner in the lazy lakeside town.

Places to stay in Lakes Entrance

DAY 2: Lakes Entrance to Eden, NSW

Distance: 250km

Time: 3 hours

What to see along the way:

  • Snowy river national park
  • Croajingolong national park
  • Welcome to New South Wales sign

If you were in a rush, you could probably skip this stop altogether and head straight from Lake’s Entrance to Sydney. But there is so much in this patch between the states of Victoria and New South Wales that you might as well take your time.

I would recommend heading out early and checking out either Snowy River National Park  or Croajingolong National Park. Both of these parks are located just within the confines of Victoria state. If you like hiking, Croajingolong has several spectacular walks you can choose from. If not, Snowy River can be explored by driving through it, and you’ll still get to see the amazing scenery.

After you’ve spent time exploring these parks, head to Eden, one of the first towns over the New South Wales border. Eden is a good stop with everything you need – supermarket, camp grounds and hotels, and a nice beach.

Places to stay in Eden

DAY 3: Eden to Sydney

Distance: 550km

Time: 6 hours

What to see along the way:

  • Bateman’s bay
  • Hyams beach, Jervis bay- whitest beach sand on earth

Take the coastal road up to Sydney. This will be one of the most scenic stretches of your journey – beautiful beaches, inlets and lakes everywhere you look.

Stop for lunch in Batemans bay, and make sure you check out the rocky white-sand beach while you’re there. Then, make sure you leave plenty of time to reach Hyams beach before sunset. Hyams beach holds the Guiness world record for the whitest sand beach on the planet. It is one of the most special spots on your  trip from Melbourne to Sydney, so make sure you check it out.

Places to stay in Sydney

DAYS 3-6: Sydney (3 nights)

Congratulations, you made it to Sydney!

Some of you would have been to Sydney before, and others of you will be here for your first time. This will shape your experience and determine what you want to do in Sydney. Check out this guide to Sydney if you need more info, or these instagrammable spots in and around Sydney for some inspiration. Otherwise, here are my top picks for what to do in Sydney. See them in any order you please.

  • Bondi Beach
  • Coogee Beach (I would recommend walking from Coogee to Bondi. It is tiring but there are so many beautiful smaller beaches and man-made pools along the way.
  • Sydney Harbour bridge
  • Sydney opera house (If you’re going to the opera house, you’ll be able to see a view of the bridge (and vice versa))
  • Manly beach

Places to stay in Sydney

DAY 6: Sydney to Canberra, ACT

Distance: 300km

Time: 3 hours

What to see along the way: Other than a few small towns and dry, flat stretches of land, not much.

I would recommend spending your morning in Sydney, making the most out of the city and seeing anything you hadn’t yet got around to. Spend the afternoon and evening in Canberra. Canberra is a small, quiet city and you can discover a good part of it within a few hours. Still, it’s worth visiting the capital city of Australia. Head to the parliament house if you want to learn something about Australia’s history and politics, and head to Mount Ainslee lookout to get a view of the town from above.

Places to stay in Canberra

DAY 7: Canberra to Melbourne, Victoria

Distance: 700km

Time: 7 hours

What to see along the way:

  • Snowy mountains
  • Buchan Caves
  • Blue Rock Lake
  • Welcome to Victoria sign

This will be the longest leg of your journey, so if you have time I would recommend breaking it up and staying a night somewhere along the way. Most of this day will be spent travelling but if you leave early enough, you will have time to stop at some of the amazing spots along the way.

Kosciuszko national park, home to the Snowy Mountains, is an awesome place to visit, especially in winter. You can ski or snowboard there, or just take a walk and check out the scenery.

There are some beautiful inland areas of Victoria that you will pass through as part of your journey. The Gippsland area boasts a number of beautiful watering holes. If you have time, make a stop and check out either Buchan caves or the Blue Rock lake.

More tips for Melbourne:

Things to know about the return road trip from Melbourne to Sydney

The nothingness

A good part of this journey is scenically beautiful. It’s not hard to understand why so many tourists drive from Melbourne to Sydney every year. In saying that, there are patches of the drive (especially during the inland route and on highways) which are slightly repetitive and monotonous. Make sure you have good company on your road trip to ride these more tedious parts out.

State law changes apply

You are going to go through three states and territories throughout your road trip. Be aware that the law varies in each state. You might be aware of the law in Victoria, but don’t assume it’s the same in New South Wales or Australian Capital Territory. For example, if you have a Victorian driver’s license, you can only drive in New South Wales for up to three months before you would have to get it transferred to a New South Wales license. Another thing I noticed is that there seem to be a lot more speed cameras in New South Wales than Victoria. Make sure you know your rules, wherever you are.

The journey is long

If you drive from Melbourne to Sydney directly with no stops it will take over 9 hours. If you take the coastal route, it will be over 14 hours. Be aware that your one week road trip from Melbourne to Sydney will involve at least 24 hours of driving if you take the coastal route at least one way. With that in mind, the best advice I have is to make this trip more about the journey than the destination.

> Visiting more of Australia? Check out this backpacking guide to Australia.

> Would you drive from Melbourne to Sydney and back in a week? Why/why not? Or, if you’ve done this trip, let us know your experience in the comments.

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return road trip from Melbourne to Sydney - one week itinerary

Melbourne to Sydney return road trip one week itinerary

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  1. Great detail in this – we love a good road trip and have driven to Sydney a few times, but never the coastal way. I would love to see this side of it. Thanks for a great resource.

    • Suzie Reply

      Definitely do the coastal road in at least one part of your trip if you have the time! Well worth it 🙂

    • Suzie Reply

      Hope its of use to you when you visit Australia, Mariann! Thanks for your comment.

  2. The coast road is so lovely! The inland road is so boring!! I lived in Canberra for a long time and drove to Melbourne frequently. It’s fast, but so boring. Sometimes it’s nice to get off the highway and visit some of the small towns, if you’ve got time. I love the coast from Lakes Entrance to Eden. Mallacoota is like heaven.

    • Suzie Reply

      I tend to agree that that part of the trip is a little dull, haha. Having said that, for first timers, visiting Canberra is a must, and the mountains too (depending on the time of year)

  3. ooops forgot to mention in my last comment, Victoria has lots of speed cameras too, but they’re hidden! Sometimes on the road in front of an unmarked car or under a bridge, but Victoria doesn’t has signs alerting drivers to where the cameras are, like NSW does. So be super careful in Victoria!

    • Suzie Reply

      Thanks for adding that! Personally I don’t speed anywhere so I wouldn’t know 😛 I did notice all Aussie drivers seemed to be much better behaved than the New Zealand ones…

  4. This is so helpful. I’m currently trying to plan a trip to Australia (a dream trip!) and I find it so difficult to trace the itinerary, having in mind we will only have around 20 days to explore around…

    • Suzie Reply

      Yeah, 20 days is a little amount of time for such a big country! If you can, I would recommend just driving all the way up the east coast and flying out a different city than the one you arrive in. Good luck!

  5. I’ve done the inland route through Canberra on my way up to the Gold Coast, but I would love to explore the coastal areas too! The Mornington Peninsula is another beautiful spot along the way for people that have a bit of extra time too 🙂

    • Suzie Reply

      Definitely check out the coastal road if you have the chance! And yes, Mornington is also stunning 🙂

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