How do I get from Sydney to Melbourne?

Although flying is quickest and usually cheapest, driving the coastal route can be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.


Australia’s two main cities, Melbourne and Sydney, each have compelling reasons to visit. Why try to choose between them, when you can visit both?

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What are my options for travelling between Sydney and Melbourne?

You have the choice of planes, trains and buses, as well as two main driving routes. You can get between the cities in under two hours or spend a week exploring some of the nation’s best beaches along the way.

What’s the best way?

If you want to enjoy the beauty and attractions between Australia’s two main cities, drive the coastal route. If you’re in a hurry, fly.

What else do I need to know?

  • Flying is quickest and usually cheapest
  • The train offers comfort and views of inland Australia
  • There is no good reason to take the bus
  • You can drive the M31 Motorway in under 10 hours
  • The coastal drive following the Princes Highway (A1) can be a beautiful three-day (or longer) adventure

Should I fly?

Flying between Sydney and Melbourne is an easy and affordable option. There are dozens of non-stop flights daily, and tickets are cheap if you plan in advance. Flights take 90 minutes.

The major carriers are:

The main airports are:

Sydney Airport (SYD)
  • Australia’s busiest airport
  • 8km south of the Central Business District (CBD)
  • A taxi to the CBD takes 20–30 minutes
  • The airport is on Sydney’s extensive rail network. Trains to the CBD run every 10 minutes and take 15 minutes
  • View terminal maps here
Melbourne Airport (MEL)
  • Australia’s second busiest airport, also known as Tullamarine Airport.
  • 23km north of the CBD
  • A taxi to the CBD takes 30–60 minutes
  • There’s no train to the airport
  • Skybus serves Melbourne on three routes. Buses run frequently; buy tickets online or at the airport
  • View the terminal map here
Avalon Airport (AVV)
  • Very small airport with limited service from Sydney by Jetstar
  • 50km southwest of Melbourne
  • Skybus serves the Melbourne CBD. Buses meet each flight and take 50 minutes depending on traffic. Buy tickets online or at the airport
  • View the terminal map here

See all flights from Sydney–Melbourne Tullamarine
See all flights from Sydney–Melbourne Avalon
See all flights from Melbourne Tullamarine–Sydney
See all flights from Melbourne Avalon–Sydney

How about the train?

Although the train takes longer than the most direct route by car, it does have the bonus of being roomy and comfortable – and can be cheaper than hiring a vehicle and paying petrol.

  • Operator: Transport NSW
  • Duration: 11 ¼ hours
  • Frequency: 2 daily
  • One train runs during the day, one runs overnight
  • The night train includes sleeper cars with cabins for one or two people
  • Train runs far inland, away from the coast; stops include Wagga Wagga

See Sydney–Melbourne train route and schedules here

How about the bus?

The bus isn’t a great option. Rather than travelling the beautiful coast, Firefly (the sole direct operator) takes the inland route and often only has one bus a day, which runs overnight. Plus, it’s not much cheaper than the train. (Greyhound’s bus service also runs inland and requires a change in Canberra).

  • Operator: Firefly
  • Duration: 12 hours
  • Buses are large, seating is 2+2
  • Runs inland on the M31 motorway

See direct Sydney–Melbourne bus route and schedules here

What are my driving options?

A vehicle lets you fully explore the two main routes between Sydney and Melbourne – whether that’s hiring a car or ridesharing.

Considerations include:

  • The roads are in good condition and road rules are straightforward
  • Petrol/gas is expensive
  • If your driver’s licence is not in English, you’ll need an International Driver’s Licence
  • Major car rental firms in Sydney and Melbourne are competitive: usually under A$50 per day. Unlimited kilometres are usually included, but watch out for substantial one-way surcharges.
  • For the ultimate freedom, roam NSW and Victoria in a campervan. Numerous firms offer rentals from A$100 a day for a two-bed vehicle with a five-day minimum.
  • You can try for a rideshare between Sydney and Melbourne. Typically these will involve sharing the costs with a driver taking the inland route. Ridesharing site Coseats and Facebook groups such as Australia Rideshare Backpackers are good places to start.
The two routes:

M31 Motorway
  • 878km
  • Inland route; takes about 9 hours without stops.
  • There are numerous towns for refreshments and petrol.
Princes Highway (A1)
  • 1,040km
  • Drive takes at least 16 hours without stops
  • To fully enjoy the route, take at least 3 days. Side trips can extend this trip even longer.
  • Roads are mostly two-lane, with many curves and hills
  • The road mostly follows the coast and is very scenic
  • There are many highlights, including beaches and parks

Travel Tip

When driving the Princes Highway route, look for small roads running off towards the coastline. Often, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful and deserted beach. Jervis Bay has fab beaches and makes for a fine first big break on the Princes Highway route from Sydney. Look for leaping dolphins offshore and let road hassles fade away in the mellow vibe.

How do I get from Sydney to Melbourne? was originally published 8 December 2017

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