- Spend a few days exploring Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia
- Explore Sydney's top attractions during a fun bike tour (with a pub stop)
- Cuddle with koalas and walk with penguins on Phillip Island
- Drive to the best beaches, trails, and towns on Australia's east coast
|Day 1||Arrive in Melbourne, Explore||Melbourne|
|Day 2||Laneways & Arcades Tour, Melbourne Sporting Tour||Melbourne|
|Day 3||Drive from Melbourne to Phillip Island, Penguin Parade||Phillip Island|
|Day 4||Drive from Phillip Island to Metung||Metung|
|Day 5||Drive from Metung to Gipsy Point||Gipsy Point|
|Day 6||Drive from Gipsy Point to Tilba||Tilba Tilba|
|Day 7||Drive from Tilba to Jervis Bay||Jervis Bay|
|Day 8||Drive from Jervis Bay to Sydney, Explore||Sydney|
|Day 9||Sydney Bike & Opera House Tour||Sydney|
|Day 10||Morning Tea Cruise, Harbour Bridge Climb||Sydney|
|Day 11||Drive from Sydney to Port Macquarie||Port Macquarie|
|Day 12||Drive from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour||Coffs Harbour|
|Day 13||Drive from Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay||Byron Bay|
|Day 14||Drive from Byron Bay to the Gold Coast||Gold Coast|
|Day 15||Depart Australia|
Day 1: Arrive in Melbourne, ExploreWelcome to Australia! Your adventure starts in Melbourne, a city of over five million people that's a melting pot of diversity and a paradise for food and wine lovers. Sitting on the banks of the Birrarung (Yarra) River, it also has a long and rich Aboriginal heritage. Ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, Melbourne is famous for its great restaurants, fashion boutiques, bohemian laneways, cool bars, art galleries, and more. Upon arrival at the airport, your driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall. From there, you'll transfer to your hotel in the city.
Day 2: Laneways & Arcades Tour, Melbourne Sporting Tour
After breakfast at your hotel, head out on a guided three-hour tour of Melbourne's historic laneways and shopping arcades. Your first stops are Degraves Street, a busy pedestrian laneway home to boutiques, cafés, and restaurants, and the heritage Royal Arcade, which dates to 1870 and is the oldest surviving arcade in Australia. Then, stop at Flinders Lane—known for its contemporary art galleries, chic bars, and fine-dining restaurants—before arriving at Hosier Lane with colorful street art. As a bonus, the tour also includes beverages and tastings.After lunch, enjoy a tour that showcases why this city is the sporting capital of Australia. The Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct features venues hosting everything from football and Formula 1 to tennis and cricket. Also here is the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG), the biggest cricket stadium in the world. It's home to the Australian Sports Museum, which utilizes the latest technology so you can experience some of the greatest moments in Australian sporting history.
Day 3: Drive from Melbourne to Phillip Island, Penguin Parade
This morning you'll hop in your rental car and embark on the first leg of this grand road-trip adventure. Today's route runs 88 miles (141 km) southeast out of Melbourne to get to Phillip Island. The drive takes about two hours, but you can stop along the way at a working cattle and sheep farm to experience country living. Another optional stop is the Maru Koala and Animal Park where you can visit the koala enclosure to pet and hand-feed these friendly animals.Once on Phillip Island, head south to Cape Woolamai, a popular surf destination and a great place for a stroll along the rugged coast. You can also visit the smaller Churchill Island for a tour of a historic homestead and gardens, which date to 1872. If you want more time with koalas, head to Koala Conservation Centre, where you can watch the animals from an elevated boardwalk. If you're interested in motorsports, take a quick detour to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.
Continue to the north of the island and the town of Cowes, which is a great place to stop for lunch. From there you can visit Seal Rocks and the Nobbies, which are home to Australia's largest colony of fur seals. At dusk, head to an underground viewing area to witness the natural phenomena of the Penguin Parade on floodlit Summerland Beach. Through the viewing window, you'll watch as thousands of little penguins waddle back from the sea to their burrows, greeting their partners and neighbors as they arrive. Afterward, transfer to your hotel on the island.
Day 4: Drive from Phillip Island to MetungIn the morning, you'll leave Phillip Island and stop at the adjacent port town of San Remo. Arrive before noon and you'll get to see the daily feeding of flocks of pelicans on the wharf. After the break, continue driving on today's 190-mile (305 km) route east to the coastal town of Metung. The trip takes almost four hours, but you'll be able to stop at worthy locales along the way.
One highlight is the Latrobe Regional Gallery in Morwell, which showcases contemporary Australian art. There's also the Centenary Rose Garden, which features more than 260 varieties in 110 beds. When you get hungry, stop in the city of Traralgon and spoil yourself with some of the finest food and wine in the region at Neilsons Kitchen, Narkoojee Winery, or Traralgon Vineyard. If time permits, travel to historic Walhalla, a tiny, former gold-mining town of fewer than 20 residents that has been lovingly preserved.
Continue on the Princes Highway (A1) toward the small city of Bairnsdale, the gateway to the famous Gippsland Lakes. Located near the ocean, this vast expanse of inland lakes and rivers is popular for fishing, boating, and water sports. Here, you'll follow the highway to Metung, a storybook village on a narrow sandy peninsula on the shores of the lakes. After checking in to your hotel you can head out for a stroll along the boardwalk or set up a deckchair near the water and do a bit of fishing. You can also take a swim at Metung Beach and later enjoy dinner in town.
Day 5: Drive from Metung to Gipsy PointAfter breakfast, you'll continue up the coast for 130 miles (209 km) to Gipsy Point, a holiday retreat on the Genoa River. The route you'll follow on the A1 highway takes about three hours non-stop, but you can stop along the way at scenic areas. One popular spot is Ninety Mile Beach, where the Gippsland Lakes meet the Southern Ocean. Besides the beautiful beach, the area is also a commercial fishing area so you can expect world-class seafood. Here you can relax on the beach or take a kayak or paddleboat ride on the inland lakes.
Continue up the highway to the town of Orbost, where you can visit an 1872 pioneer hut that now houses the tourist information center. You'll also find Sailor's Grave Brewery located in an old butter factory for an exciting range of craft beer. Then drive to the northern edge of the state of Victoria and Gipsy Point. This area is known for its unspoiled coastline and forest, which is a haven for wildlife. There are 280 species of birds in the area, including white-bellied sea eagles, Gippsland water dragons, lyrebirds, kingfishers, and more. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel and relax.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Drive from Gipsy Point to TilbaIn the morning, you'll leave the state of Victoria as you head north into New South Wales. Today's route will take you 115 miles (185 km) up the coast to the folksy town of Tilba. This well-preserved 19th-century village in the coastal mountains is classified as a heritage site as it's filled with historic buildings.
Continue up the highway to Merimbula, a coastal town sitting on its own lake. This is a great place to enjoy a lunch of fresh seafood at one of the town's many restaurants and cafés. On the last leg of the drive, you'll pass the town of Bega, whose surrounding valley is a hub of dairy production. Eventually, you'll arrive in the picture-postcard Tilba region and the town of the same name. Here you can admire colonial timber cottages as you browse charming shops and galleries, savor local produce, and stroll through local gardens. At the end of the day, retire to your hotel.
Day 7: Drive from Tilba to Jervis BayAfter breakfast, you'll drive three hours north from Tilba to Jervis Bay, a 39-sq-mile (102 sq km) bay and coastal village. The route covers 165 miles (266 km) up the A1 Highway toward the town of Narooma. If time permits, visit Narooma's main beach to see the Glasshouse Rocks and Pillow Lava ancient rock formations. Perhaps hire a kayak from the marina and explore Wagonga Inlet or visit one of the cafés and restaurants along the shores of Corunna Lake.
Continue north up the A1 toward Batemans Bay. A fun stop on the way is the historic gold-mining village of Mogo. Here you can visit the Mogo Zoo, which is home to over 200 animals, including more than 39 rare and exotic species and the largest collection of primates in any private zoo in Australia. You'll then arrive in Batemans Bay, a charming seaside town in the heart of Australia's Oyster Coast. While here, be sure to try succulent Clyde River oysters and other fresh seafood at the numerous restaurants along the main street and the marina.
The rest of the drive will take you along Shoalhaven Coast, which is dotted with charming fishing towns and long empty beaches and coves. You can stop at Pebbly Beach, in Murramarang National Park, to see its famous kangaroos. There's also Mollymook, a great swimming beach that runs more than 1 mile (2 km) and offers fine white sands. After that, it's another hour north to the village in Jervis Bay, where more white-sand beaches await. Here you'll check in to your hotel.
Day 8: Drive from Jervis Bay to Sydney, ExploreIn the morning you'll begin the 129-mile (207-km) drive north to Sydney. It takes about three hours to drive up the A1 along a scenic stretch of road known as the Grand Pacific Drive. On the way, you can stop at lovely cities and towns like Nowra, whose river is popular for fishing and kayaking. Or there's the quaint township of Berry, which is a favorite weekend getaway for Sydneysiders due to its heritage buildings and rural charm. You should also visit Kiama, a seaside resort hemmed in by rolling green hills running down to golden beaches fronting azure ocean waters.
Other highlights in the region include the Kiama Blowhole, the 1-mile (1.5 km) Fly Treetop hike over the canopy of native forest. Continue up the A1 to the coastal city of Wollongong, home to the Buddhist Nan Tien Temple. From Wollongong, travel along Grand Pacific Drive, which passes along towering sea cliffs up through Royal National Park and into Sydney. Often mistaken as Australia's capital (that would be Canberra), this city boasts iconic waterfront sights, world-class culinary and nightlife scenes, and an array of beaches (well over 100).
Day 9: Sydney Bike & Opera House Tour
The Sydney Classic Bike Tour takes you to both iconic sights and hidden gems. Leave in the morning on an excursion led by a local guide who will provide expert commentary on the landmarks and areas you visit. Highlights include Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Hyde Park, Chinatown, Sydney Tower, Parliament House, Queen Victoria Building, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and more. An extra treat is that halfway through the tour, you'll make a pit stop at a local pub for a quick pint.
After the tour, head to the most famous building in the country: the Sydney Opera House. Construction on this masterpiece of 20th-century architecture (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) began in 1959 and took over 20 years to complete. Today, it's a multi-venue performing arts center that presents more than 2,000 shows to over 1.5 million audience members each year. On an hour-long guided tour, you'll go inside to learn all about the building's history and design, plus visit the main public spaces. Finish the tour and then have a drink at the waterfront Opera Bar.
Day 10: Morning Tea Cruise, Harbour Bridge ClimbBegin your day on the water with a sensational two-hour morning cruise that passes Sydney Harbour’s main attractions. During this small-group excursion, you'll navigate the city as your knowledgeable captain and expert crew entertain you while imparting knowledge about the major landmarks you see. Complimenting the trip is a beverage service that includes tea, coffee, and juice.
Leading you up this marvel of modern engineering will be an experienced climb leader. Along the way, you'll be treated to 360° views of the city, including east to the Opera House and west out to the Blue Mountains. At the end of the climb, you'll receive a photograph of your group, a personalized certificate, and a cap. You'll then have the rest of the day free to continue exploring the harbor area or return to your hotel.
Day 11: Drive from Sydney to Port MacquarieAfter breakfast, you'll say goodbye to Sydney and embark on the longest leg of the journey yet: a 240-mile (386 km) drive north to the coastal city of Port Macquarie. It begins when you leave Sydney via the northern suburbs of Chatswood, Pymble, and Wahroonga. Then turn on to the Pacific Motorway (M1) and continue north to the harbor city of Newcastle, which fronts a stunning coastline featuring beautiful beaches. Just north of Newcastle is Port Stephens, an area with 26 golden beaches, plus protected marine areas and national parks.
Continue up the Pacific Highway (A1) to Port Macquarie, where you'll check in to your hotel. This city, which sits on the mouth of the Hastings River, is known for its beaches and exotic wildlife, particularly its koala parks and rescue centers. You can enjoy other fun activities here, including a river cruise, a camel safari along the beach, or an easy .8-mile (1.3 km) hike along the Sea Acres Rainforest Boardwalk.
Day 12: Drive from Port Macquarie to Coffs HarbourIn the morning, head out on the two-hour drive north from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour. The 95-mile (153 km) route follows the Pacific Highway (AI) along the Legendary Pacific Coast Drive. If you like, stop along the way at Crescent Head, a seaside village with a famous surf beach. Nearby is the Hat Head National Park, which protects 28 square miles (74 sq km) of beaches, dunes, rainforests, and wetlands. Another highlight in the region is Smoky Cape Lighthouse. Dating to 1891 and standing 55 feet (17 m), it's one of the oldest and tallest lighthouses in New South Wales.
Continue along the Pacific Highway to the New England National Park and the Nambucca Valley. The area boasts over 12 miles (20 km) of coastline, virgin rainforest, and empty beaches. When you get hungry, stop at one of the many restaurants in Nambucca Heads and browse the museums, galleries, and craft markets.
The Pacific Highway will take you to Coffs Harbour, one of the busiest and largest cities along the Pacific Highway. After checking in to your hotel, head out and explore. A short drive from the city through banana plantations is the lofty Forest Sky Pier. This platform extends almost 72 feet (22 m) over rainforest escarpment and offers stunning views. Other attractions include the Solitary Islands Aquarium and the Butterfly House. On the easy Gumgali hiking trail, you can learn about Aboriginal culture and Dreamtime stories.
Day 13: Drive from Coffs Harbour to Byron BayAfter breakfast, you'll embark on the final leg of this epic Australian road trip. From Coffs Harbour, you'll drive 148 miles (239 km) up to Byron Bay, one of the most famous and beautiful coastal towns in New South Wales. Like the previous routes, this three-hour trip will take you up the Pacific Highway (A1) along the Legendary Pacific Coast Drive. As you travel along this first section of the A1, you'll pass many popular stretches of sand, like Sapphire Beach, Emerald Beach, and Sandy Beach. Feel free to stop at any one of them to soak up the sun and enjoy the views.
Continue along the Pacific Highway through the 19th-century river port town Ulmarra. The town has a relaxed feel, with many cafés, restaurants, and historic landmarks, like the Yamba Lighthouse, which was built in 1880. Next, you can stop in Ballina. This town on the Richmond River is a popular holiday destination that offers family-friendly beaches and other attractions. If you like, stretch your legs along Ballina's 2-mile (4 km) riverfront trail, visit its museums, or grab a coffee at one of the cafés in town.
Drive 30 more minutes north from Ballina to Byron Bay. With its stunning natural attractions and welcoming community, this is one of the world's most famous coastal towns. You'll be captivated by its gorgeous beaches (and residents), coastal trails, and buzzing food scene. After checking in to your hotel, feel free to enjoy popular activities like kayaking along the coast or embarking on the Cape Byron walking track, an easy 2.3-mile (3.7 km) loop.
Day 14: Drive from Byron Bay to the Gold CoastIn the morning, hop back in the car for the 1.5-hour drive from Byron Bay north up to the Gold Coast. This 57-mile (92 km) route follows the Pacific Motorway (M1) along the last section of the Legendary Pacific Coast Drive that runs from Sydney up to Brisbane. If time permits, stop at Ocean Shores, a coastal town with a strong Aboriginal heritage and lovely creeks. Further north is Tropical Fruit World, a working farm with the largest variety of tropical fruits in the world. If time permits, stop at nearby Kingscliff, a popular beach holiday destination for Australians due to its gorgeous stretch of white-sand beach.
Continue to Tweed Heads, a river town located at the border with Queensland. If you like, stop here to take a rainforest cruise. Then continue up to the coastal suburb of Coolangatta, the gateway to the Gold Coast. Perhaps head over to the surf club here where you can enjoy lunch overlooking Coolangatta Beach. Then drive into the Gold Coast area, traveling up to Southport, another coastal suburb home to more incredible beaches like Burleigh Heads, Palm Beach, Mermaid Beach, Broadbeach, and the famous Surfers Paradise. Later, check in to your Gold Coast hotel and enjoy your last evening of the trip!