I’ve always preferred to drive to Melbourne than fly – I just like my independence, the freedom of the road and the convenience once I get there.
The direct route down the Hume (highway) can be a little tedious, just as well I’m comfortable behind the wheel! A new touring route has officially opened, however – the Sydney to Melbourne Touring Route. It’s not a new road, just a new slant on familiar territory, opening tourists’ eyes to what’s special in the states of NSW and Victoria.
Keen to try out the multi-day ‘Mega Drive’, I arranged campervan hire through DriveNow, picking up my camper in Sydney. After meandering through Sydney’s southern suburbs, we diverted through the gorgeous Royal National Park, emerging at Stanwell Tops and the start of the spectacular Grand Pacific Drive. This new road skirts the spectacular Wollongong escarpment, with a bridge hovering above the pounding ocean and offering spectacular views down the coastline.
I’m always blown away by the beauty of the south coast beaches, particularly where the emerald green countryside edges onto cliffs and beaches. Gerringong and Gerroa are particular favourites; and further south, I’m totally in love with the villages of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba, famed for antiques, history and, of course, cheese!
As you edge towards the border, the beaches keep getting more and more enticing – Narooma, Merimbula and Pambula.
Eden, once centre of the whaling industry, is now a great place to spot these marine giants; and make sure you stop off at Ben Boyd pub for a real blast from the past.
Over the border, Lakes Entrance is a great place for boating, fishing and beachside recreation. After this, the drive heads inland, emerging onto the Great Alpine Road at Bairnsdale. As much enamoured with mountain scenery as we are with beaches, we deviated a little for the Alpine villages of Dinner Plain and Mt Hothambefore heading to Anglers Rest for a stop off at our favourite pub, the Blue Duck. Up the road from there is The Willows, a lovely rural property featuring historic cottages and brilliant horse riding through spectacular High Country scenery.
The touring route then scouts north again, reaching the mighty Murray River and the historic towns of Echuca-Moama. Here we jumped on board a paddlesteamer, reliving the romance of colonial days.
Then it was south again through Bendigo, where more gold was found between 1850 and 1900 than anywhere else in the world. This history is all showcased at a family favourite, Sovereign Hill, our final stop before hitting the road to Melbourne.
It may have taken a little longer than the usual 10-hour haul, but the drive gave us new appreciation of some of the most fantastic parts of two great eastern states.
ANGELA DE LEON