- Sink your toes into the powder-soft white sands of Hyams Beach.
- Wander with the kangaroos and wallabies who play in the surf at Pebbly Beach.
- Feast on oysters fresh from the farm gate in one of the coastal villages along the Sapphire Coast.
- Explore the rich gold rush legacy of Walhalla.
- Free your spirit in the magnificent wilderness of Wilson’s Promontory National Park.
- Marvel at the tenacity of the little penguins on Phillip Island.
- Time: 9 days
- Distance: 1,540 kilometres (958 miles)
- Transport: car, caravan
- Nearest major city: Sydney, Melbourne
Day 1: Sydney – Jervis Bay
Exchange urban views for the natural wonders of the coast as you begin the drive south to Melbourne. Pause for a while to watch the hang gliders floating from the cliffs at Stanwell Tops and then follow the road over the Sea Cliff Bridge, suspended above the crashing waves of the ocean as it hugs the coast. Stretch your legs in Kiama, with the gentle amble to the famed blow hole and then turn inland for a treetop meander through the rainforest canopy at the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk before heading on to Jervis Bay. Here, you’ll find glorious white sandy beaches lapped by clear, turquoise waves, bushwalk and cycling trails galore plus a mischievous pod of resident dolphins that play in the bay all year round. Hyams Beach is probably the best known of the Jervis Bay beaches, however there are plenty more to discover.
This evening enjoy dinner at one of the lovely restaurants in Huskisson, or we’d highly recommend just picking up fish and chips, then sitting and wiggling your toes in the sand as you watch the sun set.
Day 2: Jervis Bay – Central Tilba
Before you leave Jervis Bay hop on one of the morning cruise boats and take a float around the bay to spot the dolphins and seals. Depending on the time of year you might also find yourself accompanied by migrating whales.
As you continue south ensure you leave time for a little detour to Pebbly Beach, where you’ll likely find a mob of kangaroos and wallabies playing in the surf. Stop for refreshments in Bateman’s Bay, seafood lovers can pick up the freshest of oysters from the Oyster Shed on Wray Street. When you reach Narooma take a little time out and hop on a wildlife cruise to Montague Island. This nature reserve is home to fur seals, sea eagles and is a real haven for wildlife. As with Jervis Bay, depending on the season you might find yourself in the company of migrating whales as well. This is also a great place to delve deeper into the stories of the local Yuin people with guided experiences that are truly authentic and memorable.
Overnight in the quaint village of Central Tilba where time seems to stand still. Enjoy dinner at one of the local pubs before you retire for the evening.
Day 3: Central Tilba – Merimbula
Linger a while this morning and explore the charms of Central Tilba, a heritage village with a wealth of arts and crafts and it must be said, an excellent cheese factory.
Wend your way along the aptly named Sapphire Coast, one of the true hidden treasures on this drive. Those who seek to view life through the lens of a camera should add Camel Rock and Horse Head Rock to today’s agenda, these magnificent rock formations are something for a mecca for keen photographers. Sample fresher-than-fresh seafood at Bermagui Fisherman’s Wharf and delve into the rich history of the region with a visit to the Bega Pioneer Museum, it’s also worth stocking up on the sensational Bega Cheese at the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre.
Nature lovers can get their wildlife fix at Mimosa Rocks National Park before arriving in Merimbula. End the day with a gentle sunset stroll along the Merimbula Boardwalk.
Day 4: Merimbula – Gipsy Point/Mallacoota
Start your morning with oyster tasting or join a Magical Oyster Tour to visit Captain Sponge’s oyster farm out on the water. Keep heading south to the old whaling town of Eden, which sits proudly on the ‘Humpback Highway’. Here you’ll hear tales of how the local Yuin people hunted with wild killer whales. Eden also sits on the Killer Whale Trail which is comprised of five key whale watching spots dotted along the coast between Twofold Bay and Ben Boyd National Park.
Cross the state line and make your way to Gipsy Point, sitting at the head of the Mallacoota Inlet in the Gippsland Lakes. This is the perfect spot to sooth the soul out on the waterways of Mallacoota and amidst the wilds of the Croajingolong National Park.
Day 5: Gipsy Point/Mallacoota – Lakes Entrance/Metung
The magnificent Croajingolong National Park is all encompassing this morning. This naturalist’s paradise offers a rare glimpse into a place of such ecological significance that the park is listed as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. With pristine beaches, rugged mountain valleys, lush rainforest and a staggering array of flora and fauna, Mother Nature was really upping the ante here. Popular walking trails include the Genoa Peak Walk, Point Hicks Lightstation Walk and Thurra River Dunes Walk.
Get a big dose of coastal scenery by deviating from the main highway. As you drive through Marlo, take the turn off and follow the road to Cape Conran before re-joining the road as you continue south to Lakes Entrance. You’re in the heart of Gippsland Lakes region here, home to Australia’s largest inland waterway and where the Gippsland Lakes meet the Southern Ocean. Where velvety evening skies are painted by vivid sunsets, content kangaroos graze along the shoreline and the bountiful seafood is some of the best in Australia.
Metung is all about the water and there are myriad ways to enjoy it. Kick back on a cruise, pick up a fishing rod and cast a line or take an amble along the endless sands of Ninety Mile Beach. Those wanting to see koalas in the wild (and let’s face it who doesn’t) should take the five-minute ferry ride from Paynesville to Raymond Island and the follow the Koala Walk, keep looking skywards for glimpses of these furry marsupials snoozing in the treetops.
(Travel tip: Depending on where you stay the visit to Raymond Island can be done this afternoon if staying in Paynesville or Bairnsdale, or tomorrow morning if staying in Metung or Lakes Entrance to avoid driving back on yourself).
Day 6: Lakes Entrance/Metung – Walhalla
Swap coastal vistas for the shady green of a forest canopy and the plunging hills and deep valleys of Gippsland’s stunning inland areas. Tucked deep into a valley on the edge of the Victorian Alps the perfectly preserved historic township of Walhalla is a treasure trove of history just waiting to be uncovered. This peaceful mountainside town was once one of Australia’s richest towns giving shelter to more than 4,000 gold seekers. Relive the life of the miners, pan for gold in Stringers Creek and learn how the discovery of Cohen’s Reef, a vein of gold running through the town for three kilometres, changed the face of Walhalla forever.
Trundle back through the ages on the Walhalla Goldfields Railway or head deep underground in the Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine. High above the town the unique clifftop cemetery is a peaceful but poignant reminder of the hardships the discovery of gold also bought.
Walhalla is an outdoor lover’s paradise, surrounded by lush forest and national park it’s the perfect spot for fishing, camping and off-the-beaten track exploring whilst the Thompson River offers opportunity for kayaking and gentle rafting on low grade rapids.
Day 7: Walhalla – Wilsons Promontory
First stops on the agenda today are the Fern Gully Nature Walk and the Tarra Valley Rainforest Walk in the Tarra Bulga National Park, one of the southernmost temperate rainforests in Australia. Get a big dose of glorious fresh air and drink in the beauty of cascading waterfalls, gullies carpeted with soft ferns and gently trickling mountain streams. If you have a head for heights follow the short track to the Corrigan Suspension Bridge.
In Yarram seek out the stunning Heesco murals, painted by world-renowned street and silo artist Heesco Khosnaran.
Known locally as ‘the Prom’ this is one of Victoria’s of most beloved national parks, and aside from being its largest coastal wilderness area, it’s easy to see why this incredibly special place holds such allure. Against a spectacular backdrop of native Australia bush, which coincidently gives shelter to a wealth of native wildlife, you’ll find a labyrinth of walking trails crisscrossing their way through shady fern gullies and eucalypt forest. Granite-speckled hills and huge boulders line secluded beaches with dreamy names like Squeaky Beach, Waterloo Bay and Fairy Cove. Alongside the walking and the wildlife, a wilderness cruise alongside dolphins and seal colonies is one of the Prom’s must-do experiences.
Day 8: 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 one of those places that just keeps on giving. Beautiful, natural scenery, abundant wildlife and exceptional beaches come as standard but there is so much more to see and explore. Take a visual journey to Antarctica, or head to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, home to the Moto GP and World Super Bike Championships for a change of pace. 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 take 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.
Last but by no means least no visit to Phillip Island would be complete without heading to Summerland Beach at dusk to see the little penguins waddling ashore after a day at sea.
Day 9: Phillip Island – Melbourne
As you head along the final leg of your drive to the vibrant city of Melbourne call into the Koala Conservation Reserve where you can get up close and personal with koalas in their natural habitat. As you wander through the gum trees keep your eyes peeled for other wildlife including wallabies, birdlife, and the often-elusive echidnas.
Located half way between Phillip Island and Melbourne is 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.
Make your final drive to Melbourne, Australia’s favourite city for café culture, fashion, art, sport and an amazing array of cuisine to please any palate.
(Travel Tip: if you don’t want this epic coastal discovery to end just yet, from Phillip Island head to Sorrento to board Searoad Ferries, a car ferry journey taking you across Port Phillip Bay to Queenscliff, where you can continue your road trip onto the famous Great Ocean Road.)