18 stops to make on a road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide

A road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide packs in plenty of the best places in Australia with some of the country’s most iconic drives and sights along the way including the Great Ocean Road, Kangaroo Island and McLaren Vale with plenty of hidden gems as well. Hire a camper van or motorhome to live the full Aussie ‘camping’ lifestyle and spend your lunch stops with beautiful beach views, hopping in and out when you see somewhere exciting and enjoy being able to unpack all your things despite being on the road!

Free Camper Advice (and deals!!!)?! Yes please 🙌 A van life trip was one of my must do things in Australia and it’s on plenty of people’s bucket lists when they visit. If you’re finding that searching for a van is pretty intense, you don’t know what to go for and need some advice then you need to get in contact with RatPack Travel. In Australia & New Zealand they’re the best travel agency for booking campers with because they’ll talk you through it all, give you plenty of options (they’re connected to all the best camper companies) and have access to direct availability. Not only is their service FREE but you’ll also get some great deals through them as well! It made booking a camper so much easier for me because they actually know what they’re looking at and can scan through all of the vans at once. When I was looking myself I had too many tabs open looking at individual companies and on the comparison sites the availability was never accurate. So what are you waiting for? Get started here.

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1. Melbourne

Melbourne is Australia’s coffee & foodie capital with plenty of cafes, bars & restaurants to keep you eating out for days (and days) on end so make sure you allow enough time at the start of your road trip to explore the city and its food scene. If you’re short on time you can probably tick off the big hitter locations in 1 full day but if you have the time then allow 2-3 full days and include visits to Philip Island (to see the little penguins at dusk) and the Mornington Peninsula (to relax at the hot springs) on your itinerary.

For art lovers, make sure you give an hour or two to the NGV which holds the likes of Monet, Picasso & Turner within its walls then head to Hosier Lane & AC/DC Lane for graffiti street art. Enjoy the colours and smells of a city park like the Botanic Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens or Queen Victoria Gardens. Hire a boat and motor down the Yarra River. Stroll through the historic streets of Melbourne’s CBD and admire the architecture, stop in at the State Library to gaze at the Dome Library.

If you’re a coffee fan then you MUST order your drink of choice here because every coffee I’ve had in Melbourne (and I reckon I’ve had 6/7) has been excellent. Try a ‘Magic Coffee’ if you like it strong – a type of coffee specific to the city. Queue for the ‘world’s best croissant’ from Lune Croissanterie (the pain au chocolate was pretty delicious) for breakfast and head to Queen Victoria Market to make a picnic lunch to enjoy in a city park.

Before leaving Melbourne we stayed in the fabulous Langham Hotel which had epic city views! Book here to enjoy your stay.

Great Ocean Road

As you leave Melbourne to the west, you’ll be heading down to the Great Ocean Road. This drive is one of the best in the world and one of the top attractions in all of Australia so it’s worth giving it the time it deserves but also note that quite a few stops are a case of jumping out, grabbing a photo and hopping back in your camper! I would recommend picking up your camper as early as possible on your first morning so you can enjoy a full day on the GOR with it. We unfortunately left Melbourne pretty late (about 1pm by the time we’d made our way to the rental shop, unpacked & picked up our Coles shop) and so we didn’t see all of the sights we would have liked to on our first day. Missing from this list is a stop at Angelsea, Torquay and / or Apollo Bay, all of which are said to be lovely GOR towns with great little cafes and beaches.

2. Bells Beach

Watch surfers chase the big waves at Bells Beach

Our first stop along the GOR was at Bells Beach which is the best beach in Australia for surfing so if you’ve brought your board (and you’re an experienced(!!) surfer) then head out on the waves. If you’re a beginner, a lesson in Torquay or Angelsea is a better choice with much safer surfing conditions. The dramatic cliffs here are the first taste of the GOR coastline that you’ll drive along and the lookout at the car park is a great spot to watch the waves crashing and any surfers that are out.

3. Kennett River & Kafe Koala

Can you spot the koala 🐨

A must stop if you want to spot a koala in the wild is at Kennett River. Park at Kafe Koala and after a coffee or ice cream, take a walk up Grey River Road (here) and look up into the branches. It’s one thing seeing these huggable marsupials at an animal sanctuary or koala hospital and it is quite another seeing them in their natural habitat, high up a eucalyptus tree snoozing. We spotted two within a five minute walk of the cafe although I must admit we did have someone else point them both out to us!

4. Teddy’s Lookout

As you drive along the Great Ocean Road there are so many spots that you can pull over and admire the view. Luckily, the GOR is popular with camper road trips so there are plenty of parking spaces for your longer vehicle and with views at every corner, you might even have a fair few to yourself! I’ve named Teddy’s Lookout because it’s one that you’ll head off the main road to find but the view is so stunning. On your left there are incredible coastal views which turn into mountainous forest on your right – amazing to see both of these in one spot!

Our first overnight stop was at Apollo Bay where we booked a powered site at Apollo Bay Recreation Reserve.

5. Maits Rest Rainforest Walk

Rainforest walks at Maits Rest

After Apollo Bay, the GOR hits Cape Otway National Park. You could very easily spend a road trip just exploring this section of the GOR or if you have an extra day to play with between Melbourne and Adelaide you could give some more time to the waterfalls, redwoods & walks of the Park. If, however, you’re flying through like we were then a short stop at Maits Rest Rainforest Walk should be enough to stretch your legs as well as appreciate the beauty of this rainforest section of the coast.

6. Gibson Steps

Stunning beach scenes at Gibson Steps

The next stretch of the road trip features a number of the iconic GOR locations that you’ve likely seen on postcards or travel brochures. There’s a lot of short drives and jumping in and out of the camper so make sure your camera is handy! First up is Gibson Steps. I’m pretty sure I had thought that photos I’d seen in the past of here were just at the base of the 12 Apostles so I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a whole other formation!

At Gibson Steps you can walk down the 86 steps to feel incredibly small as the dramatic cliffs rise up behind you and the limestone structures of ‘Gog’ & ‘Magog’ rise out of the sea in front of you. The only problem is getting back up the steps 😉

7. Twelve Apostles

The 12 Apostles

I was not prepared for how amazed I would be at this world famous spot. Despite the number of Apostles now standing somewhere between 6 & 8 (I can’t find a consistent answer online!) this sight is spectacular. You can only see them from the viewing platform but the jaw dropping cliffs and stacks are really something else.

8. Loch Ard Gorge

Next along the GOR is Loch Ard Gorge. In 1878, a ship called Loch Ard was wrecked on nearby Muttonbird Island (this stretch of coast is called the Shipwreck Coast) and the only two survivors found safety when they made it onto the beach at the gorge which was then named Loch Ard Gorge. The calm blue waters at the bottom conceal the dangers that lie beyond.

9. London Bridge

London Bridge (has partly eroded and fallen down)

It really is one incredible rock formation after another along this section of the GOR and you’ll soon be stopping again, this time at London Bridge. Sadly, the nursery rhyme is correct and London Bridge is falling down! In 1990, one of the arches collapsed to leave the second arch (and a couple of tourists) stranded in the sea. The spot is still beautiful and you really can marvel at the forces of nature that have carved out these wondrous scenes we enjoy today.

10. Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

A little further along the GOR from London Bridge, you’ll find the Bay of Islands. You can either stop at the lookout or Bay of Islands beach to enjoy this place from two different vantage points. The tide was right in when we got here so we couldn’t really get down on to the beach but I can imagine this being pretty spectacular if you can walk further out onto the sand. To me, the Bay of Islands was a rather dreamy spot, you can very much imagine a film being set here and there’s something about the way the islands rise out of the calm water that gives a rather romantic and ethereal feel to this spot. This sense was probably helped by it being considerably quieter than the stop offs above.

11. Port Fairy & Griffiths Island

Port Fairy is a sweet little coastal fishing village situated just after the end of the Great Ocean Road so it’s a great spot to finish this section of your road trip. Before we set up our camper at Port Fairy Holiday Park (which had by far and away the best toiler / shower facilities) we made a stop at a beach and had a walk around Griffiths Island. It was a very windy evening but this little slide of wild paradise had been recommended to me so I was keen to enjoy it. We were rewarded with windswept views, a lovely lighthouse and 3 super cute black wallabies which are resident on the island!

South Australia

The next section of the journey heads into South Australia and begins with a long day of driving. After the large number of visitors you’ll have likely encountered along the GOR, SA in comparison feels considerably more remote and quiet. Most road trippers will probably turn around and head back to Melbourne but there’s so much to see if you continue the journey! On our early morning drives (7-8am) we saw so many wallabies and kangaroos along the roads which was pretty amazing and the landscape is just so different as you head deeper into SA. One thing to note is that there is a quarantine station as you enter SA where you’ll have to bin most fruit / veg (check the gov website for details) so hopefully you’re reading this before your trip or at least before you did a supermarket shop! We made this mistake and had to get rid of quite a bit of the food we had with us sadly!

12. Mount Gambier

The Umpherston Sinkhole Garden in Mount Gambier

Between Port Fairy & Victor Harbor there isn’t a huge amount to see but you absolutely must stop off at Mount Gambier even if it is only about an hour and a half into the journey on this day! The landscape around the city is otherworldly with craters, caves, sinkholes and lakes to explore. In fact, there’s so much here you might want to add in some more time to your trip to make sure you see everything. The Umperston Sinkhole Garden is likely what you may have seen from Mount Gambier so take some time to wonder at this beautiful spot. Also in town is the Engelbrecht Cave which can be explored with a guide. Head out of Mount Gambier and discover the Blue Lake & Little Blue Lake which turn the most incredible bright blue colour and are popular swimming spots on a hot day.

13. Victor Harbor

View to Granite Island

Victor Harbor is a great next camp stop and it feels well deserved after a long drive through Coorong National Park. We did stop off in Robe for lunch which was a nice stop but not necessarily somewhere you’ve got to visit! The main attraction at Victor Harbor is the horse drawn tram which takes riders across to Granite Island. Once you’re there hike around the island and lookout for wildlife playing in the sea such as seals, dolphins and if you’re there in the right season, whales 🐋

14. Kangaroo Island

Straight roads through Flinders Chase National Park

If Kangaroo Island isn’t already on your Australia bucket list then get it on there! It’s one of the most amazing places I’ve visited here. Pristine white sandy beaches meet crystal blue water on one side and lush green forest on the other. Sadly, the island was very badly hit by the 2020 wildfires and much of the western tip was consumed by fire. It is rather eerie driving towards and through Flinders Chase National Park as you can see evidence of the fires on any tree you pass, so many that are just dead. But happily, there is much lush green to be seen at 1m level and growth is on the way.

Ideally we would have spent at least one night, if not two here and if you can then do! Make sure you book the ferry in advance as there are limited places for longer vehicles, the ferry isn’t big! Instead, we packed as much as we could into our 8hr window, whizzing along the straight roads.

During the evening, you’ll be treated to kangaroos and wallabies. During the day, head to Seal Bay and Admirable Arch to spot (you guessed it) seals! At Seal Bay, you can either join a guided tour to venture down onto the beach with the sleepy Australian Sea Lions here or you can view them from the boardwalk instead. At Admirable Arch there are lots of fur seals frolicking in the water and sunbathing on the rocks 🦭 The wildfires decimated the koala population on Kangaroo Island, however you may be able to try your luck and spot one along the walking trail along Cygnet River at Duck Lagoon. Stop off at Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park for.a much better chance of seeing one. The Park was featured in Zac Efron’s latest series (2) of Down to Earth and he showcased the work the team have done supporting the wildlife of KI after the fires.

On the way from Seal Bay to Flinders Chase NP stop at Vivonne Bay General Store and if your vehicle allows admire the view at this stunning bay as well as the glorious Rockpool (we didn’t make it sadly!). In Flinders Chase NP you’ll find Admirable Arch (above) as well as the Remarkable Rocks. Kangaroo Island is also home to Australia’s best beach for 2023 chosen by Tourism Australia. Stokes Bay is breathtaking. From the car park you are wondering if this could really be it but as you follow the signs for ‘beach’ and weave through a rock maze, you come out the other side blown away. The water is just stunning and so calm, the sand super white and absolutely pristine. A perfect spot to end our time on KI before heading back to the ferry!

15. Carrickalinga Beach

As you make your way up the Fleurieu Peninsula towards Adelaide there are a number of beaches that will be calling your name. One of the best is Carrickalinga Beach as it has lovely white sand, gorgeous crystal clear blue water and best of all, very few other people! Spend a morning here with a good book or enjoy a beach stroll. Afterwards, head to Valley of Yore cafe in Myponga for one of the best brownies I’ve ever tasted and an excellent cup of coffee.

16. McLaren Vale

Looking out over the vineyards of McLaren Vale

Before you head into the beach suburbs of Adelaide, make sure you stop off at a local McLaren Vale winery to pick up a bottle to enjoy on your last night with your camper. If you’re not driving then you can stop for a little while longer and enjoy a glass of wine right at its source in a vineyard garden.

We went to Fox Creek Winery and bought a crisp bottle of Sauvignon Blanc which we very much enjoyed with the sunset that evening 🍷

17. Port Noaralunga

Port Noaralunga is still just south of Adelaide and it was a fabulous final stop for us before we spent our last night at Christies Beach. At the Onkaparinga River Lookout there’s a splendid view to enjoy and spaces to park with the camper and have a break. Head down to the beach for a swim, there’s a fantastic reef at the end of the jetty and it’s popular with divers and snorkelers 🐠

18. Adelaide

Our last stop was in Adelaide where we stayed for a night after handing our camper back again. On our last morning we enjoyed a break with some sunbathing and reading at gorgeous Brighton Beach. Adelaide, like most of Australia’s cities, is a beach city with plenty of sandy stretches within easy reach of the CBD so you don’t need to choose between city or beach break!

South Australia Art Gallery

In Adelaide CBD, there’s plenty to do with the Art Gallery of South Australia for art lovers and the South Australian Museum for those interested learning more about this state’s history. Take a stroll through the streets of the city centre to enjoy wonderful architecture and along Rundle Mall for some more art as there are a number of sculptures along here. Pick up delicious local fresh produce at the Adelaide Central Market and then take it to a park to enjoy a lovely picnic. Try the Botanic Gardens, Veale Gardens or Grundy Gardens. If you’re visiting in Summer, treat yourself to tickets to the outdoor cinema and enjoy an old classic or a new release in beautiful surrounds. We watched The Notebook and it was so much fun on the big screen under the stars ğŸŽž

Since you’re in Australia, where you’re more likely to have a brunch plan than a dinner plan, then make sure to have a lazy morning enjoying brunch in one of Adelaide’s best spots. We went to Peter Rabbit which was as cute as the name suggests and the food very tasty 😋

Hopefully this has inspired you to plan your own south coast road trip and there’s no better way to do it than in a camper! Make sure you get in touch with RatPack to guide you through the process of booking and to find the best vehicle for you (as well as a GREAT deal!).

Cat x

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