So you finally bought your tickets to Melbourne! You know Australia is great for self-driving trip but you wonder what are the things you can do and where are the places you can stay. You desperately needed a Melbourne itinerary for a quick reference.
I’m going to assume that you are going for a free and easy trip. Hence, you will be renting a car and traveling around different towns.
In this article, I will let you know where to rent the cheapest car, where are the places you can hug a Koala bear, what are the restaurants around the area and where you can see penguins. This post is not just about any other ordinary itinerary. I will share all the hacks and travel tips in Melbourne so you can be a smarter traveler.
At the end of the post, I will also share a link for you to download my own Melbourne itinerary. This will be a good reference for you to start your personalized Melbourne trip!
Come on, let’s dig in right away!
- Before You Fly
- Day 1
- Day 2
- Day 3
- Day 4
- Day 5
- Day 6
- Day 7
- Day 8
- Extra Resources
Before You Fly
Before you fly, there are a couple of things you need to plan and book in Singapore.
Book a Rental Car
The best way to travel in Melbourne is self-driving. Some of my friends decided to book a tour bus as they could not drive. If you are comfortable to drive in a foreign country, I recommend doing a self-driving road trip. It is an entirely different experience!
When you rent a car overseas, you need to take note of the following points – zero excess insurance, types of car, price & hidden costs. Let’s go through them one by one!
What is Zero Excess Insurance?
This is also known as the loss-damage waiver.
To protect yourself from paying unnecessary repair fees (e.g a stone damaged the windshield while driving), it is very important to rent a car with zero excess insurance. Zero excess insurance kind of give you zero liability for the car damages.
Unfortunately, zero excess insurance does not cover all types of incidents. Hence, you will have to read the policy to ensure that you are covered well. It’s always good to be safe than sorry.
How to Choose A Suitable Car?
If you are going to drive on rough terrain or muddy road, you must make sure that your car is able to take the hit. In another word, it is important to choose the right type of car for the trip.
Also, you will need to cater the number of luggage that you have onboard if you are going to travel from city to city. Yes, you can save money by renting the smallest car but you might have difficulties keeping your luggage in the boot.
To summarize, you need to choose a car based on the following two key points:
- How many pieces of luggage?
- What kind of roads will you be driving on?
What are the Additional Costs?
In Australia, you will be charged an additional fee if you are younger than 25 years old. Basically, you have to pay more because it feels like you have less experience and the higher possibility to damage the car on road.
If you are planning to have more than 1 driver, you will also need to pay extra for an additional driver. Unless you are very sure that your additional drivers are not going to cause any damages to the car, you can choose not to pay for any additional drivers. In an event when an accident happens, you better pray that you can prove that the main driver is driving the car to claim the insurance.
So Where to get the Most Valuable Company To Rent A Car?
Now, I really have gone through a few car rental companies before I found the most valuable company to rent the car.
Here’s a tip: you can get a cheaper car if you rent from a company that does not reside in the airport. I’m always looking for the most valuable company – cheap and reasonably good. Let’s compare Hertz (in Airport) and Apex (outside of Airport). Suppose we want to pick-up our rented car on 18 June 2017 and return it on 25 June 2017:
Hertz offers the following cars and their respective rates (excluding insurance) as shown in the image below.
For the same number of days, Apex offers the following cars and their respective rates (including Zero Access insurance and GPS) as shown in the image below.
From the table, it looks like the difference is around 30-40 AUD. However, you have to remember that Hertz has not included zero excess insurance in the price. Hence, you will need to pay additional to purchase the insurance.
How To Pay Highway Tolls?
If you drive along the highway, you need to be prepared to pay for tolls.
For the car I rented from Apex, they charged directly to my credit card by linking the machine to my card. Highway tolls can be very expensive. I paid at least S$ 19 for one of the highway tolls. If you rent a car from Hertz, you can apply for Hertz Toll Day Pass
Apply an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA)
ETA is an electronic authorization for travel to Australia. If you did not apply for ETA, you might not be able to enter Australia.
You can apply ETA via online. It will cost you AUD $20. This is an official Electronic Travel Authority provided by Australian Government.
There are many websites that popped up in Google research results. I’m not too sure if those are legal. If you really need to opt for a cheaper alternative, please make sure you check their authenticity with Australian Government.
Purchase a Data SIM Card
If you are going for a road-trip, chances are you will need tonnes of data to keep you going with Google Maps. You can opt to rent a GPS from the car rental company. I had a really bad experience with APEX’s GPS so I will recommend using Google Maps instead.
I bought my unlimited data SIM Card from a local seller at S$ 32 (4GB fast speed) before I realized that Starhub Happy Roam Prepaid card supports Australia. You can read our review of the Prepaid card before making a decision.
Melbourne Airport > Phillips Island
If you love small animals, you should definitely visit Phillips Island. It is one of the highlights of our trips and we really glad that we choose to go.
Once you have picked your rental car from the company, you can quickly make your way to Phillips Island. The drive from Melbourne Airport to Phillips Island takes around 2 hours on the highway.
Stay: Phillip Island Apartments
Phillip Island Apartments is located in the North of the island. You can drive to Penguins Parade, Koala Conservation Centre, Phillips Island Wildlife Park and Cole Supermarket within a very short drive.
We booked a 1 Bedroom Apartment (No breakfast) from Agoda for S$ 175.64. I didn’t have a chance to talk to the hotel staff but I suspected that they gave us the 2 Bedroom Apartment instead.
Do note that most Australians knock-off at 5 PM. If you are late to check-in your stay, they will place the keys outside the reception house. You can collect the key from the reception house and get into the apartment.
Attraction: Penguins Parade
As mentioned, our stay is located around 15 minutes drive away from Penguin Parade. It is a really easy drive to the attraction from the apartment. If you go during winter, be sure to bring a blanket or thicker jacket to embrace the breeze. It is really freezing cold while waiting for the penguins to arrive at the coast.
Depending on the seasons, the penguins will arrive at the coast at different timing. Please check the chart here to ensure that you are not late for their arrival.
You can purchase the tickets over here beforehand. Personally, I feel that there is no need to book for better seats.
Here’s a tip: Everyone will be sitting in the general viewing area. Instead of embracing the cold breeze with the rest of them, you can walk along the bridge and wait there for the penguins to come. They will definitely walk pass the bridges (you will know what I mean when you are there) to return to their nest.
You will not be able to take any photos as flashlights are not allowed. It is really dark at around 6 PM during winter so it’s nearly impossible to take any photos without a flashlight. Please respect the nature and do what you were told at the island.
Phillips Island > Geelong > Apollo Bay
If you are going to travel in winter, you need to plan carefully for your drive such that you will not be driving in the dark. The sun starts to set at around 4.30PM when we were there in late-July. The road will be completely dark, hence, it will not be advisable to drive after 6 PM.
We started our day as early as 7.30 AM so that we can make it from one town to another to avoid driving in complete darkness. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Start early and reach your next destination earlier.
On Day 2, you can make your way to the Great Ocean Road. Unfortunately, the drive from Phillips Island to the Great Ocean Road takes around 4 hours. It is never advisable to drive more than 2-3 hours without a break. Hence, I recommend to stopover at Geelong to have a lunch break.
Shopping at Westfield Geelong
Westfield Geelong is located in Geelong CBD area. If you have time to spare, you can also walk to Market Square that is directly opposite of Westfield Geelong. The drive from Phillips Island to Westfield Geelong is about 2 hours.
You can find many restaurants and shops in Westfield Geelong. Apart from a lunch break, we also went to the supermarket to top up our mineral water and ingredients for our home-cooked meal.
Driving Across Forrest to Apollo Bay
If you decide to stopover at Geelong, GPS will lead you to drive through Forrest. Otherwise, the GPS should be leading you through the Great Ocean Road.
The drive through Forrest is not easy. There are many curved s-shaped corners. When we drove through the Forrest, it was raining heavily. There was fog and the lights were limited. For our safety, we drove really slow along the road even though we were kind of hogging the road. Safety before anything else. Please drive carefully if you are in the same situation as us.
Stay: Seafarers Getaway Apartment
Seafarers Getaway Apartment is located just at the entrance of Apollo Bay. It was the best apartment we stayed in Australia. The view is awesome and the waves accompany you to sleep every night. You can read our review of the apartment here.
We recommend to stay in Apollo Bay for at least 2 nights. First, you can take the chance to recover your energy after driving for nearly 4 hours the day before. Second, you can take it easy so that your trip will not be too packed. Afterall, a road-trip is supposed to be filled with autonomy and relaxation. Just chill and relax!
We booked a Beach Studio Unit 2 nights for S$ 350.41. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, you can find hotels to stay in the Apollo Bay town.
Apollo Bay > The 12 Apostles > Loch Ard Gorge > London Bridge
On Day 3, you can drive to the attractions along the Great Ocean Road. Regardless of where you stay (in town or outside of town), you can drive to The 12 Apostles within 15 minutes.
Along the way from The 12 Apostles to London Bridge (or Loch Ard Gorge), you can also stop by other places to take photos of the Great Ocean Road. The drive from one place to another place is very short. Most of the time you only need to drive around 5 – 10 minutes to reach the next attraction
All the attractions are free to enter. If you visit during winter, please remember to wear a thick jacket as the breeze can be pretty freezing.
Eat: Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe
Along the Great Ocean Road, you can stop by the town to have a quick lunch. I recommend to return to Apollo Bay for lunch and to stock up groceries at their supermarket.
It wasn’t the best fish & chip we had in our life but it’s decent enough to patrons if you are in the town.
Apollo Bay > Lorne > Bells Beach > Melbourne City
On Day 4, you can head back to Melbourne City. Unless you are really very interested to complete the entire Great Ocean Road, you can turn back to the city once you are done with the attractions I listed for Day 3.
If you are adventurous enough, you can choose to drive another few days to other towns (e.g. Warrnammbool, Mount Gambier) and continue your journey all the way to Adelaide. It will be a long drive but this will be a very interesting itinerary.
Otherwise, you can choose to make your way back to Melbourne City like what we did. The drive from Apollo Bay to Melbourne city takes around 2 hours 30 minutes. Along the way, you can stop by Lorne or Torquay to have a quick break.
Eat: Lorne Central
We highly recommend to stop by Lorne and have a break at Lorne Central. It has a very comfortable and warm interior. The cafe serves good coffee and cake. They do have meal sets if you are looking for a more fulfilling meal.
Attraction: Bells Beach
Before you drive to Melbourne city, you can also stop by the Bells Beach. The Bells Beach is a renowned surf beach located near Torquay. It is a nice place to chill and if you are lucky, you can see surfers at the beach in action.
Stay: Airbnb Apartment at West Melbourne
If you are not going to return your car after you reach Melbourne city, I highly recommend this Airbnb apartment as it provides free carpark. It is located in the heart of Melbourne, hence, a central to many restaurants and shops.
Apart from the fact that you can walk to Queen Victoria Market within 10 minutes, it is also very near to the free public buses and train station. Basically, you can walk to anywhere. The apartment area is quiet but we don’t feel unsafe during our stay.
If you have not used Airbnb before, you can sign up for an account here and receive S$ 45 discount for your first booking (disclaimer: I will receive some money too for my next stay). We booked the apartment for 4 nights at S$ 703.31.
Flinders Station > Melbourne Aquarium > DFO South Wharf
On Day 5, you can walk around Melbourne city! There is free tram in the city and you can also take buses for free within the CBD area. Most of the places we go to are walkable from our apartment.
Attraction: Flinders Station
The station is famous because of its architecture. Apart from admiring the station, you can also find many restaurants and eatery around the area.
Attraction: Melbourne Aquarium
You can take a stroll from Flinders Station to Melbourne Aquarium. The walk takes around 15 minutes. If you are sure that you are going to the Melbourne Aquarium, you can book a ticket online for only AUD $33.60. Otherwise, you will need to pay AUD $42 per adult if you purchase over the counter.
Even though the Aquarium is not as grand as the one we have in Singapore, it has really cute penguins that you can’t find in our Aquarium! When we reached the exhibition, the penguins were lining up to take their weight. It’s really cute!
Shopping: DFO South Wharf
From Aquarium, you can take about 10 minutes walk to reach DFO South Wharf. Otherwise, you can walk to a nearby tram stop to take a tram to the destination.
DFO South Wharf is a direct factory outlets shopping mall in Melbourne. You can find brands like Nike, Adidas and New Balance in the area. Most of the items are on discounts and you might find something really cheap (AUD 20 for my new balance shoes!). We also bought a couple of superdry tees at a really discounted price! There are also restaurants around the area for your lunch or dinner meal.
Queen’s Victoria Market > Moonlit Sanctuary > Brighton Bath Houses > DFO South Wharf > Coles Supermarket
On Day 6, you can visit the Queen’s Victoria Market in the morning to get fresh seafoods (oysters!) and local delights for your breakfast! We love the oysters so much that we actually went back on Day 8.
Attraction: Moonlit Sanctuary
If you have not yet hugged a Koala Bear, you can drive to Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park within an hour. You will need to pay extra if you want to get a picture of the Koala Bear. I feel that it is a very good experience and would recommend everyone to pay the additional fee.
Attraction: Brighton Bath Houses
You know those bathhouses that’s good insta-worthy? While you are making your way back to the city, you can drop by Brighton Beach Boxes. The drive from Moonlit Sanctuary to Brighton Bath Houses takes around 45 minutes.
Shopping: Coles Supermarket
Now that your trip is coming to the end… it’s time to purchase some snacks back for your family and friends. There is a really huge Coles supermarket 20 minutes away from our apartment. You can also drive there if you are going to purchase many items. But do bear in mind that the parking at the supermarket can be very expensive.
Melbourne Chinatown > Anyhow Walk
On Day 7, you can make a visit to Melbourne’s Chinatown. There are actually many small shops, shopping malls, and restaurants in the area. Melbourne’s Chinatown is actually located in the heart of CBD, which is reachable by walking.
Since this is the 2nd last day, it is also important to know if there are any places you need to revisit to purchase your gifts.
On Day 8, you will probably feel really dreadful. There’s no choice but you have to pack your luggage and make your way to the airport.
If you need to return a car, remember to check the location you need to return your car to. The highway in Melbourne is generally smooth. However, it is still advisable to go out earlier so that you can check-in the flight.
We took scoot and the queue was very long. We were one of the last few to check-in the flights and we have to rush to the gate.
All in all, I’m glad that we have actually planned this trip to Melbourne. The speed of the footstep is so much slower and I really like how people view life so differently in the country. It is important to plan well for Melbourne if you are planning to go the Great Ocean Road.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a message below!
What’s your favorite place in Melbourne?