The drive from Adelaide to Melbourne can easily be done in a day but with so much to see along the way why not take your time and break up the trip with an overnight stay along the way. You can take the longer scenic route to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road or the shorter inland route on National Highway A8 which also affords great views of country Australia.
The overall kilometres from Adelaide to Melbourne via the A8 (Dukes and Western Highways) is around 725kms. Factoring in a few rest and refuelling stops it’s still a doable drive in a day if you have to. You’ll know doubt encounter some roadworks along the way but nothing that a little patience won’t get you through. As always there are plenty of big trucks and other interesting vehicles you’ll be sharing the road with too.
Leaving the freeway out of Adelaide through to Tailem Bend in South Australia the next major towns you’ll pass through are Coomandook, Yumali, Ki Ki and then Coonalpyn. This is a good first rest spot to stretch the legs with good amenities, easy parking and of course the spectacular painted silos. These silos were painted by Guido van Helton and feature local children of the town which he chose as the subject to represent the future of the town and to encourage these and other children to ‘a path through creative industries’. It is a stunning piece of art and you can spend a long time looking at all the beautiful detail of the art. Little things like a fold in a shirt or the detail in the hands are just amazing.
Moving on to the next town of Tintinara you’ll find more art work and good roadside amenities here that are worth a look too. Of course you can’t always stop at everything of interest or you’d never get to your destination so as the passenger I usually have my camera on my lap the whole time and have it set to sport mode so that I can pan and grab drive by photos as we go. Obviously some of these pieces need a closer look at in the future. Take for instance in the town of Keith where some quirky pieces beg to learn more about. Laser cut metal panels signal the entrance to the town and depict scenes relative to the area, then there is a water feature called ‘Circlework’ which was created by local artist James Darling. It represents the cycle of water through the landscape and in particular the region’s high water table and extensive irrigation industry.
And then there is Land Rover on a pole. It seem quite strange and quirky at first but there is a good story behind why this Series 1 Land Rover sits atop a pole in the main drive through town. Basically it’s a tribute to original settlers in the area who used hardy vehicles like this and bulldozers with poles attached (hence the pole) to clear the land and begin productive farming in the area.
Another 46 kilometres along the highway is Bordertown. Another very good stop to take off the highway with a fabulous bakery and an excellent park to stretch the legs and hear some soothing sounds other than the drone of the road.
The next town to have camera at the ready is Kaniva with its windmills and painted sheep. Keep your eyes open for the brightly painted fibreglass sheep that adorn the main drive through this sheep and wool growing town. Then it’s onwards to Nhill, the halfway point of the road trip. From here, the drive takes you to Horsham and this makes a good overnight stop with plenty to see and do in town. (A future blog on Horsham will provide some ideas.)
From Horsham you will pass through the location of Dadswell Bridge most famously known for ‘The Giant Koala’. This one is definitely not the cute and cuddly type though, standing at 14 metres high and watching over everyone passing by on the highway. You can stop here to take a look inside if you want or grab something to eat and drink at the café.
Along this stretch of the highway you will get great views of the Grampians National Park in the distance. The towns of Stawell, Great Western and Ararat are travelled through next. Ararat has another great rest stop with a huge Caltex roadhouse to use on the further side of the town. It has a huge amount of parking space, plenty of petrol pumps and a very good dining area to sit in and have a good coffee or bite to eat. This is only around 95 kilometres from Horsham. Then from Ararat to Melbourne is only a little over 200 kilometres so you can time when you want to arrive in the big smoke. You can also take a detour into Ballarat but due to the size of this rural city it deserves a whole stay in itself.
Along the drive you’ll find plenty of caravan parks to stay in and there are free or cheap camping spots at rest areas, reserves and National Parks which can be found in the ‘Camps Australia Wide’ book. The best part is that anything you missed the first time you can catch on the way back if you’re travelling the same route, or note it down for the next time.
Enjoy the journey