The ultimate Melbourne to Mildura road trip guide

paddlesteamer on murray river at echuca

Zoe Macfarlane

Posted February 14, 2024

Use this handy guide to discover the road trip highlights from Melbourne to Mildura on the New South Wales border. It’s a fascinating road trip filled with surprises, delights and even a ‘world’s largest' landmark.

Victoria is a state with much to offer. While many revel in Melbourne’s vibrancy, soak up the Great Ocean Road’s laidback atmosphere or head east to uncover Gippsland’s natural wonders, far fewer travel inland to Victoria's rural heart.

Yet it is here, on a drive from Melbourne to Mildura, that travellers can discover charming historical towns, taste the wares of artisanal producers, and say g’day to the creative communities that prosper in rural Victoria.

Before you set off on the road, check your emergency car kit is in the boot, and ensure your emergency roadside assistance is up to date.


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red Bendigo Talking Tram

Bendigo's Talking Tram is a popular attraction. Image: Getty


Highlights on your drive from Melbourne to Mildura


Under two hours from Melbourne, Bendigo is a regional standout in the heart of Victorian Goldfields country. Not only was it a place of historical significance during the gold rush era, but it’s also full of creative and culinary gems. UNESCO even designated the Bendigo region as a Creative City and Region of Gastronomy in 2019.  

Bendigo’s Talking Tram is a unique way to discover the city’s gold mining heritage, as is an underground tour at the Central Deborah Gold Mine. If you’ve time, detour to the living museum at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat to experience the challenges and thrills of 1850s gold mining life.

Creativity comes in many forms in Bendigo. There’s artist expression, found at local art galleries and the popular Bendigo Art Gallery. Performative creativity impresses here, too, especially the contemporary Ulumbarra Theatre. It’s on the grounds of the once-formidable Sandhurst Gaol.

Then there’s Bendigo’s culinary creativity, where local chefs, cooks, and bakers couple their passion for food with the region’s quality fresh produce. The result? Distinct flavours and memorable dining experiences. Bendigo boasts several award-winning restaurants, plus a wealth of artisanal producers from craft breweries to boutique wineries to creative cheesemakers.  


paddlesteamer on murray river at echuca

Ride on a paddle steamer on the Murray River at Echuca. Image: Visit Victoria



Echuca is a charming port town on the banks of the Murray River, one of the world’s longest navigable rivers. A country escape, Echuca offers impressive historical, cultural, and scenic attractions.

Connect to Echuca’s mid-19th-century heritage on a fascinating paddle steamer boat tour; Echuca is home to the world’s largest operating paddle steamer fleet. Back in 1853, a paddle steamer from South Australia started the town’s thriving boatbuilding and riverboat trades.

The Port of Echuca was once Victoria’s second-largest port. Now it’s a living heritage precinct lined with well-preserved 19th-century buildings. The Port of Echuca Discovery Centre is a worthwhile stop, as is the Murray River Paddlesteamers Discover Centre, the old sawmill, and Star Hotel.

For nature lovers, the native wildlife and red river gum bushland at Banyule State Forest in the heart of town is a joy - as is the Koondrook Red Gum Forest Walk and the Horseshoe Lagoon trail in Moama. Echuca’s twin town, Moama is on the New South Wales side of the Murray River; a bridge connects them both. The Murray River Walk, one of the Great Walks of Australia, passes through Echuca, allowing you to explore part of this renowned 40-kilometre trail.  

While Echuca’s history draws visitors, the town has a contemporary side, too. The High Street has quaint boutiques, galleries, and antique stores to browse, and the riverside cafés, restaurants, and pubs allow you to savour local flavours while soaking up Echuca’s relaxing ambience.


couple crouching looking at swamp wallaby

You might spot a wallaby at Gunbower Island. Image: Visit Victoria


Gunbower Island

To tick off a ‘world’s largest’ attraction off, head an hour south-east to Gunbower Island: the world’s largest inland island. The rich biodiversity of the surrounding wetlands attracts numerous bird and wetland species.

While access to the interior of Gunbower Island is limited to protect its fragile ecosystem, there is ample to do nearby. Bird watchers and photographers flock to the area, with many getting out on the waterways by boat or canoe to maximise their wildlife spotting opportunities. Fishing is also popular thanks to the Murray cod, yellowbelly, and silver perch that swim here.

Gunbower’s nature trails are fun to explore, with kangaroos, wallabies, and reptiles keeping you company. Many have interpretive signs to highlight the local flora, fauna, and sites of ecological note.

The Gunbower Island Forest Drive journeys through the Gunbower Island National Park and Gunbower State Forest. The drive starts in Cohuna (grab a map at the visitor centre), linking several cultural, historical, and ecological points of interest. Allow half a day and pack a picnic before you leave Echuca for Gunbower’s picturesque stops.


town on a river

The Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement is Australia's first open-air museum. Image: Visit Victoria


Swan Hill

Two hours north of Echuca, Swan Hill invites travellers to enjoy their sun-soaked days (Swan Hill boasts more sunshine days than the Gold Coast), good food, good wine, and abundant outdoor and water-based activities.

At Swan Hill’s Nyah-Vinifera Park, 1,000 hectares of pristine nature, inviting billabongs, and attractive lagoons await. Wander the century-old red gums on a hiking trail, discovering historical sites of interest - like middens and canoe trees - from the Wadi Wadi people as you go.

For fisherfolk, landing a coveted Murray cod is a Swan Hill fishing rite of passage. Local bait and tackle shops have everything you need. Other Murray River activities include canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and waterskiing.

To tap into the region’s history, head to Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum to learn the WWII history of the Catalina Flying Boats. Australia’s first open-air museum, Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement, also impresses, showcasing life on the Murray from 1830 to 1930.


sandy desert landscape

Mungo National Park is an excellent detour. Image: Visit Victoria


Mungo National Park

Mungo National Park is a site of significant historical interest and a rewarding detour before Mildura (stop in scenic Balranald to stretch your legs). In the late 60s and early 70s, geologist Jim Fowler discovered Australasia’s earliest known human remains, the Mungo Man and Mungo Lady. An estimated 42,000 years old, they connect the region to its Aboriginal roots.

Mungo’s dramatic rock formations, undulating sand dunes, and dried-up lakebeds feel otherworldly and leave you awestruck. Part of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, the region is one of humanity’s most important sites.

Take a recommended guided tour with an Aboriginal ranger to maximise your experience here. The Paakantji, Mutthi Mutthi, and Ngaiampaa peoples collaborate to run excursions, revealing the park’s history, spiritual significance, and points of interest, like the clay-and-quartz Walls of China. For deeper immersion into Mungo National Park, multi-day outback tours are available.

If you’re road-tripping in a campervan or RV, rise early to watch the sunrise at the Red Top Lookout: the scenery is out of this world! The 10-kilometre Zanci Pastoral Loop is also great as the sun rises or sets. For non-campers, Mungo Lodge is a quality accommodation base.


farmers market

Mildura's Farmers Market is a great place to find local produce. Image: Visit Victoria



120 kilometres from Mungo National Park, Mildura is an idyllic end to your road trip. With a Mediterranean-like climate, Mildura offers the perfect blend of relaxing activities, historical gems, and delectable produce from its fertile land – it's known as the Food Bowl of Australia, after all.

Many of Mildura’s top attractions connect to the Murray River, the lifeblood of the state. Considered a Mildura must-do, a paddleboat steamer ride makes for a fascinating introduction to the Murray River, both from a scenic perspective and to learn the region’s maritime history. A houseboat is a relaxing alternative, or for a thrilling bird’s eye view, take flight in a tiger moth plane.

Mildura’s verdant pastures and quality produce inspire creative dishes, from farm-to-table fare to cosy cafés to artisanal treats you’ll want to take home. That there are also 250 wineries and cellar doors to explore, only lends to Mildura’s reputation as a foodie haven.

Returning to Melbourne? Check out the Calder Highway road trip route to uncover more rural Victoria highlights.