Best road trip: Adelaide or Sydney?

Hyams Beach

Alice Piper

Posted December 03, 2021

When it comes to hitting the road this summer to escape the familiar, both Adelaide and Sydney have a lot to offer – so which will you choose?

It’s the great Australian holiday of which we all have memories. Whether it’s packing up the kids in the back of the car, getting your friends together as new license holders, or your first trip away with a new partner, the summer road trip is something many hold dear.

But when our country offers such vast and varied landscapes, and when you might only have a few days to visit another state or city from Melbourne, deciding where to go can be challenging.

To help, we’ve put together the ultimate scenic road trip route from Melbourne to Adelaide and Melbourne to Sydney, for when you only have a few days to spare.

Both trips total more than 700km, so take a car that is comfortable, safe, and has enough room for bikes, fishing rods and other leisure items. If you need a bigger car, RACV members can save on a rental car such as an SUV with SIXT Australia.

Road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide / Road trip from Melbourne to Sydney

Which road trip will you choose?

Melbourne to Adelaide road trip

There aren’t many road trips that offer lush wine country, postcard-worthy beaches, untouched fishing spots and open lakes all in one, but a road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide does all that and more.

Here are three essential stops along the way on your Melbourne to Adelaide road trip:

1.       Mount Gambier

About halfway from Melbourne to Adelaide is Mount Gambier, where you’ll find striking blue lakes, secret gardens, world-class hiking, and hidden swimming holes.

You can snorkel through Piccaninnie Ponds, or even scuba dive in an underwater cavern known as The Cathedral. And if you’re feeling adventurous, Ewen Ponds Conservation park allows for water visibility of up to 80 metres, meaning you can see sea animals with picture perfect vision.

If you’re more into land-based activities, Sugar Loaf Mountain Trail caters for all fitness levels and the lush greenery will give you the nature fix you’re craving away from the city.

2.       Victor Harbour

Almost five hours from Mount Gambier you’ll find the sandy white beaches of Victor Harbour on the Fluerieu Peninsula.

Take a horse-drawn tram to Granite Island to see the penguin colony, or a boat cruise around the peninsula, and explore some of the world’s best whisky at the Goolwa Wharf Precinct.

From here, you can head further inland to McLaren Vale.

3.       McLaren Vale

Just 36 minutes from Victor Harbour is McLaren Vale, along the home stretch to Adelaide.

With up to 70 cellar doors in the area, settle in for lunch as you sip your way around award-winning wineries like Gumtree Wines and eat paddock-to-plate style food at The Currant Shed and Maxwell Wines.

From here, it’s just 45 minutes further to your destination – Adelaide. 

Tables at Eccetera Trattoria & Pizzeria

Take a horse drawn tram to Granite Island and see the penguin colony. Credit: Tourism Australia

Melbourne to Sydney road trip

When you’re strapped for time, it can be tempting to keep it quick and drive straight up the Hume Highway to reach Sydney from Melbourne as quickly as possible, but then you’ve missed out on the incredible coastal vistas offered by taking the scenic route.

And while the scenic route may extend your trip from 10 hours to a few days, it’s well worth the experience of the journey, as opposed to simply to destination.

Here are three essential stops along the way on your Melbourne to Sydney road trip:

1.       Mallacoota

About six hours east of Melbourne is Mallacoota, a tourist hotspot that still holds its local feel and country-town warmth.

Spend time exploring picturesque beaches, secluded swimming holes and the town itself which is full of locally made products, boutique stores and fresh produce.

Also take time to check out Croajingolong National Park and the Gabo Island Lighthouse to experience lush hiking trails and views as far as the eye can see.

2.       Jervis Bay

Another five hours straight up the east coast through towns such as Eden, Merimbula and Nowra, you’ll find Jervis Bay, where some of the most untouched and stunning beaches in Australia are located.

Check out the Dolphin cruise or whale watching, kayak around the bay, hike around Booderee National Park, or simply laze around and indulge in some of the local produce at Hyams Beach.

3.       Wollongong

Wind your way around the coast on the stunning Grand Pacific Drive north to Wollongong, the perfect base for exploring the nearby towns of Kiama, Shell Harbour and Port Kembla.

You’ll see crystal blue waters as you sit on an elevated road right above the sea on the south coast of NSW making you feel like your car is floating on the water’s edge.

From here, it’s just a little over an hour to your destination – Sydney.

With so many possibilities when it comes to road tripping around our great nation, these two options allow you to see the best of Australia while doing it in total comfort.

And don’t forget – you can always fly to Adelaide or Sydney and road trip via these stops in reverse order by booking a rental car with SIXT at the airport. 


Wolloongong foreshore

Main beach, Wollongong. Credit: Destination NSW

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