Driving Sydney to Melbourne: My Top 5 Stops on the Way

From soaking in the natural beauty to being taken back in time when visiting towns with significance in our nation’s history, the road trip from Sydney to Melbourne has plenty to offer. Here are five stops along the way that come highly recommended by my well-travelled dad, David.

I know, I know – you came here to read about the highlights of a road trip to Melbourne, but bear with me as this article is a little bit different. Because this was written by my dad. And it is not every day you get to work with family. I knew my father would be the perfect author for this article, not only because he had just returned from a trip to Melbourne, but because I have so many childhood memories of being folded into the middle seat of our family sedan, between two bored and gangly brothers (they are going to love this description), for road trips that could last 15 hours. So this man knows the roads.

And so, with no further ado, I present to you my father’s favourite stops on a road trip between Sydney and Melbourne.

Where the fun started – Sydney

Sydney is such a beautiful city, with a variety of nearby natural wonders to explore as well as the more well-known tourist sites. But for me, I had a destination to reach in Melbourne, to visit my second-born son and explore the southern city where I spent a portion of my life as a younger professional.

Before leaving Sydney, I ran through my checklist: this particular route requires a Linkt tag for your vehicle to cover the tolls, and having a navigation aid or GPS is, as always, very useful. Beware, traffic in Sydney can be very slow depending on the time you set off. If you are towing a caravan, or like myself driving a larger SUV, it could pay to time your departure outside of peak times.

sydney to melbourne sydney
Source: Taras Vyshnya (Shutterstock)

Once out of Sydney, the traffic cleared and I was able to travel freely at the 110km/hour speed limit. I love the area surrounding Sydney as the names remind me of my childhood history lessons, with early settlers travelling by wagon to Parramatta and Macarthur pioneering the wool industry in Australia and establishing himself in Camden. You can drive along the coast, but I prefer taking the inland highway as it is the most direct option, with spectacular bushland and rock cliff faces and rivers along the way.

Yass – not just a modern-day expression

I chose to make a slight diversion from the direct route to allow for a stop in Yass, approximately three hours from Sydney. I think this town is worth a stop, and not just for its now-hip name (think Queer Eye).

The town has an interesting main street and beautiful, impressive buildings that were established during the town’s prosperous times in the 19th century. There is a fascinating mix of grand old homesteads and workers’ cottages of a bygone era, combined with an increasing number of more modern homes. There is also affordable accommodation and choice for travellers looking for a feed.

If this is your first stop, there are a number of breakfast options available. The Roses Café is currently rated the best stop for breakfast in Yass on Tripadvisor, or there is the option for a quick coffee stop at the well-reviewed Six8 Coffee Roasters.

Sydney to melbourne Yass
Source: Slow Walker (Shutterstock)

Canberra – the nation’s capital

This stop is a little more off the direct track, but if you have not been before, this presents a great opportunity to check out our capital city, only about an hour from Yass. Not only are there well-known sites like the War Memorial, Parliament House and the National Gallery of Australia, but there is also an abundance of natural beauty including a number of lakes, Mount Ainslie Lookout, Commonwealth Park and Black Mountain. I do have a particular fondness for Canberra as we lived here for many years with our young family including trips to Questacon and Lake Ginninderra.

Gundagai – a window into literary history

While Gundagai doesn’t require a large amount of time to take in, the road trip to Melbourne wouldn’t be complete without saying g’day to the historical and very Australian Dog on the Tuckerbox. This statue, based on an old poem and song about a dog sitting on his master’s tuckerbox to protect its possessions, is located at Snake Gully (about 8km from Gundagai) and has become an icon. The town itself has featured in a number of poems and stories over the years, with legendary Australian authors such as Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and Miles Franklin all mentioning it in their work. There’s a garden precinct and café serving hot and cold refreshments that is worth a visit.

sydney to melbourne tuckerbox
Source: Wozzie (Shutterstock)

Albury-Wodonga – twin cities on the Murray

Less than two hours later, you’ve reached the border and can stop off at Albury-Wodonga – Albury being on the New South Wales side of the Murray River, and Wodonga being on the Victorian. Here you can see magnificent Victorian-era buildings (such as Albury Station), stroll through one of the many parks or relax by the Murray River. We chose to enjoy our lunch alfresco near the river, with the opportunity to stretch our legs with a short walk while enjoying the beautiful autumn colours.

sydney to melbourne murray river
Source: Phillip Minnis (Shutterstock)

Glenrowan – the Kelly Gang’s last stand

My final stop en route to Melbourne is at Glenrowan, which history buffs will know as Ned Kelly country. In 1880 Ned Kelly was captured at the Glenrowan Inn after a gunfight with law enforcement, bringing an end to the Kelly gang. You can see the statue of Ned Kelly as you enter the town and Kate’s Cottage and Kellyland document the tales of his life.

sydney to melbourne ned kelly
Source: Wozzie (Shutterstock)

Moving on to Melbourne

Once you have had your fill of bushranger history, Melbourne is around a three-hour drive from Glenrowan, and the lanes for traffic are notably wider than in Sydney. You may come across tram lines as you near the city centre and it is a good idea to brush up on the road rules surrounding coexisting with these giants. Again, the Linkt toll tag comes in handy when navigating the roads to your final destination.

And so that marks the end of my road trip from Sydney to Melbourne, with my favourite stops in:

  1. Yass
    Sydney to Yass: 286 km (178 miles) – Approx 3 1/2 hrs
  2. Canberra
    Yass to Canberra: 61 km (38 miles) – Approx 1 hr
  3. Gundagai
    Canberra to Gundagai: 159 km (99 miles) – Approx 1 3/4 hr
  4. Albury-Wodonga
    Gundagai to Albury-Wodonga: 179 km (111 miles) – Approx 1 3/4 hr
  5. Glenrowan
    Albury-Wodonga to Glenrowan: 96 km (60 miles) – Approx 1 hr

David WarakerAbout David Waraker

David is a retired project manager who shares his time between tending his property and travelling in Australia or internationally. He has lived throughout Australia and has always been a regular road tripper, starting in his childhood, continuing with his own children and while making the most of his retirement. He also thought it was a good idea to feed his children curried egg sandwiches during the drive from Canberra to Brisbane…he clearly wasn’t the one in the middle seat.

Cover image source: Gordon Bell (Shutterstock)

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