Adelaide to Melbourne via Western & North Western Victoria
Tuesday 13th August 2019
By Neil Fahey
An Adelaide to Melbourne road trip provides endless opportunities for exploring, relaxing, and enjoying all the nature and wildlife that the south-east corner of Australia has to offer.
While the most direct route between the two capitals can be driven in around eight hours, you’d be missing out on so many beautiful places. So take your time and explore the second of two Adelaide to Melbourne road trips, this one over four days.
For a different kind of Adelaide to Melbourne road trip, zig-zag your way across the west and south-west of Victoria. Away from the well-beaten path of the coastline, you’ll find pink lakes, awe-inspiring mountains, colourful rural towns, and a rich wealth of Australian history. This four-day itinerary takes in the best spots in the region but could easily be expanded if you have more time to spend.
Day 1: Adelaide to Murray Sunset National Park
4 hours / 335 km driving
Depart Adelaide and make a beeline for Murray Sunset National Park in Victoria’s north-western corner. You’ll drive through one of the most inhospitable parts of South Australia, but the area is rich in history which you’ll stumble across if you stop for any breaks along the way. Today’s main attraction, though, is Murray Sunset National Park. Make sure you get there as early in the day as possible to give yourself time to explore.
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Murray Sunset is a wild place – about as close as Victoria gets to the true outback – but to explore most of it requires a four-wheel drive, a dirt bike, or experience in remote bush navigation. Fortunately, there’s one two-wheel-drive accessible section that’s well worth seeing – The Pink Lakes.
The pink lakes are best seen in late summer when they’re at their pinkest but they’re impressive all year round. If visiting in winter, you may just want to check with Parks Victoria on road conditions first. There are three pink lakes – Lake Becking, Lake Crosbie and Lake Kenyon – which are all equally worthwhile exploring, and there are easy to follow walking trails ranging from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to guide you. Keep an eye out for the incredible wildlife (it’s a bird watcher’s paradise), historical artefacts, and the wildflowers in spring.
On arrival, you can set up camp at either Mount Becking Campground or the main campground at Lake Crosbie. Spend the afternoon doing some walking and enjoy a spectacular sunset.
Today you’re bound for Halls Gap in the beautiful Grampians Ranges (Gariwerd). Although there’s not a lot of note along the way, you should definitely check out the 200-kilometre Silo Art Trail from Patchewollock to Rupanyup. A team of artists from all over the country were commissioned to create the six huge artworks on grain silos, some dating back to the 1930s. The artists visited with locals before designing their murals, allowing them each to tell a unique local story through their work.
Between the Silo Art Trail stops at Rosebery and Sheep Hills you’ll pass through a riverside town called Hopetoun, where there’s a unique shop called Wheatlands Warehouse. It’s part op-shop, part antique furniture store, and it’s filled to the brim with all kinds of weird and wonderful surprises. Even if you’re not usually an antique-er or op shopper, you can easily spend an hour here, trawling through the shelves to see what oddities you can find. By this stage of the drive you’ll be looking for some lunch, so consider a stop at Wellington’s Butchers and Café. It’s a strange combo I know, but they serve amazing coffee and you know the meat will be good.
Once you’ve checked out the Rupanyup silo it’s only another hour to Halls Gap, the main tourist centre in the Grampians. Once you see the Grampians from Halls Gap you’ll be eager to get out there and explore but it’s probably getting a bit late in the day for that now, so either set up camp for the night or fill your afternoon with a hike on one of the shorter trails close to town. I recommend the 2.3-kilometre Venus Baths Loop Walk - a quick and easy to follow trail to a pretty part of Stony Creek at the base of the Elephant Hide.
Halls Gap Caravan Park is right in town but as you can imagine, it’s quite a busy park. Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park is a nicer park on Lake Bellfield with a few kilometres walk to town. If you’re looking for free camping check out Plantation Campground, about 10 kilometres to the north of Halls Gap (check WikiCamps for details).
If you’re not averse to early and potentially cold mornings, there is a great place just outside of Halls Gap to watch the sunrise. Boronia Peak is a great hike at any time of day but with a good headtorch, it makes for the ultimate Grampians sunrise experience. From the start of the trail to Boronia Peak is only 3.3 kilometres (6.6 kilometres return) and it’s easy to follow with only torchlight. Just tread carefully as you approach the peak it’s obviously quite rocky and there are some dangerous drops.
You’ll finish the hike in time for a leisurely breakfast at camp or at one of the cafes in town. Unless you’re a rock climber, the most obvious thing to do next in the Grampians is to go for another hike. You could spend a week in Halls Gap and still not experience even half of the incredible hiking trails that surround the place. You could head to the Visitor Centre to find out all your options, but you should probably just go with 5.6-kilometre Chatauqua Peak Loop Walk. You’ll get a taste of the best the Grampians has to offer, without the crowds of the better-known trails.
With another hike under your belt, drag your sweaty self to one of Halls Gap’s eateries for lunch before you wave a teary goodbye to the Grampians. It’s about two hours drive to your next stop, Kooyora State Park. You’ll probably arrive mid-afternoon, which will give you plenty of time to take on a 1-kilometre return hike to Melville Caves Lookout before setting up camp at the beautiful Melville Caves Camping Area (check WikiCamps for details) to spend a relaxing afternoon in nature.
Day 4: Melville Caves to Melbourne
3 hours / 235 km driving
There’s one more hike you can’t miss before you depart Kooyora State Park - Melville Caves Southern Lookout Walking Track. This is another short one and shouldn’t take you more than an hour and a half, but the terrain and the views make it a worthy adventure.
You’re on the home stretch now so you might want to head straight for Melbourne, but if you’re looking for lunch along the way check out the Mount Macedon Hotel. They offer some damn fine pub fare and a good range of beers from the Macedon region and beyond.
If you’re up for some more walking, head up Mount Macedon and check out Camels Hump and the Mount Macedon Memorial Cross. You’ll barely break a sweat on either of these short trails, but you’ll be rewarded with views aplenty.
It’s only another hour from Mount Macedon to Melbourne’s CBD, so you shouldn’t have much trouble occupying the rest of your day. Melbourne is one of the world’s most liveable cities, after all.
Both road trips have their own unique features - the Great Ocean Road with it Instagram value and ocean views, the inland trek with its tiny towns, rolling plains and soaring mountains. As with any good road trip, always leave plenty of time to stop and explore. Half the fun of any holiday experience is the journey to take to get there.
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