Sydney – Nowra – Batemans Bay – Eden – Bairnsdale – Walhalla – Wilsons Promontory – Phillip Island – Mornington Peninsula – Melbourne
Swim from white beaches in Jervis Bay, eat fresh oysters in Pambula and spot whales in Eden. Experience the precious eco-systems of Mallacoota and Croajingolong National Park. Go boating on the vast, tranquil Gippsland Lakes. Then walk along the sweeping expanse of Ninety Mile Beach and to the southernmost tip of Australia's mainland in Wilsons Promontory National Park. On Phillip Island, you'll find friendly fur seals and a daily dusk parade of little penguins. This blockbuster drive takes you to sleepy seaside towns, national parks teeming with wildlife and long, solitary beaches where your feet are the only ones on the sand.
At a glance:
This blockbuster drive takes you to relaxed seaside towns, national parks teeming with wildlife and long, solitary beaches where your feet are the only ones on the sand.
Drive south out of Sydney and through the Royal National Park to begin the cliff-hugging Grand Pacific Drive. Stop to swim, surf or picnic at Stanwell Tops, where you can also take in stunning coastal views from the cliff-tops. Drive over the dramatic Sea Cliff Bridge, which spans 455 metres (1,492 feet) over the ocean, and into the scenic city of Wollongong. Stop for a coffee here, in Shellharbour on Lake Illawarra or in Kiama where the famous Blowhole shoots water up to 60 metres (196 feet). Continue through the lush rolling hills to Gerringong and Gerroa, which sits perched on cliffs overlooking Seven Mile Beach. Drive alongside it to Shoalhaven Heads, a popular spot for swimming, surfing and beach fishing, or head inland for a pub lunch in the pretty historic town of Berry. Do a short, scenic drive to the antique shops, galleries and green pasturelands of Kangaroo Valley. Or curve towards the coast and stop at Coolangatta Estate for award-winning wines. Finish your first day in Nowra, which offers pretty antique shops and cafes and find a rustic pub to sleep the night.
Head to Huskisson in Jervis Bay, where you can cruise next to dolphin pods or burrow your feet in some of the world’s whitest sand at Hyams Beach. Swim, bushwalk or birdwatch in the beaches and forest of Booderee National Park. You can picnic at Hammerhead Point near Currarong and Red Point near Callala. Or dive from Green Patch, where the crimson rosellas lend bright splashes of colour. Hire a sea kayak and paddle round Honeymoon Bay and swim off Murrays Beach, where the waters are sheltered by Bowen Island. When you are ready to get behind the wheel, drive south and stop at Ulladulla for fish and chips on the harbour. Learn about local Aboriginal history on the ‘One Track For All' walk along the northern headland or swim at Pebbly Beach with resident kangaroos. Take in the rugged coastline of Murramarang National Park and the lakes and beaches of South Durras. End your day in the vibrant holiday town of Batemans Bay, where you can cruise the Clyde River and feast on fresh oysters.
Stop in Mogo, where you can browse boutique shops and experience life in a 19th century gold mining village. Then visit the pretty National Trust-listed village of Central Tilba and see traditional craftspeople at work. Stop off at the Umbarra Cultural Centre, where you can join a boomerang-throwing session or a four wheel drive tour to the sacred sites of Gulaga (Mt Dromedary) and Wallaga Lake. Travel along the beach road to Mimosa Rocks National Park, where you can swim and snorkel in the lagoons, surf from the ocean beaches and trek the jagged coastline. Head inland to sample the cheeses of Bega or taste the famous oysters of Pambula. Pull in to the whale watching town of Eden, where you can watch majestic southern right and humpback whales make their annual migration between May and November. Bushwalk through wildflowers, beaches and eucalypts in Ben Boyd National Park before retiring for the night.
Continue on across the Victorian border to the pretty coastal town of Mallacoota, on the tranquil, shimmering lakes of Mallacoota Inlet. Steer a boat or paddle a canoe up the Genoa or Wallagaraugh rivers to Gipsy Point, where you can picnic with kangaroos and feed sea eagles. See one of the world’s largest known colonies of little penguins at Gabo Island. Explore eco-systems so precious they are protected by a World Biosphere Reserve in Croajingolong National Park. Or travel south to Cape Conran Coastal Park for a picnic lunch. You can camp here, between heathlands, wild ocean beaches and banksia woodlands. Or continue towards Metung past Lakes Entrance, where you can sail or cruise the Gippsland Lakes, Australia’s largest inland waterway.
Set off early and travel through beautiful rural scenery. Stop at the Sale Wetlands to stroll the boardwalk and see plentiful wildlife. Take a Port of Sale Heritage Cruise along the Thomson River on a 1912 wooden boat. Drive through extensive dairy country that is home to the famous Maffra Cheddar and grab a coffee under the wide awnings of Maffra’s historic main street. Stop for lunch at the Tinamba Hotel, a classic Aussie pub serving a food and wine menu that’s a gastronomic cut above. Or head to Nielson’s at Traralgon for a renowned dining experience. Head to the gold rush village of Walhalla, ringed by romantic forest on the southern edge of the Victorian Alps. Venture deep underground on a mine tour and stay overnight at the Star Hotel’s historic accommodation that tells of the town’s gold rush past.
Start the day exploring Walhalla’s historic valley. You’re on the doorstep of the Baw Baw National Park, popular for bushwalks, scenic drives and picnics. From there, drive to Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park and set out on one of the park’s many walks. Follow the Lilly Pilly Gully Nature Walk through heathland, eucalypt forest and rainforest or walk to Squeaky Beach to see its pure white sand. Trek to the top of Mt Oberon for one of Victoria’s best panoramas or hike out to one of 11 outstation campsites and stay overnight (the outstations are overnight hikes of one to five days). Snorkel or dive the granite cliffs, bright fish and multicoloured seaweed of the park and stay overnight in the nearby town of Foster.
Stop for a coffee at Fish Creek, a small quirky township lined with galleries, bookstores and cafés, or wait till you reach the popular seaside town of Inverloch for lunch. Drive through the fishing and pelican haven of San Remo and over the bridge to Phillip Island. See koalas and waterbirds in the wild at Rhyll and watch fairy penguins waddle home at dusk on Summerland Beach. For a different kind of wild life, visit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, home to the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix (MotoGP) and V8 Supercar 500. Cruise past Australia’s largest seal colony of fur seals at Seal Rocks and see thousands of short-tailed shearwaters on the rugged bluffs of Cape Woolamai. Spend the night in Cowes or the sheltered port of Rhyll.
Stroll along the treetop boardwalk and watch koalas at the Koala Conservation Centre in Cowes before taking the scenic route around Western Port Bay and the Mornington Peninsula. Discover the beaches, wineries and golf course of Flinders, then cross the peninsula to Sorrento to walk the cliffs past million-dollar mansions in Portsea. You can also pick your own berries and visit wineries and galleries in Red Hill. Finish the day with a relaxing soak at the Peninsula Hot Springs. Alternatively take an evening tour at Moonlit Sanctuary to view Australia’s nocturnal wildlife.
Continue exploring the Peninsula, or take a cruise to see the dolphins. (November – April). Depart on the Peninsula Searoad Ferry to Queenscliff (40 minute crossing, rental cars welcome).
Meander through the villages of the Bellarine Peninsula such as Point Lonsdale and Barwon Heads, or take in the views over lunch at Jack Rabbit Winery.
Stop in at Advance Mussel Supply (weekends and holidays) and pick up a bag of super-fresh mussels from Port Phillip Bay.
Follow the Bellarine Taste Trail for fresh fruit and vegetables, olives, seafood and cheese before heading back to Melbourne.