Approached with a mindset open to serendipity – whether it’s a honeymoon, a spontaneous getaway, or a weekend escape – a road trip is the ultimate way for couples of all ages and situations to create their own memorable adventure. The drive from Melbourne to Adelaide ranks high on our list of fabulous drives, perfect for a short break with so much to see along the way.
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever on the road”.
Jack Kerouac was certainly onto something. A road trip is an attitude.
Victoria’s Great Ocean Road has become a byword for visual melodrama. But if you keep driving towards Adelaide this route along Australia’s ruggedly beautiful southern edge has the makings of an epic journey. Iconic coastline, river gum studded paddocks, acclaimed wetlands and wineries, elegant historic towns, outback scenes and the vibrant arts culture of Mount Gambier are all here.
After a moody descent through misty forests, curling along the Great Ocean Road can be a giddy sensation. On beaches shrouded by sea spray and laced with oversized leathery kelp, there’s a poignant sense that there’s nothing between here and Antarctica.The romance gets cranked up if you pause for a meal, or better still, stay at evocative lighthouses along the way.
Shimmering against glowering Bass Strait skies, Cape Otway Lightstation is both a standout historic destination as well as a uniquely atmospheric base. Rustling with koalas and curious wallabies, this densely forested section of the Great Ocean Road hides breathtaking bays such as Wreck Beach, where the anchors of doomed ships emerge at low tide and the sand quivers in rhythm with the grumbling seas.
Between the Twelve Apostles and the Bay of Islands, the landscape looks as if a giant has frenziedly hacked at the earth with a serrated knife.The sight of towering ochre cliffs being gouged by voracious ocean is best savoured in solitude – easily done by following numerous seaward tracks.
Portland,Victoria’s first European settlement, is home to fetching bluestone buildings. At nearby Cape Nelson Lighthouse, uplifted reef has created a moonscape spotted with delicate flora. Flocks of albatross and, in season, blue whales, can be spotted close to shore.
After the intoxication of Victoria’s roiling ocean, South Australia’s Limestone Coast, stretching to the acclaimed Coorong Wetlands, unfurls soothing rural vistas. In the historic villages of Robe
and Beachport, the limestone buildings still swagger, creating streetscapes that invite strolling and relishing al fresco meals.
But there’s a particular satisfaction in experiencing unsung charms. A salt-tinged community that feels like walking into a Tim Winton novel, Port MacDonnell is the sort of place where people wander about in the middle of the road and the blacksmith and chaff store still feature intact signage. Anchoring the layers of agrarian history for the once bustling wool and wheat port is magnificent Customs House, the erstwhile courthouse, police station and post and telegraph office.
Driving towards Carpenter Rocks reveals honeycombed cliffs, fairy penguins and secluded bays offering excellent snorkelling. Scenes of the outback – crumbling shearing sheds, disused railway stations, sprawling agrarian homesteads – skirt this coast.
These rural flatlands are crisscrossed with alluring well-maintained dirt roads perfect for randomly weaving your way to the Coonawarra wine country. Although it’s hard to resist the lure of dozens of wineries just a 10 minute drive away, Penola’s lanes of storybook cottages shouldn’t be missed.
Just eight kilometres from Penola, a tour of Yallum Park Homestead presents a rare opportunity to experience a resplendently original Victorian mansion.
Related article: Regional Victoria: Foodie Heaven
Discover more with Australia’s Great South.