Freelance writer, mum and lover of all things Melbourne :)
Published September 19th 2012
How to get from Melbourne to Sydney
I'm currently in the position of travelling regularly between Melbourne and Sydney and as such, I have learnt all possible options for getting between the two. How you do it really depends on your budget, the time you have available and the reason you are travelling.
Take a trip to Sydney (Photo courtesy of thewhizzer.blogspot.com)
I've travelled between the two cities as a young single traveller, as a couple and family on holiday, as well as for work or brief weekend trips. I've put together a list with details for all options for travelling between the two cities.
Fly into the sunset (Photo courtesy of flickr.com)
The quickest way by far is a plane journey. Although it takes some time to get to the airport, check in and wait around, the time in the air is minimal, you've hardly gotten up before you're coming back down again. Airlines that go: Tiger is generally the cheapest option. If they have sale fares it can be much cheaper than the competition. The biggest downfalls with Tiger are the distance from the aircraft to the terminal. Particularly in Melbourne, if you're travelling with children it's not fun trying to get them and your bags down the tarmac and through to the shed. You also have to be very organised as they have a strict cut-off period. I generally make sure I'm there an extra half hour early if I know I'm catching a Tiger flight. Virgin Australia are probably my preferred cheaper option, however their flights are often not a great deal cheaper than Qantas. When there is a good deal or a sale though Virgin are quite good. Qantas are generally the more expensive carrier and don't offer a lot extra for the additional money. You may get fed a small snack and could have entertainment if that makes a difference to your journey. Jetstar can have some reasonable sales from time to time but be wary of them being at Avalon instead of the main airport Tullamarine. It can be a lot more breezy experience getting on at Avalon as there are far less people to worry about and getting a park is easy, however it does add an extra 40 minutes drive to your journey. Webjet is a good place to check to compare fares.
Despite the apparent competition you can very rarely get a really bargain fare if you are limited in days you are to travel. If you have flexibility to travel on the off peak periods (mid-week during the day typically) you may be able to get a good deal.
Having travelled often on flights, it is difficult to say for sure if it's best booking as far in advance as you can, because you may then miss a sale that comes up later on. It's definitely best, if you know you want to travel between the cities in the future to keep an eye on the fares. The best thing to do is sign up to their email alerts so you'll know when sales are on.
Melbourne Airport (Photo courtesy of wikipedia)
Getting to and from Melbourne airport – I find Skybus is the easiest option it's $17/adult $6.50/child each way (cheaper for return). It runs 24/7 and leaves every 10mins, taking passengers to and from Southern Cross to the domestic terminal. If you're staying at a hotel in the City, you can get connecting minibuses which will take you straight there for no additional cost. If you're travelling with more than two adults it may be cheaper as a group to go by taxi but the Skybus is still a great convenient and environmentally friendly option if you are travelling to the CBD.
Getting to and from Sydney Airport
The airport train is the easiest and cheapest way. $15.40/adult and $10.30/child The train station is located at the bottom of the terminal building. You'll need to go down approximately three sets of escalators to get there. If you know you're travelling out of the city centre, enter your final destination into the ticket machines and it will likely only be a few additional dollars to get there from the City.
The Big Merino at Goulburn along the way (Photo courtesy of flickr.com)
I've done this journey just the once, in the Melbourne to Sydney direction. It's something you don't forget, waking up in the wee hours of the morning to get out of the bus for a quick stop and see the Big Merino. I think I had giant sheep nightmares for years to come! Buses take approximately 12- 14hrs (shorter time for the overnight). It's a long trip, so I suggest bringing along some snacks and entertainment, although there are a few brief stops on the way. It's a good option if you are wanting to see the towns and scenery on the way without worrying about driving.
Along the Hume Highway (Photo courtesy of wikipedia)
Firefly - There are two options, you can leave in the morning and arrive by the evening or leave in the evening and arrive early in the morning the next day. The morning Firefly bus leaves Melbourne at 7.15am and arrives at Sydney 9.25pm (for approximately $65). The evening Firefly leaves Melbourne at 7pm and arrives at Sydney at 7am the following day ( for approximately $75).
Greyhound - You can stop at Canberra or Yass or travel direct. Again, you can chose to travel through the day or overnight. The morning service leaves Melbourne 7.15am arriving at Central Station in Sydney 9.15pm. The evening service leaves Melbourne 8pm arriving at Central Station in Sydney 8.25am the following day.
Prices between $79 and $125 for adults. There are also promotions for buy one get one 50% off and for kids to travel 50% off, check the website for travel periods.
Train I have also experienced this trip, in the Sydney to Melbourne direction. Trains generally provide a more comfortable trip than buses ,it's a bonus that you can get up and move around, buy food along the way etc. If you can afford the extra cost, upgrading to first class is well worth the extra comfort and peace and quiet if you are wanting to sleep on the way. If you are wanting a more guaranteed sleep, there is a 'sleeper' option for an additional cost. The sleepers include shared toilet and shower facilities and complimentary breakfast.
Trains depart from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne and arrive at Central Station in Sydney.
Trains take just over 12 hours, so again it's a long journey but a good way to see some of the countryside during the day or the more comfortable overnight option.
There are two options - you can chose to travel throughout the day, trains from Melbourne depart at approximately 8.30am and arrive into Sydney at 8.45pm. Or travel through the night 8pm and arrive at 8.20am the following day.
Countrylink rarely has sales over this distance, but it's worth keeping an eye out on the website if any discounts become available.
Self-drive If you're someone who likes driving (and you've really got to like driving!) and have a few spare days to make the most of the scenery. There are two main routes to take, depending on your time and scenery preferences.
Towns to visit along the way
The first is the Hume Highway route which is around 900km. This takes approximately 9hrs 45mins (not including the stops you'll need to take). The Hume Highway is the most direct route and takes you right through Central Victoria. There are some great small towns along the way such as Glenrowan, Beechworth, Yackandandah, and Holbrook that are either en route or a little off the track. The road is generally very good quality but also wide and dull and seemingly never-ending in parts. The best option is to make the journey a holiday on the way to break it up. You could also visit Canberra on the way through.
Coastal Route (approximately 1033km) could been considered the scenic route, it will allow you to practically trace the outline of Australia from Melbourne to Sydney. You can begin the journey exploring the Mornington Peninsula and check out Lakes Entrance in Victoria. Once you reach NSW, there are lovely towns along the South Coast to explore on the way to Sydney. It's a great option for a holiday trip if you'd like to explore some coastal towns on the way.
Take a Coastal Roadtrip (photo courtesy of ichini-san.blogspot.com.au)
Hi Em - thanks for this info! Super helpful! Knowing that you are an expert on Melbourne, maybe you can help with this situation. We will be flying into MEL late on a Tuesday afternoon and have just that evening in Melbourne. We'll get a car at the airport and leave Wednesday morning for GOR. Need to find a good place to stay. Is there an area/neighbhorhood that would be a place where it's easy to park and catch a bus/train into central Melbourne and a good launching point for GOR?
Hi Em, what a really nice guide to follow in any situation. Thank you for this. I have a suggestion to make, if you could add a little more tourist information for driving such as landmarks, tourist attractions, national parks to visit, waterfalls, mountains, snow.. etc it would make this a complete guide for everyone for years to come. I surely benefited heaps from so thanks again.
Ive flown form Melbourne to Sydney, I've driven there and back, and now im getting the train up there on monday. So 3/4 completed on the list. However, not very keen on the bus option....If anyone else is reading this comment, NSW transport (or the train network) have $70 train trip to sydney during Jan/Feb 2015, so get on that!
Hey EM, I want to thank you for such an informative and sophisticated piece of advice and guidance on the trip from beautiful Melbourne to Sydney...
I would like to add on by advising that if someone does not have an urgent commitment to fulfil in the other city, TAKE THE TRAIN TRIP! Stop going mainstream in travelling on the plane just like everyone does and often (for some people) fearing to be judged as out-backed..
Regarding the 'Very Long' 11 hours it takes: Just sit down and watch the scenery on the sides, think about your life, ponder in the creation of the nature... That way you'll know yourself.
Have a safe trip!