Road Tripping From Newcastle to Melbourne
Australia is a country that’s built for road trips. Some you’ll do for fun and others you’ll find yourself doing out of necessity.
One road trip I have found myself taking countless times now is the drive between Newcastle and Melbourne. I’ve driven this route for both reasons, as I’ve lived in these cities at different points in my life and enjoy the route between them.
It can be a great drive to take, if you follow the scenic route along the Princes Highway, down the Sapphire Coast and up through the Mornington Peninsular.
However, even if you’re hoping to get from Newcastle to Melbourne as fast as possible, there’s still some nice places where you can stay and sights to see along the way.
Need Know Information
There are a few things you should consider if this is your first big drive in Australia – although it’s also good information to know, regardless.
Road charges from Newcastle to Melbourne
You can bypass Sydney on the Newcastle to Melbourne drive (which I highly recommend doing, as driving through Sydney is a nightmare), but the Westlink M7, which you’ll take to do this, features a toll. The cost of the toll changes depending on what time of the day you pass through – you can see prices here.
If you don’t have an e-TAG (which are only worth getting if you regularly drive in Australia, although that being said, I don’t actually have one), you can get a Visitor’s e-PASS, which will cover you on Sydney roads for up to 30 days.
I highly recommend doing this. If you pass through a toll without one, you are given the option of paying within three days, but last time I did that, I couldn’t find my car in the system and ended up paying extra admin fees, which I was quite annoyed about.
If you’re driving a rental car, they should come with the option of an e-TAG and you’ll pay the charge to the rental company.
Renting a car is very straightforward in Australia – I’ve done it more times than I can count. You can compare rental car prices here.
Leave early, but not too early
As mentioned above, Sydney traffic is horrendous, even coming from Newcastle and entering the city via the M1 (that’s the motorway from Newcastle to Sydney – it used to be known as the F3 and everyone still calls it that because old habits die hard).
Many people who work in Sydney live on the Central Coast, the area between the city and Newcastle. Traffic starts early, so you’ll be crawling along if you leave at the wrong time.
Even if you want to do a full day’s worth of driving, I wouldn’t bother leaving Newcastle until 9am earliest. The roads will be clearer and you’ll make better time, with less effort.
Likewise, don’t try to enter Melbourne in the early morning hours or afternoon from 4pm, unless you love traffic jams.
This is why I tend to break up this trip with an overnight stay – I can cruise into the city in the early afternoon, with my sanity intact.
Watch out for bushfires
This route is prone to bushfires in the summer months, particularly along the M1.
If you’re doing the trip for fun, I’d highly advise scheduling it outside of bushfire season (from late November to early March).
However, if it’s a trip you have to do, make sure you check for potential delays before you leave. Trust me – it’s not fun to get stuck on this road, especially if you have a deadline.
Check this bushfire map for hazards along the M1 before you set off.
Stop, Revive, Survive
Authorities advise that drivers stop every two hours when travelling along Australian roads.
Get out of the car, take a walk around, go to the loo, grab something to eat. Even if you’re taking turns driving, it’s worth doing this.
I’d personally recommend keeping an eye on your petrol gauge and filling up when you have a quarter tank left. There are a lot of servos (service stations) along these roads, but the last thing you want is to get caught out.
Watch out for native animals
Australian roads become particularly active at certain times of the day. Birds fly in front of cars, kangaroos bounce across roads. Possums, wombats, koalas and echidnas will make appearances.
PLEASE be careful and try to avoid harming or killing our local wildlife, by being alert and sticking to the speed limit, especially during dawn and dusk.
Watch out for roos in particular – their own well being aside, they can do major damage to a car and endanger lives.
Don’t speed or drive under the influence of alcohol
Australia has very strict road rules, which are policed heavily.
Keep to the speed limits along the roads. Australia does well in having plenty of signs, advising speed limits. Some change with the conditions, such as for road work, school zones or due to the weather. It’s best to be mindful of this and stay alert.
Fixed speed cameras in NSW have highly visible advance warning signs, but Victoria’s don’t. Mobile speed cameras will appear without warning and the fines are exorbitant.
The limit for alcohol consumption when driving is a blood alcohol limit of 0.05 for drivers with their full licence. This is what I have, but frankly, if I’m driving I just don’t drink.
Getting There as Fast as Possible
If your main objective is to get from Newcastle to Melbourne with as little time spent as possible, this is the route you should take.
Towns Worth Stopping In
Here are a couple of towns worth stopping in for half an hour or so along the way. It’s about 11 hours driving non-stop, but don’t do that.
Goulburn is located around 4 hours from Newcastle, making it a perfect resting point on your trip.
I like driving into Goulburn at night, for the novelty factor. Its war memorial sends a sweeping light across the city – it’s a bit like having a lighthouse, 100km from the coast!
I tend to stop at the Giant Merino to fill up on petrol, have a toilet break and get some food. And take a novelty photo, of course.
Glenrowan is a cute little town about two and a half hours from Melbourne.
It’s famous for being part of the Ned Kelly Touring Route and certainly takes advantage of that. If you stop in the town centre you’ll see what I mean – there’s homages to Ned Kelly everywhere and even a giant statue of our most famous criminal.
If you’ve got time, you can check out the small museum in town. I highly recommend grabbing a cuppa at the Billy Tea Rooms.
This is starting to turn into a tour of Australia’s “Big Thing” statues, but I’m okay with this and I hope you are too.
Where to Stay
Here are a couple of options for spending the night on your road trip from Newcastle to Melbourne.
I stay at the Tuckerbox Motor Inn when doing this drive – it’s exceptionally nice.
See more accommodation options in Gundagai here.
If your priority is to make it to Victoria before nighttime, then Wodonga would be an ideal place to stay as it’s the first city on the border.
Taking the scenic route
If you’re opting for the more scenic drive, allow for around three days to get from Newcastle to Melbourne.
Places and Towns Worth Stopping In
You can take two different routes to get from Newcastle to Melbourne. One will take you through Australia’s capital Canberra. The other bypasses Canberra, taking you through gorgeous valleys and down the coast.
Personally, unless you’re planning to spend time exploring Canberra, I’d opt for the valley option.
I’m not saying Canberra isn’t a place worth visiting in its own right – it most certainly is. This is more because Canberra deserves time, at least a couple of days, to explore it properly.
Plus, the road into Canberra can be a bit dull, compared to the road through the valleys, which is jaw-dropping gorgeous.
It’s up to you and both options are available. It mostly comes down to whether this drive is more about visiting Canberra, or the drive itself.
If you go for the valley option and down the Sapphire Coast, these are places I recommend stopping in for a stretch of time.
You will pass through plenty of other towns on the way, so get out and look at whatever tickles your fancy.
Kangaroo Valley is the valley you’ll travel through to get to the town of the same name.
It’s a beautiful, heritage rich area, with plenty of activities on offer.
We simply strolled through the town itself (which is popular amongst artists), examining the local goods and having a bite to eat.
However, there are plenty of festivals held (such as the Folk Festival) and you can go kayaking, horse riding and bushwalking in the area. You can see more activities here.
Lakes Entrance as the name may suggest, is the gateway to the Gippsland Lakes.
Here you can go camel riding, take a cruise to see if you can spot some dolphins and check out the nearby Buchan caves, among many other options.
Philip Island is a popular day trip from Melbourne and is best known for being home to the Penguin Parade.
Here, you can see Little Penguins returning home after a day’s fishing in the ocean. THEY ARE VERY CUTE.
Penguins aside, there are plenty of other things to see and do. There’s a giant maze, a chocolate factory and the island is also home to Australia’s Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Where to Stay
If you’re planning on breaking up your trip into three days, you can follow my itinerary and stay in the following towns.
The First Night – Merimbula
Merimbula is a nice town in southern NSW, smack bang in the middle of the Sapphire Coast.
The Second Night – Kilcuna
The last time I took the scenic route, I stayed in Kilcuna Ocean View Motel. It ws a lovely little motel, close to Philip Island, which I was planning on exploring the next day.
From there, you can drive on into Melbourne, your road trip complete.
And if you’re heading the other way, simply flip the options.
This itinerary also works if you’re driving a return road trip from Melbourne to Sydney and want to see some sights along the way.
If you want know more about Australian road trips, this in-depth guide will be helpful.
Other relevant posts
The 7 Best Neighbourhoods to Stay in Melbourne
Visiting Melbourne on a Budget
Local and Hidden Gems of Newcastle, Australia
9 Cool Things to Do in Lake Macquarie, NSW
What NOT to Do When Visiting Australia
How to Avoid Looking Like a Tourist in Australia
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