Here’s how to make the most of an inland road trip between Sydney and Melbourne.
Driving the route from Sydney to Melbourne is a rite of passage for most Australians. Since I moved from Victoria to NSW, it is also a trip I have had the pleasure of undergoing several times over the years.
At around nine-and-a-half hours one way, driving the Hume highway in one go is ill-advised – especially when you can take a detour and get to know some of Australia’s greatest regional towns along the way. So next time you find yourself plugging the route into your GPS, consider a stop at one (or more) of these eight places – starting chronologically from Sydney.
The grand inland city of Goulburn (it was in fact Australia’s first inland city) is an end-point in itself, layering contemporary food and wine experiences upon a rich and colourful rural heritage.
It has historic waterworks and a rail centre, a self-guided heritage tour. It’s also surrounded by bushland, farms and wetlands. To explore it all in detail, find the perfect two-day itinerary here.
On your way out, head to the tiny hamlet of Collector just off the Federal Highway towards Canberra. The Bushranger Hotel, best known for the infamous shooting of Constable Nelson by outlaw Ben Hall and his gang in 1865, is in the centre of town.
Eat: Goulburn’s gastronomic heart culminates at Bryant’s Pies. This may look like your typical regional bakery, however once in the door (queues are common), you’ll find a famous selection of pies, sandwiches, freshly baked bread, sky-high muffins and excellent coffee.
Stay: Step back in time at the charming Railway Barracks, built in 1935 for the town’s first train drivers.
Three hours south-west of Sydney, through the stunning scenery of the Southern Tablelands, is the picturesque town of Yass. You may recognise this place from its starring role in a wholesome episode of Netflix’s Queer Eye, but there is more to Yass than just its fabulous name.
Grand Victorian and Federation buildings flank its wide main street, complete with quaint boutiques, former bank buildings, an elegant courthouse, quality cafes and restaurants that serve local produce in droves.
The famous Banjo Patterson Park commemorates the bush poet. He famously spent some of his early years in the Yass Valley and later bought a property here so his children could experience a similar country childhood to his. Take a walk around and you’ll soon see why.
Eat: Finish a busy day at Clementine, the iconic small-batch bakery owned by Brooke Sainsbery and Adam Bantock.
Stay: Choose from one of 50 design-driven rooms at the Abobe Murrumbateman.
You’ll encounter many roadside signs on a drive down the Hume Highway. Follow the one directing you to Jugiong, home of the swanky Sir George Pub.
After two years’ worth of renovations, the pub (which was built in 1852) has recently reopened, and the reimagined venue now houses a restaurant, heritage-listed accommodation, sourdough bakery and beer garden. It’s a worthy pit-stop all on its own.
While you’re in town, sample some local drops at the Jugiong Wine Cellar. It initially began as a way to showcase the 190 hectares of nearby vines, but quickly evolved into a cellar door and store that offers travellers a taste of the best wines produced throughout southern New South Wales.
A few years ago, Wagga Wagga was little more than just another weird and wonderfully named Aussie town. But these days, the land of many crows has transformed into a cosmopolitan regional jaunt offering boutique stays, quality coffee, gourmet restaurants, fine wines and rich cultural experiences.
For a fully-fledged travel guide to Wagga Wagga, head here.
Eat: For a quick fix, the Trail Street Coffee Shop is a bit of a local institution. Alternatively, 25 minutes north-west of Wagga, the tiny village of Coolamon is drawing droves of dairy-loving day-trippers thanks to the café at Coolamon Cheese. Go for the excellent cheese, stay for the excellent lunch fare and well-chosen local Riverina wines.
Stay: The architecturally-designed eco huts on Kimo Estate are a destination in their own right.
A detour off the Hume in south central NSW rewards with the naval heritage town of Holbrook. The main drawcard here is the HMAS Otway: a 90-metre submarine dominates the townscape. Learn all about it (and more) at the Submarine Museum and the adjacent commemorative park.
Down the road, the heritage-listed National Museum of Australian Pottery houses over 2,000 treasures to peruse. The collection includes rare antiques made by the convict potter Jonathan Leak, whose few surviving pieces are the earliest marked pottery produced in Australia.
Eat: Baking since 1899, the Holbrook Bakery is a popular hub and a quintessential frozen-in-time type food establishment.
Stay: I have spent many a night chatting to friendly blow-ins at the Holbrook Skye Motel. It’s cheap, cheerful and everything you’d expect from a regional accommodation offering.
As far as border towns go, Albury is a heavy-hitter. It’s one of the country’s most productive agricultural areas, offering up the perfect bite-sized town filled with scenery, food and passionate locals.
While there are plenty of appeasing ways to fill your itinerary, an afternoon at the Murray Art Museum (one of Australia’s best regional galleries) is the perfect starting point for gaining an understanding of the region. The vibrant space features a permanent collection and a regular rotating catalogue of exhibitions by local and international artists.
Eat: The uber-stylish Blacksmith Provedore has opened a second iteration of its Mulwala restaurant in Albury. This pizza restaurant and bar serves delicious, digestible and honest seasonal fare in a relaxed atmosphere.
Stay: Head to Circa 1928 for the night. This boutique spa hotel is housed in a former Art Deco bank building close to the town’s botanic gardens.
Often described as Victoria’s most beautiful town, there’s a lot to wax lyrical about in beguiling Beechworth. This non-negotiable detour will reward with historic honey granite buildings built on gold rush wealth and steeped in Ned Kelly legend, alongside a booming food and wine scene.
Wander its two main streets, Ford Street and Camp Street, and while away an afternoon bundled into its cosy cafés and restaurants or sipping and swirling at one of its cellar doors. For all the specifics, head to our Beechworth travel guide here.
Eat: Provenance proudly sits in an old bank built in 1856, and consistently receives Good Food Guide acclaim. Head chef Michael Ryan combines his Japanese-inspired style with local produce to deliver a degustation that people travel here just to experience.
Stay: Fancy something a bit different? At Beechworth Wildlife Stays you can glamp on 2.5 acres of bushland and, in the day, help feed the farm animals and ogle at Billy the crocodile and the resident python.
Wine, waterways, wetlands and wildlife await only 90 minutes from Melbourne in Nagambie. The charming bush town, with a population of just 1200, sits at the southern end of the Goulburn Valley. While there is plenty to do on land (the Nagambie Farmers Market, the Doll Museum, Black Caviar statue), the townscape is dominated by the impossibly picturesque Lake Nagambie, which lies adjacent to the main street.
Take to the water and be surrounded by abundant birdlife, native plants and local wildlife. Water skiing, speed boating, rowing and yachting are all leisurely ways to pass the time here.
Eat: Tahbilk Wines is a must-do in Nagambie. This fifth-generation estate has roots dating back to 1860. Visit this destination winery to sample some rare Rhone valley varietals, such as Marsanne and Mourvedre, and to dine at the cafe that champions local produce and gazes over serene wetlands.
Stay: Mitchelton Winery offers its own onsite accommodation with the same impeccable attention to detail as its bottles. Architecturally designed, this visually spectacular hotel retains a contemporary flair without damaging the gentle green landscape that surrounds it.