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If you are on a tight schedule the trip Melbourne to Sydney via the Hume Freeway/Hwy is the only option . Using the City Link Tollway, the Tullamarine Freeway, the Western Ring Road and the Hume Freeway. You will need to purchase a day pass for City Link as it is a toll road. A day pass can be obtained by ringing City Link on 13 26 29, or online at Citylink and can be purchased prior to travel or up to 72 hours after.
It is dual carrigeway all the way to Sydney. You cross the border between Victoria and NSW at the River Murray between Wodonga and Albury. After you turn off the Western Ring Road onto the Hume Freeway watch out for speed cameras at very regular intervals especially for the first 30 or 40 km. These are also time over distance cameras as far as Broadford (but not north of Broadford) that do not just measure your speed at the cameras but also time your vehicle from camera to camera to determine average speed. There are also time over distance cameras on the NSW sections of the Highway. Slowing down just to smile for the cameras won't work if you speed too much in between.
Before you get to Albury, there are service centres with food outlets and a petrol station on both sides of the freeway at Glenrowan. The nearby town was the scene of Ned Kelly's last stand. He was a notorious Bushranger (outlaw) in that area in the 1870/80's. For more information on touring 'Kelly Country' see the Inside page on Touring Kelly Country
There is a freeway through the town of Albury, on the Victorian/NSW border. It closely follows the main Melbourne to Sydney rail line.
On the trip from Melbourne to Sydney there are no towns as the Freeway/ Highway bypasses all of them. There are frequent rest stops with toilet facilities and quite a few roadside service centres where food is available. If you have time, take it easy on the first day and overnight at Albury (off the bypass), or go further say to Goulburn (off the freeway) and take it easy into Sydney on the second day.
Another option is to break the trip about half way, in Wagga Wagga, where there are a lot of motels. Turn off, to the left, onto the Olympic Hwy (Bells Rd) at the interchange about 16 km past Albury. The Olympic Way is a scenic route but is only single lane each way. It more or less follows the railway. It is about 100km to Wagga Wagga. If you go this way you will need to follow the Sturt Hwy east from Wagga Wagga, for about 45km, back to the Hume Hwy.
One underrated stopover location is Junee which is well of the main freeway. It is a railway and now prison town. Adjacent to the railway station, there are numerous double storey buildings including still operable hotels. There are two motels in Junee close to its town square which has to be seen to be believed, and there is also an interesting railway museum at the locomotive roundhouse about 1.5km south of the station building. If planning to stop in Junee and it's a weekend please make sure you have accom booked especially during May as this attracts a number of sports events including overflow from the Wagga Cup Horse Races and a major junior cycling event. Alternative accom can sometimes be found in Cootamundra which is less than a 45 min drive north. If stopping overnight a quick visit to Monte Christo and the licorice factory are suggested. The services club, which serves a reasonable Chinese is possibly the best place in town. Note the IGA grocery closes at 7pm if you plan to self cater.
There are also a number of smaller towns north of Albury just off Hume Hwy such as Holbrook, Tarcutta and Gundagai that would be suitable overnight stops.
About 11 km north of the Murrumbigee River crossing at Gundagai is a roadside stop with several eating places and an Australian icon, the Dog on the Tucker Box.
One of the most scenic parts of the journey can be to visit Kangaroo Valley where you can enjoy a stopover . Kangaroo Valley has National Trust listed landscape, waterfalls, quaint village with good restaurants, galleries, museum and vineyard. Turn off the Hume Hwy at Moss vale and follow the Illawarra Highway till you see signs for Nowra and Kangaroo Valley. Takes 35 minutes from Moss Vale. Return via Bowral.
The final sections of the Freeway into Sydney are also tollways You need to pay before or after passing through a toll point; pre-arranging this is generally cheaper than paying afterwards. You will need to do your research as the state RMS and the private operators of each toll road offer different schemes to cover you for all tolls. Victorian and Queensland ETAGs operate on NSW toll roads although there is an additional surcharge.
The speed limit on the freeway is 110 kph; on non freeway sections it is mainly 100 kph except for towns and road works.
Watch out for Highway Patrol, radar and speed cameras both mobile and fixed. They are very strict on speed limits in Victoria and a bit easier in NSW. Fixed speed cameras in New South Wales are clearly marked. They are not clearly marked in Victoria.
Another alternative would be to turn off the Hume Freeway, onto the Barton Hwy, north of Yass and go via Canberra, spending a day or two in Canberra. This is about 60 km. Leaving Canberra you proceed north on the Federal Hwy rejoining the Hume Freeway just south of Goulburn which is about an 80 km drive. The road from Canberra back to the Hume Freeway is also a freeway.
An alternative route is from Melbourne to Canberra via Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance, Cann River, Bombala, Cooma which is much more scenic, certainly from Bairnsdale onwards.
From Cann River to Bombala you travel through the lower Snowy Mountains and Australian eucalypt forest country to Bombala and then through the Monaro which is undulating high plains. The Nimmitabel Bakery between Bombala and Cooma is well worth a stop for lunch. The trip to Canberra is a good 9 to10 hour trip.
From Canberra you can go direct to Sydney which is all multi lane road and will take about 3 1/2 hours or you could go via Braidwood to Batemans Bay and then up the coast to Sydney. Canberra to Batemans Bay is about 2 hours drive along the King's Highway, as there is quite a spectacular but steep descent down the Clyde Mountain after Braidwood. From Batemans Bay to Sydney is about 4 hours drive time, as the road is not a a dual carriage way but does enable you to visit some great attractions including Pebbly Beach (to see kangaroos in the wild), climb Pigeon House Mountain, Jervis Bay and the Royal National Park. The route through the mountains to Canberra and then via the coast is much more scenic but you might need an overnight stop or two, to really see some of its best features.
Another alternative is from Cann River continuing along the coastal route, the Princes Highway (Route 1) through Eden to Batemans Bay then to Sydney. This would also require an overnight stop at either Eden, Merimbula, Tilba, Narooma, Moruya, Broulee or Batemans Bay. This would enable to see the whale museum in Eden, Gulaga mountain &/or Montague Island near Narooma and little closer to Batemans Bay, the Mogo Zoo [who specialize in the protection of endangered animal species.
When using any of these routes it is recommended to book overnight accommodation in advance especially during school holidays and peak holiday times around Christmas/New Year.