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Of all the beautiful road trips Australia has to offer, a self drive across the Great Ocean Road in Victoria has to be the most famous. Curving along the coastline for over 200km, this well-traversed route treats you to unspoilt rainforest, beautiful national parks, limestone formations such as the Twelve Apostles and a choice of seaside holiday towns.
This Adelaide to Melbourne drive itinerary highlights the best drive stops between the two cities, including the Great Ocean Road, Mount Gambier and more. If you’re travelling from Adelaide to Melbourne by car, the total driving distance is almost 1,000km along the coastal route, so the Great Ocean Road is actually only a small part of the journey.
While this itinerary can be scaled down to 3 days, I did it in just under a week, as there is so much beautiful scenery to enjoy. This route planner will share the best places to see along the way, driving time and driving distance, petrol and accommodation costs and recommended campsites. So start planning your epic Australian road trip now!
Adelaide to Melbourne Drive Itinerary Summary
Here’s a summary of my recommended drive stops on the Adelaide to Melbourne drive itinerary via the Great Ocean Road. If you’re on a 3 day itinerary the best places to stop overnight would be Mount Gambier and the Great Ocean Road.
2. Coorong National Park
3. Mount Gambier
5. Warrnambool, Great Ocean Road
6. Twelve Apostles
7. Great Otway National Park
Adelaide to Melbourne Distance, Driving Time & Cost
The total distance from Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road is just under 1,000km, which takes about 12.5 hours to drive. (Note that it is quicker to take the inland route if you’re in a hurry, but this guide is all about the coastal attractions!)
The total petrol cost came to $117, and the campsites and caravan parks cost between $15 and $27 per site per night (split between two people sharing).
For a more detailed breakdown of costs for each road trip I went on in Australia, plus advice on budgeting your trip, check out the following blog post:
If you’re on a tight schedule you could do the trip in 2 or 3 days, but I’d allow up to a week to enjoy it fully and have time to get out of the car and appreciate the scenery.
If you’ve got time to spare and you want a more relaxed journey, the Great Ocean Road has some lovely seaside holiday towns such as Lorne and Torquay. Just make sure you book in advance in peak season as Melbourne locals holiday here too!
Adelaide to Melbourne Road Trip Drive Stops
Here are the details of my recommended drive stops on this Adelaide to Melbourne drive itinerary!
Whether you’re starting or finishing your road trip in Adelaide, it’s worth spending a week or so there, as it’s a lovely city that’s vastly underrated in my opinion! Read the following blog post to find out more.
Adelaide City YHA – centrally located hostel with dorm beds from $33.
Coorong National Park
Coorong National Park in South Australia lies about halfway between Adelaide and Mount Gambier, and makes a great overnight stop if you’re camping.
The park features some spectacular dry salt lakes, plenty of walking trails and a 140km saltwater lagoon separated from the ocean by sand dunes. Check out this blog post to read about my experience:
On the way:
Murray River: for a bit of relaxation, stop by Murray Bridge and enjoy tea and scones on a Captain Proud paddle boat cruise along the scenic Murray River like I did!
Adelaide to Loop Road, Coorong National Park: 216km – 2 hrs 30 min
Coorong National Park – a range of basic campsites in the bush from $15 per site per night. We stayed at Hooded Plover, which allowed easy access to walking trails.
About halfway along your Adelaide to Melbourne road trip lies Mount Gambier, South Australia’s second most-populated city. Located on an extinct volcano, the landscape here is really unique compared to the other places you’ll see on your journey.
Home to the beautiful Blue Lake, that turns cobalt blue in summer; the Umpherston Sinkhole, once a limestone cave but now a stunning sunken garden; and the popular Cave Gardens, Mount Gambier has plenty of unusual attractions to fill a day or two. Read the blog post below for more information.
On the way:
Kingston SE: the township of Kingston SE is the entrance to Australia’s South East coast and home to The Granites beach, where 2m-high granite knobs protrude out of the sand. It’s a scenic place to get out and stretch your legs.
Coorong National Park to Mount Gambier: 232km – 2 hrs 30 mins
Mount Gambier Central Caravan Park – from $20 per site per night.
The Old Mount Gambier Gaol – an old prison converted into a hostel starting at $34 per night. I stayed here years ago on a previous trip and can confirm it’s quite exciting!
Leaving South Australia behind and heading into Victoria, the next stop on your Adelaide to Melbourne drive itinerary is the busy seaside city of Portland, Victoria’s first permanent European settlement.
With a pretty foreshore, heritage buildings, museums and plenty of places to eat and drink, Portland makes a pleasant stop-off point. I had a coffee break here before heading to beautiful Narrawong to camp!
On the way:
Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park: These beautiful caves are well worth a visit and cost $14 for a guided tour (you’re allowed to stay inside afterwards to take more photos).
Discovery Bay Coastal Park, Nelson: From Mount Gambier, you can either take the inland Princes Highway across to Portland and beyond, or head down to Nelson and take the coastal route; the distance is about the same. Nelson is a small fishing town at the mouth of the Glenelg River with an impressive 50km-long beach stretching along the Discovery Bay Coastal Park.
Grampians National Park: this is more of an alternative route than an attraction on the way, but about 2.5 hours north east of Mount Gambier is Halls Gap and the Grampians National Park, a mountainous hiking area and great detour for keen walkers. I didn’t go there on this trip but I did spend a few days there on my first ever Australian road trip in 2002 and loved it!
Mount Gambier to Portland: 108km – 1 hr 20 min
Narrawong Holiday Park – a large, family friendly holiday park in a pretty location at the mouth of the Surry River, with sites from $27 per night.
The Great Ocean Road
Finally, the part you’re probably looking forward to the most! The Great Ocean Road in Victoria is a world-famous, Australian National Heritage-listed site, and stretches 243km between the towns of Allansford and Torquay.
The most well-known attraction on the Great Ocean Road has to be the Twelve Apostles limestone stacks, but these are just one of many beautiful coastal formations along the western half of the drive, which include Loch Ard Gorge, The Grotto, London Bridge, The Razorback and Shipwreck Walk. These are all well-signed so you wont miss them!
Allow yourself enough time to appreciate the journey if possible – at least two days to get from Portland to Melbourne – as it takes longer than you might expect to stop and look at each attraction, and the Great Ocean Road is unfortunately heaving with tourists. Prepare to be pulling up alongside tour buses and queueing to take photos amidst a sea of selfie sticks!
If you’re heading east from Adelaide to Melbourne, the visitor centre in Warrnambool is a useful place to stop at for information before you set off. If you’re heading west, stop by the centre in Lorne. Here’s a list of all the visitor centres along the Great Ocean Road.
On the way:
Great Otway National Park – the temperate rainforest of The Otways is a beautiful place to stop off for a walk or picnic. I dropped by Melba Gully Picnic Area for lunch and a short stroll.
Portland to Princetown: 185km – 2 hrs 25 mins
Princetown to Melbourne: 263km – 4 hrs
Apostles Camping Park and Cabins Princetown – a small holiday park with pretty views not far from the Twelve Apostles. Sites from $25 per night.
Warrnambool Beach Backpackers – a hostel five minutes’ walk from the beach with dorm beds from $28.
Apollo Bay Eco YHA – an environmentally friendly hostel close to the beach and town centre with dorm beds from $34.
The end of your Adelaide to Melbourne drive itinerary! (Or the start if you’re heading in the opposite direction of course!) Time to pack away your tent and enjoy Melbourne’s cosmopolitan café scene, street art and city living.
Be sure to book your accommodation in Melbourne in advance – particularly in peak season – as it’s one hell of a popular place to visit and can be totally booked-up in the summer.
The Nunnery – a quirky, converted nunnery in buzzing, arty Fitzroy with dorm beds from $31.
HabitatHQ – a modern hostel in beachside St Kilda, with awards for sustainability and dorm beds from $19.
If you’re travelling as a pair it can sometimes work out the same price to share a double room on Airbnb in Melbourne than to stay in a hostel dorm. Make sure you use my link to get $55 off your first Airbnb stay if you don’t already have an account.
Princetown to Melbourne: 263km – 4 hrs
On the way:
Geelong: this port city is Victoria’s second largest city with lots of heritage buildings and an up-and-coming holiday scene.
I hope you have an amazing time on your Adelaide to Melbourne road trip. If you’re planning more adventures Down Under, my other Australian drive itineraries should provide inspiration and help with your planning!