- Discover the hidden charms of Canberra, Australia’s unique capital city.
- Take a road trip through the Snowy Mountains.
- Explore the arts, culture, and mighty Murray River in Albury Wodonga.
- Buy seafood straight off the boat in Lakes Entrance.
- Set sail on a wilderness cruise from Wilson’s Promontory.
- Tick iconic Aussie wildlife off your list on Phillip Island.
- Time: 6 days
- Distance: 1,630 kilometres (1013 miles)
- Transport: car, caravan
- Nearest major city: Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne
Day 1: Sydney – Canberra
Exchange the glitz and verve of ultra-glamourous Sydney for the more restrained, yet nonetheless equally appealing charms of Australia’s cool little capital city. Your drive will take you south through the patchwork of rolling hills in the Southern Highlands. Dotted with pretty villages enticing you to pause for a while and browse the delightful local arts and crafts and perhaps indulge in one or two of the culinary treats you’ll find, this is a peaceful place betwixt two of Australia’s major urban hubs. Cricket fans should also take a peek at the Bradman Museum in Bowral, home to a profusion of memorabilia connected to Australia’s most famous batsman – Sir Donald Bradman.
Canberra is packed full of unexpected treasures and hidden wonders. The welcoming small-town vibe and compact design makes the city a joy to explore, and you’ll find friendly, passionate locals happy to share their knowledge on the best food and wine and things to explore whilst you’re here. In addition to the exceptional museums and galleries and Australian government experiences there is also a wide and eclectic mix of dining options to tempt every palate.
Beyond the urban treasures lies an adventure playground waiting to be explored, including river gorges, waterfalls and extensive cycle paths and hiking trails. This region is also blessed with a burgeoning wine scene and although one of Australia’s lesser-known viticulture areas, the cool-climate Shiraz and Rieslings are not to be missed.
Day 2: Canberra – Albury/Wodonga
Take your time today, the drive is nothing short of spectacular. Leaving the city confines behind the road takes you deep into legendary Snowy Mountains passing Lake Jindabyne and Mt Kosciuszko as you follow the Kosciuszko Alpine Way.
Your destination is the twin cities of Albury Wodonga, straddling the Murray River. The opportunities for outdoor adventure and exploration here are endless. With every kind of nature-based experience at your fingertips and the Snowy Mountains on your doorstep, you can swim, kayak, or paddle at Noreuil Park, hire a canoe and paddle the Murray River or spend time with the locals at Lake Hume.
This is also a place with a deep and varied history. Discover a rich Indigenous culture and the pioneering and immigration stories that shaped Albury Wodonga with visits to the Bonegilla Migrant Experience, where you can learn of the journeys made by some 330,000 immigrants who made their way to Australia in search of a better life after World War II. There’s also explorations of the Wagirra Trail and Wonga Wetlands.
Those with a passion for the arts should not miss MAMA – Murray Art Museum Albury. With a focus on living artists and ideals which resonate strongly today, this exceptional place is home to an extensive art collection and is one of the most visited art spaces.
Day 3: Albury/Wodonga – Lakes Entrance
Keep your camera at the ready as today’s road trip is another spectacular drive, this time taking in the Great Alpine Road as it winds its way through the splendid Victorian Alps. Drink in seemingly endless vistas of plunging mountain valleys, dense forests, rolling vineyards and dramatic alpine ranges. The journey is taking you ever onwards to the coast and the magnificent Gippsland Lakes.
Set on the edge of Ninety Mile Beach, where the Gippsland Lakes meet the waves of the Southern Ocean, this is a charming, pretty spot to rest a while. Navigate the peaceful waters of Australia’s largest network of inland waterways by kayak or stand-up paddle board, or maybe let someone else take the wheel and hop on a cruise. Those in search of Australia’s native wildlife should take the five-minute ferry ride from Paynesville to Raymond Island. Renowned for its wild koala population follow the short walk from the ferry park, and don’t forget to look up. The island is also home to kangaroos, echidnas, plus a colourful array of native birdlife.
The Croajingolong National Park is just a hop and a skip along the road and deserving of your time. Listed as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, this pristine paradise gives an untouched glimpse into a place of staggering natural beauty. Then, head back to Lakes Entrance, take a stroll along the esplanade where you can buy the freshest of local seafood straight off the boat and just sit back and watch the magical sunset painting the sky as light fades.
Day 4: Lakes Entrance – Wilsons Promontory
At the southern tip of the Australian mainland, you’ll find much-loved Wilsons Promontory, known locally as ‘The Prom’. This is Victoria’s largest coastal wilderness and against a stunning backdrop of Australian bush, walking tracks thread their way through shady fern gullies and eucalypt forest, turquoise waters lap secluded beaches, and the abundance of wildlife is nothing less than astonishing.
Stretch your legs and blow the cobwebs away with a walk and climb to the summit of Mt Oberon, the walk is reasonably strenuous but the views from the top far outweigh the effort needed. Follow the walk from Tidal River to Squeaky Beach, famed for its crystal-clear turquoise-hued water and fine quartz sand that does actually squeak underfoot. Wildlife lovers will also find their groove on ‘The Prom’, as it’s home to a plethora of iconic Aussie wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies, emus, and wombats.
See the coastline from a different perspective on a wilderness cruise with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys. On a custom-built boat, you’ll discover the rugged beauty of the granite coastline, including Skull Rock, cruise the waters of the Bass Strait and Victoria’s first marine park and see the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, South Point.
Day 5: Wilsons Promontory – Phillip Island
Leave the wilds of ‘The Prom’ behind and head through the lush hills of South Gippsland. The region is blessed with several superb vineyards and craft breweries so ensure you leave time to call into a few as you pass through. At Inverloch pick up the Bunurong Coastal Drive – it’s only 14 kilometres long but reveals some breath-taking cliff and coastal views.
Phillip Island is the final port of call on your drive to Melbourne and although it’s only ninety minutes from the city, it feels a million miles away. On one hand you have astonishing natural scenery, beautiful beaches, and a profusion of native wildlife, whilst on the other you have the raw energy and speed of the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, home to the Australian MotoGP and World Superbike Championships.
Blessed with a wealth of glorious beaches there is something here for all. Find everything from sheltered bays and coves perfect for swimming to wild, surf beaches for those on the endless quest for the perfect wave.
Explore the tiny fishing villages and seaside hamlets, tuck into delicious local seafood and sip and sample your way around the island’s vineyards and breweries. Or head to the skies for a scenic helicopter flight over the island. Keep the kids (young and old) intrigued, amused, and entertained at A Maze’N Things and indulge in all things sweet at Penny’s Amazing World of Chocolate.
You can’t pay a visit to Phillip Island and not experience the sight of the little penguins returning to their burrows each evening after a day at sea, so head to Summerland Beach at dusk for this enchanting sight.
Day 6: Phillip Island – Melbourne
As you head along the final leg of your drive to Melbourne call into Moonlit Sanctuary, where you can meet endangered Australian native animals in a natural bushland setting, during the day or on their unique and magical evening walks.
Melbourne and the end of your drive awaits. However, if you’re not quite ready for this wonderful adventure to end then why not head for Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula and the car ferry to Queenscliff, where you can continue your road trip along the legendary Great Ocean Road.