Many service centres along the Hume Highway on the drive from Canberra to Melbourne provide a vast array of fast-food options. But small towns and villages off the highway have much to offer travellers, including the chance to stretch their legs and take in local attractions and learn a little more of an area’s history.

Jugiong (about 1½ hours’ drive from Canberra)

The little village of Jugiong offers a range of accommodation options including a B&B and a motel. The Long Track Café, open daily 8.00am-4.00pm (except Tuesdays), offers local, seasonal produce for breakfast and lunch and is a great spot for a break on the first part of the Canberra-Melbourne trip.   

Gundagai (two hours’ drive from Canberra)

Gundagai’s CBD (a six-minute drive off the highway), provides various accommodation, shopping and eating choices, including the Niagara Café, renowned in earlier times as a favourite of a former Australian prime minister, Ben Chifley, when he made his regular trips between Bathurst and Canberra.

Set on the Hume’s northbound side, the Dog on the Tucker Box  is popular, especially with children

Food wise, Oliver’s Real Food offers fruit juices, salads and freshly-made sandwiches

Holbrook (approximately one hour’s drive south of Gundagai)

Holbrook HMAS Otway

Holbrook offers a range of eateries including bakeries and cafes, motels and other accommodation, antique and craft shops, museums, a chemist, newsagency and pubs. Featuring historic buildings and examples of earlier-days architecture, a major attraction is the submarine (HMAS Otway) in the main street, where nearby amenities, parks and picnic spaces make Holbrook an ideal comfort stop.

Albury (approximately 40 minutes’ drive south of Holbrook)

Albury and Wodonga are twin towns on the NSW-Victorian border, with a combined urban-area population of roughly 93,000. Set on the NSW side of the River Murray, Albury has many cafes and restaurants, good shopping, and accommodation options, including the Altura Albury. And great counter meals are available at The Bended Elbow

Wangaratta (approximately 50 minutes’ drive south of Albury) 

Fifteen minutes off the highway, the Victorian town of Wangaratta (population approximately 30,000) is vibrant, boasting gracious old homes, art galleries, theatres, hotels and motels, cafes and other eateries. The town’s well-kept parks and picnic areas are fairly close to the highway.

Glenrowan (approximately 2½ hours’ drive to Melbourne)

Dating back to the late 1850s and located roughly 236 kms north-east of Melbourne and 14 kms from Wangaratta and the nearby Warby Ranges and Mount Glenrowan, the town of Glenrowan is popular with tourists wanting to know learn more of the area’s bushrangers. Australia’s most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly, made his last stand at Glenrowan in 1880 when he was captured after a siege and shootout with police. 

Benalla (approximately 1¼ hours’ south of Albury; 10 minutes off the Hume Highway)

With a population of 9,000, Benalla offers quality eateries and comfortable motels, and art galleries, museums, wineries, shopping, and very handy picnic and play areas.

Violet Town (approximately 22 minutes’ drive from Benalla and 174 kms north east of Melbourne)

Set on Honeysuckle Creek, Violet Town, is small, quiet and charming, with easy proximity to the Hume Highway that makes it ideal for a quick coffee and comfort stop. It has public reserves and a caravan park near Honeysuckle Creek, and its very popular community market (second Saturday of each month) at Tulip Street’s recreation reserve, attracts visitors from far and wide.

Chiltern (approximately 40 minutes’ south of Albury; about three hours’ drive to Melbourne)

Just a short distance off the Hume Highway, Chiltern has an eclectic mix of second-hand and bric-a-brac shops, and cafes, a supermarket, hotel, and various outdoor attractions. A park and public swimming pool near the main centre are especially inviting on hot days. The town’s main street looks untouched by modern-day development, and one almost expects bush-rangers to step from behind the verandah posts. The town plays host annually to the Henry Handel Richardson birthday celebrations for this famous author, not surprisingly drawing visitors from far and wide.

Euroa (approximately two hours’ drive to Melbourne)

Roughly half way between Melbourne and Albury, not far from the Hume Highway, Euroa (population 3,500) has good parks and picnic areas. Its CBD offers a range of cafes and other shops including a chemist, newsagency, post office and clothing stores. And set in beautiful gardens, the circa 1891 Euroa Butter Factory building has been restored, transforming it from an old butter and ice factory into a modern, comfortable place to stay.  Accommodation is also available at the very cosy Seven Creeks Hotel where the restaurant offers generous serves, always welcome on cold nights by the fire. Oliver’s café near a Euroa highway service centre is also worth a visit, but can be hard to see from the road, so you may need to do a Google search.

Beechworth (approximately three hours’ drive to Melbourne)

Located 30 minutes’ drive off the Hume Highway opposite the turnoff to Chiltern, delightful Beechworth (roughly 3,000 population) is renowned for wide, tree-lined streets, charming old homes, historic buildings, bakeries, cafes and other eateries, art galleries, museums, hotels, and accommodation including B&B and Airbnb choices. Among its many tourist attractions worth a visit are the Beechworth Gaol (the prison closed in 2004), historic walks, and markets and produce stalls. Local footy ovals on Saturdays give visitors a real taste of the rough and tumble of Aussie Rules football – country style.