The Pacific Coast begins at Cape Howe, which marks the eastern extremity of the state border of Victoria and New South Wales, and extends to the northern tip of Australia - Cape York in far North Queensland. It was along this coast that Lieut. James Cook travelled on his epic voyage of exploration in 1770, mapping as he went and documenting for the first time the country that became known as Australia. This drive mirrors his journey, through Cook saw it all from a different perspective - he traversed the coast by sea.
These days it is possible to follow the east coast of Australia most of the way on sealed bitumen roads, starting at the old whaling town of Eden on the NSW south coast, and ending at Cooktown in north Queensland. This drive utilises these ribbons of bitumen, but begins in Melbourne to allow the whole drive from Melbourne to Sydney via the Princes Highway to be included.
Two alternative inland return routes are suggested, however if money and/or time is an issue, you may consider hiring a motor vehicle and driving one way, leaving the vehicle at Cairns if travelling north, or at Sydney or Melbourne if travelling south, before flying home or on to your next destination.
Of all the long distance drives I have done in Australia, this would have to be one of the most memorable. It passes through or close to some of the best coastal and inland scenery in the three states on Australia's eastern seaboard (Vic, NSW and Qld), it includes Australia's three largest cities, as well as Australia's most visited holiday and tourist destinations (except for Uluru). It also affords the opportunity for Australians to 'taste and see' holiday destinations outside of their home state with a view to finding specific places to return to at a later date for a closer look.
In a nutshell, this drive showcases much of what people come to or travel Australia to see, all in one simple drive that can easily be handled by the average family car with 2 or more people sharing the driving. Furthermore, it can all be fitted into an annual vacation, or within a school holiday period as a one-way drive using a hire vehicle, with a flight home at the end. Those daunted by such a long drive will find travelling just a few sections an equally rewarding experience.
Location: the east coast of Australia
Length (total): Melbourne to Cooktown: 3,944 km
Length (by section): Sydney to Cairns: 2,407 km
Melbourne to Eden: 556 km/7 hours
Eden to Sydney: 478 km/7 hours
Sydney to Brisbane: 926 km/12 hours
Brisbane to Townsville: 1,335 km/18 hours
Townsville to Cooktown: 649/9 hours.
Suggested return journey: return inland from Cairns via the Kennedy Highway to Four Mile Scrub National Park; Kennedy and Gregory Developmental Roads to Millchester, Gregory Developmental Road to Clermont; Gregory Highway to Springsure; Dawson Highway to Rolleston; Carnarvon Highway to Surat; Surat Development Road to The Gums; Leichhardt Highway to Goondawindi: Bruxner Highway to Tenterfield; New England Highway via the Hunter Valley to Newcastle; Pacific Highway to Sydney; Hume Highway to Melbourne.
An alternate inland route, which is shorter and on bitumen all the way, is to follow Bruce Highway south from Cairns to Townsville; take Flinders inland to Charters Towers; south along Gregory Experimental Road and Gregory Highway to Springsure via Clermont, Capella and Emerald; Dawson Highway to Biloela; south along Burnett Highway to Kingaroy; Bunya and Warrego Highways to Toowoomba; New England Highway to Newcastle via Warwick, Armidale, Tamworth and the Hunter Valley; Pacific Highway to Sydney; Hume Highway to Melbourne.
Features/attractions: coast towns and resorts of the NSW South Coast, Central Coast and far North Coast; the Gold Coast; Brisbane; the Sunshine Coast; the South Burnett region; Capricornia Coast; The Whitsunday Islands; other islands of the Great Barrier Reef; Cairns; Atherton Tablelands; Daintree rainforests
Minimum duration (one way): 7 days
What You Will See:
Melbourne to Bega: take Princes Highway out of Melbourne and travel east through Gippsland. This route passes the turn-offs to Phillip Island; the Victoria snowfields; Wilsons Promontory; Gippsland Lakes and passes through Traralgon, Morwell, Sale, Lakes Entrance, Bairnsdale, crossing the NSW border inland near Genoa. On the way in to Eden is the turn-off to Ben Boyd National Park (picturesque Twofold Bay; Boydtown historic ruins).
Bega to Sydney: this section passes through the sleepy towns of Pambula, Merimbula, Bega (cheese factory) and the turn-off to Tathra (historic wharf). From Bega or Tathra the coastal road is recommended. It takes in Mimosa Rocks, Wallaga Lake and Bermagui. The highway is re-joined near the quaint villages of Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba. Continue north to Tarooma and Moruya, where again the recommendation is to take the coastal road via Broulee to Bateman's Bay alongside one of the most picturesque sections of the NSW coastline. Before reaching Nowra, the road passes through Ulladulla and the turnoffs to St. Georges Basin and the Jervis Bay region, which have much to offer the visitor in the way of scenery and places to see. Pacific Highway continues north to Sydney via Wollongong and the Shoalhaven and Illawarra districts.