When travelling between Sydney and Melbourne, the main alternative to flying is to take the unspeakably tedious journey down the Hume Highway for nine hours. This is usually a surefire way of boring yourself into insanity, while picking up a speeding fine or two for good measure.
So why not turn it into a road trip instead, zigzagging around the Hume, and stopping at places that are genuinely worth visiting instead? Here are ten places to drop by if you turn the Sydney to Melbourne inland drive into a genuinely excellent road trip.
Bowral, Southern Highlands
Sure, there are lovely gardens and national parks around Bowral, but any cricket tragic has only got one destination in mind – the Bradman Oval. One of the world's most picturesque cricket grounds, it also plays host to the International Cricket Hall of Fame. As sports museums go, this is really well put together. Archive footage and talking head video interviews will appeal to the obsessives while interactive field-setting games should keep novices entertained. See internationalcrickethall.com
Morning view over Canberra. Photo: iStock
The national capital has shed its fusty reputation in recent years, and is home to an impressive cultural haul. You can't go too far wrong with the National Museum of Australia or National Gallery of Australia. Tours of the Parliament Building are surprisingly eye-opening, while the Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial is reliably moving. Canberra's also a fine place for hot air ballooning – Balloon Aloft floats its balloons over the top of the notoriously planned city. See visitcanberra.com.au
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, ACT
A 45 minute detour out of Canberra, Tidbinbilla's strength is its variety of landscapes and walks. They range from accessible wetland strolls to full day mountain hikes. The one linking theme is wildlife – this is a fine place to tick off Australia's most beloved creatures in the wild, whether scuffling echidnas or a platypus in the lakes. See tidbinbilla.act.gov.au
The Mt Kosciuszko track is a 13-kilometre return walk. Photo: Annie Dang
Once ski season is over, Thredbo becomes a walker's delight, with a greedy choice of alpine and riverside tracks to choose from. The one that every Australian is going to be tempted by is the Kosciuszko Walk from the top of the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift. Given that it goes to the top of Australia's highest mountain, the 13-kilometre return walk is surprisingly easy-going. It's rated as Grade 3 in terms of challenge, and takes four to five hours. See thredbo.com.au
Alpine Way, NSW
The Alpine way heading towards Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains region. Photo: iStock
As drives go, the Alpine Way threading through the highest of the Snowy Mountains is the complete opposite of the Hume Highway. It's tremendous fun, as long as there isn't snow on the road. There are several impressive mountain lookouts before you descend into the lakes of Victoria's High Country. Pull over at Scammell's Lookout, 1000 metres above sea level, for epic mountain horizons. Then head to the Murray 1 Power Station Lookout for a glimpse of the engineering behind the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme.
Albury-Wodonga itself offers pleasant Murray River-side scenery, but the most riveting sight is the Bonegilla Migrant Experience. One in 20 Australians is related to someone who passed through the country's largest post-war migrant camp. The tales of drudgery, confusion and mis-sold Australian experience spelled out in the camp huts are fascinating. It's next to the Hume Dam, the first and arguably prettiest major dam on the Murray. See bonegilla.org.au
Beechworth, Victoria High County
Beechworth town centre. Photo: Roberto Seba
The most attractive of the Victoria High Country towns is crammed with heritage buildings and a whole lot of Ned Kelly legend. Kelly-themed walking tours depart daily from the visitor information centre. Elsewhere in town, the Beechworth Bakery does top drawer pies and the Burke Museum has artefacts from the spectacularly ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition. See explorebeechworth.com.au
King Valley, Victoria
Pizzini wines' King Valley vineyards. Photo: Catherine Sutherland
Victoria has no shortage of underrated wine regions, but the King Valley is notable for its Italian influence. Cellar doors in these parts steer away from the standard Aussie shiraz and chardonnay, plumping for Italian varietals such as sangiovese, prosecco and Nebbiolo. Pizzini Wines is one of the more visitor friendly, and they'll point you towards the valley's food producers too. See pizzini.com.au
Lake Eildon, Victoria
Houseboat cruising on Lake Eildon. Photo: Robert Blackburn
Created by the Eildon Dam, Lake Eildon has managed to become Australia's houseboating capital. Pootling around on the lake in a hired houseboat might not be for everyone, though, so for visitors dropping by, kayak hire or fishing might be more appealing. For those who prefer two wheels, the Eildon Mountain Bike Park has trails for all abilities, while anyone on an Australian cinema pilgrimage will recognise the town of Bonnie Doon from The Castle. See lakeeildon.com
Healesville, Yarra Valley
Classic country town Healesville is home to the zoo that doesn't feel like a zoo. The Healesville Sanctuary is kept as open as possible, and is laced with bushland walks. It's famed for its platypus-breeding programme. Anyone wanting further doses of nature can nip into the neighbouring Yarra Ranges National Park for temperate rainforest walks. See zoo.org.au/healesville
David Whitley has been a guest of Tourism Australia and the state tourism authorities.