Driving from Melbourne to Canberra can take as little as seven hours, with a dual-carriage highway for most of the journey. Or take a couple of days to travel our suggested itinerary for a few extra surprises.
Start with a detour out of Melbourne to take in the beauty of Kinglake within the magnificent Yarra Valley. Explore the stunning Wombelano Falls – take the 1.5km loop to the observation platform or try a treetop zip lining challenge at Kinglake Forest Adventures.
Then head north-west towards Bendigo. You can join the Calder Freeway to encounter Macedon Regional Park on the way. Walk the Sanatorium Walking Trail (great for families) or take a longer hike along the Macedon Ranges Walking Trail for stunning countryside views. There is a memorial cross at the summit of Mount Macedon standing 21 metres high to commemorate veterans. Or drive the C325 instead to include a visit to Heathcote in central Victoria. A former gold-mining town, the area is now known for its wines, fresh produce and craft beers. Drop into McIvor Estate or Palling Bros Brewery.
To gain insights into Australia’s Gold Rush history, spend some time in Bendigo, a town rich in heritage. Hop on the vintage talking tram to learn about the town’s gold mining history or take a walk through the magnificent Golden Dragon Museum.
About an hour away, you will arrive in paddle steamer country – Echuca. Set on the mighty Murray River, this was a bustling and productive port town in the mid- to late-1800s.
Start your morning with a horse riding exploration of Echuca’s waterways with Billabong Ranch trail rides.
Then try the ultimate paddle steamer experience. Ride the historic PS Emmy Lou with its historic wood-fired steam engine as you amble along the Murray. Drop into the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre for interactive displays, the sawmill, working steam exhibits, and moored paddle steamers.
When you leave Echuca, take the Midland Highway and head to Glenrowan, known as the site where Ned Kelly and his gang were captured in 1880 – you can even pose with The Big Ned Kelly sculpture. Not far away, navigate the Winton Wetlands, featuring a dramatic Silo Art Trail, with incredible visual artworks painted on massive silos.
Then leave the Hume and take the Snow Road to Milawa, home to Brown Brothers wines. Stop in at Patricia’s Table for a decadent lunch and wine tasting. Then drive another half hour to the historic village of Beechworth. Taste the old-fashioned cordials (or the gin!) at Billson’s Brewery, and if you have time, visit the Old Beechworth Gaol for a guided tour or explore the rugged Beechworth Historic Park – Woolshed Falls is spectacular after heavy rainfalls.
Drive the 40 minutes to Albury Wodonga, also set on the Murray River. Head straight to the Huon Hill Parklands for a 360-degree view, where you’ll spot Lake Hume, the Alpine Region, Kiewa Valley and more. Get there in time to capture the sunset.
Put your feet up at a local B&B or stay in the CBD at the comfortable Mantra Albury Hotel.
Hire a bike and take the Wagirra Trail or explore the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk, featuring works by local Aboriginal artists along a five-kilometre stretch.
Drop into the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) for an impressive and interactive display of contemporary art, or let the kids run free at Albury Botanic Gardens, where they’ll delight in exploring the children’s garden play space with its fairy temple and troll cave.
After leaving Albury, continue on the M31 through Tarcutta and onto lovely Gundagai. Of course, there’s the iconic Dog on the Tucker Box just north of Gundagai, but the town itself has restaurants and cafes and plenty of history to share. There is a 2km main street heritage walk to help stretch your legs (it starts at the Visitor Information Centre). Then grab a delish coffee from The Coffee Pedaler on Sheridan Street.
Drive just over an hour from Gundagai and take the Barton Highway turnoff to arrive in Murrumbateman – home to award-winning cool climate wines and many welcoming boutique cellar doors. This area is known for its rich soils, delicious paddock-to-plate food, and country charm.
Visit Clonakilla Wines to taste a quality Riesling or Shiraz Viognier or drop into Gallagher Wines for a wine and cheese sampling along with some friendly banter. Book in for dinner at Olleyville at Shaw Wines.
Finish your day with a nightcap at the friendly Murrumbateman Country Inn, then a stylish stay at Abode Murrumbateman.
Start your day with a fresh pastry from the Village Café in Murrumbateman. On Saturdays, drop into the Murrumbateman Village Market for an authentic country market experience, including live music, local produce and handcrafted gifts.
Visit another winery or two on your way out of Murrumbateman as there are so many to choose from! The boutique cellar doors offer an opportunity to meet the vignerons, share a yarn and sample the local creations. Try the beautiful Four Winds Vineyard or Eden Road Wines.
Drive along the Barton Highway towards Canberra, and detour along Nanima Road to the irresistible Robyn Rowe Chocolates for a fix of handmade, Belgium couverture. You can even buy their special Cherry Port. Then head to the lovely Poachers Pantry to try their Poachers Vineyard wines or stock up on traditionally smoked produce including kangaroo prosciutto and bresaola.
Then stop by the charming village of Hall for a classic pub lunch with a dash of atmosphere at 1982 Bar and Grill. You can also take a walk through a section of the Canberra Centenary Trail – climb to One Tree Hill Lookout and be rewarded with fabulous views across Canberra.
Arrive in NewActon precinct for an architecturally inspiring stay at Ovolo Nishi (with its designer interior and funky ambience) and dinner at award-winning Monster Kitchen and Bar. Top off the day with a nightcap at the lavish Parlour.
Indulge in an eco-friendly breakfast experience at Mocan & Green Grout. Hire Brompton bikes from the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre to explore the glorious Lake Burley Griffin. Cycle the 5km loop and stop off for a coffee, to watch the swans, or to let the kids to run free along the way.
Engage your inner art critic at the National Gallery of Australia with its renowned collections of both Australian and international art. Take time to see the largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and meander through the inspiring Sculpture Garden.
Visit the Australian National Botanic Gardens where you can sit for lunch in the Pollen Café, wander the misty rainforest or pick up a rare find from the Botanical Bookshop. You can even recharge with a soul-enriching massage at Jindii Eco Spa.
Get the heart pumping with indoor alpine thrills at Vertikal Indoor Snow Sports. Learn new skills or refine your skiing or snowboarding technique at any time of the year. Then head across to Capital Brewing Co. for a locally brewed craft beer, games, burgers and a buzzing atmosphere. On weekends, you can book a tour to learn more about the impressive brewing systems and process.
Finish your day with a modern and delicious south-east Asian dining experience at XO in Narrabundah.
With so many national attractions to explore, quirky precincts to roam, and insta-worthy restaurant dishes to devour, there truly is something for everyone in Canberra. Why not stay another day?