So, you’ve decided to take on a Sydney to Adelaide road trip on a mission to discover Australia’s southern coast. Technically, a couple of determined drivers sharing the wheel can knock it over in a day. It’s a long day – but doable. Take the roads less travelled, or the long way around, and you could find yourself wandering through NSW, Victoria, and South Australia for months.
With the potential to discover many iconic Australian locations and hidden gems which route should you take? This is a road trip I’ve done many times via multiple routes. I’ve outlined three contrasting options for you to consider, depending on the time you have available. I’ve included things to see, camping options, and a list of useful tips. Belt up, let’s go south…or is it west, maybe north? It’s up to you, but in this feature, all roads lead to Adelaide.
How Far Is Sydney From Adelaide?
Sydney to Adelaide is 1163.34km as the crow flies. Interestingly, the most direct road route via Wagga Wagga and Balranald, NSW, is not that much further at 1375km. The other popular direct route, via Albury, NSW and Bendigo, Victoria, is 1448km. But how long does this actually take?
How Long Is The Drive From Sydney To Adelaide?
The Wagga Wagga route will take approximately 14 hours and 35 minutes plus comfort stops. Via Albury and Bendigo the trip is approximately an hour longer at 15 hours and 20 minutes plus comfort stops. But how long should you allow for a relaxed journey and some serious sightseeing? And what Route should you take?
What Are The Best Road Trip Routes from Sydney To Adelaide?
I have three preferred routes, all with very distinct regional flavours. The first is the Riverina route via the Blue Mountains, Cowra and Wagga Wagga. The second is the NSW Outback route via Dubbo, Cobar and Broken Hill. The third is the deluxe Sydney Adelaide scenic adventure via mountain and coastal rutes. It includes Canberra, The Snowy Mountains, Lakes Entrance, Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road. It’s epic, and a trip of a lifetime.
I’ve taken all of these routes including different, extras and byways. And I’ve done it in all four seasons. I can’t choose a favourite as each adventure delivers a unique experience.
It’s important to note that we all approach road trips differently. For some, it’s white-line fever - get there or bust. For others, it’s stop and smell the roses at every possible juncture. For the three routes I’ve selected, I’ve not indicated specific roads and highways. Instead, I’ve created waypoints that indicate the direction and a general route. Often It’s possible to reach each waypoint via alternative routes.
I’ve also provided an indication of the time you should allow for relaxed driving. Ultimately, it’s up to you, your spirit of adventure and time.
Route 1: The Direct Route (sort of) via the Riverina
- Distance: Approximately 1450 to 1600km
- Time: Allow a minimum of 3 nights
- Highlights: Country roads, historic towns, rolling hills and history
- Waypoints: Katoomba, Bathurst, Cowra, Cootamundra, Junee, Wagga Wagga, Collingullie, Lockhart, Jerilderie, Denilliquin, Barham, Lake Tyrell, Ouyen, then South Australia’s Tailem Bend, Adelaide
Heading Southwest from Sydney through the Riverina is the quintessential Aussie country drive. It’s the route I take when time is limited, or the destination is the focus. Once you get a taste of touring the stunning rolling hills beyond the Great Divide, you’ll never take the Hume Highway south again. I love this route because within 60 minutes of leaving Sydney, you’re passing through the glorious Blue Mountains, where stunning vistas begin in earnest. You’ll also find plenty of cafes and restaurants with fantastic views - the perfect breakfast stop.
Heading South from Bathurst on the A41, you’ll pass many historic country towns with streets lined with colonial architecture, surrounded by endless pastures of colour. This is Australia’s food bowl, and home to our agricultural heritage. This is the the farmland where one-third of all we eat is grown.
The remote country roads are often free of traffic. Stop and listen, you’ll only hear the birds. The backroads connecting the little towns are some of my favourite drives in Australia. Each little town offers something to do and see. On a quick trip, it can be hard to prioritise an itinerary.
You’ll cross the NSW Victoria border at Barham, where you can take a break and take in the river-side attractions before heading to Lake Tyrell, a mecca for photographers and stargazers. From here it’s Adelaide or bust in a couple of 2.5-hour chunks.
You’ll cross into South Australia just east of Pinnaroo. There’s a considerable change in view as you head through Murray Mallee country. There’s a harshness in the landscape, particularly in summer, reminding you of the trials of toiling on the land.
Route 2: Sydney to Adelaide via the NSW Outback
- Distance: Approximately 1700 to 1900km
- Time: Allow a minimum of 3 nights
- Highlights: Classic Aussie outback, dramatic landscapes, desert, indigenous culture, wildlife, cotton country, sheep stations, big skies
- Waypoints: Bathurst, Molong, Yeoval, Tomingley, Narromine, Nyngan, Cobar, Wilcannia, Broken Hill, then South Australia’s Peterborough, Jamestown, Clare (Clare Valley), Adelaide
As you journey west from the foothills of the Great Divide, the massive sky and the distant horizons confront you with Australia’s vastness. It can be an emotional journey, as the geography is so foreign to city folk.
Following the rains, it’s a land of life and plenty. Clouds of birdlife, emus, red kangaroos and camels. The rivers flow, the sheep are fat and the wildflowers grow up to the road’s edge. In the grips of drought, so common in these parts, the land is unforgiving, indifferent to life, and even hostile. Tortured trees stand as a warning – you need courage to live in these parts.
Irrespective of its mood, the outback is majestic and compelling. From Nyngan to Broken Hill and through to the outskirts of Adelaide, you’re driving through colonial Australia’s pioneering roots, and an indigenous history more than fifty thousand years old. Make sure to talk to locals on your stopovers. You’ll note a stoicism unique to these parts, and a quirky sense of humour of equal importance to their hardy determination. More than a road trip, it's an essential journey for all Australians and those wanting to get a deeper insight into Aussie culture.
Take route B79 to Peterborough. It’s an important cog in our rail heritage, and the rail museum is well worth a visit. Continue on the B79 to Jamestown for more South Australian heritage touring. You’re now heading directly south to Adelaide, and about to enter the Clare Valley, one of Australia’s most significant wine regions. I recommend an overnight stopover so you can sample the wines. Tomorrow, you’ll leave rural South Australia behind and begin your Adelaide drive.
Route 3: Sydney to Adelaide - The Deluxe Adventure Via Canberra and the Great Ocean Road
- Distance: Approximately 2000 to 2100km
- Time: Allow a minimum of 7 nights. 2 weeks is recommended
- Highlights: Canberra, Snowy Mountains, The Barry Way, Melbourne, The Great Ocean Road, The Coorong
- Waypoints: Canberra, Jindabyne, The Barry Way, Lakes Entrance, Melbourne, Torquey, Cape Otway, The Twelve Apostles, Port Fairy, Portland, then South Australia’s Kingston SE, Coorong, McLaren Vale, Adelaide
This road trip of a lifetime takes in the majority of Australia’s southeastern coastal corner with the addition of Australia’s spectacular high country. The Hume through to Canberra is an easy 3-hour trip. Put aside a couple of days to take in Canberra’s key locations including the Australian War Memorial and Parliament House, and the National Gallery.
It’s a short but magnificent drive from Canberra to Jindabyne via Cooma. Grab a hotel and get supplies for the next leg along the Barry Way. This is a spectacular dirt road across the mountain with breathtaking vistas. There are several beautiful camping locations along the 150km journey. Allow at least a night or two to soak in the high country ambience.
A few hours get you to Melbourne. But it’s worth a night in Lakes Entrance before you get there. Melbourne is a phenomenal city – stay as long as the budget permits. The Great Ocean Road begins just out of Melbourne. It’s Australia’s most iconic coastal road trip. It includes Bells Beach, Lorne, Cape Otway, the Twelve Apostles and Coorong. It would be easy to spend a month just between Torquey and Portland. The views are incredible, and you don’t have to leave your car. My advice is to have some time on your hands.
Best Places To Stop Between Sydney & Adelaide
All of the waypoints I’ve listed above are places you can and should stop. There are so many more than those - there’s a lifetime of exploration possible. For each route, I’ve selected 2 locations you might factor in as a priority. The first one, Stopping Nowhere, is a must.
Routes 1 and 2. Stopping Nowhere in Particular. Just Pull Over
When I head southwest on the A41 or west into the outback, I look forward to pulling off the road, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I make sure it’s hundreds of kilometres from people. Get out of the car, and stretch under a big sky.
As the drum and pulse of tyres on tarmac subsides, your senses come alive to new stimuli - you disconnect from the city. A natural quiet wraps you up like a comforting blanket. You hear the birds and the breeze, smelling clean air untainted by progress. There’s a sense of calm and contentment, tempered by the anticipation in the long empty road you’re standing by.
Route 1: Bathurst and Cowra
Mount Panorama is the home to Australia's iconic and world-famous motor racing circuit. Throughout the year, it’s a sleepy country road sparsely developed, offering views over Bathhurts. Once a year, the quiet country backroad becomes the focus of world motor racing as the supercars compete in our greatest race.
Mt Panorama is a public road, so you can drive it. It’s only a few short minutes out of Bathurst City Center, so you get a massive impact for little time invested. Watching the famous race is completely different once you’ve driven the circuit.
Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Center
Cowra is a beautiful country town 380km from Sydney. In WWII it was the site of a Japanese prison camp, made famous for the biggest POW breakout of the war . The mass escape resulted in the deaths of 231 Japanese soldiers. Cowara Visitors Centre houses the P.O.W Hologram Theatre, where a hologram presents the story of the Cowra breakout in 9 minutes - Well worth the short stop.
But it’s the Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Center that’ll take your breath away. Built as a monument to reconciliation between Australia and Japan, It’s one of the great highlights of travelling the A41. Open 8:30am - 5:00pm, 7 Days a week, there’s also a cafe, and picnics are encouraged.
Route 2: Broken Hill and Minindee Lakes
About an hour's drive from Broken Hill, Menindee is the oldest European settlement in western NSW. The Minindee Lakes is a combination of 4 lakes, located 200km upstream of the Junction of the Darling River and the Murray River. Formed in a natural depression, it’s now managed to ensure critical water supplies.
The peace, the views and the wildlife are incredible. There are places to stay and camp, with many natural wonders to explore. Steeped in colonial pastoral history, It’s also of profound sacred importance to the local Barkindji people.
Day Dream Mine Tour
Broken Hill is the birthplace of Australia’s most famous company, BHP., or Broken Hil Pty. Ltd. Broken Hill isn’t just a mining town, it’s THE mining town, and essential history for all Australians and her curious visitors.
The Day Dream Mine Tour sends you deep into an old mine, where you can get a taste of the danger and backbreaking labour that made Australia the global economic powerhouse it is today. There are two mine tours Daily
10:00am and 11:30am, depending on demand.
Route 3: Canberra and The Barry Way
Naturally, the nation’s capital is home to our national galleries and museums - all very worthy of investing your time.
Parliament House is an astonishing structure and a must-see for fans of contemporary architecture. Interestingly, Canberra was designed and planned before being built - the result of a design competition. This is evident in its layout, architecture and flora, and viewing from Mt Ainslee provides you with geographical orientation and awesome views of the city.
But whenever I visit Canberra and have a spare day, I devote it to The Australian War Memorial. In my opinion, this is Australia’s finest museum - a priority for all visitors.
The Barry Way
The Barry Way is one of Australia’s great drives. Starting at Jindabyne, the 74km dirt road passes through spectacular views, gorgeous campsites by the Snowy River, and picturesque high-country farmland.
It’s a memorable scenic route through to the Victorian border, with some of the narrow roads, edged by sheer cliffs being a definite heart starter. It’s an easy day trip, but better with a day or two for camping.
Best Time Of Year To Drive Between Sydney & Adelaide
Sydney to Adelaide is fantastic all year round. Regardless of the season, the views, entertainment and exploration are always worth the price of fuel.
I love this drive in the spring. There’s new life, crops, stunning colours, wildflowers and the cold has passed, and the days are sunny yet crisp.
Incredibly hot in the Summer with very cold nights in winter. Spring and autumn provide the most comfortable weather. However, the outback delivers its most intense drama in the throws of drought, or following the rains.
There’s so much wonderful swimming along the Great Ocean Road, that summer is fabulous for this trip. Canberra is at its most beautiful in the grips of Autumn colour. But Route 3 is a winter trip for me. There’s snow in the mountains, and the intensity in the Southern Ocean is a powerful experience.
Best Places To Camp Between Sydney & Adelaide
These are vast routes, and there are countless locations to camp, from caravan parks to clearings in an isolated wilderness.
I find Wikicamps Australia an invaluable camping app, where I can find a great campsite wherever I am in the country. I’ve found some of my favourite campsites via wiki camps.
Here are 3 campsites, one for each route, that I highly recommend and return to whenever I’m in the region.
Route 1: Lockhart Caravan Park - 580km South West of Sydney
- Price: Pocket Change
I’ve camped at Lockhart Caravan Park countless times. It’s a peaceful little oasis in the town of Lockhart, nestled by a creek and pond full of ducks and grease. There’s a good chance you’ll be the only one there, so you can choose which tree to camp under.
There are no gates and fences - it’s very informal but includes a camp kitchen, laundry and bathroom facilities. It’s green all year round, and particularly beautiful in the Autumn. There’s a great country pub up the road, and you're close to fuel and supplies.
Route 2: Copi Hollow Lake, Minindee - 1200km West of Sydney
- Price: $25 per night for an unpowered site
Copi Hollow Lake Caravan Park is on the Minindee Lakes, 100km South East of Broken Hill. It’s a magnificent waterway teeming with birdlife. Despite its popularity, it offers tranquillity and peace. Offering full facilities, you can stargaze by a campfire, swim, fish or catch up on the news from fellow travellers. Very welcoming - so very relaxed.
Route 3: Tongaroo campground, Jacobs River - 500km South of Sydney
- Price: Free. A $6 booking fee applies (I’ve never booked)
Tongaroo Campground is about an hour south of Jindabyne down the Barry Way. Nestled on the banks of the Jacobs River, this is one of my favourite campsites in the Snowy Mountains.
Each time I’ve been there, we’ve been the only ones, with National Parks occasionally rocking up for a chat, providing the local gossip. Here you are truly immersed in nature - it’s so lush here, so green. The river is beautiful - poetic. Swim in the summer, or fish in season. Picnic tables, barbecue facilities, and toilets are provided.
Sydney To Adelaide Road Trip Tips
Here are a few useful tips you can take onboard for a smooth, safe and enjoyable road trip.
Tip 1: Traffic
Avoid at all costs leaving or entering Sydney and Melbourne and their outskirts at peak hours. Peak hour traffic adds hours to your journey, can dampen the mood considerably, and drain you of the focus you need for the drive ahead.
Tip 2: Safety
Weather extremes in Australia can be deadly. Make sure you are appropriately equipped, especially for the outback in summer, and high country in the winter. If it’s your first time touring these regions, read up on appropriate safety inclusions. Give your plans to a friend at home with scheduled contact times, always alerting them to plan changes.
Tip 3: Economics
Spend a little money in every small town you stop to visit. Your tourist patronage keeps remote economies afloat.
Tip 4: Your Vehicle
Most motor mechanics have a pre-road trip inspection service. This is a wise investment. Serious breakdowns in remote locations can be very expensive, ruin a road trip, and compromise your safety.
Tip 5: Outback Roads at Nighttime
It’s best to be off outback roads by dusk, especially if you don’t have a bullbar. Kangaroos plague the outback roads come dusk. A collision with a kangaroo can cause an accident or incapacitate your vehicle. If you find yourself driving in the evenings, slow down, and remain very alert.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.