Melbourne to Sydney via Canberra

1163km, about 13.5 hours

Chart a course from Melbourne to Sydney on the Murray River and Lake Mulwala for water activities. Fill up on farm gate produce and the famous fortified wines in the Rutherglen region.

Head through Albury Wodonga, crossing out of Victoria and on towards the galleries and gardens of Canberra, before arriving in Sydney to experience iconic landmarks the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and famous Bondi Beach.

You can do the entire trip in reverse too of course.

Further information

Sydney Melbourne Touring

Day 1: Melbourne to Bendigo

195km, about 2.75 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, and for their abundance of gourmet restaurants and wineries.

Weave your way through the tree-lined streets and magnificent gardens of Mount Macedon. Call in to sample local wines at the cellar doors of boutique wineries. At the summit of the mountain in Macedon Regional Park, a short walk from the car park, you'll find the Memorial Cross and several lookouts, from which you can see as far as Melbourne on a clear day.

Next, explore Hanging Rock, the haunting backdrop to the book (and film) Picnic at Hanging Rock, and nearby Woodend, a town with a historic streetscape featuring a number of heritage buildings and a clock tower.

From Woodend, you'll pull up in Kyneton. Piper Street has a small cluster of antique shops, and the town is home to mineral springs and 19th-century botanic gardens, plus a raft of outstanding dining options using local produce.

To see antiques in situ, visit the Buda Historic Home in Castlemaine, and follow up by searching out your own vintage goods at The Mill. Revive with coffee and strudel at Das Kaffeehaus while you're there. 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 nearby tiny town of Maldon.

From Maldon, carry on for roughly another 30 minutes to Bendigo for the night.

Day 2: Bendigo to Echuca Moama

87km, about 1.25 hours

Bendigo outstripped Melbourne in size when gold was first discovered here in the mid-1800s. You'll see the city's early wealth in its beautiful Victorian-era sandstone buildings, century-old gardens and established trees. Explore the streets lined with sidewalk cafes, art galleries, and fine food, wine and antique stores.

Don't miss a visit to Bendigo Art Gallery for top international and national exhibitions, from sculpture and ceramics to painting and decorative arts, photography and modern arts. This highly respected regional gallery is one of the oldest and largest in Australia.

Take a 60-metre elevator underground to experience the operating Central Deborah Gold Mine on a 75-minute accessible tour that follows a 400-metre subterranean circuit. Then catch the Bendigo Tramways Vintage Talking Tram from the front door of the mine for a travelling commentary of Bendigo’s major sights.

See the legacy of the tens of thousands of Chinese gold diggers who sought their fortune in Bendigo at the Golden Dragon Museum (home to the world's longest processional dragon), the Joss House Temple, classic Chinese gardens and the Chinese section of the White Hills Cemetery.

Pop in to Bendigo Pottery, Australia's oldest working pottery, where you can purchase a souvenir piece. There's an interpretive museum, heritage-listed kilns, wheel-throwing lessons, demonstrations and a Clay Play area for kids. Alternatively, head to Echuca Moama via the nearby wine regions around Bendigo and Heathcote, famous for fine shiraz. Allow at least an additional 35 minutes of driving (55 kilometres), plus time for detours and wine tasting.

Day 3: Echuca Moama to Albury Wodonga

245km, about 3 hours

Heading out of paddle-steamer capital Echuca Moama, journey along the Murray Valley Highway, passing by wineries, cafes and boutique towns and villages. Jump aboard a Kingfisher Cruises trip along the Murray River in Barmah National Park – you'll be amazed at the birdlife and wildlife as your guide helps you spot the kingfisher, a tiny bird with brilliant colours.

Carry on to Lake Mulwala, an aquatic playground with fishing, water skiing and pleasure cruising activities year round. The twin towns of Yarrawonga Mulwala have plenty of cafes, pubs and shops to stop in to, not to mention championship golf courses where you can tee off.

From here, the drive is scattered with farm gate produce shops that will tempt your tastebuds with locally made jams, chutneys, cheeses and snacks made from recipes handed down over generations.

Arrive in Rutherglen, Victoria's fortified wine capital, ready to sample world-famous muscat and topaque. There are many outstanding wineries you can choose from, with cellar door tastings and opportunities to stock your own wine cellar at home. Pinot noir and chardonnay are also popular in this region.

Onward to the twin cities of Albury Wodonga. Explore contemporary art at the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA), where international touring exhibitions show alongside regional art that maintains deep connections to the surrounding area and its cultural identity. Take a walk along the Yindyamurra Sculpture trail, enjoying artwork from local Aboriginal artists and reading their comments on the works.

Day 4: Albury Wodonga to Canberra

350km, about 3.5 hours

Leave the Murray River and head towards the border. The Hume Highway will take you into New South Wales and express to Canberra in 3.5 hours if you want. Or why not take a more scenic route through the beautiful Victorian villages of Tallangatta and Corryong before crossing into New South Wales High Country. On the way you can stop for tastings at distilleries and stretch your legs on walking trails to spot unique wildlife.

Arrive in Canberra and make time to experience the capital's diverse cultural and historical attractions. Take in art, culture and history with visits to the Australian National Gallery and the National Museum of Australia, and numerous archives, collections and landmarks. Shop at markets, graze on regional food and wine, get out on the lake, or breathe the fresh air in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Corrin Forest.

Break your trip with an overnight stay, then head on to Sydney by continuing on the Hume Highway (286 kilometres, roughly three hours) or crossing over to the coast and hugging it north from Batemans Bay (427 kilometres, roughly six hours without traffic).

Need a car?