Indulge in Melbourne’s array of cuisines, mingle with the adorable animals of Phillip Island and hike up the impressive mountains and waterfalls in the Grampians with this Melbourne road trip itinerary.
First published: 19 April 2018
Pick up your rental car and hit the road on this eight-day adventure. Beginning from Melbourne, we head to Yarra Valley for wine tasting, Phillip Island to watch the Little Penguins return to their burrows, Otway and Grampians for some of the most epic waterfall hikes — all while taking in the gorgeous coastal scenery along the Great Ocean Road.
If you’re planning to explore Victoria on a road trip, here’s our eight-day self drive itinerary from Melbourne!
Melbourne Road Trip Overview
Pre-trip Essentials | Check Flights to Melbourne | Road Trip Planning Tips
Day 1: Melbourne City
Day 2: Yarra Valley
Day 3: Phillip Island
Day 4-5: Great Otway National Park
Day 6: Great Ocean Road
Day 7-8: Grampians
Click to jump to each section.
Car Rental: We rented a compact SUV for our group of four. Prices start from ~S$60/day, including zero-excess Collision Damage Waiver.
SIM Card: Plans from Optus (right outside the airport arrival gates) start from AU$12 with a minimum of 5GB and unlimited local calls. Alternatively, get an eSIM (S$18.90 for 500MB/day for 10 days) to avoid the hassle of switching physical cards around. Do check your phone compatibility beforehand!
Travel Insurance: We strongly recommend this in case of unforeseen mishaps! Look for policies that include coverage for Covid-19. Some insurance providers also offer coverage for outdoor activities such as hiking (a highlight of this itinerary).
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Airport to Melbourne CBD: Taxis are expensive. A ride to town will cost between AU$65-80). If you’re travelling solo or in twos, book the Skybus at ~S$19/pax (one-way) that drops you off at Southern Cross station.
Check Flights to Melbourne
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Day 1: Explore Melbourne City
Highlights: Victoria State Library – Hosier Lane – Eureka Skydeck – Queen Victoria Market
Getting around Melbourne: You can purchase a rechargeable myki card for AU$6 (excluding credits) which covers all the trains, buses and trams in Victoria. However, if you’re staying within the CBD area, there’s no need for one to travel on trams within the Free Tram Zone.
Victoria State Library
First stop, check out the iconic Victoria State Library — the oldest free public library in Victoria with a collection of over two million books. The library’s domed ceiling also makes the place a good photo spot.
Entrance fee: Free
Opening hours: 10AM – 6PM
Address: 328 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
Start your day exploring the scenic streets of Melbourne. If you’re into street art, one of the most famous is probably Hosier Lane — decked in ever-changing graffiti, created by both international and local artists. Drop by for a quick photo stop or have a meal at the cafes and restaurants in the area.
For a 360° view of the city, get on the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere, the Eureka Skydeck.
Photo credit: A Brit & A Southerner
Explore Melbourne city through the telescopes on the observation decks, and check out the world’s only Edge Experience that suspends visitors 300m above the city in a glass cube!
The Eureka Skydeck is also a great place for catching the sunset over the city. Make sure to arrive at least 1 hour before sunset to secure a good spot on the west side overlooking the Yarra River.
Cost: ~S$27/adult via Klook for Skydeck entry only, AU$43/adult for the Edge Experience incl. Skydeck entry
Opening hours: 12PM – 10PM (Last entry 9:30PM)
Have dinner at the Queen Victoria Night Market
The Queen Victoria Night Market only comes alive every Wednesday in the summer months (22 Nov 2023 to 13 Mar 2024) so try to plan to be in the city on this day! Lined with food stalls and shops selling trinkets and clothing, this is a great place to hang out while enjoying live entertainment; or you could also play a game of chess on the life-size chess boards on the ground.
Satisfy your Korean Cravings (Joomak)
If you’ll miss the night market, a good alternative favoured by locals is Joomak — a Korean-style pub that serves authentic Korean food in Melbourne CBD. The free-flow kimchi here is to die for and the food comes in generous portions. We ordered a kimchi pancake, sundubu jji-gae (tofu stew) and a small portion of bulgogi (BBQ marinated beef), along with a bowl of rice — which had the four of us stuffed.
Located in the basement with no signs on street level, it may be quite hard to locate Joomak. Just walk along Swanston Street until you see unit 407/409:
Turn in, and head down the stairs to the basement where the restaurant is located.
Opening hours: 5PM – 1AM (Mon – Thu), 5PM – 3AM (Fri – Sat), Closed on Sun
Address: Basement, 407/409 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
To save on transport, pick an accommodation within or on the outskirts of the CBD. We found options on Airbnb that cost ~AU$50/pax. There’s also hostels within the same area for ~AU$30/pax.
Day 2: Day Trip to the Yarra Valley
Highlights: Yarra Valley Gourmet Food Tour
For the wine lovers, the Yarra Valley is just 1 hour from Melbourne city and home to over 50 wineries and farms. Apart from wine, you’ll also get to try locally grown fruits and a wide array of freshly made cheese.
Have a sweet ending at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie, where you can taste a wide variety of chocolate and a generous serving of gelato at the gelato shop.
For those who don’t drive, there’s also an all inclusive Yarra Valley tour (~S$162) which includes doorstep pick up from your accommodation and all the delicious wine and food you’ll get to experience at Yarra.
Have Mexican Food for dinner back in Melbourne CBD (Mamasita)
If you love Mexican food, Mamasita is the place to be! This popular restaurant in the CBD serves delicious tacos and a killer Margarita (~AU$23). It’s a tad pricey but the quality is well worth it. We ordered corn chips with guacamole and salsa (AU$16), some tacos (~AU$17 – 21 for two), quesadillas (AU$18) and we enjoyed every single dish.
*Pro-tip: Avoid peak hours or make a booking beforehand as it gets very crowded during dinner time.
Opening hours: 12PM – 10:30PM (Sun – Thu), 12PM – 11:30PM (Fri – Sat)
Address: 11 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
Day 3: Day Trip to Phillip Island
Highlights: Brighton Beach – Churchill Island – Koala Conservation Reserve – Seal Watching Cruise – The Nobbies – Penguin Parade
Famous for the adorable penguin parade that happens every night, Phillip Island is a must-visit when you’re in Melbourne! It’s a 2-hour drive south-east of Melbourne with lots to check out along the way!
These colourful bathing boxes on Brighton Beach are a well-known icon of Melbourne. Snap pictures with them along the beach while enjoying the sea breeze, and watch many dog owners play with their fur babies.
The beach is a quick stop en route to Phillip Island. You can watch the sunrise at the beach while having breakfast before heading out to Phillip Island.
Parking: AU$5.70/hour (8AM – 8PM) at Green Point Car Park — Remember to pay for parking at the machine (credit card only) or with the EasyPark app. You WILL get fined if you do not pay for parking.
*Pro-tip: Arrive early as parking fees are only required between 8AM – 8PM.
Full Day Out at Phillip Island
Read also: The Complete Phillip Island Guide
Check out farming activities at Churchill Island such as cow milking and sheep shearing, which will definitely be a hit with the young ones. Enjoy a quick cuppa at the cafe before heading off to the next stop!
Entrance fee: AU$15
Opening hours: 10AM – 4:30PM
Seal Watching Cruise: Sign up for this 2-hour high speed boat tour that will bring you up close to one of the largest fur seal colonies in Australia.
Located just 10 minutes from Cowes jetty, Tides of Rhyll is a perfect spot to have a meal before or after the Seal Watching Cruise (though you might want to have your meal after the tour in case the boat ride is rocky).
Cost: From AU$15 for battered fish and a side of chips
Opening hours: 12PM – 7PM (Mon), 12PM – 8PM (Fri to Sun), closed on Tue – Thu
Address: 11 Beach Rd, Rhyll VIC 3923, Australia
Get up close to koalas in this Eucalyptus tree-filled woodland. The Koala Conservation Reserve plays host to a conservation programme that helps save these important animals. Visitors will get an opportunity to go on a ranger-led tour for insights into these Australian icons.
Entrance fee: AU$15
Opening hours: 10AM – 5:30PM (Last entry at 5PM)
Take a walk down the boardwalk at the Nobbies to see the beautifully rugged coastline and if you’re lucky, you might spot some penguins beneath the boardwalks!
Head into the Antarctic Journey for an interactive lesson on the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. This is a great place for children and they will love it. Stop by the cafe for a quick refreshment before heading out to the penguin parade which is just a 5-minute drive away.
Entrance fee: AU$15
Opening hours: 10AM – 6PM
End your day watching the little Penguins waddle back into their burrows after a long day of fishing. The main viewing area has elevated seating that gives a 180º view of the Beach.
Entrance fee: AU$30 (~S$26 via Klook)
*Pro-tip: Get a 4 Parks Pass for discounted admission to the Penguin Parade, Churchill Island, Koala Conservation Reserve and the Antarctic Journey!
For a full-day itinerary on Phillip Island, check out our complete Phillip Island Guide.
You can opt to stay slightly outside of Melbourne city as it would be cheaper. We stayed in the Chadstone area.
Day 4 & 5: Great Otway National Park
Highlights: Zipline and Treetop walk at Otway Fly – California Redwoods – Hopetoun Falls – Apollo Bay
Drive time: ~ 3hrs 30mins
Photo credit: Visit Victoria
Head out in the morning and drive towards Otway National Park. There are two routes — coastal and inland — that you can take. The drive times for both route vary so be sure to check out Google Maps for drive time estimates. I strongly recommend taking the coastal route as the views are pretty insane! 😉
Otway Fly Treetop Adventures
Photo credit: Otway Fly Treetop Adventures
For zipline adventures, head to Otway Fly Treetop Adventures for a 2.5-hour tour zipping through the leafy treetops of Otway. Although the tour opens regardless of rain or shine, it does not operate in severe weather conditions such as lightning, storms and high winds. Allocate at least two days in Otway so you’ll be able to reschedule the tour should such conditions occur!
Photo credit: Visit Victoria
Alternatively, there’s a 25m-high tree-top walk where you can get a bird’s eye view of the region’s flora and fauna. The walk takes about 1 hour to complete, and just like the zipline tour, does not operate in severe weather conditions.
Cost: From AU$99 for the Zipline Tour incl. TreeTop walk admission (bookings are essential!)
Opening hours: 10AM – 5PM (Last admission at 3:30PM)
Filled with Sequoia trees, the California Redwoods is a unique stop on this road trip. True to its name, the trunks and branches of the trees have a reddish hue to them. Stop by for a morning stroll into the woods and be sure to snap some pictures of this magical place! Be careful of falling branches, especially when it’s windy.
There’s also picnic tables outside the forest, so it’s a great place to stop for lunch!
Time: 10mins return
You can see the waterfalls from a viewing platform just 20m from the carpark but if you’re extra adventurous, it’s a 30-minute return route to the base of the waterfall.
Time: 30mins return
For this day, you can either stay in Otway National Park for two days or stay in Otway for one night and move on to Port Campbell/Apollo Bay for the second.
Pros of staying near Otway Fly Treetop Adventure is that you’ll have an additional day to check in on the zipline and treetop walk if the weather’s against your favour on the first night. Of course, the con is that you’ll have to drive about an hour to get to the Twelve Apostles the next morning so we’ve provided two other options which are nearer to the Twelve Apostles.
Near Otway Fly Treetop Adventures
Near the Twelve Apostles
2) Pebble Point: For nature lovers, a night at this glamping spot in Pebble Point is an experience you might want to check out! Each cosy tent sleeps 2 (max 3) and comes with an attached bathroom. The heated bed was so comfortable we had major problems getting up the next morning! There is a common kitchen stocked with common condiments to prepare dinner.
The downside is that the nearest town of civilisation is in Port Campbell which is a 20-minute drive should you need any supplies. Connectivity is also barely existent so get your maps pre-loaded and let your loved ones know you haven’t fallen off the face of the earth!
3) Sow and Piglets Guest House (formerly Port Campbell Hostel): Lastly, there’s a hostel located in Port Campbell — a small town just 10 minutes from the Twelve Apostles. Here there are private en-suite rooms for up to 4 pax and mixed-gender dorm rooms with 4, 6 and 8 bed configurations.
Of course the downside for options 2 & 3 is that you’d need to drive 1 hour to Otway Fly Treetop Adventures should you decide to shift your zipline activity booking.
Day 6: Great Ocean Road
Highlights: Gibson Steps – 12 Apostles – Loch Ard Gorge – The Arch – London Bridge – The Grotto
Drive time: ~3hrs (if staying at Port Campbell/Pebble Point), add 1.5hrs if driving from Apollo Bay
Get up close with Gog and Magog — the two huge limestone stacks that rise up from the sea, here at the base of Gibson Steps. They are not considered part of the 12 Apostles but are still a sight to behold. You can view them from the viewing platform or make your way down the 86 steps to the beach for a closer look. Be prepared to get a little wet as the waves are unpredictable!
Head down this flight of stairs to the beach 🙂
There is a designated carpark just a short distance of 30m away from the viewing platform.
Trekking time: 15mins return
Parking: Free — but lots are limited and gets crowded after 9AM
12 Apostles Lookout Point
Possibly the most iconic attraction of the Great Ocean Road, the 12 Apostles are made up of rock stacks created by the erosion of limestone cliffs from the mainland. You may want to use the toilets here as there will not be another one at the other lookout points!
Trekking time: 15mins return
Loch Ard Gorge
Named after the famous 1878 shipwreck on nearby Muttonbird Island, there are numerous limestone structures here to be marvelled at. Explore the numerous trails while learning the rich history of various rock stacks like the Razorback.
Trekking time: Allow up to 2 – 3hrs if you want to explore all the trails
The Arch is best viewed from the platform during rougher tides. Watch the waves crash in and around the area, creating a mini waterfall underneath The Arch!
Trekking time: 20mins return
Parking: Free (Carpark is unsuitable for caravans)
London Bridge (aka London Arch)
As its name suggests, London Bridge used to be a bridge connecting the archway to the mainland but collapsed unexpectedly in 1990, leaving two in need of a helicopter rescue. Visitors used to be able to walk across the eastern span before the collapse but now, you can still witness its beauty from the two viewing platforms.
Trekking time: 20mins return
Perhaps the best spot along the Great Ocean Road is the Grotto. This geological formation is easily accessible down a small flight of stairs. Feel the calmness brought about by the archway of the Grotto, in contrast to the crashing waves at the other end of the tunnel.
Trekking time: 20mins return
Food in Port Campbell
An all-in-one store, Frying Nemo is a small section of the Port Campbell Fuel/Fish and Chips shop. The servings are huge and well worth your money! We got two portions of chips (at AU$4 per portion) and it was way too much for the four of us. As they only do takeout, get your favourite fish to go, and have your meal by the Port Campbell Beach like we did!
Photo credit: Nada D
Cost: AU$15 for a Fish & Chips pack
Opening hours: 12PM – 9PM
Drive 2 hours up to Halls Gap since you’ll be exploring the sights here the next morning. Stay here for two nights.
There are many accommodation options at Halls Gap but one of the most unique ones we found in this area was the A-Frame house. It had one bedroom below (en suite with a Jacuzzi!), two single and a double bed up on the loft, a fully stocked kitchen as well as a spacious living area. Wild kangaroos are also known to hang out in the backyard so if you’re lucky, they may come say hi!
At night, don’t forget to check out the view outside. If the skies are clear, you might even catch a shooting star or two!
Day 7 & 8: Grampians
Highlights: MacKenzie Falls – The Balconies – Reeds Lookout – The Pinnacle via Grand Canyon
Drive time: ~ 1hr 16mins (within Halls Gap), ~3hrs (to Melbourne Airport)
One of the largest falls in Victoria, MacKenzie Falls flows all year round down a steep cliff. Take an easy 1km walk to Bluff Lookout, or down a steep trail down to the base of the waterfall. The steps can be quite steep but we promise, the view is worth it!
Be careful while going down the steps as some of them are narrow and might be slippery.
Trekking time: 1hr return (to the base of the falls)
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Parking: Free parking at the MacKenzie Falls Carpark
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The Balconies (aka Jaws of Death)
Also known as the Jaws of Death because the structure resembles the jaws of a T-rex, The Balconies offer a panoramic view of the lush mountains. Take an easy 2km stroll along the path leading towards the lookout, and be awed by the stunning rock formations at the end.
Trekking time: 1hr return
Reeds Lookout (alternatively spelled as Reed Lookout)
From the same car park as The Balconies, follow the path up the sealed road to the summit of Reeds Lookout and enjoy the scenic views of Victoria Valley. Reeds Lookout is a fantastic spot for catching the sunset and it was truly one of the best sunsets I have seen in my life!
Do leave before the sun completely sets as it gets very dark, and can be quite a challenge to drive out.
Trekking time: 10mins return
There are a few paths one can take to reach the peak of The Pinnacle. We chose to hike up The Pinnacle via The Grand Canyon, starting at the Wonderland Carpark. The Grand Canyon is a trail within a picturesque valley that would have you stopping for pictures almost every minute. Although the trail was pretty rocky, it was still a pretty well-paved walkway.
*Pro-tip: Wear shoes with better grip. Even though there are man-made pathways, there are still areas that are rocky and not flat.
If you prefer an easier hike, start off at the Sundial car park, especially if you have young children, or ancient knees (like myself).
Bring some food along as there are many opportunities during the hike for a pit stop to recharge!
Follow these yellow arrows to find your way to the peak. These are especially helpful if you want to climb in the dark, to catch the sunrise or after sunset.
Have Dinner at Spirit of Punjab (Indian Food)
Photo credit: VisitLanarkShire
We were pretty lucky this place was open till pretty late since all the other restaurants tend to close around 5 – 6PM. If you’re craving for spicy food, check out this gem of a place at Spirit of Punjab.
We had the Vindaloo (AU$23.99) which was a chef-recommended dish, Butter Chicken (AUS$23.99) and Sag Aloo (AU$23.50), which is a rich paste of spinach and potatoes. If you love spicy food, we challenge you to have a go at the Volcano Hot level. We ended up with the medium hot which was barely spicy 😉
Opening hours: 5PM – 9PM (Mon – Thu), 12PM – 9PM (Fri – Sun)
Drive to Melbourne Airport
If you have an evening flight on this day, make sure to buffer a 2.5-hour drive time back to the city. For those returning the car straight at the airport, you can return it at any time. However, if you’re planning to return the car back in the city, most car rental companies have a strict 6PM cut-off (not even a 5-minute grace). Try to avoid driving back at peak hour between 5 – 7PM as the jam can cause up to an hour of delay.
Road Trip Planning Tips
1) Groceries: Not only is eating out more expensive, many of the shops outside Melbourne close pretty early and you might find yourself stranded without any dinner. Make sure to find out where the major supermarkets are and schedule pit stops to stock up on food you can cook for dinner and breakfast the next morning. Sometimes, we’d even prepare a packable lunch.
*Note: You might want to keep dairy products off your shopping list unless they can be consumed on the same night. These will most definitely spoil when left in the car for an entire day #truestory.
2) Accommodation: If you’re travelling in a group, apartments are not too pricey and usually come with a fully stocked kitchen so that you can cook your own meals.
3) Connectivity: Connectivity along The Great Ocean Road and in the Grampians can be spotty. Preload your Google Maps at major cities in case you find yourself out of service.
4) Flexibility: Do not pack your road trip schedule too tightly as plans might change due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances.
5) Pack lightly: Since you’ll be changing accommodations almost every day, try not to pack too much for the road!
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Hope you found this Melbourne road trip itinerary useful! Leave a comment below if you have other recommendations.
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