Melbourne to Adelaide road trip: driving the Great Ocean Road route

Pack up the car, take your time and enjoy the great stops along the Great Ocean Road with our Melbourne to Adelaide road trip itinerary.

Many people squeeze the dramatic coastlines, windswept beaches, and stunning wineries along the Great Ocean Road into a quick overnight jaunt—or even a day trip. But the glorious Melbourne to Adelaide road trip deserves as much time as you can give it.

Five days would be the absolute minimum to do the drive. This will allow you to catch a wave at world-famous Bells Beach, grab a sunset snap at the majestic Twelve Apostles, and sip on the best of South Australian Shiraz in McLaren Vale.

But our road-trip plan suggests at least nine days to allow time for all the amazing things you can do along the awe-inspiring Great Ocean Road route. While you can start your adventure from either city, most people choose to go from east (Melbourne) to west (Adelaide), so that you are always on the ocean side of the road while driving.

Whichever starting point you choose, we have you covered with an exciting range of accommodation options along the way. This essential Aussie road trip is as much about the journey as the destination and we guarantee you won’t regret taking your time.

The Melbourne to Adelaide road trip start point

The list of things to do, eat, and drink in Melbourne is endless, but before you embark on a nature-filled road trip, why not take a few days to see the best art the city has to offer.

Wake up surrounded by art in Australia's cultural capital


You can begin your cultural jaunt by staying at the luxury serviced apartment Art Series – The Olsen, located on the CBD end of Chapel Street in trendy and fashion-forward South Yarra.

Each Art Series boutique hotel focuses on a specific Australian artist. At this one, Dr John Olsen’s vibrant and evocative landscapes take centre stage, while muted white, yellow, and cream décor lets the artwork shine. You can even take a tour with the in-house art curator to learn more about Olsen’s works. And if you still need more art, head to the famed National Gallery of Victoria to see one of its blockbuster international exhibitions. It’s only a short 13-minute Uber ride away, but if you visit in the warmer months, you won’t regret the 40-minute walk along the glistening Yarra River to get there.

Each of the 224 elegant suites at The Olsen includes a kitchenette and dining table, so you can pick up some goodies from the celebrated Prahan Market nearby and cook up a feast. Or do as the local fashionistas and artists do and drop into one of the hundreds of quality bars and restaurants in the area.

Your hotel key-card holder folds out to reveal a map of nearby restaurants. But for breakfast, we recommend you beeline for Top Paddock on the Richmond side of the river for the wonderfully light and fluffy ricotta hotcake. And in the evening, indulge in the seaweed-shell ‘tacos’ at Japanese institution, Mr Miyagi.

Of course, if you simply want to relax away from the big city rush, head to level one of the hotel where a glass-bottomed pool awaits. It’s the perfect perch for people-watching as you sip on your first (or second?) cocktail of the trip.

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The Olsen Melbourne Art Series

Top rated
9.0 Excellent (6030 reviews)

Stop by a surfing hot spot

On the first official day of your Melbourne to Adelaide road trip, you might be tempted to drive the two hours straight to the quintessential seaside holiday town of Lorne and while away the day on the pure white sand of one of its many beaches. But there would be a lot you would miss along the way, so let’s rewind.

Start your day with a coffee at Freckleduck café in the pretty port city of Geelong, one-hour drive south-west of Melbourne. The café partners with non-profit One Girl, and for every 3,000 coffees sold, a girl in Africa will be educated for a year.

Once you’ve kickstarted your day with a caffeine hit and a good deed, you’ll want to head straight for the ‘Surf Capital of Australia’, Torquay – the birthplace of surf brands Rip Curl and Quicksilver and home to the mammoth National Surfing Museum. If you’re a novice, sign up for a private lesson with Torquay Surf Academy or rent a board and ride the waves at iconic Bells Beach.

Deluxe coastal living on your road trip


Driving into Lorne, the grand, old buildings lining Mountjoy Parade will transport you back to the glorious Art Deco past of this coastal retreat. Cumberland Lorne Resort is in the heart of the retail and dining precinct and just steps from Lorne Surf Life Saving Club, so you’re guaranteed to have your dinner by—or on—the beach. The resort’s 89 one-, two-, and three-bedroom air-conditioned apartments are perfect for couples and families. The heated indoor swimming pool, gym, sauna, tennis and squash courts, and games room provide plenty of opportunities for relaxing before hitting the road again.

But before you jump in the car, make sure to walk the 10 minutes to Gelato Gelato for a scoop (or four) of their award-winning Roasted Coconut gelato – you deserve a reward after all that surfing.

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Cumberland Lorne Resort

9.1 Excellent (4794 reviews)

Great Ocean Road must-visit: Twelve Apostles

Today is the day you get to see what everyone comes to the Great Ocean Road to see—the glittering limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles. But unless you want to see this wonder of the world with thousands of bus-tripping tourists, we highly recommend arriving at sunset or sunrise when there’s less likely to be a heaving mass of people obstructing your view.

That means you can start off your day with a leisurely brunch at Lorne’s Swing Bridge Café. With cuisine inspired by the Argentinian homeland of the owner, you can satiate your hunger with a chorizo brekkie wrap, or a bacon and egg roll with lime mojo and aioli, before continuing to drive along rugged cliffs on your way to Apollo Bay.

Apollo Bay is the gateway to the ancient rainforests, glow-worm caves, and waterfalls of Great Otway National Park, so a day hike is definitely in order. You can also drive 35 minutes outside Apollo Bay to the oldest surviving lighthouse in Australia, Cape Otway Lighthouse. A climb to the top rewards you with magnificent views across the Southern Ocean.

So now is your time to decide—do you hit the Twelve Apostles as the sun dips below the horizon, or do you drive onto Port Fairy and wake up before 6 am for a sunrise view? It’s a tough choice: You might see penguins at sunset, but at low tide in the early morning, you can descend Gibson’s Steps to the beach and get a close-up view of the awe-inspiring apostles from below. We’ll leave it up to you.

Heritage luxury in a boutique hotel in Port Fairy


The whitewashed cottages and Georgian-style buildings in Port Fairy make it a charming place to stay all year round. But after a day of driving, hiking, and picture-taking you’ll relish the opportunity to sink into one of the Victorian-inspired, free-standing baths in one of the six suites at Drift House.

Each suite is different in this design-driven, luxury, boutique hotel where cosy fireplaces dominate, and a solar-heated pool sits in the gardens outside. The heritage façade hides the entirely contemporary interiors, so you can lay claim to having the best of both worlds during your stay.

Drift House

Port Fairy
9.7 Excellent (202 reviews)

Crossing the border on your Melbourne to Adelaide road trip

Now that you’ve seen the Twelve Apostles, you might want to stop at the other equally impressive geological wonders nearby—London Bridge, Bay of Islands, and Loch Ard Gorge. Once you’ve had your fill of rocks, it’s time for fauna to take the spotlight at Cape Bridgewater.

One hour past Port Fairy, you’ll find Portland, Victoria’s first European settlement, and, just beyond that, the Bridgewater Bay Café is the perfect lunch spot. Roast pumpkin salad or homemade pork burgers will be much-needed fuel for the 2.5-kilometre Cape Bridgewater Seal Walk, where you’ll see a colony of roughly 650 Australian fur seals. If you want to get closer to these playful animals, you can arrange a cage snorkel dive.

Less than an hour later down the highway, you’ll cross the border into South Australia and quickly arrive at Mount Gambier. Here, an extinct volcano crater holds the stunning Blue Lake, which turns cobalt blue from December to March. If you have time, veer north to Coonawarra, and its 20 cellar doors—famed for their Cabernet Sauvignon—or simply continue on the main ocean road to the beautiful town of Robe.

Modern comfort in the fishing town of Robe


If bobbing boats and yachts are your favourite kind of vista, you’ll love staying at Robe Marina Accommodation. You can choose to stay in a one-bedroom, ground-floor deluxe suite, or, for the ultimate vista, the three-bedroom marina-view apartment on the top floor.

The serviced apartments are only 50 metres from the ocean and a 10-minute walk to cafés and restaurants. The English-style pub, the Caledonian Inn, has a comfy open fireplace and a delicious menu that includes miso maple pork, lemon thyme chicken, and a seafood platter bursting with South Australian oysters, mussels, and prawns.

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Robe Marina Accommodation

8.7 Excellent (352 reviews)

The longest drive on this Melbourne to Adelaide road trip

Start the morning early, as you have a four-hour drive from Robe to Victor Harbor. But the long stretch in the car is worth it once you see the powerful Clydesdale horses pulling Australia’s only horse-drawn tram, which dates back to 1878. The tram takes you out to Granite Island, where you can enjoy a seaside picnic or go on a dusk tour of the penguin colonies.

If you’re visiting between June and October, book The Big Duck tour. A semi-inflatable boat takes you out to inaccessible areas off the coast to see seals, dolphins, and the whale-breeding sanctuary at Encounter Bay.

Camp beachside at Victor Harbor


You won’t get closer to waking up on the beach than when you stay at NRMA Victor Harbor Beachfront Holiday Park. Self-contained two and three-bedroom cabins and studios are on offer. And if you’re already equipped, ensuite, powered, and unpowered caravan and camping sites are also available.

A family wonderland, the park’s bouncing pillow, water park, pump track, and solar heated swimming pool on site will keep the kids entertained for hours (even days!). Even better—free WiFi means parents can binge-watch their favourite shows while relaxing in the recreation room.

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NRMA Victor Harbor Beachfront Holiday Park

Victor Harbor
9.2 Excellent (1045 reviews)

Side trip one: McLaren Vale

From Victor Harbor, it’s a clear one-hour run to Adelaide, but with so much to see on the city’s outskirts you don’t want to speed ahead too quickly. If the thought of a robust Shiraz full of tannins has you salivating, head 50 minutes north where you’ll find an abundance of drops to try in McLaren Vale, especially along the eight-kilometre Shiraz Trail that follows an old railway line. But you won’t just find delectable wine here, it’s also home to some incredible foodie experiences.

The region boasts 80 cellar doors, many of which offer local produce—from casual grazing platters to high-end gastronomic fare—as part of the tasting experience. If you can only choose one, opt for the wildly imaginative degustation at the d’Arenberg Cube restaurant. Opened in 2017, this avant-garde five-storey structure is fashioned after an unfinished Rubik’s cube. Overlooking the rolling vines of the d’Arenberg estate, it features a cellar door, several bars, and a casual restaurant in addition to the fine-dining option.

A romantic couples retreat


A five-minute drive away, you’ll reach your accommodation for the night: Wine & Roses bed and breakfast. All four luxury suites are designed for a romantic couples retreat, with large two-person spas, open wood fireplaces, and cloud-like four-poster or king beds. A free bottle of stellar McLaren Vale wine will greet you on arrival, as will supplies for a cooked or continental breakfast, including locally sourced smoked bacon, free-range eggs, yoghurt, fresh fruit, and orange juice.

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Wine and Roses Bed and Breakfast

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McLaren Vale
9.3 Excellent (26 reviews)

Side trip two: Kangaroo Island

If you decide to head south, you’ll need to plan enough time to ensure you catch the last ferry heading out from Cape Jervis to Kangaroo Island. The island is a remote wilderness sanctuary in every sense of the word—it’s seven times the size of Singapore and more than a third of the island is designated as protected nature reserves.

Families will love everything about Kangaroo Island. Walk along the boardwalk and spot endangered Australian sea lions or have a close encounter with an Australian raptor at Raptor Domain. Then go on a guided night-time tour of Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary to see koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and echidnas as they get ready for bed. And, of course, kangaroos are everywhere, often hopping near the roadside.

A lovely stay on Kangaroo Island


On the Esplanade, just next to the ferry terminal, you will find Kangaroo Island Seafront. The hotel overlooks the magnificent Backstairs Passage and the choice of 16 rooms and 12 garden villas means there’s an option for everyone. An outdoor pool, sauna, and mini-golf course will keep kids and adults entertained between wildlife spotting, and the onsite restaurant, Sorrento Pizzeria, will keep bellies full. With dough made in-house, the Greek lamb or seafood pizzas are already calling your name.

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Kangaroo Island Seafront

8.1 Very good (817 reviews)

The final stop on your Melbourne to Adelaide road trip

And finally, after more than a week on the road, you’ll arrive in the small, but wondrous, city of Adelaide. Known as the ‘City of Churches’ because of its diversity of faiths and beautiful churches, the city is a cosmopolitan fusion of cultures.

Start with a leisurely stroll along the North Terrace, home to many of Adelaide’s most well-known cultural institutions, including the State Library, Government House, and the Migration Museum. Stock up on picnic supplies at the Adelaide Central Market—you’ll definitely want a truffle prosciutto panini from Charcuterie Traiteur to take away—before taking the 35-minute tram trip to Glenelg Beach for a dip, a stroll, and a fabulous sunset.

Historic opulence in the heart of the city


Head back to the centre of the city, steps from Adelaide Town Hall, where the grand, old State Treasury has been transformed into the Adina Adelaide Treasury serviced apartments. Looking out onto Victoria Square, the 79-room hotel has maintained its connections to the past despite its refurbishment – you’re free to explore the tunnels beneath the building, believed to have been part of an underground rail system connecting other buildings throughout the city. Most rooms have plaques explaining their significance during the building’s time as the treasury, but the plush interiors are all modern.

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Adina Apartment Hotel Adelaide Treasury

Top rated
9.3 Excellent (4813 reviews)

Feature image courtesy of AXXEL6_+_VIEW-APART / Fotolia