- See little penguins waddle ashore on Phillip Island
- Explore the rugged beauty of Wilsons Promontory and greet famous Aussie animals
- Say hello to wild koalas on Raymond Island
- Spot whale traveling along the ‘Humpback Highway’ off NSW South Coast
- Snorkel with friendly seals near Montague Island
- Swim at white sand beaches and spot marine life at Jervis Bay
- Time: 7 days
- Overnight: Phillip Island, Wilsons Promontory, Gippsland Lakes, Mallacoota/Gipsy Point, Narooma, Jervis Bay
- Distance: 1,415 kilometres (880 miles)
- Transport: car, caravan
- Nearest major city: Sydney, Melbourne
Day 1: Melbourne – Phillip Island
Start your trip from Melbourne and travel south. Your first stop of the day is Moonlit Sanctuary, where you can meet endangered Australian native animals in a natural bushland setting. Explore the bush-land while feeding kangaroos and wallabies, petting friendly koalas and enjoying encounters with colourful birds, reptiles, dingoes and many other animals including endangered species.
From there, continue your drive for about an hour and you’ll arrive at Phillip Island, home to some of Australia’s most unique wildlife including the little penguins, Australian fur seals, koalas and more. If you are here at midday, don’t miss the opportunity to watch the pelican feeding that takes place daily at the San Remo Foreshore, before crossing the bridge onto the island. Enjoy seeing the wild birds squabble, sway their beaks and dance in unison. Take a cruise out to see Australia’s largest fur seal colony with Wildlife Coast Cruises. The boat drifts within meters of the seals, enabling you to witness them in their natural environment first hand. Walk through tree-tops and spot Australia’s most iconic animal at the Koala Conservation Reserve. Of course, no trip to Phillip Island is complete without watching the world’s cutest penguins waddle home on sunset at the Penguin Parade.
Being surrounded by the ocean means there are plenty of beaches to be explored too! From northern bay beaches to open ocean surf beaches, many of which are connected by awe-inspiring coastal walks and scenic bushwalks and trails, you’ll be sure to find that perfect path to take in the natural beauty of this magical island.
Day 2: Phillip Island – Wilsons Promontory
Depart Phillip Island and follow the 14km Bunurong Coastal Drive for some stunning rocky cliff and coastal views, before arriving in Inverloch. Stretch your legs a little with a walk along the main beach, perhaps with a nice drink in hand from a local café. Or drive to the end of the Foreshore Camping Reserve and take the easy half an hour Screw Creek Townsend Bluff Estuary Walk. You’ll be rewarded with scenic views over Anderson Inlet from the Townsend Bluff lookout.
Leave Inverloch and continue driving for about an hour and you will arrive at the entrance to Wilsons Promontory National Park. Known lovingly as The Prom, the national park is truly one of the most magical places on earth. Spend the rest of the day exploring incredible walking track and trails, unspoiled beaches and animal sanctuaries. Climb to the summit of Mt Oberon for a 360-degree vista, follow a wildlife journey to say hello to famous wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies, emus and wombats, or wander through the bush from Tidal River to Squeaky Beach, renowned for its fine, quartz sand that makes a squeaking sound underfoot. And when the night falls, just look up the sky and you’ll be amazed by the most spectacular night sky filled with millions of stars in the southern milky way.
There is a diverse range of accommodation available at Tidal River inside the park, or many towns and villages nearby.
Day 3: Wilsons Promontory – Gippsland Lakes
If you want to see The Prom from a different perspective, then spend the morning on a 2.5-hour cruise with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys to discover the beautiful granite coastline and unique wilderness of The Prom, including the iconic Skull Rock. Also keep an eye out for whales in winter and spring.
Head back on the road and travel towards Gippsland Lakes. If time permits, take a detour to Tarra Bulga National Park, one of Australia’s southernmost temperate rainforests. Stop at to Tarra Valley Rainforest Walk and follow the loop walking track that leads you to a gully carpeted with ferns, surrounded by huge majestic trees, across trickling mountain streams and sparkling waterfalls. Just up the road is Fern Gully Nature Walk. Follow the short track to Corrigan Suspension Bridge, where an impressive aerial view of the perfect radial arrangement of the fronds of the soft-tree ferns awaits.
Continue driving through to Sale, where you can stop to take a stroll around the historic Port of Sale along bollard-lined boardwalks. 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.
Another hour drive, you’ll arrive in Paynesville. Park your car and then take a short five-minute ferry ride over to Raymond Island, 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.
Enjoy your overnight stay in popular lakeside towns such as Paynesville, Metung, Lake Entrance, or nearby in Bairnsdale.
Day 4: Gippsland Lakes – Gipsy Point/Mallacoota
Spend the morning exploring Gippsland Lakes – the largest inland lake system in Australia. From many waterside towns such as Lakes Entrance, Metung and Paynesville, you can hire a boat or kayak, or catch a cruise 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, or find your inner Zen with a picturesque stroll along the waterfront boardwalks in Metung and Paynesville. You can also take a side trip to see Buchan Caves, where an enchanting system of limestone formations lies beneath the unsuspecting forest floor of a scenic valley.
Head east and travel 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 Marlo and Cape Conran. Here you can follow the Snowy River Estuary Walk to explore the lower reaches of the Snowy River estuary and links to the ocean beach opposite Frenches Narrows. The walk can be accessed from a number of points to suit individual’s time and experience level. If you just want to get quick access to a spectacular ocean view, then Salmon Rocks and Sailors Grave in Cape Conran would be the perfect spots. Back onto the highway and drive to Cann River for a pit stop.
Continue driving and take the turn off towards Gipsy Point/Mallacoota, where you can rest for the night at waterfront accommodation.
Day 5: Gipsy Point/Mallacoota – Narooma/Tilba
Wake up to the sounds of nature and get ready to explore the pristine waterways. Mallacoota has a top and bottom inlet, where the water is still and calm, perfect for swimming, canoeing, kayaking and taking out small boats and cruisers. There are many boat and kayak hire places in the town, who will fix you up with all you need for a day of fun on the water. Just off Mallacoota’s east coast is the pink granite outcrop of Gabo Island which is a great spot for a daytrip or picnic. Featuring clear waters, a sandy beach and rock pools along the shoreline, the island is simply beautiful.
Time to get back behind the wheel and travel to the beautiful NSW South Coast. Stop at Eden and nearby Merimbula, known as the hotspots for whale watching. Hop on a whale watching cruise and keep a lookout for dolphins, seals and eagles too. Learn more about these giant mammals at the historical Eden Killer Whale Museum, which is also a part of the Killer Whale Trail, comprising five popular whale watching spots dotted from Twofold Bay to Ben Boyd National Park.
Make a splash at Spencer Park Beach in Merimbula. The shallow, clear and waveless water here makes it a very popular spot for families with small children. It is just one of the 150+ unspoilt beaches that hug the Sapphire Coast, so there’ll always be somewhere you don’t have to share your patch of sand.
Keep driving north to explore authentic coastal towns such as Tathra, where you can stop at the wharf café for some drinks and treats, then walk up to the lookout for a panoramic ocean view. Perhaps take a dip at the Blue Pool in Bermagui, ranked as one of the best ocean rock pools in the world. Or as you drive through Wallaga Lake, stop to view the ancient Camel Rock and Horse Head Rock.
Take a final short drive of the day to Narooma for overnight stay. If you fancy a change of scene, then stay at historic Tilba, where relaxation at country cottages, luxury B&Bs or even hilltop glamping tents await.
Day 6: Narooma/Tilba – Jervis Bay
Enjoy a breath of fresh morning air at Bar Rock Lookout where you can also see the famous Australia Rock. Or follow the Mill Bay Boardwalk to appreciate the natural beauty of this coastal town.
Just off the coast of Narooma is Montague Island, home to a colony of fur seals, thousands of little penguins and over 90 bird species. It is also sacred to the local Yuin people, who call it Barunguba, and there are a number of important sites across the island. You can take a guide boat tour from Narooma to explore this natural treasure. You can even snorkel and dive with the playful seals, which is one of the most popular activities on the tour.
Back on the road and continue your journey north to Mogo Wildlife Park, which has attained an international reputation as one of the most successful private zoos with the most diverse collection of exotic wildlife in Australia. Then turn off the main road towards Mossy Point. Here you can join Region X on a guided or self-guided kayak tour, one of the best ways to explore the pristine water of the South Coast (they also run tours from Batemans Bay).
After a morning full of fun activities, stop at Batemans Bay for a much deserved lunch break. There are many dining options available along the waterfront, but fish and chips by the Clyde River is definitely one of the most popular choices.
Back onto the highway and keep driving north. Turn off at Mount Agony Rd for a quick detour to Pebbly Beach, where you can often see resident kangaroos and lorikeets grazing around the foreshore.
Keep driving north, you’ll pass more charming coastal towns and turn offs to coastal walks, lookouts and secluded beaches, many with significant Aboriginal heritage. There’s the Murramarang Aboriginal Area, Bawley Point Beach, Tabourie Beach, Dolphin Point and Burrill Beach, Warden Head Light, One Track For All at Ulladulla Head, Manyana Beach, Bendalong Point……The list is endless so take your pick and explore as much as you like.
Turn off into Jervis Bay and finish the day with a scrumptious dinner at a popular eatery in Huskisson.
Day 7: Jervis Bay – Sydney
One of the best ways to witness Jervis Bay’s wildlife is by boat. From Huskisson, take a morning cruise onto the bay and say hi to the resident dolphins, seals and even whales during the migrating season.
You should also devote some time to explore the white sand beaches around the bay. Bring a towel and sunscreen and relax on the soft white sand. From Callala Beach and the more remote Hare bay along the northern shores, to Nelsons Beach, Murrays Beach and the most famous of them all, Hyams Beach found on the southern shores, you’ll be spoiled by choice!
After soaking in the pristine waters, time to pack up and start the final leg of your road trip. Drive north to the coastal town of Kiama. Here you can see the famous Kiama Blowhole shoot water 60 metres (200 feet) in the air. If you’re the more adventurous type, then check out the nearby Little Blowhole, it’s a bit harder to find but well worth the effort.
Continue driving north, via Shellharbour and Lake Illawarra, to the City of Wollongong. Stretch your legs with a leisurely walk along The Blue Mile, while get your caffeine fix at one of the trendy cafes along the beach.
From here, follow the cliff-hugging Grand Pacific Drive and cross over the dramatic Sea Cliff Bridge, before stopping at Bald Hill Lookout to take in a spectacular Pacific Ocean view. Then drive through Royal National Park – the second oldest national park in the world after Yellowstone. Take turn-offs to Garie Beach and Wattamolla Falls to get that final glimpse of the natural wonders, before taking that final drive into Sydney to finish your epic Sydney-Melbourne Coastal Discovery.