While it is easier and faster to travel between Sydney and Melbourne by taking a one-hour direct flight, driving has its own advantages with little trips and diversions that may be taken along the way. The most direct route is 874 km on the Hume Highway (M31), a dual-carriage highway. For those with time to spare, there is the Princes Highway which follows the coast for most of its length, a distance of 1,032 km (640 miles), although not necessarily within sight of the sea. Other alternate inland roads include the Olympic Highway between Albury and Sydney via Cowra and Bathurst, and also the Monaro Highway route via Canberra.
The road is busy during the summer season, with many accommodations booked fully. A spot of good weather in either spring or autumn is often the best time to enjoy the coastal road, although hard to plan for.
The drive between Sydney and Melbourne generally takes at least a minimum of 10 hours when following the speed limit, hence it is advisable to take several breaks along the way to break up the journey. Speed cameras are common, whether mobile or fixed, there are also many highway patrols and you may see a fine coming your way if you are heavy on the gas pedal. Wildlife is common on the road at night, driving during day is considered much safer to avoid a collision with a stray kangaroo.
Direct drive via Hume Highway
A fairly straightforward if boring route that is mostly highway.
- Gundagai as a good halfway point for a short break, with iconic Dog on the Tucker Box.
- Holbrook with a dry-land submarine
Coastal drive via Princes Highway
The coastal drive from Sydney to Melbourne, a distance of 1,032 km (640 miles), can be done with an overnight stop within two days, although you could probably take some time and spend at least four days on the road, with a couple of hours at each stop to thoroughly enjoy the South Coast. Lots of wildlife from whales, dolphins to seals if you keep an eye out, and plenty of seagulls and pelicans. There are countless unspoilt beaches along the coast — white sand beaches, surf beaches, tidal river beaches — such that you might actually get sick of it all, and taking the Kings Highway just before Batemans Bay and then the inland drive via Monaro Highway could be an option.
Illawarra and Shellharbour
- Royal National Park, through Audley Weir and possible stops at Wattamolla and Garie Beach, although Audley Weir is sometimes flooded after heavy rain and you'll have to use the entrance at Waterfall instead.
- Grand Pacific Drive starting from Stanwell Tops to Austinmer via Sea Cliff Bridge
- Kiama for its blowhole, and nearby Minnamurra Rainforest
Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla
- Jervis Bay has some of the world's whitest beaches at Huskisson and Hyams Beach.
- There's awesome surf at Ulladulla and Mollymook, and many surf competitions are held here.
- Batemans Bay has great oysters from the Clyde River.
- Pebbly Beach and South Durras are hidden gems where wild Eastern Grey Kangaroos can be found feeding peacefully. Contrary to the name, Pebbly Beach has great sand, though you'll have to step more carefully through the grass patches thanks to the kangaroos. There's also a good trail to walk on Durras Beach.
- Mogo for Mogo Zoo where there's wildlife, native and non-native, to cuddle and feed.
- Narooma for seal and dolphin sightings, stay overnight at Montague Island
- Stop at Bega for its cheese factory, there's lots of free samples
- Eden for whale watching, Killer Whale Museum and Marine Discovery Centre. Green Cape Lighthouse is also worth a look.
Over the Victorian border
- Gippsland Lakes - Lakes Entrance
- Wilsons Promontory, the most southerly point of the Australian mainland
- Penguins at Phillip Island
Inland drive via Monaro Highway