Planning a road trip ticks all the boxes if you love to experience travel your way.
A road trip lets you deviate from the more popular routes to visit more inspiring places.
And because Australia’s continent is vast, planning an Australia road trip, even for a small section, is exciting and a little scary.
Scary in case we meet any unexpected reptiles. Exciting to see what we will find. But an adventure as you decide when and where to stop.
This is why when we were planning our road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide for the best scenery, we deviated via:
- The Great Ocean Road from Melbourne
- The Grampians National Park
If you’re planning an Australia road trip or are curious, here’s how to go from Melbourne to Adelaide for the best scenery.
But first, here’s more information to plan your Australia road trip.
Road Trip Melbourne to Adelaide: Decide 5 Days or Longer
If you want to see more of Australia, taking an Australian road trip is an incredible way to see this vast continent.
And taking your time is how you find some of the best places.
It’s one of the reasons we love Slow Travel.
The quickest route from Melbourne to Adelaide is by travelling inland, a distance of 727km through Ballarat.
But for some of the best scenery, we suggest you mix up your road trip.
Our suggestion, plan your road trip from Melbourne along the famous Great Ocean Road going inland through the Grampians to Adelaide city.
This drive is 1,046 km of spectacular scenery.
The Great Ocean Road is one of the best Australian road trips, and the Grampians National Park is an Australian National Heritage.
Here are our suggested five days for an Australia road trip.
Five-Day Itinerary: Road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide
- Day 1 – Melbourne
- Day 2 – Great Ocean Road
- Day 3 – Grampians National Park
- Day 4 – Inland to Adelaide
- Day 5 – Adelaide
At any one of these stops, you can plan to stay longer. But before you start, check out these tips first.
Tips for Your Road Trip from Melbourne to Adelaide
Tip #1 – Road travel in Australia is on the left side of the road with a right-hand drive
Tip #2 – Drive Melbourne to Adelaide direction for the coastal side of the Great Ocean Road
Tip #2 – Take snacks and drinks for scenery stops
Tip #3 – Wear comfortable walking shoes for stony paths
Tip #4 – Bring your water bottle to keep hydrated
Tip #5 – Carry a rain jacket and apply sunscreen, whatever the season
Tip #6 – Keep an eye out for kangaroos (they often travel in pairs)
You may even want to pack a picnic.
But first, it’s Melbourne, for amazing restaurants and iconic landmarks.
Day 1 – Absorb the Culture of Melbourne
Leaving our wonderful hometown Wellington, New Zealand, we arrived at Melbourne airport in the early hours.
We picked up a red Hyundai rental car; we would drive and drop it off at Adelaide airport. With the paperwork sorted and no extra payment for a one-way fee at Adelaide Airport, our road trip had started.
Driving into Melbourne, we started at the iconic Flinders St Train Station, wandered Collins St, and rode on the city tram to Victoria Market.
South Bank was as vibrant as ever and the perfect spot for a late, leisurely lunch.
And we couldn’t leave Melbourne without a stop at Ganache at 247 Collins Street for the best hot chocolate.
After a good night’s sleep, we were ready for our road trip, Melbourne to Adelaide, starting at the Great Ocean Road.
Day 2 – Six Iconic Stops on the Great Ocean Road
Try to get an early start, like 7.30 am, to avoid some Melbourne traffic.
That way, you can make your first stop at Torquay, the starting point of the Great Ocean Road.
How long is the Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road between Torquay and Allansford (near Warrnambool) is 243 kilometres.
The road is listed as an Australian National Heritage, but what makes the road famous is return servicemen of WWI built it.
Using dynamite, picks, and shovels, the road was dedicated as a war memorial for servicemen killed in WWI.
Great Ocean Attractions worth stopping for:
- First view of the Southern Ocean at Torquay
- Walk to Erskine Falls at Lorne
- Drive through the Great Otway National Park
- Port Campbell National Park
- Seeing the Iconic 12 Apostles
How long does it take to drive the great ocean road?
It can be driven in a day.
Or you can stop at some picturesque places like Torquay, Lorne or Port Campbell.
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1. Stop for Breakfast at Torquay
Our first stop was breakfast at 9.30 in Torquay on the coast south of Geelong.
We wander down to the local beach to find a cafe for eggs on toast and coffee. The powerful waves were rolling in at this little piece of paradise.
With a full day ahead, we set off along the Great Ocean Road to find amazing scenery we had heard about and read about.
2. See Erskine Falls at Lorne
The road from Torquay to Lorne has lots of good photo opportunities. Especially from Teddy’s Lookout, with panoramas of the local coastline.
In Lorne, take a walk to the Erskine Falls and down the 250 steps to the lower viewing site. The falls in the summer months are beautiful, but the amount of water is less.
Also, make a stop at the iconic Grand Pacific Hotel in Lorne.
While Maura reminisced about lunch here in 1983, Terry was more interested in what was at the end of the pier.
Our first shark sighting! Well, a dead Mako shark was on the shore—a reminder of what was out at sea.
The surprise, though, was at the end of the pier. A seal soaked up the sun as he relaxed on the ocean’s surface—a very cool sight.
3. Stop at Apollo Bay for Lunch
A fantastic place to stop for a picnic lunch with fantastic views of Apollo Bay and the Southern Ocean is Marriners Lookout.
Getting up close and seeing the force of the surf against the limestone cliffs is spectacular.
However, the drive from Apollo Bay, at least for the next hour, can be very slow, with drivers unfamiliar with the winding, at times, poorly maintained roads.
This section of the Great Ocean Road passes through the Great Otway National Park, where the coastline is rugged, and the Otway Ranges loom above.
So, are you ready to feel the water of the southern ocean?
4. Dip your Toes at Gibson Steps
Gibson Steps will take you down to a sandy beach where you can watch the surf crashing into the shore or take a walk along the beach.
It’s also where you can dip your toes into the coolness of the Southern Ocean.
It may not be for everyone, but certainly a memory of driving the Great Ocean Road.
But to see the highlight of the Great Ocean Road, Australia, keep driving.
5. Speed Tourism at the Twelve Apostles
One of the major highlights of driving the Great Ocean Road is seeing the Twelve Apostles.
When they first come into view, these limestone rock forms are impressive. Especially seeing the sea forcing through the limestone eroded holes.
They are the main tourist attraction for any Great Ocean Road tour.
And the safest place to view the Twelve Apostles is the Twelve Apostles Visitor Facility.
First off, there are plenty of carparks (190 carparks).
Secondly, an underground tunnel takes you safely to the 12 Apostles Viewing Area and Castle Rock.
Toilets are also available.
Opening Hours: 10:00 to 16:30 – 7 Days
Have Some Fun with Speed Tourism
But when there are lots of tourists, sometimes you need to have a little fun.
What started as a game has us in fits of laughter.
We raced the hordes of tourists to the main viewing points, speeding up our run to get some fabulous photos. Oh, and to get back to the car to avoid getting stuck behind tourist buses and slow drivers.
We laughed as we got our photos and sprinted back to our car, getting some odd looks as we raced past.
But for more spectacular scenery, drive further to Port Campbell National Park.
6. Where to Look First at Port Campbell National Park
Be prepared for a couple of hours as you explore the various rock formations, beaches, and caves.
The majestic beauty and force of nature at Port Campbell National Park will create long-lasting memories.
Port Campbell National Park has it all:
- The Razorback (large long sheer rock formation)
- Tom and Eva Lookout (two large rocks named from two shipwreck survivors)
- Loch Ard Gorge (absolutely must-see beach stretching out between the rocks)
- Island Arch Lookout (see the eroded hole within a rock formation)
- Mutton Bird Lookout (see the green top of Mutton Bird Island)
- Thunder Cave (watch the waves crashing in)
- Sherbrook River (see the surf crashing from above)
Port Campbell Visitor Centre
Port Campbell is an ideal place to spend a couple of days exploring more of the area.
For more information or places to stay while here, visit the Port Campbell Visitor Centre. The staff are helpful and informative and can help you discover the best things to do in Port Campbell.
We found two places to stop for more views of the Twelve Apostles:
- London Bridge
- The Grotto
Before continuing to Port Fairy, we even went off-road to find some fabulous views.
Stay the Night at Port Fairy or Portland
Leaving the Great Ocean Road, driving inland is Port Fairy, a quaint coastal town.
You can visit for free; The Port Fairy Lighthouse on Griffiths Island reached from a causeway.
You can eat fabulous pizza at Coffin Sally’s. So unique as you have to squeeze into the shop to place your order.
But if you aren’t planning to stay at Port Fairy, Portland is an alternative.
Deviate to Historical Portland
The oldest European settlement in Victoria, Australia, is Portland since 1834.
With its rugged coastline, it was no surprise to see another lighthouse.
You’ll love the Portland Cable Tram along the foreshore and the sensational 19th-century bluestone buildings.
After a fabulous Great Ocean Road drive, get ready to see the Grampians.
Day 3 – Explore the Grampians National Park
From Port Fairy or Portland, take the road to Hamilton, the crossroad of highways. It’s only a short drive to the town of Dunkeld (South Grampians) to arrive later in the morning at Halls Gap (North Grampians).
What is Special About the Grampians National Park?
Carrying inland for your road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide is to experience The Grampians National Park. Climbing spots, walking trails, great waterfalls, and sweeping panorama viewpoints make the Grampians one of the must-see destinations of Australia.
The first stop from leaving the Great Ocean Road is Dunkeld.
1. Stop for Cake and Coffee at Dunkeld
Dunkeld is the southern point of the Grampians National Park, nestled under the impressive Mt Sturgeon.
A small town of about 600 residents, they have one of the best coffee shops in Victoria.
Dunkeld Old Bakery (since 1887) is a small rustic cottage; we had the most delicious piece of coconut and almond cake with our coffee.
But the smell of the bread baked in a wood-fired oven had our senses on overload. We discovered it was an early-century wood fire oven still in use.
Not knowing where we would be for lunch, we bought one of their quiches and a sourdough loaf for breakfast the following morning.
We might not have left if we knew they offered accommodation here.
2. Climb up Mount William
Now nourished and charged with caffeine, we took the scenic drive through Victoria Valley to Mount William.
We passed very few cars, but we saw a large kangaroo with a cute little kangaroo eating grass on the side of the road. The cows had no grass to eat and looked a little miserable.
The drive up to Mt William only goes part of the way. The remainder is an uphill incline of 1.8 km on a sealed road to the radio transmission towers.
One way to work off the coconut and almond cake.
But once you reach the summit, you are at the highest point of the Grampians National Park at 1.167 meters.
The views are spectacular. We got photos despite the sub-10-degree Celcius temperature before the drive to Halls Gap.
3. Drive through Halls Gap
The next stop was Halls Gap, the hub of the Grampians on the eastern side of the Grampians National Park.
To find the best places to visit in the Grampians, stop at the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Center. The centre is managed by the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung Aboriginal communities.
Here we learned the Grampians National Park is 219 hectares of sandstone mountains popular for mountain climbing or the 160km Grampians Peaks Trail bushwalk.
We would be doing neither of these; we had our Dunkeld Old Bakery quiche to consume first. So the centre recommended Wartook Valley.
4. Take in Awesome Views from Wartook Valley
Wartook Valley is on the northwest side of the Grampians, near the Mount Difficult range of mountains.
We took Mt. Victory Road from Halls Gap to Wartook for the best lookout spots.
Boroka Lookout is 15km from Halls Gap and has two viewing platforms with amazing views of Halls Gap Valley and the Eastern plains.
From here, you can also see Mt William and Lake Bellfield.
Poor Terry has an issue with heights but managed this photo op, even if he had to crawl. At least The Balconies were easier to get to.
5. Drive to Reeds Lookout and The Balconies
Stopping at Reed’s Lookout, you know it must be good when you see the Reed Lookout Fire Tower near the carpark.
You’ll love the panoramic views from Reeds Lookout over Victoria Valley of the Eastern Plains. It shows the vastness of this area of Australia.
Getting to the lookout, the pathway is a little rocky but walkable with a good pair of shoes.
The Balconies are about 1km from the same carpark and are an interesting walk.
Although it looks like Aliens have visited with so many stacked rocks, it’s probably the visitors having fun in the Grampians.
The rock formations are easy to climb for photos. But some of the rock formations reminded us of animals.
The views, however, were breathtaking. Or so we thought until we saw Mackenzie Falls.
6. Cool off at Mackenzie Falls, Maybe Not
Our final stop in the Grampians was Mackenzie Falls. They are the largest falls of the Grampians and the state of Victoria. The highlight of our day in the Grampians.
Find Wartook Road for the Mackenzie Falls lookout, a walk with incredible views of the river gorge.
But for a different perspective, take the 271 steps down to the base of the falls.
At the bottom is a pool of water with views back up to the top of Mackenzie Falls.
Unfortunately, swimming the Mackenzie Falls isn’t allowed. Even if that water looked so tempting in the summer heat. And now we had 271 steps to climb back up!
If you have a Fitbit, check your stats. We had walked 20,000 plus steps and 169 flights. We were ready for a rest at our Horsham Airbnb.
Stopover at Horsham
If you decide not to stay at Halls Gap, Horsham is an alternative. It’s a 45-minute drive to this provincial town.
While Horsham isn’t spectacular, it’s your chance to see up close a provincial town in Australia.
The overhanging verandas along the shop fronts. The wide-open streets with farmers wearing the classic Aussie hat. Or stepping into a local hotel (pub) for a cool refreshing beer.
Tomorrow the drive is cross-country to Adelaide, taking about 5 hours, including stops.
Day 4: Driving Outback to Adelaide
The Grampians to Adelaide is a 425km inland route.
We had planned to leave at 8 am, but we got chatting with our great Airbnb host Ben, and before we knew it, we were departing at 8.45.
Ben is an interesting guy who loves rock climbing. Luckily Horsham is near the best rock climbs in Australia, the Grampians.
1. Drive Horsham to Bordertown
Not a lot of traffic on the roads as we passed through rural and dusty towns stopping at Nhill for a coffee.
Finding the Nhill Information door open, we got talking to a very old guy who was manning the information centre. It turns out it was his first day on the job.
He had a great sense of humour. And with his hearing problem, his bad eyesight and his lack of teeth, it made the sharing of information quite difficult!
He told us he was the last station master at Serviceton Railway Station, which closed in 1986. So you guessed it, this was our next stop.
2. Historical Serviceton Railway Station
Apart from 13 houses, the Serviceton Railway Station did have a dungeon to hold convicts awaiting movement to another location.
Our little detour to visit has probably doubled the year’s tourist visitors.
But we were glad we stopped by as the building is quite something sitting in the middle of nowhere.
The dungeon looked foreboding, so Terry’s glad none of his ancestors saw the inside—time to cross the border.
3. Border Control to enter South Australia
We travelled, passing a few more rural towns as we headed into South Australia.
To our surprise, you must get rid of all your fruit and vegetables before crossing the border from Victoria to South Australia. Really?
So we hurriedly ate what we could and dumped the rest before arriving at Bordertown.
An unimaginative name for a town with nothing much to do there apart from public toilets done up to look like a jail. So on the road again.
While the towns on this route are boring, the landscape views are impressive. Particularly with the expansive blue sky above endless fields of crops.
Enormous excitement in the town of Keith, the famous attraction, a Land Rover on a Pole! Maybe we need a beer.
Drink German Beer at Hahndorf, South Australia
Driving, driving and more driving. Finally crossing the Murray River, we saw signs of our destination for the afternoon – Hahndorf, the German village.
Yahoo! No more ‘are we there yet’ from Terry.
We wandered around this quaint tourist town in the afternoon sun with its tree-lined street and boutique artisan shops.
Hahndorf was built by German settlers in 1839, so yes, you can buy some traditional German foods like bratwurst. And drink traditional German beer.
Now it’s only half an hour’s drive from Adelaide.
The final destination of our road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide.
Stay at Brownhill Creek, Adelaide
Without paying for parking, we booked a stay at Brownhill Creek motor camp and rented a cabin.
Brownhill Creek Tourist Park has short walks around the motor camp, where you might even spot a Koala high up in the branches.
To see more of Adelaide, take the bus to the city centre.
FREE Things to Do in Adelaide (except a Wine tour)
Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia. It can be overlooked when travelling in Australia, which is a mistake, as it has one of the best wine areas in Australia.
The Free City Tram of Adelaide runs from the impressive Entertainment Centre to the South Terrace. However, the layout of Adelaide city makes it easy to get around on foot.
The beautiful old stone buildings complement the modern structures. You’ll love the expansive green spaces, impressive churches and bridges crossing the river.
Shopping – pedestrian-friendly Rundle Mall or the famous Adelaide Central Market for its variety of food.
Picnic on the Banks of the River – select bread, meat, cheeses and fruit from the market and find a green space near the river.
Adelaide Oval, a major sports ground in Australia, has the famous Don Bradman cricket collection. There is a great cafe and a paid tour to see more of the Oval.
Glenelg Beach, where you may see dolphins swimming in Port River or Pelicans taking flight. Take a walk along the sandy beach to see adventurous guys jumping off the pier into the warm ocean.
Then find a local surf club for great sunset views while you feast on seafood. The buy a ticket for the tram back to the city centre.
Morialta Conservation Park, Adelaide, for scenic walks to the Morialta Falls (possibly dry in summer months) amongst abundant Eucalyptus trees with Koalas feeding.
And the highlight of Adelaide is wine tours.
Visit Adelaide’s Barossa Valley Wine
We booked a Barossa Valley Wine Tour of five vineyards, which also included an extra two stops:
- A wooden toy factory with the largest rocking horse in the world
- The 140-meter Whispering Wall of the Barossa Reservoir Dam
It was probably because they didn’t want the 20 of us drunk too early.
Our Barossa Valley Wine tour included some well-known vineyards and a couple of boutique vineyards.
Two wineries familiar to us:
- Jacobs Creek (Double Barrel Shiraz)
- Wolf Blass (Yellow and Red Labels)
Three vineyards new to us:
- Lambert Estate Wines – The Chocolatier is the favourite
- Saltram Wines – exquisite lunch at Salters Kitchen
- Kies Family Wine – boutique flavours at the Cellar Door
A full day in the Barossa Valley was a perfect way to spend time in Adelaide.
Planning a Road Trip: Melbourne to Adelaide
When you love open spaces and determining your timetable, an Australia road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide does tick all the boxes.
To travel the Great Ocean Road and explore the Grampians National Park is an adventure mixed with a road trip.
You can stay at boutique hotels, meet locals at an Airbnb or maybe try camping in a tent or cabin.
So take your time and enjoy the journey. You can always plan extra overnight stops along the way.
When you’re ready, a new travel experience awaits you on your Australia road trip. Maybe it’s Perth.