Sydney Melbourne Heritage Drive
Melbourne to Sydney via Canberra
1163 km, about 13.5 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 and explore outstanding regional art galleries. Drive across the Goldfields region and on to the mighty 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 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.
Melbourne to Bendigo
195 km, 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, 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 historic home Buda 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.
HighlightsCafesJohnny Bakers Drive ThruJohnny Bakers Drive Thru is a bakery with an open kitchen serving great coffee, pastries, cakes and pies.It sits at the rear of a restored local hotel...ShoppingChancery LaneAn eclectic mix of food, fashion and art has awakened one of Bendigo’s most endearing laneways.This little charmer was once known as Dispensary Lane in...CafesEl GordoLive large with breakfast, lunch and serious coffee at El Gordo (the Fat One), Chancery Lane's Spanish and Southern European inspired cafe and art space.Art galleriesBendigo Art GalleryStop by the Bendigo Art Gallery and see works by contemporary Australian artists including Patricia Piccinini, Tracey Moffatt and Bill Henson.Parks & gardensRosalind ParkExplore the beautiful old gardens, historic conservatory, fernery, playground and 60 acres of open spaces in Rosalind Park, in the centre of Bendigo.WineriesBalgownie Estate Winery, Retreat & RestaurantOnly 10 minutes from Bendigo City Centre, sits Balgownie Estate Winery, Retreat and Restaurant. Balgownie Estate is Bendigo's oldest winery offering luxury...
Bendigo to Echuca-Moama
87 km, 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 one-hour tour that follows a 400-metre subterranean circuit. Then catch the Bendigo Heritage 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 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. It has a sales gallery, interpretive museum, heritage-listed kilns, wheel throwing lessons, demonstrations and a Clay Play area for kids. Alternatively, head to Echuca-Moama via the nearby Bendigo and Heathcote wine regions, famous for their fine shiraz. Allow at least an additional 35 minutes of driving (55 kilometres), plus time for detours and wine tasting.
HighlightsGold rush historyCentral Deborah Gold MineGear up in overalls, a miner's hat and lamp and head into underground tunnels in search of gold in a key mine from Bendigo's 19th century gold rush.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.Art galleriesBendigo Art GalleryStop by the Bendigo Art Gallery and see works by contemporary Australian artists including Patricia Piccinini, Tracey Moffatt and Bill Henson.Art galleriesBendigo PotteryEstablished in 1858, Bendigo Pottery offers a unique visitor experience of both historic and modern ceramic production.Bendigo Pottery has quality ceramic...MuseumsGolden Dragon MuseumExperience a living history of Bendigo's Chinese population and explore exhibitions featuring artefacts dating as far back as the Shang Dynasty.Things to doArt and cultureVisit renowned regional galleries, featuring local, national and international artists or visit one of the oldest and grandest theatres in Victoria.
Echuca-Moama to Albury Wodonga
245 km, 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 Cruise along the Murray River in the 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 centre has 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 and 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.
HighlightsArt galleriesMurray Art Museum Albury (MAMA)A must-see in Albury is Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA), the heart of art and culture on the Murray. One of the most visited art venues outside of Sydney,...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.Tour operatorKingfisher CruisesNowhere else in the world can you experience such timeless, natural beauty and peace as when you are gliding through the World-Heritage listed Barmah Wetlands...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.Wine 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.
Albury Wodonga to Canberra
350 km, 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 km, roughly 3 hours) or crossing over to the coast and hugging it north from Batemans Bay (427 km, roughly 6 hours without traffic).