Classic road trip series: Sydney to Canberra

Travelling on dual carriage freeways for the entire journey, the 285-kilometre drive from Sydney to Canberra can be comfortably done in 3½ hours, even allowing for the recommended ‘revive, survive’ stop at one of the excellent roadside rest areas. But why not make a day of it and turn your dash between capital cities into a real road trip? With gardens, vineyards and historic townships scattered along the route, there are plenty of possibilities for making the journey just as rewarding as the destination.

Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan (59 kilometres)

This offshoot of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden is the nation’s largest botanic garden and is devoted entirely to Australian native plants. Themed plantings, seasonal displays and guided tours provide brilliant insights into our country’s unique flora, while the children’s playground, café and woodland picnic area make for a great family outing. To get to Mount Annan, take the Narellan Rd (A9) exit from the Hume Motorway (M31).

Sydney to Canberra road trip
Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan. Image courtesy of Destination NSW

Southern Highlands Heritage Settlements (55 kilometres)

The Southern Highlands town of Bowral and the village of Berrima sit on alternative branches of the Old Hume Highway; both are accessed by taking the B73 exit from the Hume Motorway at Aylmerton. Which of these charming old settlements you choose to visit depends on your interests. Sports fans will be drawn to the Bradman International Cricket Hall of Fame in Bowral, where you’ll also find Corbett Gardens (especially worth visiting during ‘Tulip Time’ in September) and Dirty Janes antique and vintage market. For bibliophiles, a stop at Berkelouw’s Book Barn outside Berrima is a must. The tiny hamlet also boasts magnificent old trees and beautifully preserved sandstone pubs and cottages from the 1830s, many of which now house restaurants and craft galleries.

Sydney to Canberra road trip
Bradman Oval, Bowral. Image courtesy of Destination NSW

Marulan (66 kilometres)

Continue south on the Old Hume Highway until it rejoins the Hume Motorway. Just off the motorway is the small township of Marulan. This is the perfect place for an uncomplicated stop to break your inter-city journey. The fabulous array of homemade cakes at the Meridian Café far outshines the fare available at motorway service restaurants, and the café’s ‘pooch gallery’, a huge display of dog portraits sent in by regular customers, reinforces the personal touch. A stroll along Marulan’s main thoroughfare, George Street is also worthwhile. The well-preserved nineteenth-century townscape includes many historic buildings, such as the heritage Post Office – now an eclectic vintage store – and the c.1880 Butcher’s Shop, which still operates as a family-owned butchery.

Goulburn (30 kilometres)

20 minutes’ drive from Marulan will bring you to Goulburn, Australia’s first inland city and the historic centre of the world’s merino wool industry. Look out for the Courthouse, a superb example of Victorian Italianate architecture, and St Saviour’s Anglican Cathedral, an almost perfect expression of the Gothic Revival style. Known variously as the City of Roses and the Lilac City, Goulburn hosts annual festivals for each flower (roses in March and lilacs in October). Lovely plant displays, including a charming glasshouse, can be enjoyed year-round at the centrally located Belmore Park.

Sydney to Canberra road trip
St Saviour’s Cathedral Goulburn New South Wales Australia

Lake George Winery (50 kilometres)

Lake George is a mystery: sometimes it’s there, and sometimes it’s not. Peel off the M31 onto the Federal Highway (M23), and you’ll soon see the wide, shallow expanse of water – or the low-lying meadows that intermittently replace it during periods of drought. Named after the mysterious disappearing lake which it overlooks, Lake George Winery is one of the oldest wineries in the Canberra region. From Fridays to Sundays its cellar door is open for cool-climate tastings, or you can enjoy a special meal (with matched wines) at the Westering Restaurant.

Sydney to Canberra road trip
Lake George Winery. Imge courtesy of Destination NSW

Canberra (47 kilometres)

From the winery, it’s an easy 40-minute run on the Federal Highway to your destination, Canberra.

Need a place to stay?

Quality Hotel Dickson Canberra is perfectly positioned as a base for exploring everything the capital has to offer. Guests enjoy complimentary parking and Wi-Fi.

Cover image: The Big Merino, Goulburn. Image courtesy of Destination NSW

About the writer

Roslyn Jolly is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Luxury Travel, Get Up & Go, The Sunday Telegraph and The Australian. In her former career as an English Literature academic, she studied and taught the work of great travel writers, such as Henry James, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and became fascinated by the history of travel and tourism. Two years at school in Wales and three years at university in England allowed her to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do.

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