There are very few road trips in the world that pack in quite as much amazing variety as a Melbourne to Adelaide road trip. In the space of 8 days you will traverse pristine beaches, ancient rainforest, dramatic mountains, volcanic landscapes and fertile wine regions.
Of course while you are at it you’ll also be ticking off one of the world’s most famous drives, the Great Ocean Road. This is a trip everyone should do once in their lifetime. The below itinerary covers all the best highlights of the Melbourne to Adelaide drive over a period of 8 days.
If you’re in a rush you can remove the detours to Grampians National Park and/or Beachport to take the time down to 5 days. Conversely, those with more time won’t regret spending an extra night or two at each of the stops.
Table of Contents
Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip – Overview
- Great Otway National Park – 2 nights
- 12 Apostles
- Grampians National Park – 2 nights
- Mount Gambier – 1 nights
- Beachport – 1 night
- Naracoorte Caves National Park
- Hahndorf – 1 night
- Mount Lofty and Cleland Conservation Park
- Adelaide – 1+ nights
Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip Summary
Day 1 – Leave Melbourne early in the morning and drive 2 hours to Lorne. Spend the morning seeing amazing waterfalls and hilltop views of the Great Ocean Road. If you want more excitement then test your courage at the Live Wire Park.
Explore Cape Otway and spot koalas before settling in for the night.
Night 1 – Cape Otway
Day 2 – Spend the day exploring the stunning Great Otway National Park.
Night 2 – Great Otway National Park
Day 3 – Jump back on the Great Ocean Road and check out the famous 12 Apostles and surrounding attractions. After this you’ll follow the road to Warrnambool where you can visit the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village.
Head north in the afternoon to Halls Gap in the Grampians National Park. Check in to your accommodation and have a well earned drink.
Night 3 – Halls Gap
Day 4 – Explore the epic peaks and lookouts of the Grampians.
Night 4 – Halls Gap
Day 5 – Leave the Grampians in the morning and drive 2.5hrs to Mount Gambier. Welcome to South Australia! Spend the day exploring the many highlights around this area.
Night 5 – Mount Gambier
Day 6 –After all the hiking thus far you’ve earned a day at the beach. Drive one hour to Beachport for a taste of the beautiful beaches of the Limestone Coast.
Night 6 – Beachport
Day 7 – You’ll have to go cross country for an hour to get back to the main highway. A little over an hour’s drive will take you through the beautiful vineyards of the Coonawarra wine region, ending at the Naracoorte Caves.
Spend a couple of hours exploring the awesome caves and other attractions here before jumping back in the car. It’s a solid 3 hours and 20 minutes drive this afternoon but the end point of Hahndorf is well worth it!
Night 7 – Hahndorf
Day 8 – Spend the morning exploring the unique town of Hahndorf. When you’re ready to move on, an easy 15 minute drive will take you to Mount Lofty. Explore the beautiful botanic gardens and take in the amazing views of Adelaide from the summit.
Night 8 – Adelaide
Final Day – You’re in Adelaide! What you do from here will depend on your time and circumstances. You can explore the CBD in a day before returning to Melbourne but you ideally need 3 days in Adelaide to explore it properly.
If you’re on a longer trip and heading towards W.A then make sure to check out our Perth to Adelaide Road Trip (It’s the wrong way around for this scenario but just as amazing to do backwards!).
Total Driving Time
15.5 hrs – Melbourne to Adelaide, one way
Longest Stretch of Driving
4hrs 40mins, Day 8, Beachport-Naracoorte-Hahndorf
Total KM Covered
Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip Highlights
- The stunning waterfalls of the Great Otway National Park
- Winding mountain roads lined with lush ferns and huge trees
- Driving the Great Ocean Road
- The 12 Apostles
- Standing atop the epic peaks of the Grampians National Park
- The vivid blue crater lake in the middle of Mount Gambier
- The historical German town of Hahndorf
- The amazing array of wildlife at Cleland Conservation Park
How Long Will I Need?
To complete this Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip Itinerary as written, you will need at least 10 days. If you additionally want to explore Adelaide properly you should add another 2 days to this.
It is possible to complete this road trip in a week or less. Removing the Grampian National Park and Beachport stops will save 3 nights and streamline the journey.
There are plenty of accommodation options available throughout this trip. If you have an RV or caravan then there are some great camp sites and caravan parks too. In each section we will list our recommended accommodation and the best areas to stay.
Best Time of Year To Go
Late spring is the best time to do this Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip. You have a lot of sunny days on average plus there is still a lot of water coming down the falls. Add to this the stunning new growth and flowers that abound at this time of year.
Of course you can also complete the trip any time over summer. The weather is fairly mild along most of this route and the large amount of sunny days will mean less chance of rain putting a damper on things.
Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip Tips
- Save Money: Make use of free campsites using the WikiCamps app. We will list some of the best camp sites along the route however some do not allow tents so make sure to double check.
- Get up early for the 12 Apostles: Given the direction of the lookout to the rock formations, the sun will be rising behind you in the morning. This will give you amazing morning light shining onto the rocks and making for the best photos.
- Don’t drive at night: Always plan your drives during daylight hours. There is a lot of wildlife along parts of this route.
- Check your route before you drive: The Otways have some pretty crazy mountain roads and large RVs/caravans may not be suitable. We will point this out in the Otways section. Driving Beachport to Naracoorte offers several routes, make sure to pick the one going through Coonawarra.
►Check out our full list of all of the best Australian road trip tips you must know before hitting the road!
The Best Travel Insurance for Road Trips
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For peace of mind while abroad, Heymondo is one of the most reputable travel insurance companies that will provide you with simple and flexible coverage. Whether you are into adventurous activities or simply looking for trip cancellation and basic medical insurance, Heymondo has you covered.
As a reader of The Road Is Life, you get 5% off your Heymondo travel insurance by using the link below!
Hiring a Car
If you don’t own a car then you can search for the perfect hire car below. We always use rentalcars.com to find the best price between various operators. There is an option to include full insurance with no excess, which is always highly recommended. Use the form below to check out the various options.
Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip – One of the Best Drives in Australia
This amazing road trip doesn’t make you wait to start seeing stunning sights. You’ll begin the day with your first taste of the Great Ocean Road, driving about 2 hours south-west to the town of Lorne.
If you’re a surfer then you might want to start the day nice and early so you can make a stop at Torquay. This seaside town is the home of the famous Bells Beach and also has a small surf museum which is well done.
If you don’t want to have an early surf or swim then continue on to Lorne (there is also a nice beach here). Make sure to stop at the ‘Memorial Arch at Eastern View’, this is a classic photo spot on the Melbourne to Adelaide drive.
Lorne is home to some really beautiful waterfalls. It is up to you how many you see as there are even more tomorrow. The best falls to see here are the Erskine Falls, the road is quite steep so leave any caravans behind.
Other falls in town are Henderson, Sheoak and Phantom Falls. They are all nice but the ones in the Otways tomorrow are better so it’s up to you how much time you spend here.
The Blanket Leaf Picnic Area on the way back to town makes a beautiful morning tea stop. Right before you reach town you will also see the Live Wire Park. This is a forest amusement park consisting of high ropes courses, zip-lines and other exciting activities.
One of the best views of the Great Ocean Road can be had in the hills above Lorne. Head up to Teddy’s Lookout and take in sweeping views of the forest covered mountains dropping away into the sea.
Cape Otway – Great Otway National Park
The destination for the afternoon is Cape Otway. This is part of the Great Otway National Park which is an absolute highlight of this Melbourne to Adelaide road trip. The stretch of the Great Ocean Road between Lorne and Apollo Bay is very scenic and arguably the best part.
The main town in this area is Apollo Bay, you can stay here but we recommend to stay out on Cape Otway tonight. Make sure to stock up on anything you need if planning to stay out of town.
Cape Otway is an amazing place to spot wildlife, especially Koalas. The Wildlife Wonders sanctuary is located 5 mins outside of Apollo Bay and offers guided nature walks. You’ll get a set of binoculars and walk a 1.4km trail through a range of landscapes, spotting all sorts of creatures along the way. The best part is that all proceeds go towards conservation efforts of endangered species.
For the last stop of the day head out to the Cape Otway Lightstation. This is the oldest surviving lighthouse on the Australian mainland and was built in 1848. You can explore the surrounding heritage buildings and climb the lighthouse for dramatic views of the coastline. Check the website for current hours and prices.
Where to Stay in Cape Otway
Bimbi Park – Located only 8 minutes from the lighthouse, this park offers a range of beautiful cabins. The park itself is a huge highlight, with trees full of wild koalas. Another great perk is that you are close enough to watch an amazing sunset from the lighthouse grounds.
Bimbi Park – The above mentioned park also offers caravan and camp sites.
Camp Grounds – There are several highly rated camp grounds around this area. Parker Hill, Aire River East and Johanna Beach are all amazing spots. Use the link to browse all sites on a map and book with Parks Victoria.
Great Otway National Park
This itinerary devotes an entire day to exploring this park, which is one of the top highlights of Victoria. You have a couple of options for accommodation tonight which you may have to think about in advance. There is free camping at a stunning site near the main attractions however it is not suitable for large RVs or caravans.
If you want to be best positioned for sunrise at the 12 Apostles tomorrow then you will want to find accommodation closer to there. Lastly, you can remain on Cape Otway which will be about a 50km drive to the attractions on today’s list. See below for the best accommodation options.
The main activity to do here is walking through pristine rainforest to get to spectacular waterfalls. There are several of them here and this is one activity that never gets old. The drive from Melbourne to Adelaide is blessed with a number of the best waterfalls in Australia.
Our favourites in order were Beauchamp Falls, Hopetoun Falls and Triplet Falls. Near to Hopetoun Falls you can also visit ‘The Redwoods Otways’. This trial plantation of California Redwoods was planted in 1936 and left to grow. They are thriving here next to a pretty creek and it such an amazing experience to be able to walk through this scene in Australia!
The top highlight however is seeing the forest from another perspective. Otway Fly Treetop Adventures has a 600m elevated walkway and tower. The kids and young at heart will love the ziplining through the forest and the enchanted forest walk.
Where to Stay in Great Otway National Park
As stated above it is possible to stay in your accommodation in Cape Otway. If you want to be closer to the 12 Apostles for amazing sunrise shots then check out the below.
12 Apostles Cottages – These beautiful self-contained cottages have amazing ocean views and are only a stones throw from the 12 Apostles.
If you have a large RV or caravan it is probably not advisable to take it to the waterfalls/campground however you can reach the Otway Fly parking lot.
Beauchamp Falls Reserve – This is a free campground only a short walk from the falls. There are only 6 sites however and it is unpowered. There are toilet facilities, fire-pits and amazing views down a forested valley. Unfortunately there has been recent forestry works around the site but the views are still great.
Princetown Recreation Reserve – This cheap site is perfect if you have a caravan or large RV. They offer powered or unpowered sites only 10 minutes drive from the 12 Apostles.
12 Apostles/Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village
The 12 Apostles lookout point is the iconic image of the Great Ocean Road. The lookout faces roughly west and so the morning light provides amazing photographic opportunities.
If you have stayed close to the lookout at one of the properties above then you won’t have to get up too early for the magical golden hour. If you have made a beeline for this lookout then when you are done you will need to backtrack a short distance. Gibson Steps wind down the cliff face and access the beach where you can admire the huge cliffs and sandstone pinnacles up close.
Jump back on the road and continue heading west. After a short distance you will come to the turnoff for Loch Ard Gorge. This is well signposted and another highlight on the Great Ocean Road. In this same area are several other great sights like the Tom and Eva lookout and Thunder Cave.
Continue down the Great Ocean Road past the town of Port Campbell. Between here and Warrnambool are several great photo stops. The first is ‘London Bridge’, closely followed by ‘The Grotto’. The final recommended stop before the road heads inland is the ‘Bay of Islands’.
That’s the Great Ocean Road completed and your next stop is going to be the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in Warrnambool. This complex houses a great museum about the settlement of Victoria as well as a living history village. It’s a lot of fun walking the streets here and visiting all the shops decorated with antique items.
Volunteers sometimes walk the village and work the shops in period costumes. The weekends have the most happening but it is a great visit any day of the week. Close by the village are several other attractions if you have the time, remembering that there is 2 hours to drive to get to Halls Gap.
Stingray Bay is a very nice beach near to the Maritime Village. In this same area you can also find the ‘Deep Blue Hot Springs’, which are a great way to relax after walking around the village. During whale watching season (June to September) there are several whale watching lookouts that are worth checking out.
Once you have finished exploring Warrnambool you will need to drive 157km to Halls Gap. This takes about 2 hours so make sure to leave enough time to reach here before dark as there are a lot of animals. It’s better to stay in town and make the drive in the morning if you run out of time.
Where to Stay in Halls Gap
Halls Gap Log Cabins – This accommodation is right near town and features wood fires. Some cabins also have spa baths to ease those sore legs after all the hiking.
BIG4 NRMA Halls Gap Holiday Park – A full featured caravan park in walking distance to the Halls Gap town centre. They even have a heated swimming pool!
Smiths Mill Campground – This is a great campsite situated right near MacKenzie Falls. It has both vehicle and tent sites and must be booked in advance. It has drop toilets and the shower listed is just a bucket on a rope with a faucet. This site is at the top of a pretty full on mountain road so may not be suitable for large caravans and RVs.
Grampians National Park
You’ll have the whole day to explore the Grampians which is just enough to leave you wanting more. There is way too much to see here to fit into one day but you will be able to see the main highlights.
The main attractions all sit along the Mt Victory road, which is where you should concentrate your efforts today. The following recommended attractions are listed in the order that you will come across them when driving from town.
For the first stop you should enter ‘Wonderland Carpark’ into your navigation system. This is the starting point for the Pinnacle Lookout hike which is a huge highlight of the Grampians. There are several attractions and amazing viewpoints along this hike. Splitters Falls is a separate hike from the carpark but not too long (although very steep). This only flows nicely in the wetter seasons so don’t bother in summer/autumn.
To reach the next stop at Boroka Lookout you will have to make a right turn onto Mt Difficult Road. This is a pretty steep road but the lookout at the top is well worth it. This is arguably the best lookout in the Grampians National Park.
Head back to the main road and continue a short distance to the turnoff for ‘The Balconies’. This is another stunning viewpoint offering views over a different aspect of the park. The photogenic rock ledges provide a great subject for your shots.
The final stop along the road is the phenomenal MacKenzie Falls. There are quite a lot of steps down to the bottom but boy is it worth it. The falls flow year round and the thunder and spray of the water can be experienced from up close. If you’re brave you can even go for a dip, but it’s pretty chilly!
This is definitely enough to fill a whole day but if you don’t hike or are just super efficient there is plenty more. Check out the official website for a full list of sights to see in this park.
Welcome to South Australia! Mount Gambier sits right in the south-east corner of the state, only 2.5 hours from Halls Gap. This town is a bit of a hidden gem, with some amazing scenery and interesting things to do. It’s also home to several of South Australia’s best natural landmarks.
If you leave the Grampians reasonably early then you should have plenty of time to explore the main highlights. The most interesting sights are right in town or close by.
The first attraction you’ll come across as you enter town is the Umpherston Sinkhole. There are numerous sinkholes around the Limestone Coast, most formed by collapsed caves. This particular one was converted into a garden all the way back in 1886 by a Mr James Umpherston.
It’s a truly unique sight and descending down into the beautiful garden makes for a lovely short walk. The sight is open from dawn to dusk and sunset makes for a particularly nice visit.
The next must-visit attraction in Mount Gambier is the Blue Lake. This incredible lake sits inside a huge volcanic crater and is vibrant blue in colour. The best time to view the lake is on a sunny day but it is still quite impressive even when overcast.
There are several lookouts around the lake which are all worth visiting. The best one is along the narrow cliffside stretch of road on the north-west side of the lake. From here you can walk up a steep trail to a viewing platform that offers an amazing perspective.
Speaking of great perspectives, you can head up to the Centenary Tower for the best view of the surrounding countryside. Accessed by a trail from the ‘Lions Lookout’, this 1904 tower sits at the highest point in this area.
The final site that you should check out today is the Engelbrecht Cave system. This network of caves actually runs underneath the town and is accessed from right near the town centre. They offer guided tours and you can even scuba dive flooded sections of the cave if you are qualified.
There is plenty more to do in and around town if you still have time left over. Check out this list on Tripadvisor if you have energy left for more exploration. Otherwise settle in to your accommodation for some well earned relaxation.
Where to Stay in Mount Gambier
Colhurst House – This beautiful heritage mansion is packed full of old world charm. The rooms are beautifully presented and they have hot-tubs and bathrobes, need I say more?
The Old Mount Gambier Gaol – This is a super unique accommodation option to match the attractions around town. This gaol from 1866 has been converted into a range of rooms while still retaining a lot of the old features of the gaol.
Pine Country Caravan Park – This park is slightly out of town but worth the small extra drive. It’s a beautiful park with spacious sites. The huge flocks of cockatoos in the evenings are delightful to watch.
After all the sightseeing thus far you’ve earned a day at the beach. South Australia has some fantastic beaches and the best ones are possible found right here on the Limestone Coast.
This is a bit of a detour in the wrong direction so if beaches aren’t really your thing or the weather is terrible then you can save yourself a day and not make the trip.
If you do choose to come here then you won’t be disappointed. The pristine beaches and clear water make for a great day swimming and sunbaking. It is quiet enough that you can often have a large area of beach to yourself.
The best thing to do here is just relax and take a break from the busy schedule. A good tip is to take the Bowman Scenic Drive (which you shouldn’t miss) out to the family friendly Salmon Hole beach. The shallow water here is great for swimming and snorkelling.
The Beachport Jetty is also a great walk, it stretches a really impressive distance out in to the sparkling ocean as you can see above! If you are a sucker for sightseeing then check out the official list of all the things to do around town.
Spend the night here and try to get an early one as it’s a big day tomorrow!
Where to Stay in Beachport
Bonnies of Beachport – Stay beachfront in Beachport. These spectacular apartment offer ocean views and are walking distance to the town centre.
Southern Ocean Tourist Park – This park offers large grassy sites and clean amenities only a short walk to the beach. It is also right in town so you can take advantage of the restaurants and shops.
3 Mile Bend Campground – This campground is located 3km out of town and features drop toilets. It is suitable for tents or caravans. Bookings must be made via the link provided and it costs $16 per night.
Today is the longest stretch of driving on the trip at 445km. There is some great scenery and a fantastic stop along the first 180km so they fly by quite easily.
After leaving Beachport, the first stop is the Naracoorte Caves. Google maps plots several different routes to get there so make sure you select the one that heads east to Penola before continuing north on the main highway.
The drive will first take you through Coonawarra, which is known for producing some fantastic red wines. The beautiful scenery of endless vineyards begins around here and continues for a large part of the drive to Padthaway.
The first stop is the Naracoorte Caves National Park. These caves are around 800,000 years old and numerous fossils of extinct creatures have been found here. They offer some great tours and there is a small but really fun museum. You can choose from a number of different experiences including adventure caving, fossil filled caves and a bat observation centre. Click here for more information.
Following your visit to the caves it’s basically a straight shot to the town of Hahndorf. It’s a little over 3 hours more driving and so you might be arriving in the late afternoon. You’ll have the morning tomorrow to explore this town so don’t stress about sightseeing today.
Hahndorf has some great restaurants and pubs so you should definitely make the most of them tonight! Check out the German Arms or the Hahndorf Inn for a great German style pub experience.
Where to Stay in Hahndorf
Manna by Haus – These clean and comfortable rooms are situated right in the heart of Hahndorf. They offer free parking and it’s a great place to stop after a long day of driving. You will be walking distance to all the best pubs in town.
Discovery Parks Hahndorf Resort – There is only one option in town but don’t worry because it’s a great one. This is a lovely park with great facilities. It’s a little outside town but still only a short walk away and the bus stops right outside.
The first half of today can be spent exploring all the cute little shops and sights around Hahndorf. There are some great places for breakfast and it is worth eating out for the ambiance provided. Check out Café 1839 for some of the best décor.
The main thing to do here is browsing the shops and finding hidden away photo spots down alleys. Around town are some fabulous wineries like Hahndorf Hill Estate, Shaw + Smith and Nepenthe. Don’t feel rushed as the next stop is only a short drive away, as is Adelaide.
When you have finished exploring Hahndorf, jump in the car and enter Mount Lofty Botanic Park into the navigation. This is a beautiful garden set into a steep slope. Only a short distance further up the road is the Mount Lofty summit. Here you will have an amazing view over Adelaide and the surrounding area. There is a café at the top and also some walking trails.
If you have time left over in the day then consider visiting Cleland Wildlife Park. This is right near the summit and one of the best wildlife parks in Australia. There are a huge range of native animals to see and interact with. If you can’t make it then don’t stress, it can easily be done in a day trip from Adelaide.
After exploring Mount Lofty you can wind your way down the scenic mountain roads to Adelaide. Head to your accommodation and put your feet up, you’ve just completed this Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip!
Where to Stay in Adelaide
The Palms Apartments – Situated on the north-east corner of the CBD, this is perfectly located within walking distance to some of the top attractions. The rooms are clean and spacious with great amenities like free Wi-Fi and a dishwasher.
Stamford Grand Adelaide – This building is an iconic part of the Glenelg beachfront. It is equally beautiful inside and out and has an amazing indoor pool to relax in after a day of sightseeing. You will be right near the tram line for easy access to the city.
Although you’ve reached your destination, the trip definitely doesn’t have to end. Hopefully you’ve put some time aside to explore Adelaide as there are a lot of great sights to see. There are also many amazing day trips from Adelaide if you have longer to spend.
Lovers of wine will know South Australia as a wine mecca. Check out this list of the best wine tours from Adelaide, there is something for everyone here, from casual fan to connoisseur.
For those who are lucky enough to be travelling onward, you will have plenty of time to explore further afield. Check out these weekend getaways from Adelaide for some ideas of places to visit.
Once you’ve finished exploring South Australia, your next stop will be the Nullarbor Plain and then onward into W.A. This road trip from Perth to Adelaide is the best itinerary to follow to not miss any of the sights. (You’ll have to do it in reverse but it’s just as good that way round!).
I hope you have an amazing time on this Melbourne to Adelaide road trip! Safe Travels.
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