Melbourne to Sydney Drive & Return ~ 16 Days
Over the mountains, through the Nation’s Capital… Jenolan Caves… Blue mountains, NYE in Sydney… coastal cruising and free camping!
One Subaru, one ‘Dingo’ Camper trailer and the kids x 2. We headed off from Mt Dandenong in the Dandenong Ranges (on the edge of Melbourne) December 27th for a Melbourne to Sydney drive via the Alpine National Park, and up through Canberra and over the Blue Mountains. No plans other than the general direction and no accommodation booked as we have our brilliant little ‘Dingo’ Camper trailer following us! After the trip to Uluru and Central Australia last year we thought how sweet it would be to have a camper trailer… just a basic little unit, nothing flash. $1,600 later we had it. A tent on wheels basically. Takes about 15 minutes to set up and sleeps 2 each side and can squish a couple on the floor if need be, suits the four of us perfectly ( the record sleepover for the kids = 9 having a sleep out in our garden).
Mt Dandenong -> Healesville -> Benalla -> Bright -> Corryong -> Khancoban.
It would be super easy to spend a few weeks doing this part of the journey. So much to see in the Alpine region. One of my favourite drives is the stretch not far from home, through Healesville and over the Blacks spur. A narrow road passing through the tall eucalyptus forest and tree ferns. Up and over the Dividing Range and into Alexandra. First stop in the town was at a good op shop(a.k.a. Charity Shop) – always a requirement for the girls. A spare sheet, board game and a few knick knacks we did not need later, and we were off towards Benalla. Up the Hume Highway to Glen Rowan, home of the naughty boy, Ned Kelly and his mates. We soon left the freeway and drove to Bright, a gorgeous Alpine town with local ski fields, great fishing, bike trails and loads of hiking.
Across to Mt Beauty and via the Kiewa Valley Highway towards Corryong.
If we had taken proper food supplies we would have stayed by the Kiewa River ( the river runs alongside the Kiewa Valley Highway in parts, easy to spot the camp areas as you drive). We saw some brilliant free camping spots by the river, but just had to drool and regret not stopping at a supermarket on the way!
Finally into Corryong where we had dinner. The first night was spent in a roadside pullover area in Khancoban, not actually a legal camp spot but we had a flat tyre and thought it better to stay put to have it repaired the next morning. Ooops, no such luck as the fuel station did not do repairs. Rather than doubling back (I loathe retracing my tracks if it can be avoided), we decided to continue on the next day and risk another flat tyre, fortunately no more flats!
Khancoban -> Alpine Way -> Thredbo -> Jindabyne -> Cooma
It was easy to fill the day stopping in at Thredbo and Lake Crackenback resorts, plus a couple of lookout points along the way.
We stayed overnight in Cooma at the Cooma Snowy Mountains Tourist Park. A good place to spend the night – tent sites, cabins and even shearers quarters available!
Day 3 & 4
Cooma -> Canberra
Cooma to Canberra is an easy drive, we arrived at the Canberra Carotel – Motel & Camping Park late afternoon and spent 2 nights here while we had a look around the Nations Capital City. This was quite a good camping area, they cater for everyone with camping sites, motel and large group accommodation.
Canberra -> Goulburn -> Oberon -> Kanagara-Boyd National Park
This is a route we had taken a couple of years back when we did a Melbourne to Sydney drive, specifically to take the kids to Luna Park. I wanted to make sure we had time to go into the Kanangara-Boyd National Park this time as we did not manage it on the previous trip.
We stopped in Goulburn for lunch and to climb inside Australia’s largest sheep and have a peep through the eyes… Sounds odd, yes, and amusing… We have a collection of oversized sculptures throughout Australia…
Leaving the big sheep behind, we headed up towards the pretty little town of Oberon. It is 144 km’s drive/just over 2 hours drive… though we managed to make it there in about 4 hours as we dawdled along the way of course.
A stop in the supermarket to stock up on water, camping food, CHOCOLATE, MARSHMALLOWS … fuel.. and we were off to…
A sealed road leads down to the turn off about 1 hour away and then the road into the National Park is unsealed. Fine for a 2 wheel drive car, just a bit bumpy. No entry fees into the park and free camping in a few areas with ‘long drop’ toilets. (still had not had the flat tyre repaired!)
“Serene and majestic, Kanangra-Boyd National Park has so much – walks to plunging waterfalls, cycling along deserted fire trails and camping by the creek. It’s a magical place.”
Just 180km from the outskirts of Sydney, Kanangra-Boyd National Park, part of Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, feels like you’ve crossed an ocean to get there. Take in the magnificent scenery – the sheer sandstone cliff faces of Kanangra Walls or mist-wreathed Mount Cloudmaker – before walking down forest-lined trails to one of the park’s waterfalls. Keep your eyes peeled for echidnas and lyrebirds, particularly during summer. Description from the NSW National Park Website.
This is one of my recommended Top Places for anyone keen to get off the track a little and see some of the most stunning scenery in Australia. Take enough provisions and stay a few days! (Very cold in the winter! Though generally still open to visitors).
One night was, of course, not enough in such a stunning location. We set up camp and then drove to the end of the road to walk out to some viewpoints. The walk across the plateau is stunning, with the sun going down and the light catching the cliffs. Hiking trails, bike trails and waterfalls all make this such an incredible place to easily access.
If camping is not a favourite activity of yours, it is possible to stay nearby in Jenolan or Oberon and do a day trip in.
Campfires are permitted, as long as there is not a total fire ban. Cooking over an open fire, roasting marshmallows and kicking back with the occasional wild critter visiting is bliss.
We had a Spotted Tiger Quoll drop by wanting to scavenge – take care not to leave food accessible and please do not feed the wildlife.
Days 6 & 7
Kanangra-Boyd -> Jenolan Caves
Up early to the amazing sounds of the Aussie birds, boiling the billy (camp kettle) over the fire again and another walk in the National Park before heading to Jenolan, only about an hour drive away – down a fabulous, winding road.
Jenolan is home to the famous Jenolan Caves. Awesome. Hikes in the forest, cave tours – many different cave tours! The previous trip we had stayed in the Jenolan Hotel. Lovely old building. A walk in the wet forest was followed with picking delightful little leeches off our legs and youngest daughters’ bum! The two girls howled with laughter! We chose to repeat the accommodation but pass on the leeches!
It was a dilemma to know which cave tour to choose from as they have so many opened up. All glorious. There is a free, self guided cave tour available, worth the walk, but a tour of a more extensive cave is a must do.
Jenolan Caves -> Blue Mountains -> Sydney
Driving out of Jenolan involves a wicked drive through the cave images further up the page) and out again. Large coaches come in this way and so the road is actually closed to traffic driving out of Jenolan towards the Blue Mountains each day for a short time ...the last section of the road into the Jenolan Valley is ‘one way’ from 11.45am to 1.15pm everyday. This means that our road is always open to arriving vehicles, but closed to up hill traffic for 1.5 hours in the middle of the day. This allows coaches to enter Jenolan safely on the narrow road. You can still leave Jenolan during these times, via the Oberon Road which is fully sealed. (but the long way round).
It is about 1.5 hours drive to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. This is another place that really needs several days to stop and explore! We called in at the famous 3 Sisters lookout and then had a picnic down the road. The Prince Henry Cliff Top Walk is rather a spectacular walk if you have time…
“Journey on the world’s steepest incline railway, glide between clifftops on the glass-floored Skyway suspended 270 metres in the air, descend into the ancient Jamison Valley by Cableway, explore Jurassic rainforest along the 2.4 kilometres walkway – the longest boardwalk in the Southern Hemisphere.”
A bit of advice when visiting the Blue mountains – Public holidays and peak times will mean many buses and a very busy time in the mountains – arrive really early or try to choose a quieter time to visit!
Sydney is a 1.5 hour drive / just over 100km’s away. The Lane Cove River Camping & Caravan Park is highly recommended as an option to camp as close to Sydney as possible. It is a 20 minute drive to the centre of Sydney and has easy access to public transport nearby.
Days 9 & 10
New Years Eve & Sightseeing in Sydney
Our Melbourne to Sydney drive was planned so the girls could see the NYE fireworks. Sydney during the New Years Eve celebrations is so crowded and busy, not a surprise of course. The main areas around the harbour are cordoned off and access can be awkward as checkpoints are set up and a number of areas end up full by late morning with people sitting it out to see the fireworks go off over the Harbour Bridge. We found ourselves right under the bridge for the early fireworks and then ventured out and across the Bridge to the north side of the harbour for the midnight fireworks. We had parked, trailer and all in an underground car park near the National Gallery.
A ferry ride across to Manly Beach and walk right around the bluff is a great day out in the city… as well as all the usual favourites.. do the Bridge climb maybe… Bondi etc. So much to see and do in Sydney.
Days 11 to 16
Sydney -> Killalea State Park -> Kiama -> Ulladulla -> Bermagui -> Lakes Entrance -> Home
This is another part of the trip that deserves much more time. A couple of weeks could easily be spent cruising the coast from Sydney down to Melbourne. Loads of free camping areas can be found as well as budget accommodation options.
The drive out of Sydney and down through the Royal National Park is a must. Make sure to stop and gather information and maps of all the areas along the coast.
We spent 2 nights at the Killalea State Park , not free camping, but very cheap and off the track a little. Great surf beaches and walks around the area. The second day was spent at the Jamberoo Water Park, the kids went non-stop from opening to closing tome on all the rides.
The rest of the trip we camped at Free Camping areas along the way, stopping where we pleased and taking the smaller coastal roads as often as possible.
The ‘Blue Pool’ at Bermagui was a highlight for the girls… the Errinundra National Park has a pretty, free camp site where we stayed a night. Lakes Entrance is always a good spot, especially for fish and chips or a ‘steak sandwich with the lot’, after a stroll across the walkway to the ocean beach…
For anyone with plenty of time… get a map out and see what area sound appealing… and explore… A deviation down south in Victoria to Wilson’s Promontory maybe…
The drive from Melbourne to Sydney in a circuit took in some fantastic scenery and can be done with plenty of stops along the way. So many deviations and sights to take in, plenty of time is needed!