Driving Victoria

Sometimes, the drive is more important than the destination.

Home to some of the country’s most iconic strips of blacktop, Victoria is a place where you can jump in the car in the morning and be in a totally different climate and landscape by the afternoon – passing through half a dozen different geographies in the process.

Visit Victoria

25 July, 2022


The Great Alpine Road is a stunner, running right across the state from the north-east to the Gippsland Lakes via the snowfields and across the Great Dividing Range

Although it’s about the size of the UK or just a bit smaller than California, Victoria is still pretty compact by Australian standards. And it’s that very compactness that make sit such a great driving state. Listing all of the best driving roads ‘down south’ would fill a book – and by driving roads we don’t mean places to test the outer limits of driver and machine – but rather a section of road that reminds you of why you drive an Audi.

The Great Alpine Road

Victoria’s best drives don’t all radiate out of Melbourne, but even so, if you have the time, they can be used to link capital cities. And if you’re not in a hurry, then the Great Alpine Road is an absolute stunner. The road runs right across the state from the north-east to the Gippsland Lakes via the snowfields and across the Great Dividing Range. Give it a full day to drive non-stop, or make it an overnighter – there’s plenty of accommodation along the way.

Let’s toss a coin and suggest you start from Wangaratta, about an hour south of the NSW-Victorian border on the Hume Freeway. Pick up the B500 as you leave Wangaratta and head for Myrtleford, the next decent town. From, you start to head south-east and follow a beautiful valley that looks its best in Autumn, but is magnificent any time of the year. This area was once a tobacco-growing centre and even though the district farms a different cash-crop these days, the old oast houses are still dotted around. Keep your eyes open around Porepunkah for paragliders and make Bright a place to fuel up.

From Bright, you continue your way through the valleys before the terrain starts to rise as you skirt the Great Dividing Range. Then it’s up and up until you hit the snowfields beyond Harrietville and places like Hotham and Dinner Plain. Omeo is the next town and although it’s still at 685m above sea level, it’s from here that you begin to descend into Gippsland. It’s all (literally) downhill from there until you hit Bairnsdale via Bruthen and some pretty wild country that is as close to wilderness as Victoria manages.

The magic of this route is the sheer diversity of scenery and some challenging sections of road. It’s pretty remote in places though, so make sure you have sufficient fuel and supplies. The area around Dinner Plain and of course Hotham is also a ski resort (Audi is an official partner with Mount Hotham) so, during the official ski season, you’re required to carry tyre chains. 

The entire route is 339km, so it’s a comfortable day’s drive, but it’ll be a full day thanks to the relatively low average speeds the roads dictate. And watch out for wombats.

From Bright, you continue your way through the valleys before the terrain starts to rise as you skirt the Great Dividing Range

Mansfield at the foot of the Victorian snowfields is the start of a fabulous half-day drive with a culinary reward waiting at the end 

Mansfield to Milawa

Mansfield at the foot of the Victorian snowfields is the start of a fabulous half-day drive that will deposit you in the food-and-drink epicentre of Milawa in the King Valley, just a few minutes from Wangaratta. As an alternative to the Hume Freeway for Melbournians heading north, the two routes could not be more different in what they offer in terms of the scenery and the actual drive.

Starting from Mansfield, avoid the road to Mount Buller and instead head due north on the C521. A few kilometres out of Mansfield, the road begins to twist and turn and climb as you mount the Great Dividing Range. Some of the corners are prone to rock-slides and there are precious few straight sections, but that simply makes it a terrific driver’s road. Keep an eye out for feral deer that can appear on the road apparently out of nowhere and have, based on experience, zero fear of cars. 

The village of Tolmie is about 30km out of Mansfield, but watch out on the left just before the village for the turn-off to Tatong (C517). A handful of kilometres down this well-graded gravel road is the infamous Stringybark Creek, scene of the Kelly Gang shootout where three police officers were killed in November 1878 while hunting the gang members. If you’re lucky, you might spot a koala along this stretch of road.

From Tolmie, you’re almost at the top of the Great Divide and the road begins to sweep down into the King Valley, passing under huge power-lines and switching back on itself as the valley opens. 

About 15km before the township of Whitfield, on the right, is Powers Lookout, named after Harry Power who was allegedly the man who taught Ned Kelly all about being a bushranger. The lookout features a 20-minute walk that offers unparalleled views over the King Valley.

Whitfield is notable for a great pub offering meals and a beer-garden in a charming setting and also for feeling as if you’re in the middle of nowhere.

After dropping down into Whitfeld, the road then flattens out, following the King Valley all the way to Milawa, reached by turning right on to the C522 at Oxley. Milawa (and Oxley) feature plenty of good food outlets including restaurants incorporated into the local wineries. But it doesn’t matter where you wander around Milawa, you’ll be spoiled for choice. 

Total distance is just over 100km, but at least half of it is a proper driver’s road, so allow at least two hours on top of the 2.5 hours it takes to get from Melbourne to Mansfield. To make it a round trip, use the efficient (but less interesting) Hume Freeway to return south.

After dropping down into Whitfeld, the road then flattens out, following the King Valley all the way to Milawa

Although not the driver's road it once was, the Great Ocean Road is still one of the most scenically stunning roads anywhere in the world

The Great Ocean Road

Okay, so it’s a cliché and the Great Ocean Road isn’t what it used to be as a driver’s road. Sure, it still winds around mountainsides and unfolds in a series of switchbacks, but these days, the road is heavily policed, even more heavily sprinkled with slow-moving caravans and wears a blanket 80km/h speed limit. 

And yet, it is still one of the most scenically stunning roads anywhere in the world, so it deserves to be listed here. From the rock formations to the pristine beaches, the little towns and the appalling shipwreck history, the Great Ocean Road is worth every moment of the day (but two days is better) it takes you to go from one end to the other.

If you’re staring from Melbourne, take the Princes Freeway to Geelong and work your way east to Torquay where the road proper begins. The best part of the Great Ocean Road is between Anglesea and Port Fairy in the west, and along the way you’ll have some of the world’s best surf beaches on one side and rainforest on the other, with the Otway Ranges towering in the background. Trust us, every one of the 500 or so kilometres rates as magnificent.

Enjoy some of the more rewarding roads Australia’s other states and territories have to offer. 

Tasmania

South Australia

Western Australia

Northern Territory

Queensland