Last Updated on December 28, 2020
Melbourne to Lakes Entrance & McKillops Bridge
- Melbourne to Lakes Entrance: 3 h 52 min (318.7 km) via M1 and Princes Hwy/A1
- Lakes Entrance to McKillop’s Bridge – one way: 2 h 15 min (137.4 km) via C608
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Driving from Melbourne to Lakes Entrance on Highway 1 is a good road trip with some great country towns to explore along the way. It would be easy to include a side-trip to Dargo in the Victorian High Country or drive down to one of our favorite places, Wilsons Promontory. Maybe stay a few days in each location.
The Inland Lakes and waterways of Gippsland have been popular family holiday destinations for generations of Aussies.
What is there not to love about the place? Long golden beaches, fabulous fishing in the lakes and rivers, boating holidays, beautiful bushland, and the gateway to the High Country of the Australian Alps.
Accommodation in Lakes Entrance
Lakes Entrance and the surrounding towns have a huge variety of accommodation options for travelers or you can free camp in some areas nearby (use the WikiCampsAU app).
- If you are looking for a resort with everything you need for a luxury stay, The Esplanade Resort and Spa might be the perfect place to stay.
- For a more rustic stay in a bushland setting, but still, very close to Lakes Entrance, Kalimna Woods Cottages is worth checking out.
- Self-contained cabins at the Lakes Main Holiday Park are a good option
- Browse some of our Lakes Entrance favourites on Air BnB
McKillop’s Bridge Road & The Snowy River
Lakes Entrance to McKillops Bridge Drive Time (one-way): 2 hr 15 m/ 137 km
This drive is definitely at the top of the list of the most dangerous public roads in Australia. It is an incredible drive on an unmade public road (C611) through some of the most amazing mountain scenery in the state of Victoria.
McKillops Road is sealed for some of the way until getting beyond Buchan (famous for the Buchan Caves) and then heading along the most hair-raising section, driving down into the valley and across the famous McKillops Bridge which spans the famous Snowy River in the Alpine National Park.
Another spectacular drive to do is from the Blue Mountains across to Jenolan Caves.
Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted within the National Park.
McKillops Bridge History
Originally constructed in 1931/32 and thought to be indestructible, the bridge was washed away after unusually heavy rains, just 11 days prior to the official opening in January 1934.
The steel framework was a twisted pile of metal in the river below, work quickly began to reconstruct the bridge and the pylons were raised a further 5 meters. So far so good… the bridge still spans the mighty Snowy River.
Travel Routes & Times along McKillops Bridge Road
The round trip from Lakes Entrance to McKillops Bridge and then back via Orbost is nearly 6 hours and just over 341 km. It is definitely worth breaking up the journey with a stop at the local motel in Buchan or camping in the Snowy River National Park.
- Sections of the road have very steep drop-offs to one side and rock face to the other.
- Some sections are single lane with a few passing places and blind corners.
- It can be very dangerous, it is not advisable to drive the route during winter, or when there has been/or is going to be heavy rains.
- Do not take trailers or caravans, not even motor homes as you may need to reverse up if meeting another vehicle coming the other way.
- Always try to look ahead to spot oncoming traffic if possible.
- The road may not be open in winter due to seasonal closures by Parks Victoria.
Driving McKillops Bridge Road
Heading along the most dangerous section of the McKillops Road, I was only slightly apprehensive, with our teenage daughter for company, looking down into the valley with no safety barrier beside the narrow road.
Even though I have driven Europe in Winter with the kids (towing a caravan) and solo for months through Central America, this is the only road that gave me a momentary shiver down the spine. It was only a brief moment though as the drive is so breathtaking with mountain scenery and wildlife.
After reaching McKillops Bridge, our 13-year-old daughter asked when we’d be getting to the scary section! She was on the passenger side where the road dropped away and thought nothing of it. I guess traversing the mountains of Europe in the winter has prepared her well for any hair raising road trips.
Swimming in the mighty Snowy River
We had an awesome time relaxing in the Snowy River below the bridge and could easily have stayed there all day. It is certainly a spectacular location to cool off.
The river was not running too high on our visit, but it is up to each person to assess the strength of the current and find the most suitable spot to have a dip.
Can Two-Wheel Drive Vehicles go on McKillops Bridge Road?
It can be done in a 2-wheel drive car as it is a public, unsealed road. Take care, driving this road in wet and muddy conditions in a 2 wheel drive vehicle is not recommended, personally. In regular conditions, it is fine, as long as you have good nerves and confidence in your driving abilities and car.
Camping in the Snowy River National Park
McKillops Bridge is within the boundary of the Snowy River National Park and does have some free camping options for visitors. Use the Wiki Camps AU app (available on android and OS) to check for the latest updates on campgrounds in the area.
There is a free camping area nearby, it is a basic campsite with long-drop loos, no water tap, no dogs allowed, a few picnic tables, and some shaded sites. It is nothing to write home about, which is a shame considering the beauty of the area and the stunning Snowy River not too far away, which is out of view.
The campsites are not very level, camping in a tent would be a bit of a challenge! Please remember that caravans cannot be taken down this road.
Not camping, where else to stay in the mountains?
Check out the Deddick River Retreat as an alternative place to stay up in the mountains.
This would be an excellent place to stay if you are driving the big loop from Lakes Entrance over McKillops Bridge and back via Orbost or continuing on into New South Wales.
Orbost has a few really good accommodation options that are worth having a look at on Booking.com We stayed in the well-run Snowy River Lodge Motel on a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney some time ago.
What else to do? Paynesville, Raymond Island, and Koala Spotting could be added to your itinerary…
If you can, allow time to visit Raymond Island on the way or on the return journey. A little ferry runs back and forth from the gorgeous little village of Paynesville. Either take your car or simply go across as a foot passenger and do some koala spotting and explore on foot or by bicycle.
Raymond Island Ferry
The little ferry is free for foot passengers and a nominal charge for taking a vehicle across. It only takes a few minutes to reach the other side. Check the latest prices and timetables here. It is also dog-friendly (on-lead).
It is a short detour from the main highway between Melbourne and Lakes Entrance to reach Paynesville and Raymond Island. Plenty of cafes and restaurants, boat cruises, and places to moor for people arriving with, or by, boat.
Raymond Island is just 6 km by 2 km in size with a population of around 500. Holiday homes can be rented and the self-guided ‘Koala Walk’ starts from where the ferry comes in. The trail is well marked and signage along the way gives an insight into the history of the koalas and the island itself.
In the 1920s koalas were almost wiped out in Victoria due to logging and land clearing. Some were relocated to islands where they have increased in numbers and are now a tourist attraction. Purchase the little $2 information book on arrival as it has some super stories and photos of the koala population and management. Read a great article about visiting Raymond and seeing the koalas by Bec from Wyld Family Travel.
Accommodation on Raymond Island or Paynesville
Booking.com has lots of great deals for holiday homes of all types on Raymond Island.
Air BnB is another way to find the perfect stay on the Island or in Paynesville. Dozens of unique properties can be booked.
One of the more unusual places on offer for couples or friends is called ‘Skytentoz Vega’ – It is a clear dome ‘tent’ with its own private sandy beach, a perfect spot for stargazing. Read more about this amazing property on Raymond Island.
If you are looking for family or group accommodation or a secluded spot for one or two people, these are some of our favourite places to stay.
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