Brilliant coastal scenery, relaxing beaches and a mini-ark full of Australian wildlife-watching opportunities fill this meandering journey taking the scenic route south from the bright lights of Sydney to the Victorian border. Along the way, be nourished and refreshed by briny-fresh seafood, local artisan produce, and excellent beer and wine.
And make time for the Mogo Zoo near the end. With over 250 animals, of which more than 44 are rare or exotic species, and a great commitment to the conservation of endangered species it's a trip round the world, without leaving the country.
Sydney is such a exciting and vibrant city, with one of the world's greatest harbours, so we could easily spend a whole trip - just in Sydney. But as our purpose is to head south out of Sydney we thought there were several quick stops that will give the adventurer a small, but necessary bite of Sydney.
Firstly, you must whip across to Bondi and walk the dramatic coastal boardwalk from Bondi to Coogee.
Wander around the Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay, booking yourself a show if you’ve a few nights, or simply sip a glass of wine as the sun goes down and the lights of the Sydney Harbour Bridge come up.
Next up, a journey from Circular Quay to Manly Beach at the northern end of Sydney harbour. Only marginally less famous than the iconic stretch of sand at Bondi, Manly is a top place to go bodysurfing and eat at seafood cafes with views of towering Norfolk pines. Sydney's northern beaches are also a hoppy hotspot for craft beer, and excellent local breweries to check out include Modus Operandi, 4 Pines.
For such a sprawling city, departing Sydney's southern beach suburbs is surprisingly straightforward en route to Royal National Park. Sydney Airport rolls past on your left, bordered by sprawling Botany Bay on your right, and in no time, Sydney's best coastal park comes into view and you can get busy exploring remote beaches and coastal walking tracks. Even the car park at the information centre fast-tracks visitors away from Sydney's urban vibe as wallabies and squawking sulphur-crested cockatoos provide a local welcome. Note the unsealed roads to the park's beaches close at 8.30pm, so plan ahead.
Heading south from Royal National Park, you'll discover plenty of places to take in the coastal views, but our recommendation is to keep moving through pretty Coalcliff, across the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge, and stop at quite possibly Australia's most stunning location for a pub. Built in 1886, the heritage facade at the Scarborough Hotel conceals the best beer garden in the land, with spacious, sunny seating and horizon-stretching views of the NSW coastline. Settle in for lunch of grilled barramundi on the lawn, and congratulate yourself for deciding to explore south from Sydney. Try and visit midweek as weekends are very popular.
Dubbed, the 'Gong' by proud locals, NSW's third biggest city – just pipped by Newcastle for second place if you're wondering - makes a good first night stop as you're driving south. Chill a while at laidback North Beach – if you're travelling in summer the local Pines Surfing Academy can get you up on a surfboard – before taking in Wollongong's surprising bar scene.
OK, it's not quite the hip laneways of Melbourne, but the range of eateries and bars is huge, diverse and excellent. For a more raffish experience seek out the hard to find Howlin' Wolf bar - tip: it's concealed in a CBD shopping centre - for a rock and roll vibe fuelled by more than 200 different whiskies. Good live music too.
Famous around Australia for more than a century, the spectacular blowhole at Kiama sees the waters of the Tasman Sea explode in a spectacular display through a narrow gap in the rocky headland. It's definitely at its best when there's a big swell, and it's even illuminated at night for your viewing pleasure.
From Berry, the main route south to Jervis Bay skips along the main highway via Nowra, but a recommended scenic detour usually overlooked by travellers is on forested roads to the historic hamlet of Kangaroo Valley. Around this village surrounded by rolling hills there's a good chance you will see the occasional marsupial local, but even if the wildlife remains shy, the cafes and arts and craft shops along the main drag are worth a look. The tourist office (see www.visitkangaroovalley.com.au) can arrange horse riding, mountain biking and canoeing for active travellers.
Popular with holidaying Sydney families on summer weekends, the arcing sheltered expanse of Jervis Bay attracts other much larger marine visitors from May to November.
Join a cruise with Dolphin Watch Cruises or Jervis Bay Wild to see migrating humpback whales and resident bottlenose dolphins.
And to explore the bays of the nearby Booderee National Park hook up with Jervis Bay Kayaks on a guided trip. For experienced kayakers, advice on overnight self-guided camping expeditions is also on offer.