5-Day Sydney via Canberra to Melbourne Capital & Coast Express

Be Inspired
  • Discover the treasures of our nation in Canberra, both indoor & outdoor
  • Explore Sapphire Coast’s pristine beaches and coastline
  • Taste some of the freshest seafood at Gippsland Lakes
  • Discover Walhalla’s golden past
Fast Facts
  • Time: 5 days
  • Overnight: Canberra, Merimbula/Tathra, Gippsland Lakes, Walhalla
  • Distance: 1,203 kilometres (748 miles)
  • Transport: car, caravan
  • Nearest major city: Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne

Day 1: Sydney – Canberra

Start your journey from Sydney and travel south towards the Southern Highlands, known for its picturesque villages. Wander the local arts, gifts and culinary delights dotted throughout Mittagong, Moss Vale and Bowral, all only minutes’ drive from each other. Cricket fans will want to check out the Bradman Museum in Bowral, which contains a vast collection of memorabilia associated with Sir Donald Bradman – Australia’s most famous batsman. 

Continue your drive and you will soon arrive in the nation’s capital, Canberra. The best place to kick off your fun is Lake Burley Griffin. You can ride, walk or Segway around it, or take a little longer to relax on a floating GoBoat, complete with a personalised picnic.

Time to discover what more Canberra has to offer. If arts and culture is your thing, then you’re in for a real treat. Being the nation’s capital, the Canberra boasts some of Australia’s preeminent cultural, historic and arts institutions. The country’s national collection is housed in national galleries, museums and archives that document the unique Australian story from its ancient Indigenous past and colonial history through to the modern multicultural country of today.

Perhaps you want to keep the whole family happy, then why not take a short drive to Gold Creek Village and see all things small at Cockington Green Gardens. Here you can venture into the fascinating displays of meticulously crafted miniature buildings, villages, monuments and beautifully landscaped gardens. Then go across the road to see all things big at the National Dinosaur Museum. Discover how dinosaurs evolved and interacted amid skulls, skeletons, murals, models and fossils not on display anywhere else in the world.

Whatever you do, make sure you get to Mount Ainslie Lookout at sunset for that perfect snap to share with family and friends.

Canberra is also a paradise for foodie, with a truly eclectic mix of dining styles, cuisines and experiences, picking a dinner venue might take just a little longer than you think!

Day 2: Canberra – Merimbula/Tathra

There’s no better way to fully appreciate Canberra’s charm than from the air, so spoil yourself and loved ones with a sunrise hot air balloon flight. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city’s architectural wonders and design.

After the early start, you’ll sure be searching for some satisfying breakfast and a perfect cup of java. Don’t worry, exceptional food and coffee are served at vibrant cafés throughout the city, you’ll find yourself seated at a cosy table in no time.

Time to head to the coast. Follow the Monaro Highway and drive to Cooma, where you can stop for a rest and chance to explore the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre, a state-of-the-art visitor facility showcasing the amazing story of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Depart Cooma and follow the Snowy Mountains Highway towards south, before turning off to Candelo, a charming country town to stop and stretch your legs. Don’t forget to pop the General Store to pick up some local produce and a great cup of coffee.

From here, it’s only another 20 minutes drive before you arrive in Merimbula. Head to Merimbula Aquarium & Wharf Restaurant to check out local marine life and have a bit to eat with an uninterrupted bay view. Love oysters? Then make sure you book the Magical Oyster Tour with ‘Captain Sponge’ to visit his farm on the water, or gain insider access to the state-of-art processing factory at Wheeler’s Oyster Farm.

Take a short drive to the nearby seaside town of Tathra.  Grab a coffee in town or at the wharf and head up to Tathra Wharf Lookout to admire the wild scenery. Or just take a relaxing walk along the ocean beach. In fact, there are numerous stunning ocean and bay beaches in the area waiting to be explored. Allow some time to take a splash in the pristine water, you’ll soon know why it is called the ‘Sapphire Coast’ here.

There is a wide range of accommodation in Merimbula and Tathra, ranging from holiday parks, motels and modern apartments, to waterfront B&B and luxury glamping. The choice is endless.

Day 3: Merimbula/Tathra – Gippsland Lakes

Wake up with one more walk along the beach or a swim to soak in the unspoiled coastal water. But the adventure isn’t quite over yet. The waters here offer one of the few places in the world where humpbacks can be observed lateral lunge feeding. From mid-August through to the end of November large numbers of humpback whales travel past Merimbula and nearby Eden. Visit the Eden Killer Whale Museum to see the full skeleton of ‘Tom’ the Orca, plus uncover the history of Indigenous shore-based whaling. And why not join a whale cruise with Merimbula Marina to catch a glimpse of the giant creature yourself? it will sure be an experience of lifetime.

Time to get back on the road and head towards East Gippsland. Drive through Croajingolong National Park, one of the country’s most beautiful and ecologically significant places. Make sure you turn off the highway for a detour to Cape Conran and Marlo. This is where the legendary Snowy River enters the ocean. Witness the magnificent river and ocean views from various viewing points such as Sailors Grave, Salmon Rocks, French Narrows and Lovelock.

Head back onto the highway and travel towards Nowa Nowa, where you can turn off for another optional side trip is to see Buchan Caves, an enchanting system of limestone formations lies beneath the unsuspecting forest floor of a scenic valley.

Arriving at Gippsland Lakes in the afternoon and get ready to explore the largest inland lake system in Australia. From many waterside towns such as Lakes Entrance, Metung and Paynesville, you can hire a boat, kayak, or stand up paddle board to explore the coastal villages and waterways. Follow the Esplanade at Lakes Entrance and across the footbridge to reach the golden sands of Ninety Mile Beach, you can even do a camel ride there! Or find your inner Zen with a picturesque stroll along the Metung waterfront boardwalk.

Just a five-minute ferry ride away from Paynesville, Raymond Island is famous for its wild koala population. Take the 1.2km Koala Walk departing from the Ferry Park, follow the signs, and don’t forget to look up. You might also spot kangaroos, echidnas and colour native birds along the way.

Pick your lodging at Lakes Entrance, Metung, Paynesville or nearby Bairnsdale, then end the day by sampling fresh local-caught seafood at one of the many award winning restaurants.

(Travel tip: visit Raymond Island this afternoon if you are staying in Paynesville or Bairnsdale, or visit the island the following morning if staying in Lakes Entrance or Metung to avoid backtracking.)

Day 4: Gippsland Lakes – Walhalla

Take in one more breath of the crisp coastal air, before getting behind the wheel and head inland. (If you haven’t visited Raymond Island the previous day, you can do so this morning.)

Travel through Gippsland’s farmland before stopping in Sale. Join Port of Sale Heritage Cruises to drift back into a different time, when waterways were highways, and journey from the Port of Sale to the landmark Swing Bridge (1890). Or venture out to Sale Common just south of the town. This is an area of abundant wetlands, home to significant bird and animal life. You can wander the boardwalk which winds its way through changing landscapes of river red gum woodlands, grasslands and salt marshes.

From here, continue your drive for another 1.5 hours and you will arrive at the photogenic historic gold rush village of Walhalla, ringed by romantic forest on the southern edge of the Victorian Alps.

Feed your wanderlust with Insta-ready historical buildings and streetscapes. Venture deep underground on a mine tour and learn about the mining methods and see the quartz reef that put Walhalla on the world’s stock markets. Take the scenic railway through stunning Stringers Gorge, with a restful journey through the surrounding forest, alongside the cheerfully ambling Stringers Creek, over trestle bridges and the impressive Thomson River Bridge. Enjoy country dining and stay overnight at Walhalla’s Star Hotel, with décor that subtly reflects the town’s gold rush mining past.

Day 5: Walhalla – Melbourne

Wake up to the sounds of nature and enjoy a morning stroll along the tramline walk to get postcard-worthy views of Walhalla.

Give a final wave to the town forgotten by time. But don’t worry, there are still more fun to be had along the way. From Walhalla, there are a couple of option to travel to Melbourne.

Option one: Drive to Moe and then onto Princes Highway towards Melbourne. Stop at towns and regional centres such as Trafalgar, Yarragon and Warragul along the way. Each of them boasts its own thriving cafe scene, art galleries, gift stores, homeware, antiques, books and collectables, all surrounded by fertile countryside and lush hills. You can also follow the West Gippsland Wine Trail and taste some exceptional local drops at four different cellar doors. This scenic drive weaves through rolling, pastured hills which give way to more dramatic slopes of the Victorian Alps.

As you get closer to city, there is another popular activity worthy of a side trip – the famous Puffing Billy Railway. The historic steam train journey makes for a wonderful opportunity to relax and breathe in the fresh air whilst the train makes its way through the Dandenong Ranges cool temperate rainforest.

Option two: From Walhalla, travel towards Moe but turn off onto Moe-Willow Grove Road just before you reach the town. Follow this road all the way to the end and turn onto Mount Baw Baw Tourist Road to Noojee. Taking its name from the Aboriginal word for ‘resting place’, Noojee offers just that. While the town was once a thriving timber town, today it is known as a tranquil place to unwind and get close to nature.  Follow the Rail Trail from the township, tracking through majestic, thick forest and beautiful native bush, to the character filled Noojee Trestle Bridge. Or wander through rich green ferns and moss-covered granite boulders along Glen Nayook Rainforest Walk just outside the town. If you love waterfalls, then take a short 15-minute drive to Toorongo & Amphitheatre Falls Loop Walk to capture the sumptuous views of the water cascading over the rocks below.

Depart Noojee and travel for an hour to Healesville Sanctuary. Wander through the tranquil tracks and meet over 200 species of Australian animals, including the iconic koalas, kangaroos, platypus, dingoes, wombats and emus in their natural surrounds. Healesville Sanctuary is internationally renowned for its work saving endangered Australian species at the Australian Wildlife Health Centre. Visit the newly renovated visitor galley, which treats more than 2000 sick and injured native animals every year to see our work in action.

Make your final drive to Melbourne to finish your quick road trip. But don’t make it the end of your holiday, spend a couple of days to explore Melbourne’s bustling laneways, world-class restaurants, captivating museums and vibrant live music scenes.

No trip is complete without a bit of retail therapy. Then why not do it in style at Chadstone The Fashion Capital. Just 25 minutes from the Melbourne CBD, Australia’s largest shopping centre features over 550 stores, designer boutiques and over 35 luxury brands, as well as an impressive line-up of international restaurants, casual dining eateries and quick bite options. There is even an five star hotel connected to the centre via the Link walkway, only a 2-minute walk to Australia’s number one retail, dining and entertainment destination for local and international visitors.