The coastal route between Australia’s two biggest cities is surprisingly a less-trodden path. Get away from the East Coast crowds and see some of the country’s hidden oceanside gems.
Suggested route & duration
Suggested duration: 12 nights from Sydney
• Sydney: 3 nights
• Jervis Bay: 1 night
• Batemans Bay: 1 night
• Merimbula 1 night
• Lakes Entrance: 1 night
• Wilsons Promontory: 1 night
• Phillip Island: 1 night
• Melbourne: 3 nights
About this independent tour
Why you’ll love this self-drive
• Spend time in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s largest cities
• Follow the Grand Pacific Drive, stopping off in coastal towns along the way
• Visit Lakes Entrance and explore the vast inland waterways that make up the Gippsland Lakes
• Watch the little penguin parade on Phillip Island in Victoria
• This itinerary can also be done in a campervan or motorhome.
Suggested self-drive itinerary details
Day 1: Sydney Begin your trip with a stay in Sydney – a city of Australian icons. Stay 3 nights at The ParkRoyal Sydney.
Day 4: Jervis Bay Head south along the coast down to Jervis Bay with its long and wide sandy beaches which have bright white sands. Stay at Paperbark Camp.
Day 5: Batemans Bay Take in the views as you make your way down to Batemans Bay, which is famous for its seafood including oysters. Stay at Lincoln Downs Resort.
Day 6: Merimbula See the coastal town’s rock-scattered beaches and oyster farms, go kayaking or head out on whale-watching trips. Stay at Fairway Motor Inn.
Day 7: Lakes Entrance Cross over the state line into Victoria on your way to Lakes Entrance. Wander along 90 Mile Beach or explore the vast Gippsland Lakes. Stay at Lakes Entrance Waverly House Cottage.
Day 8: Wilsons Promontory Drive through the bush on your way to Wilsons Prom, home to beaches with sand so fine and soft, it squeaks as you walk on it. Stay at Prom Country Lodge.
Day 9: Phillip Island The final stop before you reach Melbourne is Phillip Island where a waddle of the world’s smallest penguin species live. Stay at Oak Tree Lodge.
Day 10: Melbourne In Victoria’s state capital, wander alongside the Yarra River, soak up the atmosphere in Federal Square and relax on the beach in St Kilda. Stay 3 nights at Crown Promenade.
Spend the night under canvas at the African-inspired Paperbark Camp in Jervis Bay
Soft sand beaches
Feel the soft sand between your toes and hike to the top of granite peaks in Wilsons Promontory
See the spectacular Gippsland Lakes, a huge network of inland waterways on the coast of Victoria
Wait until after dark on Phillip Island and see little penguins make their way up to their nests
Tailor your tour
Make it your own We’ve crafted this itinerary based on our own experiences and our customers’ feedback. It’s fully flexible, so talk to us and we can create your perfect trip.
Where to stay This part of the East Coast isn’t on the well-trodden tourist trail so some hotels are simple yet comfortable. Our favourite overnight spot on this self-drive is safari-style Paperbark Camp in Jervis Bay (p50). In Sydney, we recommend upgrading to the Shangri-La and staying in a harbour-view room.
One of the best experiences on this itinerary is following the Grand Pacific Drive which skims the New South Wales coast. The views of the wild ocean are unforgettable. Other great activities along the way include hiking in Wilsons Prom and watching the nightly penguin parade on Philip Island.
We recommend spending ten days travelling between Sydney and Melbourne. If you would like to slow the pace even more, extend your stay in Jervis Bay or spend more time exploring the waterways of the Gippsland Lakes.
To create the ultimate New South Wales and Victoria trip, add on a stay in the Yarra Valley before arriving in Melbourne or continue on along the Great Ocean Road. If you want to return to Sydney, head back through the Snowy Mountains and via the capital, Canberra.
Good to know
When to go
• This route is doable year-round
• During the Australian summer (from November to March) conditions will be hot and dry inland and there will be cooling breezes on the coast
• The Southern Hemisphere’s spring (September to November) is great time to visit, especially to see the wildflowers
• From June to August it will be cooler but there will fewer visitors