This eight-day self-drive itinerary takes you on a road trip across southern Australia, combining spectacular nature with cosmopolitan city stops. Kick off in creative Melbourne before hitting the road for Phillip Island to meet the wild penguins. Next, drive the Great Ocean Road and see the Twelve Apostles from land and the sky (on a scenic helicopter tour). Continue to vibrant Adelaide, then onto the rugged Grampians mountains. See ancient Aboriginal art and Ballarat's gold rush history before handing over the car keys.


  • Drive the world-famous Great Ocean Road, then take a helicopter flight
  • Witness little penguins waddle up the beach at Phillip Island
  • Explore the southern cities of Melbourne and Adelaide
  • Discover the rugged landscape as you hike through Grampians National Park
  • Explore gold rush history at Ballarat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Melbourne, Pick Up Rental Car Melbourne
Day 2 Drive to Phillip Island, Visit the Koala Conservation Reserve & View Penguins Phillip Island
Day 3 Return to Melbourne, Free Time Melbourne
Day 4 Drive the Great Ocean Road to Mount Gambier via Scenic Helicopter Flight Mount Gambier
Day 5 Drive to Adelaide, Central Market Lunch Tour, Free Time Adelaide
Day 6 Drive to the Grampians Halls Gap
Day 7 Return to Melbourne via Ballarat, Sovereign Hill & Melbourne Skydeck Melbourne
Day 8 Depart Melbourne  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Melbourne, Pick Up Rental Car

Sunrise in Melbourne
Sunrise in Melbourne

G'day and welcome to Australia! Clear customs, collect your luggage, and pick up your rental car. Remember to drive on the left-hand side while Down Under. You've landed in Melbourne, the coastal capital of the Australian state of Victoria. More than five million people make this creative, cool city a melting pot of diversity and a paradise for food and wine lovers. The city is also a gateway to unspoiled national parks, stunning coastlines, and golden beaches. 

There's culture, beauty, and fun to spare here—and today is yours to explore. Seek out arts at Federation Square, Melbourne's premier arts and culture venue, or try the Arts Centre Melbourne in Southbank, where you'll find a group of arts venues that include the National Gallery of Victoria. Wander the waterfront along the lovely Yarra / Birrarung River to find great restaurants, or slip down a city laneway in search of hidden bars and speakeasies. No matter where you go in Melbourne, expect to find gems around every corner.

Day 2: Drive to Phillip Island, Visit the Koala Conservation Reserve & View Penguins

Phillip Island Scenery
Phillip Island has beautiful walks and wildlife to explore

Wave goodbye to the city as your cruise south to Phillip Island. A nice stop along the two-hour drive is the Royal Botanic Garden in Cranbourne, with its landscaped native Australian gardens. Ideally, time your trip to see the pelican feeding time in San Remo at midday and stop for lunch at the San Remo Fisherman's Co-op. Finally, you'll reach Phillip Island, famous for the cute wild penguins that waddle up the beach every night—but there is much more to explore on the small island.

Start by wandering the spectacular cliff-top boardwalks at The Nobbies. Just offshore here is Seal Rocks, home to Australia's largest Australian fur seal colony. Enjoy spectacular views from Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island's highest point. Walking tracks lead to the Pinnacles and the Cape Woolamai Lighthouse, Swan Lake, and Pyramid Rock. Head into the treetops to greet koalas at the Koala Conservation Centre. Then, meet the island's most famous residents. Enjoy an up-close experience as little penguins parade up the shore from a specially designed penguin viewing platform.

Day 3: Return to Melbourne, Free Time

Phillip Island Scenery
Laneways of vibrant Melbourne city

Enjoy the morning at your leisure, ticking off any fun activities you missed yesterday. When you're ready, start driving north back to Melbourne. If you missed the pelican feeding yesterday, put it on the agenda for today!

Back in the city, there is so much to see and do. Dive back into the arts and culture scene, catch a game of AFL (Australian Rules Football) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, get a taste of the city's famous coffee scene, wander the vibrant Queen Victoria Markets, take a trip to the Melbourne Zoo, or visit the Melbourne Museum to learn about the city's history and natural environment.

Day 4: Drive the Great Ocean Road to Mount Gambier via Scenic Helicopter Flight

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12 Apostles
Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road

One of Australia's most famous things to do is drive the Great Ocean Road. This scenic 149-mile (240 km) stretch of coastline offers spectacular ocean vistas that contrast with serene green foliage. Look in the gum trees, where you'll likely spot the occasional koala hanging from the branches! The dramatic and impressive coastline is home to natural landmarks, such as the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorg, with its trails, blowholes, and towering cliffs. This drive is a great way to experience Australia's natural beauty and coastal culture.

After a few hours, you'll reach Port Fairy for a memorable flight over the Great Ocean Road in a luxury helicopter. Take in new angles of the Twelve Apostles and uncover hidden gems with your experienced pilot. Appreciate the dramatic views of cliffs, craggy stacks, pristine bays, and crashing waves during the 25-minute flight. Jump back in the car and continue to Mount Gambier, your final stop for the evening.

Day 5: Drive to Adelaide, Central Market Lunch Tour, Free Time

Adelaide Central Market Delicious Lunch Tour
Adelaide Central Market is a delicious place to explore

Rise early today as there is a big drive ahead. Your destination is Adelaide, where a local will lead you around the famous 150-year-old fresh produce market at lunch. Be immersed as you taste and dine your way through South Australia's multicultural and culinary history. During the Adelaide Central Market tour, you'll meet artisan food producers and stallholders whose families have traded in the market for generations. This experience is seriously fun for those passionate about great food and the people who grow it. After, enjoy a delicious market café lunch.

The rest of the day is yours to enjoy the relaxed capital city of South Australia. Adelaide is famous for its huge cultural festivals, such as Adelaide Fringe and WOMADelaide, and the nearby wine regions. Explore the city's rich history and architecture at the Adelaide Oval, Victoria Square, and the State Library of South Australia. Drop into a wine bar or city cellar door to taste Adelaide's world-class wines from the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Alternatively, drive to the coast and stroll the beaches of Glenelg or Henley. Or meet native Australian animals up close and visit the Cleland Wildlife Park.

Day 6: Drive to the Grampians

The Grampians - Scenery
Looking out over the valley and mountains below from the Boroka Lookout in the Grampians

After breakfast, it's time to get ready for a day on the road, heading east. Your final destination is the Grampians, a six-hour drive away, but there are a few excellent stops to break up the trip and stretch your legs. Stop at Coonalpyn, a small country town famous for its giant painted grain silos. Painted by renowned Australian street artist Guido van Helten, the murals depict five local people. Later, stop at Bordertown, where the local wildlife park is home to unique white kangaroos. You could also stop at the famous Pink Lake near Dimboola, a salt lake that gains its color from the algae.

Finally, continue on the grand and rugged mountain range of the Grampians. Use the rest of the day to explore Grampians National Park on foot. This destination is popular with outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, with many tracks that lead to dazzling waterfalls and awe-inspiring lookouts. Expect to see diverse flora and fauna, including kangaroos, wallabies, and echidnas. Some favorite natural landmarks to explore include the breathtaking MacKenzie Falls and the impressive Balconies Lookout.

Day 7: Return to Melbourne via Ballarat, Sovereign Hill & Melbourne Skydeck

Ballarat Town
Sovereign Hill, an open-air museum in Ballarat

Make your return to Melbourne today. Along the way, make a stop at the Bunjil Shelter, a significant Aboriginal artwork site in the Black Range Scenic Reserve. After 1.5 hours in the car, reach Ballarat, the largest inland city in Victoria with a rich heritage and a thriving contemporary arts and food scene. Explore Sovereign Hill, an open-air museum that recreates the former gold-mining town of Ballarat in the 1850s after its gold discovery. Here costumed characters bring the shops, hotels, theater, underground mines, etc., to life over 10 hectares (25 acres) of the original mining site.

When you're ready, continue the drive to Melbourne. End your Australia adventure nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) above the ground from the Southern Hemisphere's highest viewing attraction, the Melbourne Skydeck, to see the city come alive. Enjoy champagne and 360-degree panoramic views as you watch a special day become your final night in Australia.

Day 8: Depart Melbourne

Depart Australia
Flinders Street Train Station in Melbourne at sunset

It's time to say farewell—your grand holiday in Australia concludes today. When the time is right, return to the airport to drop off your rental car and catch your flight home. Safe travels!

More Great Australia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Australia? Check out these other Australia itineraries, explore different ways to spend eight days in Australia, or discover the best time to visit Australia


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Map of Southern Australia Road Trip: Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Phillip Island & Adelaide - 8 Days
Map of Southern Australia Road Trip: Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Phillip Island & Adelaide - 8 Days