A popular road trip itinerary in Australia is to drive between Adelaide and Melbourne along the coastline and via The Great Ocean Road. And whilst The Great Ocean Road only covers a short section of the Adelaide to Melbourne coastal drive, it is without doubt the most famous part. The Adelaide to Melbourne drive itinerary also passes many unique and interesting places such as Coorong National Park – a 140km saltwater lagoon protected by sand dunes, and Mount Gambier – a small city full of crater lakes and volcanic landscapes.
Here is this article you’ll get all the information you need about the most important stops between Melbourne and Adelaide, how long you should do the road trip, driving distances and driving times, as well as suggestions for restaurants and overnight accommodation.
How long does it take to drive from Adelaide to Melbourne?
If you drive direct from Adelaide, South Australia to Melbourne, Victoria without stops it will take around 8 hours. This route goes a little inland and is very uneventful. People will only take this route if they just need to get from one city to the other and aren’t interested in seeing any of the sights between Adelaide and Melbourne. The distance between Adelaide and Melbourne on the inland road is around 730km.
The best route is to go on the slightly longer scenic route by the coast where you can see beautiful rugged beaches, National Park and of course The Great Ocean Road – one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline. This will take around 13 hours non-stop driving and will be around 1000km.
Adelaide to Melbourne road trip: how many days?
The scenic coastal drive from Adelaide to Melbourne via The Great Ocean Road is over 1000km by car. I recommend four days as a minimum for this road trip: not only is it a heck of a lot of driving, but there really are so many beautiful places to see along the way to enjoy. The scenery in this part of Australia is stunning and so you’ll definitely want to take your time – it would be such a shame to rush or miss parts out due to time restraints.
We took four days to do the trip – any shorter than this and you would be spending most of the day in the car driving and may have to miss out some of the stops. Mind, with 4 days it still felt like we were driving quite a bit each day, especially as some stretches of road are so dull and straight and seemingly going on forever. We spent a couple of days either side of the road trip exploring both Adelaide and Melbourne, so all in all the whole trip took roughly a week and it was quite intense, full of long days and a decent amount of driving and sightseeing each day.
Even though the distance from Adelaide to Melbourne on the map looks relatively small it is still a long distance to drive. Don’t be too optimistic or try to rush too much. Three days is possible for the Adelaide to Melbourne drive but make sure you take enough rest so you aren’t driving for too long. It will feel quite rushed if you do the trip in just three days, especially considering that The Great Ocean Road alone will take one whole day, and that is only one fifth of the route (just over 200km out of 1000km)!
If you want to take longer than four days for the journey – even better!
The top places to visit on the Adelaide to Melbourne drive include:
Coorong National Park
The Great Ocean Road (including The Twelve Apostles)
If you will be doing a 4 day road trip from Adelaide to Melbourne you can use the sample itinerary below as a guide. It is the one we used and it worked out well in terms of time, amount driven and sightseeing each day. It doesn’t take into consideration time spent in Adelaide and Melbourne, so you should add a couple of days before the itinerary to explore Adelaide, and a few days after to explore Melbourne.
4 day Adelaide to Melbourne drive itinerary
Fleurieu Peninsula (Port Noarlunga Beach, Port Willunga Beach)
STAY OVERNIGHT IN COORONG
Coorong National Park
STAY OVERNIGHT IN MOUNT GAMBIER
Start of The Great Ocean Road (Bay of Islands, Bay of Martyrs, The Grotto, London Arch, The Arch Lookout, Port Campbell)
STAY OVERNIGHT IN PORT CAMPBELL (ON GREAT OCEAN ROAD)
Great Ocean Road (Broken Head, Thunder Cave, The Razorback, Loch Ard, Gorge, The Twelve Apostles, Gibson Steps, Memorial Arch)
Great Otway National Park
Seaside towns along Great Ocean Road of Apollo Bay and Lorne.
Arrive in Melbourne
STAY OVERNIGHT IN MELBOURNE
If you are tight for time and can manage to do the road trip in three days, I would skip staying overnight in the Coorong and just stay in Mount Gambier and along The Great Ocean Road.
How much will the trip cost?
If you’re from the UK you’ll be glad to know that petrol in Australia is a lot cheaper than what you’re used to! To do the whole 1000km will cost you around $120 or so in petrol! If you are in a camper van, or driving with a tent and want to keep costs down you can stay in caravan parks and campsites – along this route they cost between around $20-$30 per night. However after long days driving and sightseeing a hotel or rented accommodation will be much more comfortable. More about that later.
*Important driving safety at night between Adelaide and Melbourne*
One thing that is really important when planning your road trip between Melbourne and Adelaide is to minimise the amount of time you are driving between dusk and dawn. Night time is when native wildlife is most active here and especially on long stretches of open road kangaroos are very likely to jump across the road. The time one hour before and after sunset, and one hour before and after sunrise is when you should be especially avoid driving.
If driving at these times can’t be prevented, you will need to be very careful and drive cautiously as this seems to be the prime time for kangaroos to come to the side of the road. The street lighting on open stretches of road is minimal, and the kangaroos have a habit of just appearing out of nowhere as there is lots of bush at the sides of the road, so you’ll really need to stay extra alert as you won’t see them coming and often won’t have time to avoid them. Therefore it is really best to avoid driving during the dark if possible.
In order to avoid driving in the dark you will need to factor in how long it will take to drive each day.
What to do if a kangaroo hops across the road?
If a kangaroo does jump across the road, even though it is an instant reaction it is important not to abruptly brake your vehicle. Obviously you don’t want to hit the kangaroo, but also you do no’t want to cause an accident if there are any other vehicles around. Always be aware of your surroundings and any cars that may be behind you.
Also, by braking the vehicle it effectively lowers the bonnet of the car, meaning if you do hit a kangaroo it could potentially go straight through your windscreen and cause serious damage to you (yes sadly people have died this way). If you just release your foot off the gas and keep going, if you do happen to unfortunately hit the kangaroo at least it will just bounce off your bumper as opposed to breaking your windscreen and potentially causing some serious or fatal damage to you.
What time of year is best to do the Adelaide to Melbourne drive?
The warmer summer months of November to March are the best time to do the Adelaide to Melbourne drive.
Temperatures in the summer can exceed 30 degrees and especially by the coast you’ll have a nice gentle breeze so it won’t feel too hot. Of course the summer months are a lot busier and prices will be higher for accommodation, plus accommodation options get booked out in advance so you’ll need to be organised and plan ahead.
If you do visit during the cooler winter months of June to September be aware that winters in South Australia and Victoria – though definitely not as harsh as European summers, can be quite cold. Temperatures can drop to single digits and you’ll definitely need winter clothes. The sky can also be cloudy and there can be days that are windy and rainy so the summer months or the shoulders months are much more enjoyable to enjoy this Adelaide to Melbourne road trip on.
During the winter the sun sets at around 5pm in South Australia and Victoria, giving roughly only 10 hours of daylight per day. Compare this to when the sun sets at around 8.30pm in the summer months, which gives around 14 hours of daylight meaning you have more time in your day for sightseeing.
Therefore in the summer months you’ll have more time to explore and sightsee and you won’t have to worry so much about making sure you get to your destination before it gets dark.
ADELAIDE TO MELBOURNE DRIVE ITINERARY
Below are the best stops I recommend along the Adelaide to Melbourne drive. Of course you can start the drive from Melbourne too, in which case just reverse the itinerary and start from the bottom.
Before you start your Adelaide to Melbourne drive, make sure to spend a couple of days in Adelaide – the capital of South Australia. Whilst Adelaide gets overshadowed by the bigger Australian cities and many people are of the idea there is ‘nothing to do in Adelaide’ there are actually so many things you can do here!
In Adelaide CBD you can find some really interesting museums such as the Art Gallery of South Australia, South Australian Museum (home to the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal Australian artefacts), as well as The State Library of South Australia – one of the top 20 most beautiful libraries in the world. The River Torrens runs through Adelaide and there are some really lovely walks along the river you can do, or head to the Botanic Gardens or Himeji Japanese Gardens to enjoy some peace and tranquility in the middle of the city.
Adelaide has some beautiful beach side suburbs such as Glenelg and West Beach that are just a few minutes drive away. The sand here is so white! Plus if you are in Adelaide on the weekend there are plenty bars and clubs for you to enjoy!
Head east of Adelaide to start your Adelaide to Melbourne road trip and stop off in the Adelaide Hills – one of Australia’s best wine producing regions. Admire the wineries and vineyards, visit the charming German town of Hahndorf and see the panoramic view of Adelaide and surrounds from Mount Lofty.
Where to stay in Adelaide: Hotel Grand Chancellor
Read: Port Willunga Caves
The Fleurieu Peninsula is south of Adelaide (about an hour from the Adelaide Hills) and is known for it’s beautiful rugged beaches – two of which should definitely be explored are Port Noarlunga and Port Willunga. They are both popular holiday destinations and you can get some really beautiful photos here, in particular of Port Noarlunga jetty, Onkaparinga River Mount View Point and the Port Willunga caves. Some itineraries won’t include The Fleurieu Peninsula on the Adelaide to Melbourne itinerary as it is a little bit of a detour from the highway. It is however a beautiful part of the world and is much quieter than the beaches along The Great Ocean Road.
Kangaroo Island (optional)
An optional place you can add to your Adelaide to Melbourne itinerary is a trip to Kangaroo Island – Australia’s biggest island. You drive to the western-most part of the Fleurieu Peninsula to get to Cape Jervis and from here you get the ferry across to Kangaroo Island. The drive from Adelaide to Cape Jervis straight will only take 1.5 hours, so it is really not much of a detour.
If you want to add Kangaroo Island on to your Adelaide to Melbourne road trip you will need to add at least a couple of days to explore Kangaroo Island as it is surprisingly big and there is so much to see here, from visiting the beautiful secluded beaches of Stokes Bay Beach and Pennington Bay, to walking amongst the sea lions on the beach at Seal Bay, or visiting the iconic Remarkable Rocks.
My guide to Kangaroo Island gives you all the information you need to plan your trip to Kangaroo Island, such as ferry information, accommodation and places to see!
Coorong National Park
From Port Wilunga it will take you around 2.5 hours to drive to Coorong National Park (200km).
The Coorong National Park is home to an incredible 140km salt lagoon that is separated from the ocean by sand dunes. It is a protected lagoon ecosystem and there are also some fantastic dried salt lakes here. There are lots of walking tracks and activities you can do here such as kayaking, bird watching, fishing and lots of walks.
The Coorong is situated roughly halfway between Adelaide and Mount Gambier so it makes a great overnight stop for your first night. Just be aware that there are lots of midges here in the Coorong after sunset!
There are not many options for accommodation in The Coorong, but we found a quirky hotel called Coorong Hotel Motel at Policemans Point. It was fairly basic but the owner does a great pizza and beers and is good company.
Alternatively if you are camping you’ll find several campsites that charge around $15 per night.
Where to stay in the Coorong: Coorong Hotel Motel
From the Coorong it will take you about 2.5 hours to drive to Mount Gambier (around 230km).
Mount Gambier is an incredibly unique places and was such a pleasant surprise for me! I really wasn’t expecting an inland township to be so beautiful and full of many things to see – you absolutely must spend a minimum of half a day here as it is unlike anywhere else you will see on the journey. Mount Gambier is located on an extinct volcano and here you’ll find enchanting sunken gardens (Umpherston Sink Hole and The Cave Gardens), a magnificently blue crater lake (The Blue Lake) and an impressive underground world of caves!
Mount Gambier lies about halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne (about 500km from either city) and sits just on the south east corner of South Australia on the Southern Ocean Drive – one of South Australia’s most beautiful roads.
Where to stay in Mount Gambier:
Budget: The Old Mount Gambier Gaol – yes you actually stay in an old jail that got converted into a hostel! This place is pretty cool!
Mid Range: Blue Lake Motel – spacious rooms in a great central location
Crossing the border into the state of Victoria you’ll come to a lovely seaside town called Portland. There are some nice places to eat here and a beautiful beach and foreshore. Portland is just over 100km from Mount Gambier and the drive will take just under 1.5 hours.
Great Ocean Road
And now for the favourite part of the Adelaide to Melbourne drive for many people – The Great Ocean Road!
Spanning over 200km long, The Great Ocean Road is truly one of the most scenic and well-known coastal drives in the world. Driving along The Great Ocean Road is a bucket list item for so many people and it is one of the most visited parts of Australia. Along The Great Ocean Road is some really stunning scenery: impressive coastal cliff top views, picturesque surfing beaches, lush rainforest, National Parks and dramatic rugged rock formations such as The Twelve Apostles.
The Great Ocean Road stretches from the town of Allansford to Torquay. It started as a project to create work for returned servicemen from the First World War and subsequently became a memorial to those who died during WWI. It was built between 1919 to 1932.
Coming from Adelaide the drive starts off with the incredible cliff top views, then heads through lush rainforest before ending at the surf towns. Follow the brown signs that point to the attractions: you’ll see many impressive limestone formations coming out of the sea such as Bay of Islands, London Arch, The Arch, The Grotto, Razorback and Loch Ard Gorge, with the last one being the iconic 12 Apostles, which is the highlight of The Great Ocean Road. The stops will be every few kilometres and there is free parking at all the spots.
The town of Port Campbell is located along The Great Ocean Road and is the perfect place to stay overnight as there are lots of accommodation and restaurant options. Elsewhere on The Great Ocean Road options are fairly limited. Port Campbell is located between London Bridge and Loch Ard Gorge so it is in a very convenient location and it means you can split up your sightseeing on The Great Ocean Road into two days.
Where to stay on the Great Ocean Road: Port Campbell Parkview Motel & Apartments
You’ll really want to enjoy your time along The Great Ocean Road so don’t rush it – take at least a day and a half to get from the start of The Great Ocean Road in Allansford to Melbourne. You’ll be surprised how quickly the time goes anyway when you’ll be stopping at all the stops! Plus especially if you visit in the summer months The Great Ocean Road will be very busy!
Heading east past The Twelve Apostles, still on The Great Ocean Road heading towards Melbourne you’ll go through Great Otway National Park and the beach towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay. These are also nice places to stay overnight if you don’t choose to stay in Port Campbell.
Often named the world’s most liveable city, Melbourne is the capital of Victoria state and the second most populous city in Australia. It is known for it’s food and drink culture, its artistic style, sports, and it’s ever-changing weather! There is so much to do in Melbourne, from seeing the famous street art on ACDC Lane and Hosier Lane, to visiting the elegant Victorian arcades to The Shrine of Remembrance. Melbourne also has some great beaches – St Kilda and Brighton beach are absolutely worth spending a day at!
Where to stay in Melbourne: The Victoria Hotel
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Catrina is a Travel Writer, SEO Specialist and ex-Flight Attendant based in Sydney, Australia. She has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and England. Her work has been featured in a variety of popular travel publications including Fodors, Escape, Australian Traveller and Bear Grylls, as well as several international aviation and travel companies. The majority of her work however features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com where she has written over 500 travel articles!