Covering 3 States & 1 Territory = Total 4
Everyone loves Australia and when we travel to Australia we prefer to drive as it is the best way to see the country. Australia is huge and it still has many areas that are remote so driving a rental car is ideal to see the off-the-beaten-path and hidden gems. My itinerary here covers 4 states & territory of Australia which include Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory/ACT, and Victoria. In case you wonder how many states & territories in Australia have, they are 8 in total and this itinerary covers 4 of them.
16 Days Itinerary
That’s pretty much to cover, to be frank, a total of 1,709.3 km from Gold Coast to Melbourne. It takes about 18 hours if driving non-stop. Don’t worry, we didn’t do it in a day, we break up the journey and only driving for about 2-3 hours a day. That cost us 16 days to complete the road trip from Gold Coast to Melbourne.
- Day 1 Singapore – Gold Coast Night Flight
- Day 2
Gold Coast Airport -> Gold Coast Car Rental (5 min walk) -> Paradise Country (40 min drive) -> Gold Coast Surfers’ Paradise Beach (25 min) -> Mantra Tower Service Apartment
- Day 3
Warner Bros. Movie World Gold Coast (25 min) -> Gold Coast Surfers’ Paradise Shopping Street (25 min) -> Mantra Tower Service Apartment
- Day 4
Big Banana Coffs Harbour (4 hr) -> Coffs Harbour Beaches & City (10 min) -> Beach Park Holiday Park Hotel (10 min)
- Day 5
Port Macquarie (1.5 hr) -> Newscastle University (3 hr) -> Jesmond Executive Villa Hotel (5 min)
- Day 6
Newcastle City & Beaches (30 min) -> Sydney Fish Market (2 hr) -> Dinner at Chinatown (10 min)-> Paddy’s Market (2 min walk) -> Sydney Harbour Cruise ( 30 min walk) -> Novotel Sydney Central
- Day 7
Bondi Beach (15min) -> Coogee Beach (15 min)-> University of NSW (10 min)-> Mr Meng’s Noodles @ Sydney Haymarket (20 min) -> University of Sydney (15min)-> Sydney CBD (QVB, Sydney Tower etc) -> Novotel Sydney Central
- Day 8
Blue Mountain (1.5hr) -> Maroubra Beach (1 hr) -> Holiday Inn Sydney Airport
- Day 9
Cabramatta Vietnamese Village (1 hr) -> Canberra (3 hr) -> Canberra Rex Hotel
- Day 10
Australian National University (10 min) -> Australian Parliament House (10 min) -> National Museum Australia (10 min) -> Albury (3.5hr) -> Quality Resort Siesta Albury
- Day 11
Albury Historical Train Station (10 min) -> Hume Dam (15 mins) -> Melbourne (3.5 hr)-> St Kilda Neighbourhood (Luna Park) -> St Kilda Novotel
- Day 12
Melbourne Old Town Sovereign Hill (1.5hr) -> Werribee Open Range Zoo (1.5 hr)-> Melbourne China town & CBD (1 hr) -> St Kilda Novotel (20 min by tram)
- Day 13
Brighton Colorful Bathing Boxes (10 min)-> Great Ocean Road (12 Apostles) (3 hr) -> Comfort Inn The International Apollo Bay (1.5hr)
- Day 14
Great Ocean Road Mariners Lookout (10 mins) -> Kennett River Koala Walk (30 min) -> University of Melbourne (2.5 hr)-> Melbourne CBD for Dinner (10 min by tram) -> Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport
- Day 15
Melbourne CBD Tour (20 mins) -> Hosier Lane -> State Libray of Victoria -> Melbourne Airport & Car Return
- Day 16 Singapore
Total Costing = SGD 2683.56 per person
- Air Tickets = 429.65 * 3 = 1288.95
- 4 Star Hotels = 2550
- Car & One way Drop charge & toll = 625 + 528.77 + 39.03 = 1192.80
- Car Insurance = 161.14
- Car Parking = 177.33
- Klook activities = 501.66
- Family Travel Insurance = 130.80
- Data Roaming = 48
- Other Expenses = 2000
What we cover
- Australian Wildlife Animals
- Museum – History, Art & Culture
- Chinatown – Melbourne & Sydney
- Major City guides
- Where we stay when you have a rental car with you
- Universities tours – 6 of them along this road trip
- Hume Dam
- Theme Parks
- Australia Big Things – The Big Banana
- Flea Market & Fish Market
- Old Cowboy Town
- Gold Coast Airport & Melbourn Airport
- Process of picking up car rental at Gold Coast & process of dropping car rental at Melbourne
Car Rental One way from Gold Coast – Sydney – Melbourne
Please note this is a one way only and not returning to the origin point. The starting point is Gold Coast Airport and ending at Melbourne Airport. Therefore picking up the car rental from Gold Coast Airport and retuning car rental at Melbourne Airport. Since this route is not going back to the origin, it has a drop charge or mileage charge for this kind of service. They need to send someone to drive back the car to the origin point in Gold Coast. That cost us about AUS 300 plus. If you love doing road trips and like to explore the remote areas of Australia, you won’t mind this fee.
Alternative way – use flights
Alternatively, you can use the flight service, eg Gold Coast – Sydney – Melbourne. Then once you touch down, you can rent a car for a few days to drive around. Please note, driving can be complicated in these two big cities center, especially there are also trams running on the road in Melbourne and Sydney.
We usually choose hotels that have a convenient car park, some hotel parking are charged and some are not. The charged parking are usually located in Sydney & Melbourne. Please note not all hotels have their car park, especially for big cities like Sydney & Melbourne. So you need to find the private parking nearby. Some private parking is connected to the hotel, so it is not convenient to load and unload your luggage. All these need to look at when considering booking the hotels. The hotels we stayed in are 4 stars and we booked through Agoda.com, if you have a bigger group, choose Airbnb to save, click on my link to enjoy SGD 62 off for your first booking on Airbnb.
I strongly suggest you book your theme park tickets, cruise ride or other activities online to enjoy 20% or more discount.
There are not many toll fees for Australia road trip, maybe a few in Sydney and Melbourne CBD areas. And yes, the Sydney Harbour Bridge or tunnel costs a small fee to cross over. In Australia, all toll roads are electronically tolled, you can pay at the end of your road trip when you return your car.
Speed Limit and Fine
Australia takes speeding seriously and you don’t want to get caught speeding the limit and it can cost you a fortune and worse still, your life & your love one. During our road trip, I saw there are many radar speed cameras planted here and there, be it remote areas or cities. Not only that, but there are also police cars camouflaged hiding in the woods or bush to catch the speeders.
Speed limit ticket can cost you from AUD $444 (More than 20km/h but not more than 30km/h over the speed limit) to AUD $1245 (More than 40km/h over the speed limit).
Queensland is located on the northeast with a coastline stretching nearly 7,000km. The capital is Brisbane and also the largest city of Queensland. The Gold Coast is the second-most populous city in Queensland. We choose to land in the Gold Coast Airport and stay 2 nights in Gold Coast. You can also choose to land in Brisbane Airport and include Brisbane city in your itinerary. It is only 1.5 hours from Brisbane to Gold Coast.
This is a small airport and only one terminal for both domestic and international flights. It is easy to navigate after you touch down. Not a very busy airport which is what I like.
Since the Gold Coast Airport is very small you will see the car rental desks once you exit from the immigration. Click on the post above and it will tell you how I pick up my car rental. It also has all the steps for booking including information on car insurance.
The Surfer’s Paradise beach stretches over 3 km with its golden sand and runs alongside towering skyscrapers right in the heart of the Gold Coast. That’s why it is so famous!
If you love beaches, shopping, clubbing, bars, and pubs Surfers Paradise is great for you. It has all the beach culture here. Weather is great even in the winter month.
Paradise Country is home to Aussie wildlife and farm experience and the farm is targeting younger kids I feel. Well, if you have never seen koala and kangaroo before then this might be a great place to check them out. Also, you will experience some other farm life, such as Sheep shearing Show, Stock Horse Arena Show and how to throw a boomerang.
Gold Coast Queensland is about beaches at Surfer Paradise and theme parks, there are a few popular theme parks and Movie World is one of them. You may like to visit Sea World and Dreamworld if you are really into theme parks. We spent half a day at Warner Bros. Movie World on the second day we arrived on the Gold Coast. It was in winter, early June but the weather was still very comfortable.
I have special tips for you, pack your lunch there and there are areas for picnics with chairs and tables.
There are few things I love about Mantra Towers of Chevron, the sea view balcony and the awesome location where restaurants and shopping are just within walking distance. Great facilities with indoor and outdoor pools and sauna.
New South Wales State
New South Wales (NSW) state is famous for its most famous city of Sydney, where Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge lies. Lots of picturesque beaches such as Bondi Beach, the most well-known around the world. NSW is the most populated state in Australia and Sydney is dynamic, diverse and multicultural. My favorite parts is you can taste almost every cuisine around the world here.
There are a number of “big things” in Australia, these are set of large structures, some of which are sculptures. Over 150 objects around the country and Big Banana is one of them and considered the first Big Thing in Australia. Most big things found along major roads between destinations.
Big Banana is a fun park located in Coffs Harbour NSW Australia. You won’t be able to miss out on this Big Banana, also the symbols of Coffs Harbour. If you are planning a road trip from Gold Coast to Sydney, Coffs Harbour would be a great stopover. It is about 320km away from Gold Coast, less than 4 hours drive via Pacific Hwy and M1. This is a nice stop between Gold Coast and Sydney.
We are not really into the fun theme park but we are glad to have their signature dishes, Big Banana Burger. If you love dessert, do remember to go for Big Banana split Ice cream too.
Blue sky, beaches, holiday resorts, yachts, and banana plantations are what I can think of in Coffs Harbour. This city is a nice stop between Gold Coast and Newcastle / Sydney.
Beach Park Holiday Park in Coffs Harbour is pleasant to stay, the villa and the park are well kept. Lots of amenities and conveniently located to the beach and town. I highly recommended this park for the family with young children as it has lots of playgrounds and amenities to keep them busy.
Port Macquarie is a retirement town with lots of beautiful beaches on the north coast of NSW Australia. We had our lunch picnic at Town beaches. My hat was almost blown away due to strong wind! The colorful breakwall nearby was interesting with a lot of painted pictures on them. This is a great stop to break your journey to Newcastle.
If you love visiting university, then you should include Newcastle University, it has a strong connection with Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba.
This is a bushland University because the university is surrounded by lots of trees. When I said “lots of” meaning there are approximately 2,000,000 trees on the beautiful bushland campus. This is what the University get famous for.
Jesmond Executive Villas is located in the Jesmond suburb of Newcastle. It is about 20 mins drive to the famous Newcastle beach downtown and 5 mins drive to the University of Newcastle. I purposely choose my stay away from the city as I prefer a quiet neighborhood. I check in my stay immediately after my visit to the University of Newcastle and had some shopping (snacks) and dinner at Jesmond. Conveniently located to the eateries nearby.
Newcastle is an amazing stop if you are doing a road trip from Gold Coast to Sydney. You learn about Newcastle’s history, use to be home to the Awabakal Indigenous tribe for thousands of years and later came the British colonial with their convicts. If you love beaches, this city is for you, go try out the beach saltwater pool. This city is considered in the big 10 cities in Australia.
Sydney Fish Market was one of the hotspots for tourists, established in 1945; it is the largest seafood market in the Southern Hemisphere, so expect to see a huge range of seafood here. If you prefer cooked seafood, you can order and ask the chef to make steam or stir fry with whatever style you want to base on their menu.
Find a seat outdoor near the water, enjoy the seaport, sea birds and the weather. If you like wine, please bring along a bottle of wine to wash down the fresh seafood.
Sydney Chinatown is Australia’s largest Chinatown, located in between Central Station (just 10 mins walk) and Darling Harbour, opposite Paddy’s market. Click on the link above to check out where to eat and what to see so you don’t miss out on some important sculptures. One of them is the Golden Water Mouth Artwork.
Sydney Paddy’s market is a great place to hunt for the Australia souvenirs. You never know what you will find here. It has hundreds of stalls for you to dig and hunt for a very reasonable price. Do include Paddy’s Market in your itinerary as it is only the opposite of Sydney Chinatown.
UTS is also known as the University of Technology Sydney is only minutes away from Sydney Chinatown. If you are visiting the Chinatown, please include UTS in your itinerary. The university is nestled in the city of Sydney/CBD area so you will see many students in their business suit attending the evening classes. Go check out building 8 as it has the unique architectures on the campus. The building is so unique that it is nicknamed “The Brown Paper Bag”.
Sydney Harbour is one of the must-sees when you visit Sydney and doing a cruise is another great way to see Sydney’s landmark from the water. Of course, you can also do Sydney Harbour with public ferries, but Harbour Cruises certainly has more benefits over public ferries. Just to name some here, the ride is longer and offers better views on the top deck of the cruise. You should book online to enjoy the discount and avoid the line for tickets.
You have to visit Bondi Beach when you are in Sydney as it is known as the most famous beaches in Australia. You have to come and find out why it is so famous. It sits surrounded by beautiful and ancient rock formations.
After Bondi beach, you may want to explore Coogee Beach, which is 20 mins by car.
Coogee Beach has less overseas tourists as compared to Bondi but it is so lovely to spend your day here. The coastal walk is so serene and beautiful with the turquoise color sea. If you love trekking, you may want to try the Bondi Coogee coastal walk which takes about 2 hours to complete.
The University of New South Wales also known as UNSW Sydney is one of the top universities in Australia, located in the Kensington suburb. The university was built in 1949, quite new compare to Sydney University. Hence you don’t get to see old architectures like Oxford and Cambridge in England. However, it is still worth a visit if you have children about to go to University and show them some campus life to inspire them. In short, it is called UNSW also one of the top universities in Australia.
If you are in Sydney Chinatown, go visit Mr Meng’s noodles at Level 3 Market City, on top of Paddy’s Market. I have no regret in trying out the spicy noodles and other spicy dishes with authentic Chinese Chongqing taste. Most importantly, I am a fan of Mr Meng!
It is really worth to pay a visit to Sydney University if you are visiting Sydney, only 10 mins from central station or city/CBD. It has one of the most beautiful architectures and manicured lawns look like a mini-Cambridge. Founded in 1850, Sydney University is the oldest university in Australia and Oceania.
This post includes top things to do in CBD, including Queen Victoria Building, Sydney Tower, Town Hall, George Street, and Opera House.
Highly recommended to anyone who is driving a car, the location of the Novotel Central Sydney is very ideal as it is located at a dead-end of a busy street. Easy access to Chinatown (for food) and Darling Harbor and CBD area. We parked here and explore the city on foot, walked up to Circular Quay to catch the Captain Cook Cruise for Harbour View and Opera House. We spent 2 nights here.
There are a number of lookout points for Blue Mountain but people usually go for the most famous lookout point, called Three Sisters, Echo Point. You will see the unusual rock formation by land erosion of the Three Sister! Blue Mountain can be done in a day, leave early from Sydney and prepare your picnics so that you don’t have to waste time to find the restaurants is my advice.
Maroubra is less famous than Bondi and Coogee but in order to experience the real wave culture in Australia. (It only 10 mins from Coogee Beach). Maroubra Beach is one of the best surf spots in Australia Sydney. And surfing is an iconic Australian sport that plays a huge part in Australian culture and Australian identity. You can see that all in Maroubra Beach!
Holiday Inn Sydney Airport is ideal for guests who wanted to catch the early flight as it is only minutes away from the Sydney International and Domestic Airport. Even if you do not need to rush to the airport, I would still recommend you to stay in Holiday Inn Sydney Airport because it is still very convenient as it is only 10 minutes to Sydney CBD. Great for guests who have their own car as the car park fee is so much cheaper than the hotel in the city center. This place is ideal when we wanted to explore the outskirt of Sydney.
If you want to try Sydney’s best Vietnamese food, then visit Cabramatta, about an hour’s drive from Sydney CBD. It is located in south-western Sydney in Fairfield, 30 km away from the Sydney CBD. When you arrived at this Vietnamese Village, you won’t realize you are actually in Australia, it is like another country.
Canberra, ACT (Australian Capital Territory)
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) sits between Sydney and Melbourne, a fairly new district and Canberra is the capital of Australia. The city is new and everything is very well organized, it is also the center of politics so you will see the Parliament House here. If you are in the winter month (June to Oct), you may want to drive up to the Snowy Mountain an hour drive from Canberra city. If you are coming in the month of Sep-Oct, then visit Floriade – a flower and entertainment festival held annually in Canberra, one of the most famous festivals in Canberra.
Rex Hotel in Canberra has the ideal location and the hotel is very new and neat. The breakfast range is good, not a wide variety but average. Serve hot and fresh! Free parking is available at the side of the hotel compound.
ANU is an ideal location to study, I love the environment as it is very peaceful and surrounded by nature. With a lake and a stream flowing through in the bushland campus, it is truly a perfect campus life. I imagine myself holding a book reading under a tree and suddenly greeted by the wildlife – a wallaby or even better greeted by a cute koala. Oh yes, please be super careful when you drive in the campus, watch out for the mother duck and ducklings crossing the roads.
The best way to explore the Parliament House in Canberra is to go with a guided tour, it is free of charge. Just be there at the right timing. You also get to see democracy in action, at the upper house in the red and lower house in green plus a lot of Aboriginal Arts from the galleries here.
When it is wet and raining outdoor, it is always a good idea to explore the museum. You are able to see the wide range of permanent collection from indigenous arts to Asian, Australian and the American arts. A 5-star museum with an elegant building, ideal for a family with kids.
If you are thinking of stopover in Albury to break your road trip between Sydney and Melbourne, Quality Resort Siesta Albury is a good choice to stay. With an ideal location and facilities to match, the hotel hits the spot in many ways. The good thing is you park your car outside your room so it is easy to load and unload your luggage and stuff.
Albury is a small town between Canberra and Melbourne, it makes a great stop to break in between these two cities. The train station is one of the landmarks in this city. It is a beautiful and historical monument and has the longest platform in Australia.
Just 15 mins drive from Albury town center, it is a must to visit this Hume Dam to check out the peaceful view and look at the longest river Murray in Australia. If you love engineering and architecture, then you must visit this place. The dead trees phenomenon is quite interesting.
Victoria State is in southeast Australia, Melbourne is the state capital and a rivalry to Sydney in NSW state. It is bordered by NSW in the north but has extreme variations of temperature and weather can occur within a short period of time. It has been said that Melbourne can experience all four seasons in one day so always layering yourself well.
If you are renting a car, staying in St Kilda suburb is a good choice. Driving in Melbourne CBD can be daunting so stay in St Kilda and catch a tram to the city. There is a direct tram to the city and only takes 20 mins. This lovely neighborhood also has lots of Victorian old vintage homes that ages over a hundred years old, really charming. Melbourne’s most Instagramable sites Luna Park is here.
Novotel Hotel St Kilda has a wonderful location, the hotel room looks out over the picturesque Port Philip Bay and is located right on the St Kilda beach. Lots of nice restaurants, cafes, and bars around so getting something to eat with a good view is not an issue at all. The tram is just right in front of the hotel so going to Melbourne city is super convenient, park your car in the hotel and ride the tram. We spent 2 nights here.
If you want to step back in time, Sovereign Hill is a wonderful experience. I love to see school children running around in their full costumes happily. The Costumed School in Sovereign Hill has certainly light up the whole atmosphere in this town. 1.5-hour drive from Melbourne city. The ticket is needed and book online to enjoy up to 20% or more discounts.
You don’t have to fly all the way to Africa to experience the safari, visit Melbourne Werribee Open Range Zoo instead! Jump on to the safari bus and explore the savannah and look at the different habitats of these lovely animals. Really amazing to see the animals moving around freely in 225 hectares of wide space. You can do Sovereign Hill Old Town in the morning and Werribee Open Range Zoo in the afternoon. Please check for the last safari bus before you visit. Different months may have different timing. It was winter during our visit and we manage to catch the last safari bus at around 4 plus, also the highlight!
Brighton Bathing Boxes is for those who wanted pictures for their Instagram! Located at Esplanade, Brighton Victoria 3186 and only 12 mins from St Kilda which is where we stayed or only half an hour from Melbourne CBD. These little bathing boxes have historical value and were here for over 100 years. They are for sales and aren’t cheap; a recent transaction sold in 2016, cost up to $285,000. You can’t live inside the boxes as there is no electricity and water. Just for you to put some picnic chairs and tables.
When you visit Melbourne, one of the must-do is the Great Ocean Road scenic drive. People usually spend 2-3 days to enjoy the fullest of this road trip. If you are thinking of doing it in a day then it will be very rush but can be done. Check Klook day tour if you are not driving a rental car.
Click on the guide above and it will tell you all the important viewpoints in Great Ocean Road and where to start.
Apollo Bay is midway along the Great Ocean Road and it is a perfect spot to rest. The Comfort Inn The International at Apollo Bay, I would rather call it a motel style located opposite the seaside is an ideal place to rest. The are many restaurants & pubs within walking distance. There is also a small supermarket near the hotel, very convenient to search for food.
When you do Australia Great Ocean Road there are so many lookout areas and one of them is Mariners Lookout point in Apollo Bay. It is truly a hidden gem, you need to do a mini-hike up, just 5 minutes and you will be rewarded with the breathtaking view of the Apollo Bay neighborhood, ocean, and sky.
If you are lucky, you will see paragliders doing paragliding here as this is the location to take off when the weather condition is good.
Sit between Lorne and Apollo Bay, Kennett River is a great experience to interact with the wild animals (birds), the koalas won’t come near you as they will be having their beauty nap high up the gum trees. It is still worthwhile to stop by for an hour or two to search for the Australian icon (koalas) as they were thousands of them here.
I was very impressed with the campus at the University of Melbourne, nestled in the city but it is also very secluded. I highly recommend anyone to visit Melbourne to include the University tour, especially those who love architecture (Modern & old) and lots of photo opportunities.
One of the most popular things to do in Melbourne is Hosier Lane street arts, few minutes walk from Flinders Street Station and Federation Square or Chinatown. This is the hot spot for Melbourne graffiti! Melbourne is a lot more open-minded and is more supportive of street arts or graffiti artists compared to Sydney. If you see something you like on Instagram you may not be able to find it here when you reach here because the wall gets painted almost daily.
The State Library of Victoria is located in the city of Melbourne. The heritage architecture is stunning, especially the interior. Do look up at the ceiling to look at the octagonal dome and climb up to the higher floor to look down at the custom-built desks, heritage chairs, and traditional green reading lamps.
The city guide has few important must visit locations and help you to plan the things to do in Melbourne city.
Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport is only 5 mins away from Melbourne Airport, convenient for people who need to catch the overseas flight home.
This post will show you the Melbourne Airport review and how to drop off your car rental before catching your overseas flight.
Other self-drive destinations:
- Japan Hiroshima-Shikoku-Kansai Self Drive Itinerary
- Japan Kyushu Island Self Drive & Itinerary
- Central Japan Self Drive & Itinerary (Shirakawa-go)
- USA California – Nevada – Arizona Self Drive Itinerary
- UK England – Wales – Scotland Self Drive Itinerary
- Taiwan Round the island Self Drive Itinerary
- Thailand – Bangkok to Chiang Mai Self Drive Itinerary