Five Regional Towns to Stop in When Road Tripping from Melbourne to Sydney
Expect baked goods galore — and spending the night in Australia's most haunted mansion (if you dare).
in partnership with
That wide-open highway between Melbourne and Sydney has so much to offer. So, why settle for the routine route when you can have a rural adventure? In partnership with Canadian Club and Empty Esky, we want folks to make the great Aussie road trip even better.
We've plotted the perfect itinerary, spotlighting regional towns that have had a rough go lately but are back to welcoming tourists with open arms. The next time you hit the bitumen, make it a mission to do some good and discover cool new things. Brave a haunted house, explore Aboriginal cultural heritage, splurge on a boutique hotel, treat yourself with sweets and a bakery pilgrimage and admire a really big sheep.
Your first stop should be for a hearty lunch with a side of cultural education in Wangaratta. Hit the all-day breakfast menu at Cafe Prevue — is there ever a wrong time of day for pancakes? Or, opt for fried chicken bao, mushroom arancini or a trusty toastie.
Afterwards, wander down to the river and along the Bullawah Cultural Trail. This project was a collaboration between over a dozen Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and organisations to acknowledge and celebrate the Pangerang people and their long heritage and continued connection to Country. Through artworks, info boards and a bush tucker garden, discover the ways of living and stories that belong to this place and its people.
If you're passing through Beechworth, hit Beechworth Bakery for the lunch of champions: the signature Ned Kelly Pie, stuffed with steak, bacon, cheese and egg. You'll find "Australia's Greatest Bakery" in one of the beautiful historic buildings typical of this picturesque gold rush town. Room for dessert? We suggest the classic vanilla slice or one of its famous Beestings: a fluffy, filled bun spilling custard into your hands with each bite.
You'll need some treats for the road, too, so visit The Beechworth Sweet Co for the whimsy of an old-timey sweet shop. Admire the glass jars of boiled sweets, sherberts and jellies, and sample some of its handmade fudge.
You haven't really explored the country unless you've picked up some bric-a-brac and local handicrafts. The Olde School T-House in Bethungra is crowded with curios and collectibles, so stop in for a browse and some morning tea. Then, steel yourself with an ice-cold Canadian Club and Dry at Junee Hotel before you dine with the dead (maybe) at Monte Cristo Homestead.
Test your nerve at this grand homestead, which was once the Crawley family's (the town's founding family) seat of power. The homestead ghost tour includes a three-course dinner, accommodation and breakfast — a friendly touch for what's considered Australia's most haunted house. Oh, and there's an additional gift "if you make it through the night".
For some comfort the next day, head to the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory. You can pick up organic chocolates, take a tour around the old mill (currently on hold due to COVID restrictions) or stop at the cafe for a decadent hot chocolate laced with turkish delight, butterscotch or even chilli.
You know it for The Dog on the Tuckerbox, now discover Gundagai's fancier attractions. Heritage meets stylish minimalism at the boutique hotel, Flash Jacks. Starting life as a convent in 1891, these Victorian bricks have been born again as the ultimate luxe retreat, where you can splurge on a room with a bay window daybed.
The perfect accompaniment to this top-notch stay is one of the best coffees you can get between Melbourne and Sydney. The Coffee Pedaler is a bright, cheery cafe that punches well above its weight. Sit outside for a pretty street view towards the hills, and tuck into a city-worthy brunch with generous country portions.
If you're a dyed-in-the-wool art lover, take a free tour of Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, which showcases some of the best regional contemporary and emerging artists, then wander the Public Art Walk from there to the Information Centre. Afterwards, join the locals at the Goulburn Workers Club for a Canadian Club and Dry and a game of pool.
Recover the next morning at Grit Cafe with an espresso and get your granola on. Or, grab a homemade bagel, artisanal sausage roll or brekkie burrito to see you through to Sydney.
For more road trip inspiration, check out these guides from Canadian Club and Empty Esky.
Top image: Monte Cristo Homestead, Destination NSW
Published on March 22, 2021 by Stephanie Monteith