Melbourne to Brisbane: City, Sand and Sea
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If you were making a list of quintessential Aussie road trips, this epic journey would be right near the top. Not only do you get to experience five of Australia’s greatest cities, but a boatload of coastal views and plenty of friendly small towns in the bargain, too. The east coast of the Land Down Under is full of gems both natural and cultural, and a Melbourne to Brisbane road trip takes them all in.
Of course, with so much to see and do, you'll have to make some decisions about how to spend the time you have. An Australia motorhome rental allows you the flexibility to make this route your own, and that's why we have written it with a home on wheels in mind - be it a small sleepervan or a big RV-style rig. Jump in a vehicle, head for the open road and #LetsGoMotorhome.
Don't forget to get yourself well acquainted with Aussie road rules and customs first, by reading our Australia driving guide for motorhome travelers. Stay safe!
Leg 1 Melbourne to Albury
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Often referred to as Australia’s “cultural capital”, Melbourne has been declared the most liveable city in the world, is the birthplace of Australian cinema and has been recognised as a UNESCO City of Literature. In other words, this is one special city. So before you pick up your motorhome rental and drive away up toward the coast, take the time to have a look around and savour the multifaceted delights that Melbourne has to offer.
If you know that you want to see more of the country around Melbourne but aren't quite sure where to start, you may want to check out River Country Adventours. Based in the state of Victoria, River Country Adventours offers a wide range of tours and adventures including outback flights, canoe safaris on the Goulburn River, and eco-tourism and heritage tours throughout Victoria. Perfect for groups large and small, day trips and extended tours.
It may not be the most direct route, but those who have plenty of time on their hands may want to get to Canberra by curving around to the south-east, rather than taking the direct route through Albury. If you do choose to take the M1 and A1 toward the coast, stopping off at Rawson is a great way to break up the journey. Rawson is known to holidaymakers from Melbourne for its wide range of outdoorsy opportunities such as bushwalking, trout fishing and mountain biking and those who wish to stay the night will find Mountain Rivers Tourist Park an idyllic spot to park up for the night.
If you'd prefer to make a beeline for Canberra though, you'll want to head north and jump on the M31 as soon as you reach the outskirts of Melbourne.
After around 3 hours on the M31, it may be time to turn off the road, stretch your legs and get a little taste of Australian nature. Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park is the perfect spot to pull up and rest - maybe even take a short bush walk or enjoy a picnic lunch. If you’ve got a nose for history, make sure to check out the old abandoned gold mining relics scattered about the park and the Aboriginal rock art at Yeddonba. You can even do a little bit of prospecting yourself, although as you have to organise a special permit to do this and gold is pretty scarce these days, you may want to give this a miss. Having refreshed yourself with a short jaunt in the Aussie bush, it’s time to head on to Albury NSW, the final stop of the day, just a short half hour drive from Chiltern Mt-Pilot.
Leg 2 Albury to Canberra
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When you reach Albury, you’ll crossed over into New South Wales - just. In fact, Albury’s sister city Wodonga (separated by the Murray River) is still in the state of Victoria. With Canberra less than four hours away, you might want to get on the road as soon as possible, but if you’re looking for a more relaxed start to the day there are a few spots to enjoy in Albury before you set off for the Australian capital city.
About 40 minutes up the M31 out of Albury, you’ll come across the small town of Holbrook. Many opt to pass straight through, but for those with a nautical bent Holbrook does have a fascinating feature, the above waterline section of the HMAS Otway in Submarine Park. The submarine is the original casing of the HMAS Otway, which was purchased by the town in 1997 to honour the towns namesake, Commander Norman Douglas Holbrook VC. The highly decorated Commander Holbrook was the first submariner to win a Victoria Cross medal during WW1 for sinking a Turkish battleship in the Dardanelles. Holbrook is also home to Holbrook Submarine Museum, a unique museum with a 3D hologram detailing Commander Holbrook’s WW1 exploits, the original control room of the HMAS Otway including a working periscope and submarine living quarters, along with a huge range of submarine memorabilia including a torpedo, escape suits and an authentic Jolly Roger flag.
Less than an hour and a half north of Holbrook is the diminutive settlement of Gundagai. Although it may seem relatively unremarkable, for some reason this town has attained the status of the iconic Australian country town. Many songs, poems and stories are set here and there’s also a strong oral folklore tradition among the locals, so stopping off to stretch your legs and have a chat with some of the residents could well lead to one of the most intriguing cultural experiences of your whole trip. While you’re in town, take the time to pop in to the Gundagai tourist office where you can see a 1.2 metre tall miniature Baroque Italian palace, crafted by a local mason from almost 30,000 pieces of New South Wales marble.
Leg 3 Canberra to Sydney
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*If you're starting your journey here, you can pick up a Canberra motorhome rental.
Set in its own little portion of the country, the Australian Capital Territory, Canberra’s origins as an entirely planned city are evident in the orderly layout and beautiful green spaces throughout the city. While it’s not even close to being the nation’s largest city, Canberra holds a special place in the hearts of many Australians, and not merely because it’s the seat of government. If you’re in no hurry to rush northward, it’s worth spending a few days in the capital to appreciate the many different things to do in Canberra.
Your route from Canberra to the seaside city of Sydney will mostly take you along major motorways, bypassing many small towns in between, but unless you’re wanting to take a three hour straight shot through from city to city, there’s one or two places where you can turn off, rest up and enjoy the unique local attractions. Take Goulburn for example. One of its main claims to fame is Rambo - the world’s largest concrete sheep, a 15 metre tall structure housing a gift shop, a wool display and a viewing platform where visitors can gaze out through the sheep’s eyes at the surrounding area. You’ll find the Big Merino on Hume Street, just off the M31 motorway exchange as you approach Goulburn.
Leg 4 Sydney to Port Macquarie
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*If you're starting your travels at this point, make sure to pick up a Sydney motorhome rental!
Sydney is the biggest city in Oceania, but it’s not its size that makes it really special. This is one of the most multicultural places on earth, with over 250 languages spoken and almost a third of Sydneysiders speaking a language other than English at home. That rich and varied heritage has transformed the city into a melting pot of ideas, art and culture that displays this wonderful mix in countless ways every day - from the food to the fashion, from the art to the architecture, Sydney is truly an international city.
You’ll want to set out fairly early when you leave Sydney - there’s more than 4 hours of driving ahead of you and it’s unlikely that you’ll be doing it all in one big block. After heading up the M1 for a little over two hours, you’ll find yourself in the city of Newcastle. After the Sydney to Newcastle stretch, you’ll at least want to stop off for a coffee or a breath of fresh air but if you feel like sticking around for a little longer than that, there are plenty things to do in Newcastle.
Leg 5 Port Macquarie to Ballina
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You could be forgiven for thinking that Port Macquarie may not have a lot to offer. After all, it’s a smallish town halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. However, you’d be very, very wrong. It may have a population of less than 50,000 but Port Macquarie has the attractions, excitement and opportunities of a much larger place. If you’re planning to spend a little time in Port Macquarie before heading on up toward the Gold Coast, take a look below at some of the amazing experiences that the town can offer you.
Once you leave Port Macquarie, driving for about two hours will bring you to Bonville, a small town that would be relatively unremarkable except for its Butterfly House which accommodates more than 400 butterflies in an indoor subtropical rainforest setting. There’s something wondrous and uniquely refreshing about surrounding yourself with these delicate creatures.
Leg 6 Ballina to the Gold Coast
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*If this area is where you'd like to begin your trip, just pick up a Byron Bay campervan rental.
Although you may be eager to head straight on to the famed surf and shopping of the Gold Coast, there are one or two things that you might want to see around the town of Ballina before you strike northward again. For those ticking off a ‘Big Things’ checklist, you need to swing by the Ballina Bunnings. There you’ll find The Big Prawn, the world’s largest prawn. The oversized crustacean was actually okayed for demolition by the council in 2009, but they community rallied around their orange icon and eventually the local Bunnings hardware store stepped in and rescued prawn, moving it to a spot overlooking the Bunnings car park.
For even more whale watching vantage points, shoot about half an hour up the coastal road to Byron Bay. Both Broken Head and Cape Byron are perfect places to see Southern Right and Humpback whales on their way south - but it’s not whale watching that Byron Bay is most well known for. If you’re taking a winter road trip (because, let’s be honest: it never gets that cold in coastal Australia) you’d be mad not to time it so you’re in Byron Bay for the Splendour in the Grass music festival. Not only is it Australia’s biggest event on the winter festival circuit, it’s also among the most acclaimed music fests in the world, drawing an incredible range of artists, including massively popular top billings like Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Blur and Florence + The Machine, every year.
Leg 7 Gold Coast to Brisbane
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*If you're beginning your journey at this end of the country, make sure to pick up a motorhome rental from Brisbane or the Gold Coast.
Where to start? The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s most popular tourism destinations, a true entertainment capital which caters to holidaymakers of every age and persuasion. So no matter what constitutes your ideal vacation, you’ll find something that appeals directly to you on the Gold Coast.
If you’re really wanting to get away from it all and enjoy a little peace and quiet, a long walk along Bilinga Beach is the way to go. Those who’d rather immerse themselves in Gold Coast culture at its best need look no further than Surfers Paradise - it’s an ideal spot for people watching, is just a short walk from a generous selection of shops and cafes, and on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings you’ll find its famed beachfront markets at the Esplanade.
Recently declared one of the most beautiful cities on earth, the capital of Queensland is a sparkling gem in the region’s crown, well known for its lush green spaces, modern architecture and the winding ribbon of the Brisbane river that wends its way through the city to Moreton Bay. The final destination on your epic east coast road trip provides a fitting bookend to the journey, allowing you luxuriate in the leafy surroundings of this picturesque city.