Nearly 90 percent of Australian’s live with 50km of the coast; on this road trip connecting the country’s two largest cities, you begin to understand why. The scenery is amazing and the transition from urban chic to coastal paradise and back again is uniquely Australian, you’ll be spoilt for experiences and scenery the whole way so take your time to hit as many of them as possible.
Before starting out on the legendary Grand Pacific Drive cruising along the coast, stopping at all manner of idyllic beaches - this is a fabulous trip any time of the year - be sure to pack for water adventures, light trekking, wildlife spotting and expect to have sand everywhere by the time you’re done.
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 out of Sydney we thought there were several quick stops that will give the adventurer a small, but necessary bite of Sydney.
Firstly, 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.
You must also whip across to Bondi and walk the dramatic coastal boardwalk from Bondi to Coogee, finishing with breakfast or lunch at the Three Blue Ducks cafe.
And if you are travelling with children - or even if you aren’t - take the ferry across to Taronga Zoo. With more than 4,000 animals living at the Zoo and strong educational messages about conservation, (as well as glorious harbour views) the Taronga Zoo is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Then off we go...
The Royal National Park is commonly the start point for the famous Grand Pacific Drive, but if you can curb your enthusiasm for hitting the road for a few hours, or even overnight as you can stay in the park campgrounds when the weather is good, as it is a great place to start exploring on foot.
Spring adorns the park in wild flowers, summer brings great surf and swimming spots and winter affords you the chance to spot whales from June to August.
Check out Wedding Cake rock, a stark white slab of clifftop perilously close to breaking off or get your hike on along one of the many walking trails which range from an easy hour (Forrest loop 4.4km) up to 26km (The Coast Track approx. 2 days)
Hanging 40 metres over the turquoise waters of the Pacific, this serpentine marvel is arguably one of the world’s most photogenic roads. Driving it is an epic experience as it arcs around the coastline and some awesome driving shots can be taken here if you’re documenting your journey.
But at just 456 meters long it’s a short-lived, so Roadtrippers top tip is to park at one of the carparks found on the southern side and walk the bridge to fully appreciate the view below. On good days dolphins and manta rays can be seen in the waters underneath the bridge. Expect to go nuts with selfies and scenery photos.
Kiama has some excellent swimming, surfing and fishing beaches, so plan to have a good look around. But if you leave without seeing the main attraction you’ve truly blown it. There are two spectacular blowholes in Kiama, the larger one at the town’s scenic lighthouse attracts nearly a million visitors a year. With a satisfying ‘whoosh’ the blowhole, forces water through the rocks to shoot it high into the air.
Situated in Tingira Crescent, the lesser-known, smaller blowhole is often the more consistent of the two.
Segways are an excellent, crazy fun way to cover ground quickly. Segway Tours South Coast have a range of tours, ranging from 30 minutes to two hours and a couple of the tours include winery tours as well. These chunky-wheeled off-road Segway’s are surprisingly easy to ride and all the necessary training and equipment is provided to ensure you’ll be belting around like a character from the Jetsons in no time.
If you love heights and physical activity all in one hit then Trees Adventure Park, (inside Shoalhaven Zoo) is the ideal place to get your vertigo fix while pretty much having a full body workout at the same time. With over 80 challenges suspended off the ground and no less than 15 huge flying foxes, there’s something here for everyone, even little ones. What’s more it is all in tranquil bush and riverside setting, so definitely a different way to take in the scenery.
Possibly the whitest, sandiest beaches you’ll ever find, framed by crystal clear water, it’s no wonder that Jervis Bay is a popular destination for locals and international travellers alike. There are charming seaside towns and villages to visit or stay in and Jervis Bay Marine Park, a haven for bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, little penguins, and migrating whales, is bookended by two National Parks - Booderee National Park - the southern side of which is accessed through Jervis Bay village, or you can see kangaroos as you wander the walking trails of Jervis Bay National Park on the northern and western shores.
Make time to delight in the incredible views from Point Perpendicular Lighthouse on the northern tip or from Cape St George Lighthouse on the southern side.
And if budget and time allow, book yourself into one of the 12 canvas safari style tents nestled amongst the eucalypt and paperbark forest at Paper Bark Camp, an Advanced Eco Accredited eco lodge. It’s the perfect place to see the amazing wild life and to visit all of the glorious beaches of Jervis Bay.
There’s something intensely fulfilling about exploring open waters by kayak. Firstly, you’re right a sea level, but also you’re both the skipper of the vessel and the engine. There’s no-one better to try sea kayaking with than Sea Kayak Jervis Bay, as they have been on the water for over 20 years and know all the best places to view rays, dolphins and even whales in the crystal clear waters around the bay. Tours are available year-round and there are half day or overnight options.
The Granite falls and George Boyd bush walk and lookouts are the ideal break away should you need reprieve from the coast’s surf and sand. The Granite falls walking track is suitable for moderately fit walkers and the path is framed by Aussie bush. The highlight of the 40 minute loop walk is easily the cantilever platform overlooking the falls. If rainfall has been low, the falls may not be flowing very fast but the outlook across the bush is still pretty spectacular. And to capture the epic views across Shoalhaven and Jervis Bay head to the George Boyd lookout (a short drive away). You can drive straight to the lookout carpark from 12 Mile Road.
Road trips can’t all be fuelled by convenience store pies. Indeed, a stop at the Cupitt Family business will ruin any future convenience store snacking for sure. The menu is “elegant rustic” with French and English inspirations and the expertly crafted wine is well bodied, aromatic and lingering. But wait there’s more, the Cupitt brewery boasts a delicious portfolio of 10 seasonal brews and no less than 5 styles of goat and cow’s cheese are available from the Fromagerie. Honestly, foodie heaven is an understatement. Make suitable plans to stay awhile in order to really satisfy your hunger and thirst. Accommodation in their boutique cottage is available too - but you will need to book well in advance as this is a popular spot.
Wineries, galleries and sightseeing is great, but at some point you may want to inject more adrenalin into your road trip. And if you’re hankering to carve some gnarly tubes then there’s no shortage of surf spots up and down the coast, however Nelson is a fairly consistent beach break with good shelter from northerly and southerly winds. It’s an 100 meter walk from the carpark to the golden sands of the beach and even if it’s not pumping it’s a great spot for swimming or fishing too.
And just 10 minutes from Nelson Bay are the sand dunes of Worimi Conservation Land that stretch for 30kms. You can career around these glorious golden dunes by foot, sandboard, 4WD, quad bike, horseback or even camel.
Being a Lighthouse keeper wasn’t easy in 1890, it was a solitary life indeed. Point Hicks Lighthouse keeping duties were spread across three families to make life easier, and now, guests can stay overnight in two of the three original cottages beside the lighthouse which is still in effect today. Wifi and phone free, digital devices are replaced by 360-degree water views and scenic walks to remote beaches and awesome sand dunes, you can even whale watch from the front porch. You will need to bring all of your own food and drinking water (nearest town is an hours drive) but you will have a most wonderful time exploring the headland and imagining yourself living in a time gone by. Bookings are essential for the cottages but if you’re camping you will only need to book December to January and also for the Easter holiday period.
Providing visitors access to 60 kilometres of isolated beaches and natural coastal bushlands, the Cape Conran Coastal Cabins and Campgrounds offer a range of surfing, scuba diving, cycling and environmental tours to give all visitors a guided start in some of the country’s most popular recreational activities whilst introducing them to the ecological work that has been done since the area was trialed as a wildlife protection area 14 years ago. (You may even be asked to assist with collecting data for wildlife research). After all the physical activity, the wellness and retreat services here are a little more glamping than camping, with luxury services like restorative and therapeutic massage available in the privacy of your own cabin. Whatever your mind or body needs this campground has it all.
If you haven’t succumbed to the temptation of fishing up until now, stopping off to visit the owners at Snowy River Tackle and Café in Marlo will have you reconsidering for sure. These guys are full of local knowledge, know the difference between a Flutter Bug and a Squidwing and are only too happy to help anglers new to the area maximise their time. If you make your stay at the Marlo Caravan Park and Hotel, you can also snap up accommodation with full kitchen facilities to make sure your catch of the day is freshly served and cooked exactly how you like it.
If ethical and organic food and produce is an important to you - or even if it’s not - then this cafe offers some of the tastiest local organic produce whipped into delicious meals and tasty, nutritious smoothies in the area. They also host open mic nights every third sunday each month so you can be entertained by local musicians too. However, the cafe is often closed over winter, so do check before turning up.
Journey to what feels like the center of the Earth, by exploring the Buchan caves which feel like you’re in another world and, pleasingly, they’re relatively open and spacious. A perfectly consistent 17 degrees year round and open 364 days a year these are a cool way to get a deeper understanding of geology and appreciate just how long it takes for the thousands of stalagmites and stalactites to form. There are 2 caves - the Royal Cave and the Fairy Cave - both approximately 500 metres long with concrete pathways and all well lit, a great family activity.
Cruising is in the blood at Peel’s cruises and the family been operating here for 90 years, (not with the same boats that whole time thankfully), in fact their three vessels, are all well-appointed ferries, so you can take a tour of the Gippsland Lakes in comfort. The Metung Luncheon cruise (departs 11am) is a 4-hour journey including a couple of hours in Metung, eating and exploring before some sightseeing and wildlife spotting around Rigby Island and Chinaman’s creek. Arriving back to the mainland at 3 pm there’s time to freshen up before heading out again for dinner and a scenic walk along the Esplanade of Metung village.
Golden Beach is a sleepy seaside town just out of Sale, mid way along 90 Mile Beach - a pristine, golden sand beach framed by dunes and coastal vegetation. There is a broad range of wildlife living along the coastal bush areas and you can spot kangaroos, emus, the delightful wombats as well as a plethora of native birds and wild flowers.
There are two protected areas in the Lakes area - the Lakes National Park and Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park and living in the wetlands are the recently discovered Burrunan dolphin as well as about 20,000 waterbirds who use this area as a stopover or base for their migration to places as far afield as Siberia and Alaska.
There are also plenty of affordable campsite options along 90 Mile Beach. However, longer stays are perhaps best enjoyed with self-contained facilities such as in a campervan.
7 km’s south of Golden Beach town lies the wreck of the Trinculo which went aground in 1879. This is a great place for avid divers as you can explore the remains of the boat in Gippsland’s crystal clear waters. Access is a short track across the dunes from a signposted carpark on Shoreline Drive.
‘Boutique’ is an often overused term these days, but one fitting for Tom’s Cap luxury B&B accommodation. Nestled amongst blue gums and rolling hills, it’s a stunning country setting with a boutique winery and a small number of single and two-room spa cottages. Hosts, Ann and Graham have created a fantastic getaway with wonderful scenery - with 7 acres of vines and 20 acres of blue gums planted amidst their 100 acre property. Their constantly changing gourmet menu and outdoor spa completes this pretty heavenly place to relax.
Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park is a stunning place to look over the tumultuous Bass Strait, but it’s real appeal is beneath the waves and the area is considered a rival to the Great Barrier Reef for scuba diving and snorkeling. As Australia’s largest marine protected area (15,550ha) it’s teaming with marine life and visibility underwater is excellent. There are seals, seabirds and penguins to see at this low point, geographically, but it is an absolute highlight in every other regard.
One for the petrolheads. With amazing sea views Phillip Island is one of the most exciting and scenic international race tracks on Earth. And the infamous turn 6 (Siberia) ensures it’s also one of the most thrilling. There are plenty of high speed activities for all - obviously catching a Moto GP or Supercars race is not to be missed if you can time your journey to suit, otherwise buckle up for 3 laps in an Audi supercar driven by one of the track’s resident racers, a guided circuit tour giving exclusive off limits access including the control tower, the motorsport museum, sim racing centre, slot car racing, go karts or lunch at the Champion’s Cafe make this a super fun day.