1178km, about 16 hours

Take the inland route from Melbourne to Sydney, re-joining the coastal route after you've had your fill of crisp mountain air and local gold-rush history.

Stop in Walhalla to get a glimpse of life as it was in the gold-rush era. Wander through this tiny town that's been preserved as it was in its 1860s gold-mining heyday.

Drive on through lush farmland to Metung, gateway to the expansive Gippsland Lakes. Bust out your hiking boots or hire a boat to explore the pristine waterways.

Next stop is the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve of Croajingolong National Park before the journey continues up the coast to Sydney.

Further information:

Sydney Melbourne Touring

Day 1: Melbourne to Walhalla

185km, about 2.5 hours

Set out from Melbourne through picturesque farmland to historic Walhalla. Break the highway drive halfway at Warragul, where you can stretch your legs among heritage buildings before heading to Hogget Kitchen for a meal of exceptional local produce. Head on through Yarragon, stopping in to browse antique stores and galleries.

Ease into picturesque Walhalla. This was once one of Australia's richest gold-mining towns where more than 4000 prospectors spent their days searching for yellow dust after the discovery of Cohen's Reef, a 3-kilometre vein of gold. Now the peaceful valley town is preserved in time, with a beautifully restored centre and just a handful of residents. Learn about the history behind the town's heritage facades on the self-guided Walhalla Historic Township walk.

Try your luck panning for gold at Stringers Creek, or ride the historic Walhalla Goldfields Railway through Stringers Creek Gorge, crossing old trestle bridges and viewing stunning seasonal landscapes – golden foliage in autumn and bright wildflowers in summer and spring. Venture deep into the mountain on a tour of the Walhalla Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine or join a ghost tour to the cemetery.

Overnight in one of the town's cosy cottages and B&Bs, enjoying open fires and magical valley views.

Day 2: Walhalla to Bairnsdale

162km, about 2 hours

Rouse yourself from the place that time has forgotten and depart from Walhalla for the next stage of your journey. Make sure you've thanked the locals for their hospitality.

Take the highway route through Rosedale and Sale. Stretch your legs at the Sale Common Wetlands – amble along the boardwalk or explore walking tracks through red gum woodlands and grasses.

Alternatively, wend through farmlands and country roads, stopping for a pub meal along the way – the restored Tinamba Hotel is perfect for tasting some of Gippsland's finest produce and local wines, as is Sale's Criterion. Drop in for a cellar-door tasting at Glenmaggie Wines, Blue Gables Vineyard or Vines on Avon, then press on to Bairnsdale. You'll overnight in this laid-back town, gateway to the Gippsland Lakes and sprinkled with great spots to eat.

But the day's not over yet: from Bairnsdale it's a 20-minute side-step down to Paynesville, where you can hop aboard the ferry to Raymond Island, free of charge as a foot passenger. On the island, walk the 20-minute Koala Trail and keep your eyes out for koalas, kangaroos and echidnas (make sure you look up, too). Allow at least two hours for the ferry ride, sightseeing on the island and the return drive between Bairnsdale and Paynesville.

Day 3: Bairnsdale to Mallacoota

253km, about 3.5 hours

Greet the morning early in Bairnsdale and drive half an hour to Metung, where you can set 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.

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 4: 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 5: 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 6: 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.