Going to Melbourne for Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix? Why not drive and take in the magnificent, splendour of the Sydney to Melbourne coastal route? This road trip takes in national parks, sleepy seaside towns, lush rolling hillsides, alpine forests, sparkling seas and golden beaches…sigh, and it be done in two or three days! But, to really do it justice we recommend a relaxing week.

Day 1

Starting in Sydney, drive south and take the turn off for the Royal National Park and Grand Pacific Drive. First stop Stanwell Tops, a view worth taking in, then onto the thrill of the Sea Cliff Bridge (spanning 455 metres over the ocean). There are a couple of options for lunch: Kiama and its famous Blowhole that shoots water up to 60 metres, or if you have time head inland for a pub lunch in the pretty town of Berry or pop over to Kangaroo Valley. A leisurely drive through beautiful countryside to Gerringong and Gerroa with deliver you to Nowra and a plethora of accommodation options for overnight stays.

Day 2

Spend the morning at Huskisson in Jervis Bay and wriggle your toes in some of the world’s whitest sand at Hyams Beach. Swimming, bushwalking and birdwatching are all on the tourist menu at Booderee National Park. Continue down the coast to enjoy fish and chips at Ulladulla or go for a swim at Pebbly Beach and make friends with the resident kangaroos. The last part of today’s driving lets you appreciate the craggy beauty of Murramarang National Park before stopping overnight at Batemans Bay.

Day 3

Mogo and the national-trust listed Central Tilba are worth visiting for the niffy boutique shops and heritage appeal. If you like cheese (hello?), you must make a detour and head inland to Bega for cheese tasting and don’t forget the famous oysters of Pambula. For nature-lovers, Ben Boyd National Park has wonderful bushwalks and picnic spots. Tonight you will stay in Eden which is renowned for whale watching (between May and November) – if you’re on your way to the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix (March), console yourself with deliciously fresh seafood!

Day 4

Goodbye NSW and hello VIC. Today you cross the border and visit lovely Mallacoota on the shimmering shores of Mallacoota inlet. If you have time take a tour to the penguin colonies on Gabo Island or explore Groajingolong National Park. Otherwise, travel onto Metung and Gippsland Lakes (Australia’s largest inland waterway) and say hello to the local pelicans. Stay overnight in the laid-back town of Bairnsdale. Make time to discover the region’s wineries and brewery just a short drive out of town.

Day 5

First stop is Sale Wetlands and the boardwalk that allows for incredible wildlife watching. Drive through lush dairy country and visit Maffra and its historic main street – make sure to partake of their famous cheddar cheese. Tonight stay over in Walhalla, a gold rush town on the southern edge of Victorian Alps. Walhalla is proud of its history, adventure seekers should go on the underground mine tour, while the rest of you visit/stay at the Star Hotel and soak in the atmosphere and the rich history-lined walls.

Day 6

Head out and drive to Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park. There are plenty of marvellous walks and beaches to keep you bowled over – two of the best are Lilly Pilly Gully Nature Walk and Squeaky Beach. Tonight you will stay at nearby Foster which is an easy drive from Wilsons Promontory.

Day 7

This is definitely a nature day. There are several places that you can stop to stretch your legs or get a coffee – Fish Creek offers galleries, bookstores and cafes or travel on for lunch at Inverloch – a popular seaside town. This afternoon drive on to San Remo and over the bridge to Phillip Island to watch the tiny fairy penguins’ nightly waddle ashore at Summerland Beach, witness the largest fur seal colony at Seal Rocks and visit the amazing short-tailed shearwater rookeries of Cape Woolamai. Stay overnight at the relaxing village atmosphere of Rhyll or soak up the seaside holiday vibe in Cowes.

Day 8 – Phillip Island to Melbourne

This morning, visit the koala conversation centre in Rhyll or take a hike up Conservation Hill and say hello to migratory mutton-birds from Alaska, before heading out to the Mornington Peninsula. You’re on the home stretch, but there is still plenty to see and do when you visit Flinders, Sorrento or Red Hill. The wineries, golf courses, a swim with dolphins or the chance to pick your own berries will keep you amused and entertained, before arriving in Melbourne, and the start of a whole new adventure…

2016 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix will take place in Melbourne from 17 to 20 March, 16. The Sydney to Melbourne coastal route road trip is available all year.