How to Travel From Sydney to Melbourne by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

Kangaroo crossing road sign next to road on Princess Highway
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Sydney and Melbourne are the largest and second-largest cities in all of Australia, respectively, and both are hugely popular places to visit for locals and foreigners alike. If you're looking at a map of Australia, Sydney and Melbourne look like neighboring cities tucked away on the island's southeast corner, but there's actually 450 miles separating them. Since there are no direct highways that beeline between them, the driving distance is actually much more.

Because of the great distance, flying is by far the fastest and most convenient way to travel from Sydney to Melbourne. Thankfully, it's also the cheapest. However, Australia offers some of the most unique and breathtaking scenery in the world, and you miss out on all of it from 35,000 feet in the air. If you have the time to spare, taking the train or driving yourself are worthwhile options to experience the landscape. Buses are also available, but they're the slowest method and oftentimes the most expensive.

  Time Cost Best For
Train 10 hours, 50 minutes from $60 Enjoying the ride
Bus 12 hours from $65 Off-season deals
Flight 1 hour, 30 minutes from $27 Arriving quickly and cheaply
Car 9 hours 545 miles (878 kilometers) Exploring Australia

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Sydney to Melbourne?

With all of the flight options to choose from, going by plane is by far the most affordable way to get from Sydney to Melbourne. You can choose from multiple airlines and dozens of daily flights to travel on this popular route, from low-cost airlines like Jetstar and Tigerair to full-service companies such as Virgin and Qantas. Tickets start as low as $27 for a one-way flight, which is much less than you would spend on a train or bus ticket. Flights do jump up in price significantly during the high season and local school holidays—such as Australian summer break from December to January—so plan ahead if you're visiting during these times.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Sydney to Melbourne?

In this instance, the cheapest method of transport is also the fastest. The hour and a half flight cuts out an entire day of travel you would spend seated on a train, bus, or car, making it the transit of choice for a majority of travelers. And because the Sydney (SYD) and Melbourne (MEL) airports are both well-connected to their respective city centers, travel to and from the airport is quick and effortless. However, some flights to Melbourne fly into Avalon Airport (AVV), which is an hour outside of the city. Pay attention to your flight details when booking your reservation to be sure you are using the right airports.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

The fastest driving route from Sydney to Melbourne is along the Hume Highway, nearly 600 miles of road that cuts through the states of Victoria and New South Wales. It takes about nine hours to complete the drive, although it can be a little longer depending on traffic while leaving Sydney or entering Melbourne. You'll pass through some small towns along the way, but there are no big cities to stop in and the route isn't particularly scenic.

Once you're in Melbourne, parking is hard to find and expensive, as with most major cities. Finding a garage that allows overnight parking is the most stress-free way to leave your car in the city, but you'll pay for the convenience. If you're driving into Melbourne and want to save money, look for parking garages outside of the city center but located near a Melbourne metro stop. Rates will be significantly cheaper and you can just ride into the city from there.

How Long Is the Train Ride?

Taking the train from Sydney to Melbourne—and around Australia in general—is slow and relatively pricey. However, the experience of train travel is well worth the extra time and cost for many travelers, and booking the overnight journey helps to balance out the expense by saving a night of accommodation. Tickets during the low season start at roughly $60 for a one-way trip, while high-season tickets are about $85 (remember the prices you see on the NSW Transport website are in Australian dollars, not U.S. dollars).

Two trains leave each day from Sydney Central Station toward Melbourne Southern Cross Station, one in the morning and one in the evening. Both stations are centrally located and easily accessible to the rest of the city by public transportation. The daytime train is the only way to catch views of the Australian landscape, but the route isn't particularly scenic and spending the night on the train may be a better use of limited vacation time.

Is There a Bus That Goes From Sydney to Melbourne?

Long-distance buses in Australia are comparable in price and time to the train, with the journey taking about 12 hours and tickets starting at roughly $65. The most popular bus companies are Greyhound Australia and Firefly, so compare schedules and prices between the two before finalizing your purchase. And don't forget to look into flights, which are normally much cheaper and will save you several hours of travel time.

Tip: Bus companies will occasionally host special sales, especially on overnight buses during the low season, so check prices frequently to see if you can snag a deal.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Melbourne?

Prices for all types of transport rise significantly during the tourist high season and quarterly breaks for Australian students. The exact dates of school vacations vary from year to year, but they generally last one week in mid-April, two weeks in mid-July, one week at the end of September, and the long summer vacation throughout most of December and January. If your travel plans coincide with any of these dates, book all of your reservations as far in advance as possible.

For the most comfortable weather and fewer crowds, visit in the shoulder seasons of spring (from September to November) or fall (from March to May). Melbourne's winter lasts from June to August, and while it may be too cold to hit up the beach, temperatures are usually warm enough to enjoy being outside with some additional light layers.

What's the Most Scenic Route to Melbourne?

Travelers with a vehicle have a second driving option to get from Sydney to Melbourne. The A1 Highway, also known as the Princess Highway, winds along the coast and drives directly through several national parks. It's a significant detour since it's not only an additional 100 miles compared to the more direct Hume Highway, but the roads are curvier and the speed limit is lower. In total, expect to be on the road for about 12 hours as opposed to nine hours on the faster route. But in exchange for the additional time, the views and landscape are incomparable. If you have the time, the drive is best split up over a couple of days so you can make pitstops in beach towns or campsites to spend the night.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

From Melbourne Airport, the Melbourne City Express Bus shuttles passengers directly from the terminal to the Southern Cross train station in the city center in just 22 minutes. The cost of the bus is about $13 for an adult passenger, but children ride free with a paying adult and there are also discounts for buying a roundtrip ticket. You can buy tickets using cash or credit card at the kiosks in the airport terminal before boarding the bus. Buses run seven days a week and depart every 15 minutes, making it one of the most convenient ways to get into Melbourne.

What Is There to Do in Melbourne?

Melbourne is one of Australia's hippest cities, known for its cool coffee culture, award-winning wines, funky street art, and trendy eateries. The Queen Victoria Market, or "Vic Market" as the locals call it, is one of the best places to get acquainted with local goods and should be one of your first stops. Explore the endless stalls of food, drinks, and souvenirs, and consider booking a food tour to hit up the most iconic spots. If you're visiting during the warmer months, you can't miss out on the nearby beaches, such as Brighton Beach and St Kilda. Australian fauna is one of the biggest draws for visiting the country, and you can visit wildlife sanctuaries just outside of the city to get up close and learn about kangaroos, wallabies, koala bears, Tasmanian devils, and other local species.

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