Ultimate Adelaide to Melbourne Drive via the Great Ocean Road

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Cities, rugged coastlines, incredible beaches, and delicious local produce. This is what an Adelaide to Melbourne drive via the Great Ocean Road is all about. I have a lot of love for this little chunk of Australia. Sure, it can be easy to make it all about the famous Great Ocean Road, but there’s plenty worth stopping for along the way too.

This Adelaide to Melbourne drive itinerary includes some of my favourite places that are a little more off the beaten path, as well as the more well-known highlights. I started my time in Australia down near Mount Gambier and speaking to the locals there meant finding out about some great lesser-known spots.

Who doesn’t love some local insider knowledge?

Because of this, this Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road itinerary can be pretty flexible. If you wanted to, you could drive inland and drive from Adelaide to Melbourne in about 8 hours. This itinerary, however, hugs the coastline and even has a bonus trip you can take to one of Australia’s most beautiful islands.

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Your Adelaide to Melbourne drive itinerary

The distance from Adelaide to Melbourne is 1500km on this itinerary, which amounts to over 21 hours worth of driving. It sounds daunting but it’s going to be broken down into very manageable chunks. you really need 2-3 weeks to make the most of this itinerary, especially as you’re going to be going over to Kangaroo Island.

Here’s your epic Adelaide to Melbourne road trip in a nutshell:

  • Adelaide – 2 nights
  • McLaren Vale – 1 night
  • Kangaroo Island – 3 nights
  • Victor Harbour- 1 night
  • Mount Gambier (via Robe and Beachport) – 2 nights
  • The Grampians – 1 night
  • The Great Ocean Road – 2 nights
  • Melbourne – 4 nights

Adelaide

  • Length of stay: 2 nights

Adelaide is definitely the underdog of Australia’s capital cities. It doesn’t have iconic buildings like Sydney or the glorious sunshine of Brisbane. It’s far more understated than that but it does have some real gem of its own. Adelaide has put itself firmly on the map as one of Australia’s top foodie destinations so if you love to eat, then you’ll love Adelaide.

Top things to do for 2 days in Adelaide

Adelaide Central Market – A cheap way to experience Adelaide’s incredible food scene is to visit the Adelaide Central Market. This market is the largest undercover market in the Southern hemisphere and has been running since 1869. I LOVE it here! You can pick up delicious local fresh produce and wine an grab a bite to eat from the vendors there. This is my top thing to do in Adelaide!

Tram to Glenelg – Melbourne isn’t the only city in Australia to have trams, don’t you know! Hop on the tram to Adelaide beach town of Glenelg and take a stroll along the beachfront.

Free walking tour – I’ve done so many free walking tours and I still think they’re a great way to get to know a place. Check out FreeTour to book yourself on one of their 2 hour tours run by a local.

Walk along the river – The Torrens River runs through Adelaide and is a really nice spot to relax at. It runs right behind the Adelaide Oval as well, one of the city’s main landmarks.

Rundle Mall – This is the main shopping centre of Adelaide where you’ll find all the usual shops. However, there are some great sculptures down here including the ‘Malls Balls’ and the very cute (but bizarre) Rundle Mall Pigs. Be sure to drop into the beautiful Adelaide Arcade as you walk down the mall and visit Haighs Chocolates for a sweet treat.

China Town – Located near to the Central Markets, China Town is a great place to go for a delicious and budget friendly meal in Adelaide.

Everything you need to know to plan the best Adelaide to Melbourne Drive via the Great Ocean Road including where to go, how long to visit & where to stay. #adelaide #melbourne #australiaroadtrip #southaustralia #roadtripitinerary #bestroadtrips #greatoceanroad #kangarooisland.

Where to stay in Adelaide

The best way to spend 2 days in Adelaide is to stay near to the city centre. There aren’t any campsites in Adelaide so I recommend either booking hostel or an Air BnB. If you’re new to AirBnB, you can click here to get £34 to use towards your first booking. Tom and I love AirBnB as it’s easier to find places with parking and we have access to a kitchen and laundry facilities.

McLaren Vale Wine Region

  • Distance from Adelaide: 40 km
  • Drive Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Length of stay: 1 night

The McLaren Vale is located on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula just a short drive south of Adelaide. The Fleurieu’s coastline is spectacular, but for now, it’s time to stay a little inland to experience one of the best wine regions in Australia. The McLaren Vale has over 110 vineyards where you can taste the wine and enjoy some incredible local foods.

Things to do in Mclaren Vale

Take the McLaren Vale Tourist Drive – This tourist drive is the best way to experience McLaren Vale on a small budget. You’ll follow route 60 through the beautiful hills and vineyards of the area and past over 40 wineries. Many of the wineries offer free tasting so don’t be afraid to drop in and sample some.

Do a wine tour – If don’t want anyone to miss out on the wine experience, take a wine tour instead of driving yourself. If the idea of a standard wine tour sounds a bit stuffy to you, you should definitely check out a wine bike tour which even has the option of electric bikes. What’s not to love about a boozy bike tour?

Where to stay in the McLaren Vale

Accommodation is expensive in McLaren Vale and the campsites are quite limited. To experience the beaches and coastline of the Fleurieu Peninsula, leave enough time at the end of your day to drive an hour further south to Rapid Bay Campground right next to the beach.

Kangaroo Island

  • Distance from McLaren Vale: 75 km
  • Drive Time: 1 hour + the ferry
  • Length of stay: 3 nights (at least)

If there’s one place that’s worth the extra effort to visit, it’s Kangaroo Island. Getting to Kangaroo Island is was with the SeaLink Ferry that goes from Cape Jervis over to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island and it’s the ultimate off the beaten path trip to take. Take a look at my 4 day Kangaroo Island itinerary for all the details about visiting, but if you want to stay longer, you’re not going to run out of things to do there.

The best things to see on Kangaroo Island

Stokes Bay – This beautiful bay on the north of Kangaroo Island is a serene area of the rugged coastline. The beach is beautiful and you can follow the secret path through the rocks to reach the next beach too. You’ll definitely see plenty of kangaroos around here too.

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Emu Bay and Kingscote for breweries – Emu Bay is another beautiful beach and one you can drive on if you have a 4WD. In nearby Kingscote you’ll find lots some great breweries like Kangaroo Island Breweries, Emu Bay Lavender and Kangaroo Island Spirits.

Local produce – Kangaroo Island is a foodie gem, even if you’re on a budget. For the most incredible icecream I’ve ever tasted, check out Clifford’s Honey Farm, Bella Cafe has a delicious selection of dishes and if you’ve ever wanted to try an oyster, Kangaroo Island is the place for it.

Flinders Chase National Park – A trip here is the top thing to do on Kangaroo Island. Flinders Chase National Park is full of beautiful walks, rock formations and coastal views. You’ll have a great chance of seeing plenty more kangaroos, koalas and even the elusive platypus. Another highlight of Flinders Chase is the walk from the Cape Du Couedic Lighthouse to Admirals Arch where you’ll see plenty of Seals!

Little Sahara – Ever wanted to have a go at snowboarding? Well, you can do just that on Kangaroo Island. Little Sahara near Vivonne Bay is a 2km area of natural sand dunes where you can rent a board or toboggan to hit the slopes with.

Wine tasting – Kangaroo Island has 12 fantastic wineries that are well worth checking out. As with McLaren Vale, you can easily do a self-drive tour to some cellar doors, or take an organised tour. I only had time to go to Dudley Wines on my trip but it was great and they have the most fantastic view over the hills and ocean.

Where to stay on Kangaroo Island

There are a number of campsites on Kangaroo Island and I recommend staying at a couple of different ones as you explore different parts of the island. We stayed at the basic but very affordable Stokes Bay Campground which is small but located right on the beach. We also stayed at Vivonne Bay Lodge on the north of the island which is fantastic but sadly had extensive damage from the bushfires in 2019. Keep checking their website though for updates on when they might be open again.

Victor Harbour

  • Distance from Cape Jervis (the ferry terminal): 60 km
  • Drive Time: 45 minutes
  • Length of stay: 1 night

As you will have spent a little bit of time travelling from Kangaroo Island, take a pit stop for the night at Victor Harbour. This cute little coastal town has some fantastic wildlife and keeps its rooted history going strong.

Things to do in Victor Harbour

Horsedrawn Tram – This is definitely one of the more unusual things you’ll see in South Australia, but I think it’s great. The horsedrawn tram is one of only 2 running in the world and it’s been here since 1894. You can buy a ticket to go on it or just walk down the tramway to Granite Island instead.

Granite Island – Granite Island is a nature reserve home to an abundance of wildlife. Take the Kaiki walking trail to loop around the island to take in the views and see what you can see. There are often seals, dolphins and number of sea birds here. It’s also on the migration route for Southern Right Whales between May and October.

Little Penguin guided tour – Granite Island is also home to a small colony of Little Penguins. If you want to get a bit closer you can take a guided tour at dusk to see them.

Swim with Tuna – Yes, that’s right; you can actually swim with these fish in Victor Harbour. They have an In Sea Aquarium and you can take a tour out to it to dive in the water with Southern Bluefin Tuna. Book your In Sea Aquarium Experience here.

Where to stay in Victor Harbour

There are no free or donation only campsites in Victor Harbour but there are 3 close by to the town centre.

Mount Gambier

  • Distance from Victor Harbour: 466 km
  • Drive Time: 5 Hours
  • Length of stay: 2 nights

Mount Gambier holds a special place in my heart as it’s where I started my 88 days regional work in Australia. It’s a great little town with some really unique and interesting places to explore and one of my favourite restaurants in the whole of Australia! Taking the coastal road means you’ll go via Robe and Beachport and get incredible ocean views.

Things to do in Mount Gambier

Kingston – Australia randomly has a lot of big statues of things all over the place, and Kingston has the big lobster. You’re going to be driving through Kingston anyway so you might as well snap a photo!

Robe Obelisk – You will pass Robe on your way to Mount Gambier as you follow the coast. The Robe Obelisk is a red and white striped cone-like structure on the clifftop at Cape Dombey.

Long Beach, Robe – A beautiful beach, perfect for swimming and doing some beach driving. It’s also a popular place for fishing.

Bowman Scenic Drive from Beachport – Beachport is just a little further along the coast from Robe and it’s a fantastic coastal scenic route to take on your Adelaide to Melbourne drive.

Blue Lake – This huge lake is actually an ancient crater of the extinct Mount Gambier Volcano. In the summer months, the lake turns from a dark blue to a bright turquoise colour giving it its name. There is a viewpoint from above the lake and a 3.6km walking track that goes all around the edge.

Umpherston Sink Hole – This impressive sunken garden has been formed from a collapsed limestone cave. The garden is beautiful and home to a family of possums that come out at dusk. It’s always open and completely free to visit.

Cave Garden – Similar to the Umpherston Sink Hole, the Cave Garden is another impressive garden formed within a collapsed cave. You can’t go down to the bottom of this one but there’s a viewing platform and sometimes a waterfall if there has been enough rain. It’s right in the town centre so really easy to visit as well.

Metro – Ah, one of my favourite places to eat in Australia! The food at this cafe is incredible, fresh and filling. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as being a bakery serving up the prettiest cakes and the most delicious baked goods. You HAVE to get one of their sausage rolls!

Gannets at Portland – A little over an hour away, just across the border into Victoria is Portland. It’s a pretty small place but I love the rugged coast here. If you’re a nature lover then you can visit a colony of Gannets at Point Danger. This is the only land-based colony in the whole of Australia and the nature reserve is looked after by a team of volunteers.

Port Macdonnell – Port Mac is the southernmost town in South Australia and is famous for lobster fishing. There’s not an awful lot to do but if you want to relax by the ocean, it’s a lovely place to visit.

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Everything you need to know to plan the best Adelaide to Melbourne Drive via the Great Ocean Road including where to go, how long to visit & where to stay. #adelaide #melbourne #australiaroadtrip #southaustralia #roadtripitinerary #bestroadtrips #greatoceanroad #kangarooisland.

Where to stay in Mount Gambier

There are a few caravan parks in Mount Gambier, but if you want a free campsite in Mount Gambier, head just a little out of town to the Kromelite rest area, right on the edge of the Myora Forest. The tall, straight trees surrounding here makes for a great camp spot.

The Grampians National Park

  • Distance from Mount Gambier: 220 km
  • Drive Time: 2.5 Hours
  • Length of stay: 1 night

This is a bit of a diversion on your Adelaide to Melbourne road trip but it’s one you can’t miss. Even with just one night there you can experience waterfalls, do some great hikes and take in the most epic views. You can read more about The Grampians in my Great Ocean Road itinerary where we took did the Central Grampian Drive to see some of the best places in the national park.

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The Grampians National Park

Things to do at The Grampians

The Balconies – The walk to the Balconies is spectacular. They are essentially a set of overhanging rocks that form a natural balcony that you can sit on.

Reeds Lookout – This is the lookout point from the carpark for the balconies so it’s really accessible.

McKenzie Falls – One of the largest and most impressive waterfalls in Victoria. It’s a 40 minute drive from Halls Gap but it flows all year round so you won’t be disappointed.

Mt. William – This is the highest point in the Grampians so if you want an uninterrupted panoramic view, this is where you should go. It’s a steep walk up but worth it.

Best campsite in The Grampians

The Plantation Campsite is just 15 minutes from Halls Gap and is one of the best free campsites I stayed at. There are toilets, bush showers and you can even build a fire if you fancy. Enjoy having some kangaroos as your neighbours as well as unspoilt starry skies.

The Great Ocean Road (Warnambool to Torquay)

  • Distance from The Grampians: 160 km
  • Drive Time: 2 Hours
  • Length of stay: 2 nights

The bit everyone thinks about most, the Great Ocean Road part of your Adelaide to Melbourne Great Ocean Road itinerary! It’s one of the most famous, accessible and scenic drives in Australia and one that I did 3 times. It does not get boring! I’ve been there when it’s stormy and when it’s gloriously sunny, and it honestly doesn’t make it any less awesome. The drive runs from Warnambool to Torquay and I’ve got a full Great Ocean Road Itinerary for 2 days here, but below are some of the highlights.

2 day Great Ocean Road itinerary highlights

Childers Cove – The first landmark you’ll reach on the Great Ocean Road! I love this place as it’s often pretty empty but seriously spectacular.

The Arch – If you want to see the full force of the ocean, visit The Arch to see it crashing through the gap.

London Bridge – This formation was attached to the mainland until 1990 when it collapsed. It was originally a natural double span bridge.

Gibson’s Steps – Walk down these steep steps to the beach below and see the cliffs from below.

The Twelve Apostles – Of course, this is the most famous (and therefore busiest) landmark on the Great Ocean Road. They are group of rock stacks that protrude up to 45 meters from the ocean and looks particularly impressive at sunrise and sunset.

The Grotto – This is my favourite spot on the Great Ocean Road. It’s almost like a small cave that leads out to the ocean. It’s small but I love it.

The drive between Apollo Bay and Lorne – All of the drive is beautiful but this section is spectacular. This is where you’ll be driving along the winding cliff roads where you can stop off at some great lookout points.

Memorial Arch – It’s the ‘Great Ocean Road’ sign- don’t worry, there are places to park to get a picture!

Everything you need to know to plan the best Adelaide to Melbourne Drive via the Great Ocean Road including where to go, how long to visit & where to stay. #adelaide #melbourne #australiaroadtrip #southaustralia #roadtripitinerary #bestroadtrips #greatoceanroad #kangarooisland.

Where to stay on the Great Ocean Road

Unsurprisingly there are no free campsites anywhere on the Great Ocean Road but I recommend staying around Apollo Bay as this is the halfway point for the Great Ocean Road and puts you close to the Twelve Apostles.

Melbourne

  • Distance from Torquay: 105 km
  • Drive Time: 1.5 Hours
  • Length of stay: 4 nights

Your Adelaide to Melbourne Drive might be complete, but you’ll now be in one of the best cities in the world. There’s so much to do in Melbourne all year round that you’re going to want a good few nights there to see as much as possible. To help you plan your time in Melbourne, take a look at my guides here:

How to spend 3 days in Melbourne

33 budget friendly and free things to do in Melbourne

How to spend a day in Melbourne’s quirky suburb, Fitzroy

8 places to get the best city views of Melbourne’s skyline

How to find cheap campervan hire in Australia

If you don’t have your own campervan for this road trip, I recommend hiring one instead of a car. Having your accommodation and kitchen with you at all times is a great way to save money and travel Australia on a budget. Campervans range a lot in size and therefore the hire prices vary. Comparison websites like vroomvroomvroom allow you to see the hire options and choose a campervan that’s right for you.

Top apps to help with your Adelaide to Melbourne road trip

Wikicamps

I don’t know how I road tripped Australia before Wikicamps because this little app is a game-changer! I love it so much that I actually have a full review here. WikiCamps maps out campsites all over Australia and allows you to filter out by facilities. However, if you’re travelling Australia on budget, the best feature by far is the ability to filter by free campsites. Yes, that’s right. FREE. CAMPSITES.

Fuel app

There are plenty of places to fill up between Melbourne and Sydney but it’s definitely a good idea to keep topped up. The Fuel App picks up your location so you can see where the next fuel station is to help you plan your drive.

Offline Google Maps

Who uses sat navs nowadays? Google maps is a lifesaver for Australia road trips but to avoid the problem of not having any signal, you can download your map so it works offline. Simply go onto Google maps on your phone and zoom out to cover the area you’re going to be driving, type in ‘ok maps’ into the search bar and you can then download the map onto your phone. Now you’ll have the maps you want to hand without the need for wifi or data connection.

Hostelworld

One thing I didn’t know before travelling to Australia is that some hostels have space for you to stay in your campervan and you can also use their facilities. Wikicamps often lists these hostels but I recommend then booking via  Hostelworld to secure the space.

XE Currency app

This is an absolute essential no matter where you’re travelling overseas. Australia is a pretty pricey country to visit and as you’re going to be travelling a lot it will help you stick to your budget.

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