The ingredients of a great road trip are certainly no secret, the recipe public knowledge. Start with long stretches of open road and changing scenery, punctuated by pit stops of intrigue. Have a route mapped out, but leave room for spontaneity and whim. Make sure the soundtrack has rhythm and the company can keep a conversation going.
Though it’s on the other side of the world and you won’t get there on four wheels alone, once you land down under the options for such an adventure are limitless. With the help of GAFFL, a web-app that helps people find travel buddies for adventures around the world, here’s one of the best; our 7 IDEAL stops on your Australian road trip from Melbourne to Sydney.
START IN MELBOURNE
Melbourne to Sydney is most efficiently served by the Hume highway. But we’re in this for the journey, not the destination, and we believe that this 10-hour drive to Sydney doesn’t offer the chance to take in Australian East Coast’s raw natural beauty to its full potential.
Instead, we suggest taking the coastal route, through the Princes Highway. Of course, if you’re kicking things off in Melbourne, its cosmopolitan, artistic vibe should definitely get at least a day of your time. You’re going to be cooped up in the car for a while, so make the most of the famous Royal Botanic Gardens while in the city. Over 38 hectares and 8500 species of plant, huge lawns, shimmering lakes….it’s the perfect way to clear your mind and refresh your soul before you embark on the long drive to Sydney. Oh, and it’s free to everyone. Yes!
FROM HERE TO WILSON PROMONTORY PARK
With a mind of clarity and intent, from Melbourne a 374 kilometre stretch of open road and stunning scenery along Princes Highway will take you to Wilson Promontory Park, one of Victoria’s most beloved national parks, Some locations along the drive just begging to be admired and explored are Yarragon, Walhalla, and Meeniyan. It should be understood that there are no petrol stations from Meeniyan to Wilson Prom; fuel up and buy all the necessities beforehand, when you can. In Walhalla, the Goldsfield Railway and the Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine of Walhalla is well worth your attention.
Once at ‘the Proms’, Tidal River is a great place to pitch a tent and spend the night, and cheap too. If you have a campervan with you, you can stay at the overnight Hiker’s Car Park. Both are well equipped with hot water, showers and even an outdoor cinema if you’re already missing the glare of screens and distraction.
ONWARDS TO METUNG
Assuming you’ve enjoyed a night under the stars (or canvas) at Tidal River, then get back on the Princes Highway and keep on until Tambo River Tourist Park. The upcoming right turn will take you on the Metung road within 8 minutes. Metung boasts the Nyerimilang Heritage Park, which offers great hiking and even sailing on the lake. Stay at the Chinaman’s Creek camping ground.
METUNG TO GYPSY POINT
A two and a half hour drive east will take you to Gypsy Point. The must see of East Gippsland is Croajingolong National Park, which has been identified by Unesco as a Biosphere Reserve and is recognised by BirdLife International for its safe housing of abundant migratory birds.
If you’re up for some views (who isn’t?) then you should scale the Genoa Peak to watch the breathtaking sunset over Croajingolong. There aren’t a lot of overnight car parks (though Shipwreck Creek and Wingan Inlet offer limited spaces for car based camping) close to Gipsy point, but the Gipsy Point Lakeside offers inexpensive lodging.
GIPSY POINT TO NAROOMA
At this point, you can straight drive through Bega, a small New South Wales town famed for cheese production, to Narooma; a comfortable two and a half hour journey. From here you can take a boat tour of nearby Montague Island, which boasts a nature reserve. The main draw here is seal and whale watching, as well as on the island itself, the home of the smallest species of penguin on the planet, the aptly named ‘little penguins’. Narooma is a fairly large town, so has plenty of caravan and camping options, many right on the beach.
GET CULTURAL IN CANBERRA
Onwards for roughly three hours, to the country’s capital Canberra. Known as Australia’s cultural centre, after so much time in and amongst nature, take the opportunity here to reconnect with the invention and creativity of the human mind. Currently running at the National Gallery of Australia is a collection of pre-Raphaelite masterpieces lent by the Tate (ending in late April). Exhibitions of Monet’s impressionist best, and an exploration of Picasso and Matisse’s relationship, run until September 2019 and April 2020 respectively.
CANBERRA TO LERIDA ESTATE & LAKE GEORGE WINERIES
While combining a road trip with copious quantities of wine isn’t a wise move, it’d be rude not to check out some of South East Australia’s famous vineyards and wineries. You don’t actually have to neck the wines at a tasting session, after all.
Two of the best are only a short drive from Canberra; Lerida Estate is 40 minutes north and five minutes further is the Lake George Wineries. The latter is Canberra’s oldest vineyard and has an excellent onsite restaurant, The Harvest, which has an all day dining menu of refined fare utilising Australian produce from nearby farms served in a bright and airy room overlooking the estate. And of course, expert wine pairing. Now, who’s up for taking the wheel on the last leg?
FINISH UP IN SYDNEY
Just shy of three hours more on the road and you’ll be rolling into Sydney, which signals the end of your road trip but the start of a new adventure in the big Syd. Give the tourist-teeming harbourside a swerve and head for Surry Hills. Once a sketchy crime-ridden corner, it’s now one of Sydney’s most artistically-vibrant neighbourhoods. This area is a major player in Sydney’s foodie revolution, full of Sydney’s most innovative chefs, restaurants and cafes. In fact, some have heralded the buzzing ‘burb as the very epicentre of the city’s food scene. Also if you like shopping then head on over to Surry (as the locals call it) for some seriously cool vintage shops and markets.