We’ve driven National Highway A8 and the Western Highway a few times in the last few months and it’s a relatively easy drive. You can of course break it up, staying overnight or as long as you like on the way to Melbourne, but it’s also doable in a day. The entire route takes a little over 8 hours to drive, remembering that when you hit the Victorian border you will lose half an hour when the time zone moves forward.
Leaving South Australia, the South Eastern Freeway takes you to Tailem Bend, then you pass through Coonalpyn (look for the painted silos), Tintinara (more amazing art to catch your attention), Keith, Bordertown and then about 10 kilometres later you cross the border into Victoria.
In Victoria the towns of Kaniva and Nhill run on the sheep, cattle and grain farming industries in the region and the importance of the wool industry in particular is prominent in Kaniva with painted sheep statues lining the main street and metal sculptures on the edge of town. The countryside is very peaceful to pass through and you can watch the farmers go about their business and spot great old sheds and outbuildings on the farms.
The drive at any time of the year is interesting with the changing seasons making the sky and landscape colours different all the time. This highway is also heavily populated with big rigs travelling day and night but thankfully there are plenty of passing lanes too. Be patient! There are lots of well sign posted opportunities to pass them safely.
There are also lots of parking bays off the highway to stop and stretch your legs, change drivers, even have a coffee in some places before you keep going. There are a lot of small towns along the way where you can buy food and drinks, all of which would appreciate the business I’m sure.
In our travels recently we have encountered road works and tree trimming on the highway edges but that always seems to be an ongoing issue in such a huge country with our networks of roads. They don’t cause any major delays.
The next few towns you’ll pass are Dimboola, Horsham (the halfway point of the journey) and Dadswell Bridge where you can’t miss the Giant Koala. Hmm, not quite the cute and cuddly look you’re used to is it?
Continuing on are the towns of Stawell, Great Western, Ararat (take a side trip up to the scenic lookout if you have time) and Beaufort. All great looking and interesting towns to spend more time in eventually.
You are constantly reminded to take a break from driving to make sure you are still alert. There is a lot to look at on the way and keep your interest but sometimes the comfort and rocking of the car can tend to make you too comfortable and drowsy so stop every 2 or so hours whether you think you need it or not. There are some really good highway service stations to pull into for a break and some pretty decent food on offer these days.
The regional town of Ballarat is next and is definitely worth taking the drive off the highway to discover what it has to offer. It is huge with a population of over 100,000 so it’s a destination in itself but also a great side stop on the way through to Melbourne.
In under an hour the next notable spot is Bacchus Marsh and you start getting the feel of suburbia coming up. Before you know it you’re only an hour or so out of Melbourne.
Enjoy the drive,