The 10 best stops on a Melbourne to Adelaide road trip

Great Ocean Road


Posted January 09, 2024

The 725-kilometre Melbourne to Adelaide journey can be tackled in around eight long hours, plus regular driver breaks. However, a leisurely coastal road trip soaking in the best sights and attractions is far more rewarding.

As one of Australia’s most scenic drives, the coastal journey connecting Melbourne to Adelaide wows with its charming beach towns, historical sites, ample adventures, and delectable food and wine. Add in the iconic Twelve Apostles and abundant wildlife-spotting opportunities, and you’re in for a spectacular road trip, be it with friends, family, or a special someone.

Before you set out, pack your emergency car kit, and ensure your Emergency Roadside Assistance is active with the level of breakdown assistance that meets your needs.

Jump to:

Towns and attractions between Melbourne and Adelaide

Great Ocean Road

Starting from Melbourne, head southwest to begin your journey along the Great Ocean Road. Considered one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road starts in Torquay, an hour’s drive from Melbourne, ending at the small community of Allansford near Warrnambool. Along Victoria’s most famous route, the spectacular landscape commands your attention at every vantage point.

The alternating scenery that lines the 243-kilometre route – from dramatic cliffs to pristine beaches to lush forests – affords a sense of ever-changing adventure. Whether you’re a nature-lover, gourmand traveller, history buff or seeking life’s thrills, the Great Ocean Road has something for everyone.


surfer at Bells Beach

The drive from Melbourne to Adelaide is full of beautiful vistas and rest stops like Bells Beach. Image: Visit Victoria


Torquay is the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road. Known as Australia's surfing capital, Torquay’s wild waves and beautiful beaches attract visitors from around the world. Bells Beach is Torquay’s most legendary surf spot, thanks to its big swells and offshore winds.

You don’t need to be a surfer to enjoy this laidback town, however. The tasty cafes and restaurants, surf-inspired boutiques, patrolled beaches, coastal nature trails, and luxury resort accommodation all appeal.  So does the Australian National Surfing Museum, offering fascinating insights and displays.


surf museum at Torquay

Don't miss the Australian National Surfing Museum at Torquay. Image: Visit Victoria

Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay is a picturesque coastal town halfway along the Great Ocean Road that’s famed for its rugged coastline, bushland activities, and stunning beach. Nestled between the verdant Otway Ranges and welcoming Southern Ocean waters, Apollo Bay charms with its natural beauty and mellow atmosphere and is the area’s fresh seafood hub. Spend time at the harbour, laze on Apollo Bay Beach, or walk the nearby nature trails.

Apollo Bay also offers fun water-based activities, including kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing.  


seafood at Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay is a great seafood destination on the way to Adelaide. Image: Visit Victoria

Otway Ranges

The Otway Ranges’ diverse ecosystem is sure to impress. Over 100,000+ hectares and an estimated 30 million years old, it’s home to ancient temperate rainforests, towering eucalypts, giant ferns and spectacular waterfalls. Triplet, Beauchamp, and Hopetoun Falls are spectacular.

The Great Otway National Park covers a large percentage of the Otway Ranges, with 20 immersive trails and walks. These include scenic viewpoints, lakeside walks, and cascading falls. Maits Rest Rainforest Walk is a perfect introduction to the park’s unique flora and fauna, as is the 30-metre-high rainforest canopy walkway and ziplining activities.

While visiting the Otway Ranges, stop by the historic Cape Otway Lightstation. It’s mainland Australia’s oldest surviving lighthouse and great for whale watching during the migration season (May to September).


people walking at Maits Rest

Maits Rest is a beautiful walk in the Otway Ranges. Image: Visit Victoria

Twelve Apostles

The highlight of any Great Ocean Road drive is to stand in awe at the Twelve Apostles. Shaped by millions of years of erosion, these towering limestone formations create a striking tableau against the choppy Southern Ocean.

While a quick peek from the viewing platforms is possible if you’re short on time, there are more immersive ways to experience these geological wonders. On foot, take the coastal walking trails or head to Loch Ard Gorge for the fascinating shipwreck and geology walk.  

There are two rewards if you time your visit with sunset at the London Bridge viewing platform. The first is the magical golden hue that hits the limestone towers as the sun disappears below the horizon. The second is the sight and sound of witnessing 800+ fairy penguins return from the sea as the light fades.


view of the Twelve Apostles

The Twelve Apostles are a must-see on the Great Ocean Road. Image: Visit Victoria


For an introduction to the region’s maritime heritage, head to Warrnambool. The Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is a living museum that has gone to great creative lengths to connect visitors to the town’s seafaring past.

Also known for its prime whale watching, Warrnambool sees whales pass between May and September. Designed to maximise your chances to see southern right and humpback whales, the Logan Beach platform is the best spot in town.

Warrnambool other activities include walking the Foreshore Promenade, exploring the picturesque Thunder Point Coastal Reserve, and enjoying the diverse plants – and tranquillity – at the Botanic Gardens.

Nearby, the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve hosts a range of Australian critters and creatures, including koalas, emus, kangaroos, and native birds. 


view of Warrnambool

Warrnambool is the perfect mix of city and beach. Image: Visit Victoria

Port Fairy

Head further west to the charming seaside town of Port Fairy, where historic 19th-century buildings, including bluestone cottages, former whaling warehouses, and the historic lighthouse, transport you to another era. To see the 164-year-old lighthouse, stroll around Griffiths Island.

The Belfast Coastal Reserve is another top spot to enjoy Port Fairy’s coastal spoils. Take one of the scenic walking trails, relax on the near-secluded beaches, and watch for the 20+ shorebird species, including the threatened hooded plover.

To get close to the region’s migrating whales, book a Port Fairy boat tour from May to September.


woman walking at Port Fairy

Port Fairy is full of gorgeous walking trails. Image: Getty

Naracoorte Caves

Change things up when you head inland to visit the Naracoorte Caves National Park. This underexplored UNESCO World Heritage site combines natural beauty, geological wonders, and fossils of great historical interest.

Naracoorte Caves’s fossils are enthralling. The remains of Australia’s prehistoric fauna from the Pleistocene epoch include the bones of giant marsupials and ancient reptiles, some more than 500,000 years old. Learn about the park’s ancient ecosystems at the Wonambi Fossil Centre.

The extensive Naracoorte Caves network is equally impressive. The 26 caves open to the public are only a fraction of the complex web of underground formations. Guided tours best reveal the cultural and historical significance of everything uncovered here.


interior of Naracoorte Caves

Naracoorte Caves are a wonder to behold. Image: Getty

Victor Harbor

While there is a more direct route to Adelaide from the Naracoorte Caves, a detour to Victor Harbor won’t disappoint. Located on the stunning Fleurieu Peninsula, Victor Harbor offers visitors craggy cliffs, broad beaches, and fascinating wildlife encounters.

The most unusual wildlife excursion is swimming with southern bluefin tuna in an eco-friendly netted enclosure. Known as the Ferraris of the Ocean, they tip the scales at a hefty 200 kilograms and yet can still zip through the water at 70 km/hr.

You’ll also want to hop aboard a short horse-drawn tram ride to meet the friendly little penguins and sea lions who call Granite Island home. Make time for Granite Island’s scenic walking trails, spectacular views at the Bluff, and the informative Southern Australian Whale Centre.


people riding horse-drawn tram at Victor Harbor

The horse-drawn tram is a highlight at Victor Harbor. Image: Getty

McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale’s pretty landscapes, world-class vineyards, top-rated dining, and creative endeavours make for an enticing final stop before Adelaide.  

World-renowned for its premier wines, McLaren Vale has around 160 wineries and 74 cellar doors, leaving visitors spoilt for choice. Wirra Wirra, Coriole and d’Arenberg are stand-outs, with the latter also impresses with its d'Arenberg Cube, a five-level Rubik-cube-like structure housing wine tastings and art. McLaren Vale wineries, restaurants, and cafés offer gastronomic delights with fresh seasonal local produce the star on the plate.  

For active road trippers, rent a bike or walk the 8-kilometre Shiraz Trail. Following a disused railway corridor, this (mainly) flat route passes wineries and cafés. Explore the region’s diverse art scene at a range of galleries and shows, often amid the vines.

From McLaren Vale, drive 45 minutes to reach South Australia's capital. Once in Adelaide, check out the ultimate guide to the Festival City, the top five destinations and must-see South Australian locations to add to your road trip itinerary.


rubix-cube like structure in a winery

McLaren Vale's d'Arenburg Cube houses wine tastings and art. Image: Tourism SA

To return to Melbourne, why not head inland? Ideal stops include the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, the gold mining town of Ballarat, and the Grampians. The latter impresses with its lush mountain ranges, gushing falls, and Aboriginal rock art.