Melbourne to Adelaide road trip

A Melbourne to Adelaide road trip is arguably one of the best coastal drives in Australia. If you take the longer route via the Great Ocean Road in Victoria and Limestone Coast in South Australia, you’ll be treated to dramatic sea cliffs, world class surf breaks, pretty coastal towns, and long stretches of uninterrupted beach.

I’ve driven between Melbourne to Adelaide several times now, and I always try to have time to take this coastal route. While it’s not as common as a road trip up the NSW South Coast, the variety in coastal landscapes makes the trip between these two cities a worthwhile drive to take your time.

If you have a week, then I highly recommend you follow this Melbourne to Adelaide road trip itinerary to see the best of the southeast coastline of Australia. In this guide, I outline all the best things to see on the way and where to stay each night.

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Quick Overview of a Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip

  • Overall distance: 1,100 km
  • Time: 7 days
  • Day 1: Melbourne to Lorne
  • Day 2: Lorne to Port Campbell
  • Day 3: Port Campbell to Port Fairy
  • Day 4: Port Fairy to Mount Gambier
  • Day 5: Mount Gambier to Robe
  • Day 6: Robe to Victor Harbor
  • Day 7: Victor Harbor to Adelaide
Melbourne to Adelaide road trip itinerary pin

How Long to Spend Driving from Melbourne to Adelaide

The quickest route for driving between Melbourne to Adelaide is inland via the National Highway A8. This drive is around 740km and takes about 9 hours in one go, passing through Ballarat, Horsham, Bordertown, and Murray Bridge.

However, with this itinerary, I highly recommend taking the more scenic coastal route. You can drive this way in as little as 2-3 days if you’re limited on time. But, as you’ll see below, I recommend a week minimum to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road and Limestone Coast.

If you have more time, then I also suggest adding on a couple of side trips to the Grampians National Park and the Fleurieu Peninsula, which I’ll outline below.

Scenic drive in Robe
Scenic drive in Robe

Tips for Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip

  • Don’t forget roadside assistance and/or travel insurance as you never know what might happen along the way
  • Download Petrol Spy or similar app to find the cheapest fuel on the way, as some of the fuel stations charge a lot more on the coast
  • Distances between towns are not as vast as the Adelaide to Darwin road trip, so driving times are generally pretty short each day allowing for more sightseeing
  • If you do this road trip during summer, be prepared for plenty of crowds on the coast and campgrounds are often booked out well in advance, so plan ahead
  • Avoid driving at night as this is the most dangerous time to drive, especially with so much wildlife on the road. Ensure you reach camp or a town before sunset
  • Be aware that free camping is strictly prohibited along the Great Ocean Road and beach carparks are often patrolled at night. You’ll have much more luck with free camps in South Australia, use the Wikicamp app to find spots
Southend at sunset
Southend at sunset

Where to Stay Along the Way

As you drive the coastal route between Melbourne and Adelaide, there are plenty of accommodation options. If you’re taking a campervan or car camping setup, then you’ll find some incredible campgrounds in national parks and at caravan parks. Download WikiCamps to find the best spots.

Otherwise, there’s accommodation for all budgets, from cheap motels to apartments with sea views. You’ll find some of my recommendations below under each stop.

Read next: 15 Best Campsites on the Great Ocean Road

Driving the Great Ocean Road
Driving the Great Ocean Road

Road Trip Essentials

Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip Itinerary: Day by Day Guide

If you have a week to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide, then this itinerary suggests all the best places to stop and things to do on the way. From pretty coastal towns to expansive golden beaches, you’ll be able to see the best of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria and the south east coast of South Australia within a week.

Day 1: Melbourne to Lorne

Distance: 140 km
Time: 2.5 hours

Leave Melbourne and drive southwest through Geelong and towards the famous Surf Coast of Victoria. On your way to Lorne, make sure you stop in Torquay, the official start of the Great Ocean Road. It’s most well-known for being the home of Australian surfing making it a must-see town.

Hit the shops at Surf City Plaza on the Surf Coast Highway. This precinct is home to flagship stores of Australia’s iconic surfing brands including Rip Curl, Roxy and Oakley. However, the real appeal lies down the side streets where you can find factory outlets selling seconds and last season’s clothes at discounted prices. 

Stop for a coffee at Ginger Monkey Cafe, located amongst the Surf City Plaza, or if it’s lunch time already, then head to Fisho’s Torquay on the Esplanade for some of the best fish and chips you’ll ever have.

Surfer at Bells Beach
Surfer at Bells Beach

As you leave Torquay, make a detour to Bells Beach. Arguably the most famous surf beach in Australia, it is home to the annual Rip Curl Pro surf contest taking place on the Easter long weekend. Outside of this weekend, you’ll find local surfers out in the water all day long. There are several lookout points and observation decks to watch the pros at work.

You’ll then drive through Aireys Inlet, home to the iconic Split Point Lighthouse and beautiful Fairhaven Beach. Not long after that, you’ll drive under the Memorial Arch, officially signalling the beginning of the Great Ocean Road.

Memorial Arch Great Ocean Road
Memorial Arch

Another 15 minutes drive and you’ll finally make it to Lorne. As the trendiest town on the Great Ocean Road, Lorne has become a popular weekend getaway from Melbourne. The main street is filled with boutique shops and fancy cafes. While, the beach in front is a great spot to relax on the sand or try surfing.

For sunset, head up to Teddy’s Lookout, a short drive above Lorne town. At the end of George Street, take a short walk to a viewing platform offering a beautiful panorama across where the St George River meets the ocean with the Great Ocean Road snaking around the coastline. It’s easily one of the best and most popular viewpoints in the region.

Stay in Lorne | Lorne Bush House Cottages and Eco Retreats or Lorne Foreshore Caravan Park

Read more: The Ultimate Road Trip Guide to the Great Ocean Road

Teddy's Lookout
Teddy’s Lookout

Day 2: Lorne to Port Campbell

Distance: 140 km (add another 55 km for the side trip to Beauchamp Falls and Hopetoun Falls)
Time: 2.5 hours (add another hour of driving for the side trip to the waterfalls)

The next day, continue on the Great Ocean Road and through the Otway National Park to Port Campbell.

The first stretch of the drive from Lorne to Apollo Bay is the most scenic of the whole Great Ocean Road, so be prepared for stunning coastal views along the left side of your vehicle. You might also want to make a quick stop at Kennett River. You can go for a wander up Grey River Road and spot wild koalas in the trees.

Koala in the Otways

Then, you’ll reach Apollo Bay, another surfer town on the Great Ocean Road. Beautifully situated on a sandy bay with a long beach that is perfect for swimming and sunbaking. A 15-minute drive out of Apollo Bay is Maits Rest. The short 800m boardwalk here takes you through the dense Otway rainforest, with lush ferns and giant trees that are up to 300 years old. Despite it being short, it’s one of the best walks to do on the Great Ocean Road.

Continue driving through the beautiful forest as you move a bit away from the coast. Once you reach Lavers Hill, take a short detour to your right on the Colac-Lavers Hill Road to a couple of waterfalls.

Beauchamp Falls
Beauchamp Falls

Around 20 minutes down the road, you’ll come to a turnoff to Binns Road. This dirt road leads to Beauchamp Falls and Hopetoun Falls, two of the most spectacular waterfalls of the Great Ocean Road. You can also explore the Otway Redwood Forest while you’re there too.

Then, head back to Lavers Hill and continue on the Great Ocean Road to Port Campbell. This small coastal town is a pretty spot to spend the night. It’s also the main base from which to explore the most famous attractions of the Great Ocean Road, including the Twelve Apostles.

Just before you come into Port Campbell, you’ll pass Gibson Steps, Twelve Apostles, and Loch Ard Gorge. If you time it well for the late afternoon and sunset, stop at all three spots for some spectacular photographs as the golden light hits the sea stacks.

Stay in Port Campbell | Sea Foam Villas or Port Campbell Recreation Camping Reserve

Read more: 8 Best Sunset Spots on the Great Ocean Road

Sunset at Twelve Apostles
Sunset at Twelve Apostles

Day 3: Port Campbell to Port Fairy

Distance: 92 km
Time: 1.5 hours

If you’re feeling up to it, I suggest getting up before the sun rises and driving back to the 12 Apostles. Sunrise is arguably the best time to witness the incredible limestone stacks and it’s far less busy at this time too.

Once you’re ready to leave Port Campbell and continue to Port Fairy, there are several stops and photo ops to get ready for. I suggest stopping at the following:

  • The Arch
  • London Bridge
  • The Grotto
  • Bay of Martyrs
  • Bay of Islands
  • Childers Cove (this one requires a detour off the Great Ocean Road)
London Bridge
London Bridge

Then, you’ll finally come into Allansford, which is technically the end of the Great Ocean Road. From here, you can drive through Warrnambool and continue to Port Fairy for the night. This small coastal community has often been called Victoria’s prettiest town, so there’s no surprises that it’s a popular destination.

For dinner, head to The Wharf @ Port Fairy for fresh seafood or Oak & Anchor Hotel for a more classy gastro pub.

Stay in Port Fairy | Oak & Anchor Hotel or Gardens Caravan Park

Read more: A Weekend Guide to Port Fairy

Day 4: Port Fairy to Mount Gambier

Distance: 167 km
Time: 2 hours

On the drive from Port Fairy to Mount Gambier, you’ll pass through Portland and Nelson, before finally crossing the border into South Australia. There’s not a whole lot to see in between these two towns, so you could spend the morning exploring Griffiths Island Reserve and the Port Fairy Lighthouse before departing Port Fairy.

Once you cross the border into South Australia, you can either head directly to Mount Gambier, or if you have some time, make a detour to Port MacDonnell, via Eight Mile Creek Road. This tiny fishing town has some stunning coastal scenery and is also the southernmost point of South Australia.

Simply drive west of town to Cape Northumberland and admire the views before driving up to Mount Gambier. As one of South Australia’s largest towns, it’s the main base for exploring the Limestone Coast. The town is also known for its unique sinkholes, crater lakes and ancient volcanoes.

Little Blue Lake
Little Blue Lake

Before coming into Mount Gambier, take the short detour down to the Little Blue Lake. This has become a popular Instagrammable location and is a natural sinkhole and swimming spot.

As you arrive in Mount Gambier town, take the scenic drive around the Blue Lake, stopping at some of the viewpoints to see this stunning turquoise crater lake. Once in town, it’s worth checking out the Umpherston Sinkhole, Engelbrecht Cave and Cave Garden.

Stay in Mount Gambier | Old Mount Gambier Gaol or Pine Country Caravan Park

Read more: 10 Best Things to Do in Mount Gambier

Umpherston Sinkhole
Umpherston Sinkhole

Add: Grampians National Park

Distance (from Port Fairy to Halls Gap): 156 km
Time: 2 hours

Instead of continuing west to South Australia, I recommend adding on a side trip to the Grampians National Park if you have more time for this Melbourne to Adelaide road trip itinerary. I’d recommend allowing 2-3 days for the Grampians National Park, but it all depends on how much time you have. If you like hiking, you could easily spend much longer with plenty of great walks to do in the Grampians.

Halls Gap is the most central town to the national park and a great base from which to explore the various walks, waterfalls and lookouts. Things you need to add to a three day itinerary for the Grampians include:

View from Mt Abrupt
View from Mt Abrupt
  • Sunset at Reeds Lookout and The Balconies
  • MacKenzie’s Falls, one of Victoria’s largest waterfalls
  • The Pinnacle walk, 2 hours return (moderate)
  • Mount Abrupt hike near Dunkeld, 2 hours return (steep)
  • Wine tasting at Seppelt Wines
  • Brunch at Livefast Cafe
  • Drive up to Mount William and walk to the highest peak (easy)

Then, from Halls Gap it’s a 220 km or 2.5-3 hour drive to Mount Gambier over the border to link back up with the rest of this itinerary.

Stay in Halls Gap | DULC Eco Cabins or Plantation Campground (free camp)

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to the Grampians National Park

Sunset at the Balconies
Sunset at the Balconies

Day 5: Mount Gambier to Robe

Distance: 130 km
Time: 1.5 hours

From Mount Gambier, explore more of the Limestone Coast as you take the coastal route to Robe. Robe is the trendiest town on this stretch of coastline, so it’s a nice place to stay the night. But, you could easily decide to stay in Southend, Beachport or Kingston SE for something more secluded and quiet.

Just after you leave Mount Gambier, stop in at the Tantanoola Caves, an incredible underground world of geology and one of the country’s most impressive caves. You can take a tour with SA Parks which you can book ahead of time to secure your place.

Then, drive to Millicent and take the Southern Ports Highway which will take you near Southend and Beachport and eventually onto Robe. Beachport is a nice little town to stop for lunch and a surf.

Once you’re in Robe, head out to Robe Obelisk and take the coastal walk to Robe Lighthouse. Robe Obelisk is also a good spot to be for sunset.

Stay in Robe | Guichen Bay Motel or Discovery Parks – Robe

Robe obelisk
Robe obelisk

Day 6: Robe to Victor Harbor

Distance: 330 km
Time: 4 hours

From Robe, continue on the Southern Ports Highway until it connects back up with the Princes Highway in Kingston SE. You’ll then drive right along Coorong National Park, famous for its fishing, sand dunes and wetland area (mostly explored by 4×4 only). Then, you’ll head inland and around Lake Alexandrina towards Victor Harbor.

Victor Harbor is the main town on the Fleurieu Peninsula and a vibrant holiday destination. Located on Encounter Bay, it has some pretty impressive coastal properties and stunning views across the ocean.

If you find yourself there in the winter, you might also catch the migratory Southern Right Whales on their way along the southern coast of Australia. You can head to the South Australian Whale Centre in town to find out where they are on their journey. 

Stay in Victor Harbor | Anchorage Seafront Hotel or Victor Harbor Beachfront Holiday Park

Port Elliot
Port Elliot near Victor Harbor

Alternative: Robe to Hahndorf

Distance: 310 km
Time: 3.5 hours

If you don’t want to detour down to the Fleurieu Peninsula, you could head to Hahndorf instead. Located in the Adelaide Hills outside of the city, it’s considered as one of the prettiest towns in South Australia.

Settled by 19th-century Lutheran migrants, it’s known for its original German-style architecture and artisanal food. Plus, there are numerous wineries nearby offering tours and tastings.

It’s a popular weekend getaway from Adelaide and must for foodies and anyone interested in boutique stores, wine and artisanal food.

Stay in Hahndorf | Amble at Hahndorf or Discovery Parks – Hahndorf

Fleurieu Peninsula
Fleurieu Peninsula

Day 7: Victor Harbor to Adelaide

Distance: 84 km
Time: 1 hour

It’s only an hour from Victor Harbor to Adelaide, but you can make a few stops along the way easily enough. Take a detour to Sellicks Beach and Aldinga Beach, two of the most beautiful beaches in the state. Sellicks Beach is known for its dramatic cliffs and having hard packed sand that even 2WD vehicles can drive onto the beach.

Around McLaren Vale, you’ll find a small but underrated wine region. Some of the most popular vineyards to head to include Down the Rabbit Hole (with great food and wine and a retro old bus), d’Arenburg (famous winery known for it’s unique 5-storey cube building) and Paxton Wines (family-owned and known for its organic and biodynamic wine).

Then, just on the outskirts of the city, stop in at Onkaparinga River National Park. A peaceful place with a few walks and cycling trails to do, I recommend the Sundews Ridge Hike which is 4km and Punchbowl Lookout Walk which is 2km.

A short drive north of there and you’ll finally be in Adelaide! Adelaide is an underrated city, with beautiful beaches, waterfalls, gardens, and vineyards all within a short drive from the CBD.

Stay in Adelaide | Hotel Richmond on Rundle Mall or Adelaide Caravan Park

Deep Creek National Park beach
Deep Creek National Park

Add: Fleurieu Peninsula 

If you have a couple of spare days, then I recommend heading south of Victor Harbor and exploring more of the Fleurieu Peninsula before heading to Adelaide. You can spend 2-3 days or more visiting hidden coves, camping amongst the coastal bush, and walking to hilltop lookouts.

Highlights of the region to add to a 2-3 day itinerary include:

  • Deep Creek National Park (plenty of walks, campgrounds, and beaches to explore)
  • Second Valley (stunning coastal landscapes)
  • Rapid Bay Campground (right on the beach)
  • Sellicks Beach (a drivable beach)

Read more: 10 Best Places to Visit on the Fleurieu Peninsula

Where to Next After Adelaide?

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