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Driving from Melbourne to Adelaide

When you fly somewhere, it’s all about getting to your destination as quickly as possible. You step on a plane at one end and leave the plane at the other end. Whereas when you drive to your destination, you get to see and experience what is along the way, and maybe even take a detour or two.

When driving between Melbourne and Adelaide, there are a quite a few route options available, however we will cover three here – the most direct, along the coast and the route up north.

3 different driving routes from Melbourne to Adelaide.

1. Direct route – Western Highway & Dukes Highway

Western Highway.

The inland route is the quickest and shortest, thus it is also used by road transport operators moving goods between Melbourne and Adelaide.

Follow the Western Freeway out of Melbourne, and maybe get off the freeway and visit Ballarat – Victoria’s third largest city which has a rich history dating back to its prosperous days during the Gold Rush era.

Nature lovers will want to turn off the Western Highway at Ararat and detour to Halls Gap which lies within the famous Grampians National Park. There are waterfalls to discover, challenging hiking trails, stunning mountain views, lots of native wildlife and rich Aboriginal heritage that dates back many thousands of years.

Approximately 440 kilometres from Melbourne, the Western Highway crosses the state border into South Australia and the road becomes known as the Dukes Highway.

Follow the Dukes Highway to Tailem Bend – an attractive road junction town which overlooks the lower reaches of the mighty Murray River.

Follow the Princes Highway to Murray Bridge – also set on the Murray River and home to a large fleet of houseboats.

A 75 kilometre drive along the South Eastern Freeway will then take you into Adelaide, concluding the 726 kilometre road trip.

2. Along the coast – Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road.

Water lovers with time to spare should take the coastal route to Adelaide. It adds about 300 kilometres to the journey and significantly extra time due to some section of windy roads and passing through many coastal towns.

Follow the Princes Freeway out of Melbourne to Victoria’s second largest city of Geelong, which overlooks Corio Bay. From there, head south to Torquay which is the official start of the internationally recognised Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road is a spectacular coastal drive where you can enjoy panoramic coastal scenery, see stunning rock formations such as the 12 Apostles, explore lush rainforests and visit seaside communities which welcome travellers and holidaymakers.

The Great Ocean Road ends at the city of Warrnambool. Head west along the Princes Highway to the historic fishing village of Port Fairy and onto the deep sea port of Portland which was the site of Victoria’s first permanent settlement. Leave the highway at Portland and follow Portland – Nelson Road to the town of Nelson – a small village set on the majestic Glenelg River, within a stone’s throw of the state border with South Australia.

Follow Glenelg River Road across the border and to the large regional city of Mount Gambier. This geological hotspot is famous for its Blue Lake and stunning sinkholes. Take a 28 kilometre detour down to the coast to Port MacDonnell – once a busy shipping port, but now a quiet and charming village.

After leaving Mount Gambier, turn off the Princes Highway at Millicent and travel along the Southern Ports Highway to explore the coastal holiday towns along South Australia’s Limestone Coast. Check out Beachport, the ever popular holiday town of Robe and also Kingston SE with its Big Lobster.

Rejoining the Princes Highway, the coastal route traverses the Coorong National Park – internationally recognised wetlands with salty lagoons and gorgeous sandy beaches. Pass through Meningie, which is set on the shores of Lake Albert, before reaching the Murray River at Tailem Bend and completing the final leg of the journey to Adelaide.

3. Up north – Calder Highway & Sturt Highway

Murray River at Mildura.

In complete contrast to the coastal route, the northern route traverses the more remote parts of Victoria and South Australia, adding around 200 kilometres to the journey.

Follow the Calder Freeway out of Melbourne and through the Macedon Ranges to Bendigo. Like Ballarat, this city thrived during Victoria’s Gold Rush days, leaving a lasting legacy of opulence and wealth.

Heading out of Bendigo on the Calder Highway takes you through a number of rural communities and through Victoria’s vast Mallee region which is home to huge farms that grow grain and other crops.

The Calder Highway ends in the far north-west corner of Victoria at the city of Mildura. Set on the Murray River and one of the warmest spots in the state, Mildura is a popular holiday destination, particularly for those who enjoy water activities on the river, and it is surrounded by vast wineries and fruit farms.

From Mildura, head west along the Sturt Highway, across the state border into South Australia, arriving at Renmark. Renmark is the gateway to South Australia’s Riverland region, with its Mediterranean climate creating a rich fruit growing area with irrigation provided by the Murray River. Visit the attractive river-front towns of Berri, Loxton and Waikerie.

The Sturt Highway continues west and passes through the northern section of the Barossa Valley at Nuriootpa. The Barossa Valley is, of course, one of Australia’s most famous wine region where you will find the biggest names in the wine industry.

From Nuriootpa, it is a 72 kilometre drive to Adelaide, however you may want to take the more scenic route along Barossa Valley Way through the charming grape growing towns of Tanunda and Lyndoch.

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How to get to the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne

Great Ocean RoadThe Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most iconic coastal drives. It covers around 240 kilometres between Torquay in the east and the outskirts of Warrnambool in the west.

The journey along the Great Ocean Road passes through several coastal holiday towns and showcases the natural beauty of this part of Victoria including rugged coastlines and rock formations, the famous 12 Apostles, beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, mountain scenery and native flora and fauna.

If you are in Melbourne, there are several ways to reach the start of the Great Ocean Road at Torquay.

By car

Torquay, which marks the official start of the Great Ocean Road, is around 100 kilometres from Melbourne by road.

Head west along the West Gate Freeway (M1), across the West Gate Bridge, and then this road becomes the Princes Freeway (M1) as it skirts around Werribee and the large city of Geelong.

Take the Anglesea Road (C134) exit off the freeway and follow this road for around 14 kilometres until you reach the Great Ocean Road (B100). Turn left if you want to head into Torquay (5 kilometres away) or turn right to skip Torquay and head along the rest of the Great Ocean Road towards Anglesea.

Driving a vehicle is one of the best ways to see the Great Ocean Road. You can stop at various towns you pass through, view the many lookouts on the side of the road, and take a few popular detours along the way, such as the Cape Otway Lighthouse, the Otway Fly tree top walk and a number of waterfalls.

It is quite common to break the journey along the Great Ocean Road into several days, so as to get the most out of this scenic driving adventure. You can stay overnight at popular locations including Lorne, Apollo Bay and Port Campbell.

Driving directions from Melbourne to the start of the Great Ocean Road

If you don’t have your own car, consider hiring a vehicle to get the most out of your Great Ocean Road visit.

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By public transport

Getting to the Great Ocean Road by public transport involves a train journey followed by a bus trip.

Catch a V/Line train from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne to Geelong. This journey will take approximately one hour. See the train timetable to Geelong.

From Geelong Station, there are a number of bus services you can catch, depending on exactly where on the Great Ocean Road you want to travel to.  From Geelong to Torquay, it will take approximately 40 minutes.

  • McHarry’s No.50 bus – Geelong to Torquay and Jan Juc
  • McHarry’s No.51 bus – Geelong to Torquay and Jan Juc
  • McHarry’s Apollo Bay bus – Geelong to Torquay, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Wye River and Apollo Bay
  • V/Line Warrnambool bus – Geelong to Torquay, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Wye River, Apollo Bay, Lavers Hill, Port Campbell and Warrnambool.

Join a tour

A number of guided tours of the Great Ocean Road depart from Melbourne. Sit back and relax and you are driven to the start of the Great Ocean Road and then along this scenic iconic route, stopping off at a number of popular attractions along the way.

The entire trip from Melbourne and back, usually going as far as the  12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge or Port Campbell, can be covered over one long day.

As well as day tours to the Great Ocean Road, a number of organised activities are available, including surf lessons, sky diving, kayaking, snorkelling and scenic helicopter flights.

Great Ocean Road tours & activities

Coming from Melbourne Airport?

If you are coming to Melbourne by air, see our guide to transport between Melbourne Airport and the city centre.  Once in Melbourne’s city centre, choose from the above options to get to the Great Ocean Road.