1432km, 20 hours

Take the coastal route for fine food and wine, fabulous beaches and charming beachside towns.

Spot koalas in the trees on Phillip Island, watch seals at play and see the little penguins come in after a day in the ocean.

Travel east, taking in dramatic landscapes, sweeping surf beaches and the pristine waterways of the Gippsland Lakes along the way. Go slow and spend some quality time unwinding in the stunning natural surrounds of Wilsons Promontory, and stop off in Narooma for a day of whale watching out on the Tasman Sea.

Soak up the coastal vibe, enjoy a variety of water sports, and dine on ocean-fresh seafood at resort towns including Lakes Entrance, Merimbula and Batemans Bay as well as smaller villages in Metung, Paynesville and Mallacoota.

Further information

Visit Sydney Melbourne Touring for more.

Day 1: Melbourne to Phillip Island

136km, 1.75 hours

Head southeast from Melbourne towards Phillip Island, a place of natural beauty, sandy beaches, tranquil wetlands and unique wildlife experiences on Western Port Bay.

Break your journey at Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park, where you'll feed kangaroos and wallabies, get close to friendly koalas and enjoy encounters with colourful birds, reptiles and dingoes. The sanctuary really comes alive at night, with opportunities to see pythons, potoroos, tiny feathertail gliders, rare quolls, pademelons and many other animals in their natural nocturnal environment – add an extra night onto your journey to squeeze after-dark fun here.

Otherwise, continue on to Phillip Island, home to wildlife including little penguins, fur seals and a large population of koalas that can be viewed at close range. As the sun goes down, the island's famous little penguins waddle up the beach to the safety of their homes in the sand dunes. Make your way to Summerlands to witness this nightly magical parade, and stay overnight in San Remo.

Day 2: Phillip Island to Wilsons Promontory

198km, about 3.5 hours

Start the day with a visit to The Nobbies and a walk along the boardwalks on the western tip of the island. Jump aboard with Wildlife Coast Cruises to visit Seal Rocks fur seal colony, then get up close with furry friends at the Koala Conservation Centre, or take a gentle stroll through Oswin Roberts Reserve to spot snoozing koalas in the treetops.

Pick one of the easy-access nature trails, boardwalks or beach rambles across the island. Explore tranquil wetlands for some excellent birdwatching, and visit the imposing granite cliffs and golden beaches of Cape Woolamai.

If a sky-high view is more your style, take in the iconic sights with Phillip Island Helicopters. Look down over the moored fishing fleet of San Remo, the historic Churchill Island Homestead and the powerful surf beaches of Cape Woolamai.

Back on the ground, a visit to Churchill Island offers a look back in time, with Highland cattle, sheep, ducks, chickens and Clydesdale horses tending a working farm. Grab morning tea at the cafe.

After some memorable sightseeing, stop for lunch in San Remo. Dig into fresh fish and chips and enjoy the coastal views from this seaside town. Gather some groceries for a self-catering stay and wave goodbye to the pelicans as you hit the road bound for Wilsons Promontory, less than two hours drive away.

Your day ends in one of Victoria's most picturesque national parks. Check into luxury accommodation on park's edge, or settle into a pre-booked safari tent within the park. Pitch your own camping gear if you've come prepared. Cook up a gourmet barbecue dinner in total tranquility and turn in for the night.

Day 3: Wilsons Promontory to Metung

280km, 3.5 hours

'The Prom' to Yarram

Begin your day with a walk amid the natural beauty of the vast Wilsons Promontory National Park, which covers 50 thousand hectares. Follow one of the many walking tracks through eucalypt forests to secluded coves, white sand beaches and granite outcrops. Hike to the summit of Mt Oberon for views of the rugged coastline and distant hills or wander through the temperate rainforest of Lilly Pilly Gully.

From Tidal River, join Wilsons Promontory Cruises on a 2.5 hour amphibious boat tour to discover the beautiful granite coastline and unique wilderness of Wilsons Promontory National Park.

Short drives and walks within the park lead to the many pristine beaches of this southern most tip of mainland Australia. Go for a stroll to Pillar Point for views of the offshore islands and then walk around to Squeaky Beach to experience the white quartz sand. Hear the sand squeak underfoot as you walk towards the maze of rock formations at the end of the beach.

Drive out of Wilsons Promontory and pause for a coffee in Foster, a small town cloaked in rolling hills. About 40 minutes further along, check out the heritage architecture and street art in Yarram.

Tall timbers detour

Tarra Bulga National Park offers a variety of lovely walks and spectacular views, taking in giant mountain ash and myrtle beech forest, ferns and waterfalls. Add half a day for this optional detour.

At Yarram, take the turn-off to the Tarra Valley in the Strzelecki Ranges. Once in Tarra Bulga National Park, enjoy a walk over the suspension bridge strung through the rainforest canopy, and pause for spectacular views of the fern-filled gully. Forest walks in the park are easy and accessible, with chances to spot lyrebirds.

Yarram to Metung

Travel through lush farming landscapes on your way to Metung, a gateway to the aquatic wonderland of the Gippsland Lakes. Close to the ocean, this vast expanse of safe, protected inland lakes and rivers is ideal for fishing, boating and all kinds of watersports.

Enjoy the friendly village atmosphere of this coastal town and relax with a night of luxury accommodation on the waterfront.

Day 4: Metung to Mallacoota

240km, about 3.25 hours

Greet the Metung morning with a bayside cup of tea before setting sail around Australia's largest group of inland waterways. Take a cruise through myriad lakes and rivers and get close to native birds and kangaroos grazing by the water, or throw down your anchor and feed the pelicans.

If you enjoy a spot of fishing, hire one of the small powered boats and take it for a spin. Cast a line and try hooking some of the local species like bream, tailor, flathead and King George whiting.

Raymond Island side trip

Add a short ferry ride from nearby Paynesville to Raymond Island, free of charge as a foot passenger. See koalas, kangaroos and echidnas and walk the 20-minute Koala Trail. Allow at least three hours (includes drive from Metung to Paynesville return, ferry and sightseeing on Raymond Island).

Lakes Entrance to Mallacoota

Heading 20 kilometres east brings you to the popular holiday destination of Lakes Entrance, where the Gippsland Lakes enters the Southern Ocean. Here you'll find Australia's largest inland network of waterways. Cross the footbridge to Ninety Mile Beach, a popular surf beach patrolled by lifesavers during the summer months, or take a walk to the entrance of the Gippsland Lakes. Enjoy a boat cruise on the lakes or hire a paddleboat or catamaran. Keen birdwatchers should visit scenic Lake Tyers nearby.

From here, it's an hour's drive to Cape Conran Coastal Park. Visit the East Cape day visitor area and Yeerung River where you can stroll on the beach and fossick in rock pools.

Continue on towards Mallacoota, a pretty coastal town blessed with Victoria's warmest winter temperatures and renowned for its beautiful sunsets. Spend the night within the tranquil surrounds of this stunning landscape at Gipsy Point Lakeside resort, located on the banks of the Mallacoota Inlet. The locals at Lucy's restaurant and the Mallacoota Hotel will be happy to see you. Count kangaroos and lorikeets or swim and snorkel at nearby beaches. Rent a bike, boat or kayak to enjoy the inlet and surrounds. Sit back, relax and listen to the sounds of the Australian bush.

Day 5: Mallacoota to Narooma

218km, about 2.75 hours

In the morning, take a swim at Mallacoota's popular Betka Beach or peaceful Secret Beach. Prepare for the next leg of your journey with a 300-metre stroll along the Narrows Walk on the stunning Mallacoota Inlet shoreline, or venture further out to Gabo Island, a 13-kilometre boat trip. Glimpse rare plants and animals and climb up for the views from the island's distinctive pink granite lighthouse.

Back on land and on the road, it's a short drive north until you cross the border into New South Wales. Wind your way along the spectacular Sapphire Coast, taking a gourmet pit stop at Pambula to sample award-winning fresh oysters, or add a side trip to Tathra Beach and surf some waves.

Once refreshed, sit back for the awe-inspiring coastal strip of rocky coves, bluffs and inlets as you head into Mimosa Rocks National Park, just a few miles down the road. Take the opportunity to stop for another swim in the pure lagoons and then relax with a picnic in the early afternoon.

Continue along the coast for roughly an hour, heading into tiny Tilba Tilba, a heritage town that retains much of its character from the 1890s gold-rush era. Wander the town and its beaches to absorb the relaxed vibe and historical surrounds, and satisfy your tastebuds with some of the region's delicious cheeses.

Head further north to the town of Narooma, which is perfect for an overnight stopover. Just 11 kilometres off-shore is Montague Island, a haven for wildlife and home to the state's only known colony of Australian fur seals. Take a cruise to the island for the chance to spot seals, sea eagles, little penguins, mutton birds, hawks, terns, silver gulls, harriers and peregrine falcons.

Once you've had your fill of wildlife viewing, cruise back into Narooma for the night. Check in at the hilltop Whale Inn for four-star accommodation that will delight with panoramic views of the coast from your balcony.

Day 6: Narooma to Jervis Bay

175km, about 2.5 hours

Wake up with a splash in the warm waters of Narooma's Surf Beach, head with your camera for the ancient rock formations known as the Glasshouse Rocks located at the beach's southern end.

Set off along the highway through lush forest until you hit the water again at the popular holiday spot of Batemans Bay, less than an hour away. The area is renowned for its sublime coast and immaculate waters. Head south of town along Beach Road, where you'll find a string of marvellous coves and gorgeous beaches for swimming and relaxing.

Roughly 14 kilometres north of Batemans Bay, take a detour onto Mt Agony Road for some wildlife spotting at Pebbly Beach. Chances are you'll meet friendly kangaroos as they hop along the beach. Generally tame, they may even pose with you for a picture.

Back on the highway, a short drive leads on to the coastal town of Ulladulla. With a pretty harbour, it's a perfect place for a late lunch stop.

Another hour north lie the calm waters and white sands of Jervis Bay. With Booderee National Park right on the doorstep, take some time to stretch your legs and explore the walking tracks through pristine coastal wilderness. Prefer to hit the water? Join a Dolphin Watch Cruise for a truly unforgettable experience. Mingle with dolphins, penguins and humpback whales within the protected waters of the Jervis Bay Marine Park.

Book in at Jervis Bay's Paperbark Camp Eco Resort and unwind in luxury tented accommodation in a peaceful bush setting.

Day 7: Jervis Bay to Sydney

185km, about 2.75 hours

Emerge from your bush retreat accommodation and spend the morning amid nature's wonders in Jervis Bay National Park. Take in sensational coastal views and enjoy ample birdwatching opportunities along the White Sands Walk from Greenfield Beach to Hyams Beach, said to have the whitest sand in the world. The full loop is an easy 2.5 kilometres (roughly an hour).

From here, set your sights north to Sydney, heading through Nowra en route. Set on the banks of the majestic Shoalhaven River, the town's attractive parks, green spaces and cafes make it an ideal spot to revive with lunch or get a quick caffeine hit.

Drive on for about 40 minutes to the seaside town of Kiama and its famous blowhole. Feel nature's force on the cliffs at Blowhole Point, where waves surging into an underground cavity force themselves up and explode with great drama and noise into the air.

Consider an inland detour (approximately 25 minutes) to Kiama's award-winning Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk. This unbeatable experience leads you 1.5 kilometres through lush, temperate rainforest on a walkway up to 30 metres above ground, culminating in a spiral tower that rises 45 metres above the forest floor.

Press on for the perfect final leg to the New South Wales capital along the winding and scenic Grand Pacific Drive. Take in gorgeous views of the rocky coastline, stunning beaches and rock pools. Drive along the winding Sea Cliff Bridge, suspended over the water alongside the cliffs, before heading inland for the highway trip into Sydney.