Sydney Melbourne Heritage Drive
Melbourne to Sydney via Canberra
1117 km/694 miles, about 13.25 hours
Chart a course from Melbourne to Sydney on The Sydney Melbourne Heritage Drive via the nation's capital, Canberra. Travel through historic gold rush towns, hit the greens on local golf courses and sample varietals at award-winning wineries. Drive across the Goldfields region and continue on to the mighty Murray River, home to the world's largest fleet of paddle steamers. The galleries and gardens of Canberra are next, and then it's on to New South Wales and Sydney, with its iconic landmarks the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, and famous Bondi Beach.
Melbourne to Bendigo
154 km/95 miles, about 2 hours
The towns and villages between Melbourne and Bendigo are renowned for their antique shops that overflow with treasures, including furniture, silver, china, paintings and bric-a-brac.
To see antiques in situ, visit the historic home Buda in Castlemaine. The legacy of the gold-rush boom is present in the historic buildings throughout Castlemaine, and the old-world charm and the National Trust-listed streetscape in the tiny town of Maldon.
Piper Street in Kyneton has a small cluster of antique shops. The town also boasts mineral springs and 19th-century botanic gardens, plus The Provender, one of the new breed of bookshop cafés.
Hanging Rock, the haunting backdrop to the Picnic at Hanging Rock book and film, is near Woodend, a town with an historic streetscape featuring a number of heritage buildings and a clock tower.
From Woodend weave your way through the tree-lined streets and magnificent gardens of Mount Macedon. Overnight in cottage accommodation or a fine English-style pub, and call in to sample local wines at the cellar doors of boutique wineries. At the summit of the mountain, a short walk from the car park, is the Memorial Cross and several lookouts, from which you can see as far as Melbourne on a clear day.
Bendigo to Echuca-Moama
92 km/57 miles, about 1.25 hours
Bendigo, one hour south of Echuca, outstripped Melbourne in size when gold was first discovered there in the mid-1800s. See the legacy of that period's influx of tens of thousands of Chinese gold diggers at the Golden Dragon Museum (home to the world's longest dragon), the Joss House temple, classic Chinese gardens and the Chinese section of the White Hills Cemetery.
Bendigo's early wealth is evident in its beautiful Victorian-era sandstone buildings, century-old gardens and established trees. The grand historic hotels provide sumptuous accommodation, and sidewalk cafes, art galleries and fine food, wine and antique stores line the streets. The Bendigo Regional Gallery, a former riflemen’s orderly room, features an excellent collection of international and Australian work by artists including Sir Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts and Arthur Boyd.
Take a 60-metre elevator trip beneath the heart of Bendigo to experience the operating Central Deborah Gold Mine on a one-hour tour that follows a 400-metre underground circuit. Then catch the Bendigo Heritage Tram from the front door of the mine for a travelling commentary of Bendigo’s major sights.
Bendigo Pottery, Australia's oldest working pottery, has a sales gallery, interpretive museum, heritage-listed kilns, wheel throwing lessons, demonstrations and a Clay Play area for kids. Head to the nearby Bendigo and Heathcote wine regions, famous for their fine shiraz.
HighlightsThings to doArt and cultureVisit renowned regional galleries, featuring local, national and international artists or visit one of the oldest and grandest theatres in Victoria.GoldfieldsFood and wineDiscover fine cuisine, three great wine regions and the local farm. Sample the best of organic fruit and vegetables and delicious gourmet cheeses.
Echuca-Moama to Albury Wodonga
244 km/152 miles, about 3 hours
Echuca-Moama is the paddle steamer capital of Australia. Relax in one of Echuca-Moama's B&Bs or cruise the calm waters of the river in a houseboat, enjoy quality local produce and wine at first-class restaurants, and explore the nearby Barmah Wetlands, where you can skipper a cruise boat or admire the largest single stand of river red gum left on earth.
The sandy beaches and expansive 365-kilometre shoreline of nearby Lake Hume make it a popular destination for sunbaking, picnicking and fishing.
Corowa's superb 27-hole golf course rates in Australia’s top 100. Further west across the border at Yarrawonga is the 45-hole Yarrawonga and Border Golf Club, the largest public golfing complex in the Southern Hemisphere. Nearby is the Cobram-Barooga Golf Club and Rich River Golf and Country Club.
A 40-minute drive downstream takes you to picturesque Rutherglen, one of Australia's oldest wine-growing regions. The Rutherglen Wine Experience & Visitor Information Centre is a good place to sample the region's famous fortifieds, tokays and muscats.
Albury Wodonga is a thriving modern city with a leisurely country style. Featuring a mix of stately heritage buildings, parks and treelined streets, the famous Murray River flows between the twin cities and through a magnificent unspoiled landscape of rolling valleys, hills and lush farmlands.
HighlightsWine regionsRutherglen wine regionSpend a few days in and around Rutherglen exploring the 21 cellar doors in close proximity. Sample the iconic fortifieds and a new breed of wines.Food & wineLocal produceWelcome to Victoria's food bowl. Pick up local fruit, vegetables and gourmet produce at farm gates, markets and cafes throughout the region.Food & wineRestaurantsWith so many renowned farms, dairies, orchards and vineyards, it's no wonder the Murray region boasts some of Victoria’s best dining destinations.Outdoor activitiesGolfThe Murray is a year-round golfing haven that stretches from Albury to Mildura. Tee off on a course along the banks of the beautiful Murray River.
Albury Wodonga to Sydney
627 km/390 miles, about 7 hours
Leave the Murray River and the twin towns of Albury Wodonga and head to the historic town of Yass. Settled in the 1800s by explorer Hamilton Hume and the poet Banjo Paterson, Yass is today a centre for many rural and adventure activities.
Canberra, the Australian capital, is home to national institutions and attractions, most of which are located near or around Lake Burley Griffin. Parliament House's 81-metre flagpole on top of Capital Hill is visible as you approach the city from all directions. Take a tour through the art collection and architecture of this magnificent building, and see Parliament sitting from the public galleries. Visit the Australian War Memorial, regarded as one of the most impressive war museums in the world, and see exhibitions and the collection of more than 100,000 artworks at the National Gallery of Australia.
And if you find yourself in Canberra in spring, make sure you join the month-long floral extravaganza, Floriade. Call in at Berrima to peruse the antique and craft stores before continuing to Sydney. Famous for iconic architecture, including the Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House, the city also offers great beaches, including the famous Bondi, fast-paced entertainment, shopping and a beautiful harbour.