12 places you have to see between Melbourne and Sydney

Most people travelling between Melbourne and Sydney take the Hume Highway, the large motorway cutting through Australia’s south-east. It’s the fastest option, but if you’d rather take your time, another longer and less frequented route would be perfect for you: the Princes Highway. For about 1,000 kilometers, this road which follows the coast for most of its itinerary will allow you to discover stunning beaches, cute towns, and even a koala island! So if you’re going on a road trip in this part of Australia, here are 12 places you have to see from Melbourne to Sydney along the Princes Highway.

1/ Wilsons Promontory National Park

This national park is not located directly along the Princes Highway which passes further north. It remains nonetheless an unmissable stop for a day or two, only 3 hours south of Melbourne. There are many gorgeous beaches along the coast of Wilsons Prom, the affectionate nickname given to it by Melburnians. The most famous is called Squeaky Beach. You have to walk barefoot on it to understand where that name comes from! The sand is so pure there that friction with the skin creates this astonishing “squeak”. I recommend to hike to the beach from Tidal River, the main campsite of the park. The trail that leads there is absolutely stunning!

If you want to get a different perspective, you can also climb to the summit of Mount Oberon, 558m high. The hike itself is a bit long and not very interesting, but the 360° view over the park from the top is breathtaking.

Wilsons Prom is home to a great diversity of wildlife, including a large population of wombats. If you want to observe this large and somewhat grumpy-looking marsupial, look for its excrements. The wombat has the strange characteristic of producing cubic-shaped droppings! You might be lucky to come across one on the Wildlife Walk north of the park, where you can also see kangaroos and emus.

Finally, the southernmost point of continental Australia is also located in Wilsons Prom. Only experienced hikers can access it though as you’ll have to walk more than 20km from Tidal River to get there.

2/ Raymond Island

After wombats, koalas! This small island in the Gippsland Lakes region is also nicknamed “Koala Island”. 32 of these marsupials were introduced there in the 1950s, and they found themselves particularly comfortable as there are now more than 200!

Access to the island is by ferry from Paynesville. The 5-minute crossing is free for pedestrians, not for vehicules, but you won’t need one there anyway. A few paths allow you to explore the island, including the aptly named “Koala Trail”. Keep your eyes wide open and you’ll have no trouble seeing some!

You can also spot kangaroos on Raymond Island, as well as dozens of birds (lorikeets, cockatoos, kookaburras…). Finally, I strongly advise you to carry a mosquito repellent. It might be very useful…

3/ Lakes Entrance

Get ready to be amazed when arriving at Lakes Entrance from Melbourne! Just before the road dips down towards the town, several observation platforms offer magnificent views over the maze of islands and inlets below, these saltwater “lakes” which gave their name to the town and the region.

Less than 4 hours away from Melbourne via the Princes Highway, Lakes Entrance is a very popular holiday destination. The town is full of bars, restaurants and cafés (excellent service at the Funkey Monkey Café on Myer Street!), and the promenade along the inlet is very pleasant. A pedestrian bridge allows you to reach the dune strip just opposite. On the sea side, a long white sand beach. On the dune side, a beautiful 5km round trip walk which takes you to the actual “Lakes Entrance”: a narrow channel which connects the ocean to the lakes. The current is extremely strong, and you can observe seals, pelicans, and even dolphins if you are lucky.

4/ Eden

Shortly after Lakes Entrance, the Princes Highway enters a huge eucalyptus forest which it will not leave for tens of kilometers. The landscape is beautiful at the beginning, but then begins to be a bit monotonous… Arriving in Eden in New South Wales thus becomes a real event! Even if it’s not the most extraordinary place on that road trip, this town and its picturesque harbour is worth a stopover.

The history of Eden is intimately linked to… killer whales. From the second half of the 19th century until the 1930s, a group of killer whales “cooperated” with human whalers. When a whale was approaching, the orcas alerted the fishermen by hitting the water with their fins and shepherd the unfortunate victim towards the coast. The men then took it upon themselves to harpoon it. In exchange they gave the tongue and lips of the whales they killed to the orcas. The skeleton of the most famous of them, Old Tom, is nowadays on display at the Killer Whale Museum (which I didn’t visit so I don’t know if it’s worth a tour). But I did go to the small peninsula south of the city. The view over the bay and the ocean is superb, and between May and November you might get the chance to observe whales (which can now migrate peacefully!).

5/ Between Eden and Narooma

There aren’t any extraordinary places on this part of the coast, but several brief stops that deserve to be mentioned. The first is just a few kilometres north of Eden. Turn right on a gravel road, then do the short walk to the Pinnacles, astonishing red, ochre and white cliffs along the coast.

The Pinnacles close to Eden

Shortly after, the Princes Highway turns inland, but I recommend to keep following the coast via the Sapphire Coast Drive. In Bermagui, have a look at the Blue Pool, an open-air saltwater swimming pool. It has been built in the 1930s so that the swimmers of the region could practice.

Finally, just before getting back on the Princes Highway, stop at Wallaga Lake for another short walk. You’ll be able to admire Camel Rock and Horse Head Rock, which respectively look like… a camel and a horse head, as you probably guessed it!

6/ Narooma

I admit that I stopped in Narooma for only one reason, but a pretty good reason: observing the colony of sea lions that live in the rocks at the entrance of the harbour. A colourful and very endearing sight!

A little bit later as I was having lunch further inside the bay, I was able to observe one of these sea lions fishing in the very shallow waters just off the shore. The sight was no longer endearing at all… She had transformed into a real killing machine, chasing a school of small fishes with unbelievable speed and agility!

7/ South Durras

Wombats, koalas, killer whales, sea lions… and kangaroos! In the village of South Durras, look for the boat ramp. All around the parking lot, on the lawns and in the clearings between the trees, you’ll see many Eastern grey kangaroos, not at all afraid of humans and actually very curious!

If you’d like to spend a bit more time in South Durras, the stroll to Emily Miller beach is very nice and not much frequented.

8/ Jervis Bay

This is one of the most amazing places of this entire road trip, an unmissable spot on the coast of New South Wales! Located only 3 hours south of Sydney, Jervis Bay is mostly famous for its beaches. The legend even says that one of them, Hyams Beach, was officially awarded “whitest sand in the world” by the Guinness Book of records… except that it’s a hoax! This category doesn’t even exist, but the beaches of Jervis Bay are gorgeous nonetheless.

Before going to see what they look like, I recommend to take a detour to the village of Huskisson. Right next to the Visitor Center is the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum (I haven’t visited it but it looks really interesting) as well as the Mangrove Boardwalk. It consists in a very well-appointed wooden pontoon which allows you to immerse yourself in the heart of a tropical mangrove. You would almost expect to see a crocodile appear!

The bay is bounded to the north-east by the Beecroft Peninsula. A large part of this peninsula serves as military terrain and is closed to access, but a dirt road crosses it towards the lighthouse of Point Perpendicular, perched on top of 91m high cliffs.

From there, a quite steep path goes down to the Outer Tubes. The sight of the waves constantly crashing at the foot of the cliffs is very impressive…

Still on the peninsula, don’t miss the gorgeous cove of Honeymoon Bay and its perfect round shape. Several kangaroos were laying on the lawn next to it when I went there.

Finally, don’t leave Jervis Bay without visiting Booderee National Park, to the south of the bay. It’s one of my highlights of Australia! There is an entry fee ($13 per vehicle, valid for 48 hours), but it’s worth it, believe me. If you want to know why, take the road leading to the Green Patch camping area. There, all around the picnic tables, you’ll find dozens of birds of many colours. Lorikeets, parakeets, cockatoos, and even kookaburras, not shy at all! But they are still wild animals so please do not feed them. This makes them dependent on humans, and can be harmful to their health.

9/ Nowra

A few kilometers north of Jervis Bay, Nowra deserves a brief halt for its street art trail. Several murals by recognised artists adorn the walls of the city center, including the portrait of an Aboriginal face painted by the very talented Adnate. More details about the trail on the website of the Visitor Centre.

10/ Fitzroy Falls

Just after Nowra, I recommend to leave the Princes Highway again. This time, turn inland towards Kangaroo Valley and Fitzroy Falls. The winding road that leads there is stunning. In the middle of lush vegetation and with occasional views over the surrounding valleys, it is a real feast for the eyes! But the sight that awaits you at the end is even more spectacular. After a few minutes’ walk from the car park (which is sadly quite expensive), a path takes you on top of the Fitzroy Falls, a gorgeous 81m high waterfall.

You absolutely need to take the path which continues to the right towards another observation platform, opposite the falls. The panorama is simply breathtaking, a taste of the wonders of the Blue Mountains further north.

11/ Sea Cliff Bridge

From the large metropolitan area of Wollongong, you will have the choice between taking the M1 motorway towards Sydney, or following the Lawrence Hargrave Drive along the coast. I recommend this second option, for the splendid views you’ll get over the Pacific Ocean, but mostly for the extraordinary Sea Cliff Bridge. Inaugurated in 2005, this several hundred meter long structure overlooking the waves 41 meters below is a real architectural masterpiece.

From the Rube Hargrave Park just ahead of the southern extremity of the bridge, a slightly hidden path allows you to reach a viewpoint with a fabulous panorama. But good luck to find a parking spot, especially on weekends or during school holidays…

12/ Royal National Park

Last but again not the least stop of this road trip! The Royal National Park is simply the oldest national park of Australia, and the second oldest in the world (created in 1879, only Yellowstone in the US is 7 years older). Being so close to Sydney, it’s also of course one of the most popular!

There are dozens of activities and strolls to do in Royal National Park. I will only focus on one here though, the hike leading to the Figure 8 Pools. Behind this strange name hides a series of small natural pools at the foot of the cliffs, including one looking like the number 8. Their rounded edges and perfect shape give the impression that they were created by man, but not at all. It is only due to the slow process of erosion!

They’re not super easy to reach. Park at the Garrawarra Farm car park, then take the quite steep path going down to Burning Palms Beach (the way back specifically is quite difficult). From there you just have to cross the beach and follow the foot of the cliffs to get there. Please note that access is only possible at low tide! The pools are covered by water at high tide. Waves can also be powerful and dangerous at any time, so use extreme caution.

This is how this road trip from Melbourne to Sydney along the Princes Highway ends. Have you ever visited this part of Australia? Do you know any other unmissable places that I forgot to mention? Let me know in the comments!

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