The car is packed, the tank is full, it’s time to leave “Melbs” for Sydney. For this road trip, which isn’t our first in Australia, we play it cool. No plan, but a map! Two imperatives though: to stay along the coast and to be back in Sydney for the New Year’s fireworks. So we have 7 days.
With the charm of its street art and cosmopolitan atmosphere, we left Melbourne at dawn. Still in the city center, the road suddenly seemed deserted even though it was in the middle of the week. Then we realized why: we were on the Melbourne CityLink, one of the few toll roads in Australia! To pay your toll, use this link because there is no ticket office.
Good to know: There are toll sections only in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Check your route beforehand to avoid surprises!
An hour and a half later, we arrived at Phillip Island. If you have not seen koalas yet, this is The Place to Go! Perched on an eucalyptus tree or on the side of the road, these big balls of fluff will make your hearts melt. Another tourist attraction on this charming peninsula: its penguins! If you are lucky, you will see them strolling along the beach. You can take great pictures there!! Keep in mind though that Australians, being very close and respectful of nature, think low of anyone who disturbs animals in their natural habitats.
We arrived early on the island and I will never forget the incredible colors of the morning light. We spent the morning and afternoon riding around this small island, taking photos of the stunning beaches.
Wilsons Promontory NP
In the late afternoon we visited the Wilsons Promotory National Park, located 120 km southeast. The “prom”, as the locals call it, is a 50,000-hectar nature reserve, occupying the whole of the Wilsons Promontory peninsula. Walking is the best way to see it. Not being a fan of hiking, especially in places known for a variety of venomous snakes, we chose the cool option: the beach! After a short walk in the bush, we went to Squeaky beach. The national park is famous for its hiking trails, but also for the richness of its flora and fauna. The park has several campsites, but keep in mind that these spots are very popular during school holidays. As in most nature reserves across the country, remember to take bottles of water and mosquito repellent.
Highlights: Mount Oberon Summit, on this 1-hour hike (moderate / difficult), you will get a stunning view.
Good to know: You can easily get to Wilsons Promontory National Park on a day trip from Melbourne, which is only two hours away by car.
At the end of the day, we drove to the Gippsland, less than 200 km from Wilson Promotory.
Verdant and wild, the Gippsland plunges you into the heart of nature. You find yourself alone in the middle of gigantic forests and endless beaches. For nature lovers, the Gippsland is a great destination. We crossed the entire region to the border of New South Wales.
We started the day with a visit to Raymond Island. This tiny island, 6 km long and 2 km wide, is located only 200 meters from the coast. However, you still have to take a ferry to get there. Pedestrians and cyclists (unlike cars) don’t have to pay for the ferry, so we decided to rent bikes in Payneville (no shops on the island) and quietly explore the home of koalas and kangaroos. If you are lucky you see dolphins and sea lions. We had a great morning pedaling around in this little paradise of vegetation and wildlife.
In the afternoon, we went to Lake Entrance, a small seaside resort popular among Australians. At the port, they unload fresh fish and offer many water activities. We had a small portion of fried Australian seafood (a bit of a shame it was fried, considering the quality and freshness of the seafood) and we continued our journey to Eden, New South Wales.
Discover Lake Entrance by kayak. (Several shops offer kayaks for rent).
Good to know: On Raymond Island, you find picnic areas and beaches
From Eden to Narooma
That day, we finally arrived in New South Wales, the territory that is home to Sydney, where we had planned to spend New Year’s Eve. But for the moment, we visited Eden, a charming fishing town. When admiring the turquoise water and the white sand beaches, we thought we just wanted to stay there! Then we continued our journey north through the beautiful towns of the Sapphyr Coast! We hadn’t known that the south coast of NSW was so breathtaking. The road along the coast is sometimes winding, but the scenery is incredible. “Lookout Point” signs tell you where to stop to see the ocean. Although it was only 130 km between Eden and Narroma, it took us 3 hours to explore the area, because there was so much to see. We parked the car in Narooma and enjoyed the beach and the clear water for a few hours. We took photos of small colorful fish that tickled our feet. In the evening, we had a beautiful sunset. We were seduced by this place … but at this point we didn’t know yet that it was going to get even more beautiful. We spent the night on the parking lot at the beach, where generous hosts shared with us their catch of the day!
Good to know: if you are in Eden during late August to late October, don’t miss the whales. Go see them either from the shore (you may need a pair of binoculars) or on an organized tour.
Our favorite: On the 130 km between Eden and Narooma, you get incredible views whichever direction you turn! and the beaches are stunning!
We didn’t want to leave this place, so we walked around and then headed back to Batemans Bay, 80 miles north. What was waiting for us there was even more amazing. The road leading to the small village of Batemans Bay is just like on the previous day: breathtaking! A short stop in Batemans, which is a small typical Australian coastal town, quiet, clean, respectful of nature. The rather unusual bridge is both the symbol and the pride of the town. After a short lunch break, we continued our drive to Jervis Bay. The afternoon was hot and sunny, so we stopped several times for a quick swim at the beaches along the road. They are stunning!
Good to know: the town has got a great skatepark!
400 kilometers separated us from Sydney. We spent the day in Jervis Bay, known for its crystal clear water and sand as fine as flour. The agenda was easily set: snorkeling and kayaking. Jervis Bay is not only one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia, but also one of the safest. This kind of place is clearly the reason why I am in Australia. A few miles south, go to Hyams Beach, which has the “whitest sand in the world”, according to the Guinness World Records. This place is one of our Top 3 MUST DO in Australia. We would have stayed there one more day, or a week. Keep in mind though that this place attracts Sydney crowds. Therefore, during school holidays, the beaches are crowded and prices increase.
Good to know: the place attracts a lot of dolphins and whales.
Essential: mask, snorkel, and camera. If you want to make your friends from home jealous, this is where you take a selfie.
The last section of the road between Jervis Bay and Sydney was packed because of New Year’s Eve. However, having left early in the morning, we got to north of Sydney Bay in the middle of the afternoon. This left us some time for a quick stop in Kiama, famous for surfing. Boyds Beach, among others, hosts world competitions each year.
The actual road trip ends here, at the gates of Sydney, where we had planned to spend New Year’s Eve in Australia (and which wouldn’t be the last one either, but we didn’t know that yet.) . After a two-hour drive, we arrived in the city center. It was noisy, the opposite of what we had experienced the previous days.
Not following the crowd, we found on a map a small spot away from the urbanized areas, that seemed to offer a rather nice view of the Harbor Bridge. Having a few hours before midnight, we went to explore the area by the zoo. After a half-hour walk through the bush, we arrived on a rock with an 80% clear view of where the firework was going to be fired. And the icing on the cake, only about twenty people from all over the world were there. This was one of the best parties in Australia.
This incredible road trip ended at the Sydney Opera House. More discoveries were waiting for us, but for that moment, we were visiting Sydney. Both the Victoria Coast and the New South Wales Coast seduced us with their incredible colors and wild coasts. Once again, Australia kept all promises.
Article written by Charlie
Photo Credit: Tourism Australia, John McFee / Wildlife Coast Cruises, Phillip Island Nature Park