Doing the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road


If you’re planning to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide, there are a couple of ways you can do it but most travelers will be looking for one of two options—the option that will get them there fastest, or the option that will be the most enjoyable.

Here’s a run-down of what you can expect during the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide whether you decide to take the short route or the scenic route.

Drive from Melbourne to Adelaide
Doing the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide

The short route

If time is of the essence, the short route can be easily done in one day getting you from Melbourne to Adelaide in around 8 hours. Taking the A8 Western Highway (on the Victorian side of the border) and Dukes Highway (on the South Australian side), this route will take you through the major regional city of Ballarat and some other country towns like Ararat, Stawell, Horsham, Nhill and Bordertown.

If you’re hoping to make some sight-seeing stops along the way, the short route probably isn’t for you as there aren’t a lot of attractions to entice you along the way. Other than stopping for a bite to eat at a bakery, cafe or pub in one of the towns or stopping for a quick selfie with the Giant Koala in Dadswells Bridge just before Horsham, the drive isn’t an ideal tourist route.

The scenery is also much the same for almost the entire journey, so it’s a smart idea to stock up on plenty of music to keep you entertained or do the trip with someone else so you can alternate drivers to avoid driver fatigue.

The scenic route

If rather take your time and make the most of the journey, you’ll appreciate taking the longer scenic route along the Great Ocean Road.

The world-renowned Great Ocean Road coastal drive is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime, famed for its breathtaking ocean views, sandy surf beaches, rocky cliff faces and the 12 Apostles rock stacks.

While it is possible to do the drive in a single day (it would take around 12 hours non-stop), that would defeat the purpose of opting for the scenic route. A good approach is to break up the journey over several days, with at least one or two overnight stops along the way.

Unlike the short route, you’ll be spoilt for choice when choosing a location for an overnight stay. To help you plan your journey, here are a few spots you might want to include on your journey:

  • Apollo Bay: Surrounded by the lush Otway Ranges, the coastal township is a favorite for surfers and beach-goers alike.
  • Port Fairy: The last destination on the Shipwreck Coast, this quaint fishing village will draw you in with its charming historic cottages and towering Norfolk pines.
  • Beachport or Robe: You’ll find it hard not to feel relaxed when you take a pit-stop in either of these beautiful coastal towns, ideal for fishing-enthusiasts and holiday-goers.
  • Mount Gambier: Caves, volcanoes, lakes, ocean, wildlife and a bustling city center…need I say more?
  • Coonawarra: This famed wine region has B&Bs and cellar doors a-plenty and is also within easy reach of the impressive Naracoorte Caves.
  • Victor Harbour: A well-known coastal town with an impressive waterfront and unique horse-drawn tram which crosses the Causeway between the mainland and nearby Granite Island. Within easy reach of Adelaide, you can then opt to head to the big smoke via Strathalbyn or the McLarenvale wine region.
  • Kangaroo Island: While you’ll need to venture away from the mainland, if you have the time, catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island and spend a couple of days exploring the breathtaking natural landscapes.

Whichever way you decide to do it, there’s a drive to suit every type of traveler. It’s just up to you to decide which route most appeals to you.

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Paul Osborne