Road trips are exciting. They provide the right dose of adventure without going overseas. Australia is the perfect country for it. There are endless possibilities, from entry-level road trips to ‘The Big Lap’. In this article, you will find all the information in order to plan your Sydney to Adelaide road trip.
Some families might find road trips overwhelming. It is an epic journey. However, our family likes the sense of freedom even it is a well-planned trip based on our preferences. Generally speaking, our daughters are good travellers; we are very lucky. Our eldest has already her own bucket list of places that she would like to visit. But, then she is the first one to complain when the trip is too long. How ironic! I am sure that you know what I am talking about.
Sydney to Adelaide is a rewarding road trip to do with kids, especially if you plan a detour in Canberra. It is a cheaper option than coastal drives, where accommodation tends to be more expensive. And, you will love this route if you hate crowds, as Albury, Bendigo and Adelaide never feel as busy as Sydney.
So, if you are looking forward to doing something different and if your kids travel well, I highly recommend the Sydney to Adelaide drive.
Ready to visit three states (NSW, VIC, SA) in one trip? Don’t forget to share your adventures with us!
By Mireia Garriga Seguranyes
NB This is a very long article, more than 3600 words… you will need a cup of tea!
Sydney to Adelaide: Best Route
The best way to travel from Sydney to Adelaide is via Albury and Bendigo. You can also choose the fastest route, which is the Sydney to Hay NSW drive, stopping at Wagga Wagga and then Hay to Adelaide, but, in general, it is less scenic. Another possibility is to drive Sydney to Adelaide via Broken Hill. However, it is much longer. I would only do it if you were a Mad Max fan.
The Sydney to Adelaide road trip itinerary that we suggest is very scenic in spring with all the bright yellow canola fields and the farm animals that you can spot from the car. It combines historic landmarks with child-friendly places, which makes it quite unique.
The Sydney-Adelaide-Sydney self-drive is feasible to in two weeks, so it fits in with all the school holiday periods. We recommend driving Sydney to Adelaide/Adelaide to Sydney in a minimum of three days each way.
Sydney to Adelaide Drive: Where To Stop
Where we choose to stop when we drive from Sydney to Adelaide not only helps us to cope with the tiredness but also has all the kid-friendly elements that you need for a smooth road trip.
We choose to stay at motels instead of hotels, as it is easy to park and drag the bags into the room.
Personally, we like early starts. So, we have more freedom to stop and spend more time in each place. Also, we like to do a long stint of driving like Seana suggested in a previous post about Sydney to Orange.
Sydney to Albury stops (550 km)
In this first leg, you will find expansive views, blue skies, rolling hills, bridges crossing deep gorges and farmland, besides some interesting stops and detours. Albury is the final stop and a good place to spend overnight, visit the town in the afternoon and recharge batteries for the next days.
Gunning is a small country village on the Old Hume Highway, between Goulburn and Yass. It has managed to retain the old rural and historic charm. For more information about Gunning, check Visit NSW page.
62 Yass St, Gunning NSW 2581
Phone: 02 4845 1250
This café has a patio at the back and a kid’s corner inside. The best: the homemade cakes! For travellers, it is the perfect stop to refuel, as it has an extensive all day breakfast menu.
THE DOG ON THE TUCKERBOX NEAR GUNDAGAI
Gundagai is famous because of “the Dog on the Tuckerbox´” and “the Marble Masterpiece”. “The Dog on the Tuckerbox” is not in town, but it has big signs on the highway.
Note: I recommend stopping it on the way back, as there isn’t any bypass unless you take West St from Gundagai.
Dog on the Tuckerbox Tourist Centre
37 Annie Pyers Dr, Gundagai NSW 2722
Phone: 04 0037 3231
The Tourist Centre is next to the Dog on the Tuckerbox. The Centre also has a kiosk. Café and hamburgers are nice. There is plenty of space for children running around.
Note: Check the business hours before stopping. Sundays is closed. Click on here.
If you decide to stop in Gundagai, don’t miss “The Marble Masterpiece”, which is an impressive cathedral-in-miniature made by the same sculptor of “the Dog on the Tuckerbox”, Frank Rusconi. This masterpiece is permanently on display at the Visitor Information Centre.
On the border with Victoria, Albury is a vibrant regional major city in conjunction with Wodonga. Albury belongs to New South Wales, while Wodonga is in Victoria. Click this link to plan your stay in Albury. You will information on where to stay and all the fun things to do with kids.
SUGGESTED DETOUR: Southern Highlands
This article by Fiona Kirsch is full of suggestions of things to do with kids in Bowral and Berrima.
Less busy than Bowral, Mittagong is a good place to stop if you plan to detour, as the Mittagong Visitors’ Centre is the main tourist information bureau for the Highlands. Besides its historic importance due to the coal and iron in the past, nowadays Mittagong is getting very popular because of its wineries.
18 Bowral Road, Mittagong NSW 2575
Phone: 02 4872 1466
This Coffee Shop and Record Bar has kept in mind children. Next to the records, you can find some pencils and paper. Furthermore, the sandwiches are delicious!
Note: closed on Sundays.
SUGGESTED DETOUR: Canberra
If you have enough time, Canberra is a must visit. Read this article by Seana Smith to discover all the things that you can do in the Capital of Australia.
Albury to Bendigo stops (286 km)
Most likely you will feel very tired on the second day. This is why the second day involves fewer hours of driving. Bendigo is only 286 km away from Albury. As this second leg is shorter than the other two, we suggest taking the scenic route. It is only 11km longer.
The scenic route takes you through Corowa, Lake Mulwala close to Yarrawonga and Shepparton.
Also, if you have extra days, you might like to explore Rutherglen, which is one of the oldest wine regions of Australia. For more information, find it on its official tourism website.
Also, from Shepparton you can drive to Echuca – Moama, the paddle steamer capital of Australia.
ALBURY TO COROWA
From West Albury, if you take the Riverina Highway (B58), which crosses the Riverina Bioregion, you will find that the road follows the course of the Murray River.
On the bank of the Murray River, between the border of New South Wales and Victoria, there is Corowa, a small country town.
Surprisingly and despite being so early in the morning, Corowa was quite vibrant with some trendy places in the main street. We had breakfast in Corowa, as we had an early start.
For more information about the Corowa Region, click on here.
Corowa Whisky and Chocolate
20-24 Steel Street, Corowa, NSW 2646
Phone: (02) 6033 1311
The old Corowa Flower Mill was abandoned for nearly 40 years until the project of Corowa Whisky and Chocolate was born. Whisky and driving don’t go together. But, what about having a sweet treat or make your own chocolate? We arrived too early, and the factory was not opening until 9am, which is a shame.
Doc Yarrum Café
83 Sanger St, Corowa NSW 2646
Phone: 02 6033 3627
In one of our trips to Adelaide we had breakfast in the Doc Yarrum Café and the food was delicious.
COROWA TO YARRAWONGA
From Corowa head to Lake Mulwala, the drive is always very entertaining for the little ones. We saw so many cows and sheep before reaching Lake Mulwala.
If your children need a stretch, Yarrawonga –known as Inland Aquatic Paradise, is another good place to stop. There is plenty to see and do.
Furthermore, when the construction of the $1.2 million All Abilities Adventure Playground at Purtle Park in Mulwala will be completed, it will be another landmark for the Federation Council area, which will attract visitors and families to the region.
YARRAGONGA TO BENDIGO
After having had such a good breakfast in Corowa, we kept driving until we reach Shepparton.
Shepparton has one of the best adventure playgrounds of Australia, SPC Kids Town. So, relax meanwhile the kids go wild. The park has lots of equipment besides giant slides and mazes. There is a miniature train that travels around the entire park. And, if you feel hungry you can eat at the Dig In Café, which has a kids menu.
SPC Kids Town
7287 Midland Highway, Mooroopna VIC 3629
Phone: (03) 5831 4213
In September, the park hosts the KidsFest, one of Victoria’ largest annual Childrens’ festivals. The festival offers a wide range of entertainment and educational activities aimed at families with children up to 12 years of age.
Another great attraction from Shepparton is the Moooving Art, an art exhibition consisting of life sized 3D cows. There are 90 fibreglass cows scattered throughout Shepparton and surrounding towns in public gardens, playgrounds and businesses.
We took so many photos! It is a bold exhibition, full of colour and personality. Well-done Shepparton for this initiative! It is so eye-catching!
Shepparton is only 2 hours north Melbourne. Greater Shepparton is another country region that has lots to offer. You can find all the information on the official site Visit Shepparton.
Albury to Bendigo is the shortest leg of the road trip from Sydney to Adelaide. It works well because it allows spending half extra day in Bendigo. Bendigo is a beautiful regional town full of heritage. It is worth to stop two days, or even more if you have enough time.
Bendigo to Adelaide stops (615 km)
This is the hardest leg of the road trip, as everyone starts to feel tired. The landscape changes quickly, from green to arid, from scenic to nearly treeless.
You will be driving against the sun. The road is straight without hardly any turn or any bend. If it sounds too much after two days of driving, consider staying one extra night in Bendigo, or adding a stop midway. Some suggestions to stop overnight are Bordertown or Tailem Bend.
Also, another idea is to reward your kids taking them to Monarto Zoo, which is the world’s largest open-range zoo. Monarto Zoo is on the same highway, so you don’t need to detour.
St Arnaud is a former gold mining town, with well-preserved historic and traditional buildings with beautiful verandas. The main street (Napier Street) has several cafés and pubs. It is in the Wimmera region of Victoria and from here, you can visit the Grampians or start your Silo Art Trail adventure.
16 Kings Avenue, St Arnaud VIC 3478
Phone: 03 5495 1894
Very close to the Queen Mary Gardens, Six2Six is a popular local bakery that serves great coffee, tea, pies, sausage rolls and toasted sandwiches. The bakery is not fancy, although it has a very interesting mural with some celebrities’ portraits such as Elvis Presley or Captain Sparrow. The cafe also has a section of gifts to purchase. On each table you can find games and books.
From St. Arnaud, the GPS might take you through one-single line roads. Take B220 until you reach the turn of B210. Drive until Minyip. Then, take Minyip-Dimboola Rd (B200) that meets Borund Hwy (C234). After this intersection, you continue in Borund Hwy -direction to Nhil- until you reach the main intersection of the Western Hwy (A8).
Basically, this route is a shortcut. The only drawback is that there isn’t anything, only countryside. Therefore, make sure that your children go to the toilet before leaving St. Arnaud. You will find public toilets in the Queen Mary Gardens.
Tip: If you get lost or you find my instructions a bit confusing, type Horsham on your GPS. Or, follow Wimmera Hwy (B240) direction to Horsham.
After this, the rest is easy! You only need to follow the highway all the way to Adelaide.
Along the way pay attention to the silos, some of them have amazing murals.
THE PINK LAKE NEAR DIMBOOLA
This is an amazing free attraction conveniently located on the Western Highway. You can see the stunning pink lake from the rest area or you can walk down the path to the edge of the lake. The pink colour can be slightly different every time that you visit it, as it depends on the amount of water in the lake.
Note: Be aware that the salt can be very sharp. So, avoid walking barefoot.
Don’t miss this stop!!! Nhill has an amazing playground in Jaypex Park with a very easy trail that leads to a beautiful little lake. It is the perfect place to stretch the legs.
The playground has a long slide and lots of equipment. Our daughters didn’t want to leave. There is a petrol station around the corner. So, have a take-away coffee and relax whilst the children play. BBQ and toilet facilities are available, too.
Bordertown is less than three hours drive from Adelaide on the border between South Australia and Victoria. There are several country style cafés and bakeries.
The playground of Apex Park in the CBD is not as cool as the one from Nhill. But, still, it is a good place to stop if you need to have a stretch and a bite. It has public toilets, too.
Alternatively, Tolmer Park with a man-made lake, on the banks of Tatiara Creek, is a very convenient spot as it has beside a bakery. Or, if you have time, you might even consider visiting the Bordertown Wildlife Park.
99 Farquhar St, Bordertown SA 5268
Phone: 02 4845 1250
Bordertwon Bakery is a short stroll to Apex Park playground. The pies are very nice. The menu also offers burgers, wraps, focaccias, hot dogs and croissants. The bakery has a kid’s corner, too.
If you need to take a breath, you might prefer to do it with a view. Visitors Information area & Lookout above the Murray River has spectacular views. Tailem Bend is a good place to explore the banks of Murray River on foot. River Bend Heritage Trail is 25 kilometre loop trail along the Murray River, between Tailem Bend and Wellington. Around the corner from Tailem Bend, you can find one of Australia’s largest pioneer villages, the Old Tailem Town Pioneer Village.
In town, there is a good playground with several structures and a steam train engine. It is opposite to the Tailem Bend Bakery.
If you don’t want to stop too long, along the road, there are some eateries and fast food franchises to have a quick bite, too.
And, that’s it! You’re in Adelaide! There are so many lovely things to do and places to see in Adelaide. Check out this review about where to stay that contains a short list of places to see in the CBD.
Adelaide is a beautiful city. It is so easy to get around in comparison to Sydney.
This is because Adelaide is a planned city. Colonel William Light planned Adelaide in a grid, with 5 squares in the city centre and a ring of parks surrounding the centre.
Nowadays, the parklands are one of the jewels of Adelaide, among other attractions. The parklands are still a masterwork of urban design. Adelaidians are so lucky to have this green space surrounding the city. Also, there are lots of cycleways.
The parklands have playgrounds, picnic facilities and sports grounds, tracks to run or to cycle, etc. It is also a place to join the community in festivals, concerts, and sports competitions…Also, the city centre is quite small. Everything is at your doorstep. You can even go to the beach by tram!
Sydney to Adelaide via Wagga Wagga and Hay
I only recommend this drive if you need to reach Adelaide in two days. This is the quickest route. Also, there are some drive attractions, but less than the suggested route of this article unless you decide to do the Classic Australian Drive that goes to Mildura via Gundagai, Wagga-Wagga and Hay.
Like Albury, Wagga-Wagga is a great base for exploring the Riverina Region. There is plenty to see and do. But, if you don’t have much time left, the best recommendation is to visit the Wagga-Wagga Botanical Gardens.
‘Little el’ in the Waga-Waga Botanical Gardens
MacLeay St, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650
Phone: 1300 292 442 or 0499 181 398
Very close to the kiosk, there are some animal enclosures, too. And, a bit further, there is an adventure playground for older children.
Hay is halfway, in the middle of nowhere. The Hay Plains is one of the flattest places on earth. It is not a secret that the Plains are boring, because of the nature of the barren landscape. However, we saw some kangaroos and emus. It added a bit of excitement, which was most than welcome.
In fact, the soil of the plains is quite rich. Where there used to be sheep, there are miles farmland.
If you end up in Hay, take the kids to the inclusive new playground in Hay Park. They will love it! And, believe me, after so many hours in the car, they will need to burn some energy. To find more information about Hay, click on here.
Not far away from Hay, there is Altina Wildlife Park. We must stop next time! It has lots of good reviews.
193 Lachlan St, Hay NSW 2711
Phone: 02 6993 4555
The Saltbush located in the main street- has very spacious family rooms. And a swimming pool for the hot days, too. Tip: book ahead, this new motel is very popular.
Hay Bowling & Golf club
408 Murray St, Hay NSW 2711
Phone: 02 6993 1360
This is the perfect place to chill out after a long drive. The children would love the indoor playground area. The restaurant offers great Chinese meals including a kids menu.
Extra: Advice for the Sydney to Adelaide Drive
- Plan ahead: read some information about the places that you would like to stop (and agree with your partner!), pre-book accommodation (especially in school holidays), check your tyres or get your car serviced, have an early start every day and avoid travelling at night, pack some snacks and drinks, balance the idea of organising one suitcase with the clothes for the Sydney to Adelaide drive attractions and another one with the rest of the clothes for the longer stay in Adelaide.
- Be flexible: prepare to stop more than you planned, children need to go to the toilet often; my calculations is that every toilet stop can easily add 20 minutes to the total travelling time), and, expect some misbehaving (sometimes, children get fed up, even they are good travellers!).
- Keep the kids entertained: it really requires professional brainstorming! We use a portable DVD Player and iPads, play “I spy”, bring sticker books,colouring books and listen to lots of music. Note: be aware that internet signal and the FM radio are very weak or non-existent in some areas, depending on your carrier.
- Motivate. Sometimes, motivation doesn’t mean big material things, although you might want to spoil your kids after such a long drive. For example, my daughters love to catch up their cousins that live in Albury and in Adelaide. So, it is easy for us to convince them. But, we also do something special when we arrive a destination, like going to see the pandas at Adelaide Zoo.
Finally, if you decide to go on a road trip as a family holiday, it is important that you explain where you plan to stop. If they are old enough, they can enjoy looking at the map and you can keep asking them to find where they are.
Other shorter NSW road trips: There are some great ideas!
Sydney to Orange to discover the NSW countryside
Sydney to Dubbo to explore the outback
And, Sydney to Canberra, a must-do to visit the capital
We love road trips. Australia is a safe country to plan one. Albury and Bendigo are excellent destinations to discover with kids.
There is so much to see outside the touristy routes.
Have you got your own fave stops on this route to add to our list? Safe travels!