If you live by the motto Carpe Diem then these road trips are for you. That’s right. You love waking up early and going to bed late. In fact, a road trip isn’t enough unless you’re jumping in and out of your car more than a jack-in-the-box on No Dos. Rest day? That word combination doesn’t even exist in your vocabulary.
Heads up! Travel may be affected by COVID-19 restrictions and flood damage. Head to the Visit NSW Travel Alerts page for the latest information.
Hiking, climbing, kayaking, paddling, sunrises, sunsets, wildlife, camping, heritage, history, breathtaking views and food, food, food. If any of these words make you sit up and go ‘hell yeah’ then these three road trips need to go on your NSW bucket list pronto.
The Grand Pacific Drive is the perfect mix of hardcore adventure action and beachside chillaxing.
High Country to Cruising Coast is for those who like a side of history (and cheese) with their adventures.
And the Kosciuszko Alpine Way? That’ll keep even the most diehard adrenaline-junkies happy.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab some mates, pack up the car with your bikes, camping gear, eskies, surfboard and anything else you can cram in, and hit the open road. You’re about to see a side of NSW that you ain’t never seen before.
1. Grand Pacific Drive
The Grand Pacific Drive hugs the coastline from the Sydney CBD to the Shoalhaven, taking in Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama along the way. If you’re an adrenaline-seeker or a lover of endless stretches of epic beaches (who isn’t?) this is the road trip for you.
Only got a weekend? No worries – leave Sydney on Friday arvo, get back late Sunday and you can still have a froth-packed getaway of sunrise surfing, coastal hikes, kayaking, and camping.
Sea Cliff Bridge, Clifton
Even though you’ll pack a lot into a weekend, we just don’t think that two days does the Grand Pacific Drive justice. Take a few days extra annual leave and treat yourself to a mid-week mission to really make the most of it. Got a week or more? Now we’re talking.
Here’s what you can expect: just one hour after leaving Sydney you’ll get to Royal National Park, Australia’s first-ever national park. It’s easy to see why too – think coastal cliffs, hidden waterfalls, perfect beaches and eucalypt-rich forests.
To really see the Royal National Park at its best, check it out during the week when everyone else is at work! Best to get a head start on them, you’ve got a busy few days ahead.
Climbers – go get your kicks at Point Perpendicular crags, where 80-metre sandstone cliffs plunge straight down into the ocean.
Kayakers – check out the smooth, glassy waters of Minnamurra River or the bays of Booderee National Park.
Snorkelers – do NOT miss Bushrangers Bay. This gem of a spot is like discovering Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid’s love child. Ten metre high cliffs form a natural amphitheatre which is packed with sea urchins, tropical fish, and abundant plant life and coral.
Snorkel at Bushrangers Bay
Kayak the Minnamurra River
‘Hey, I’m a hiker!’, we hear you cry. Don’t even get us started. From the gut-busting struggle-fest to the top of Sublime Point in the Illawarra to the leisurely strolls along Jervis Bay’s famous white-sand beaches, you ain’t never seen anything like this.
And surfers? Well. There are enough surf spots along the way to last you until retirement, if you retired at 120 that is. Check out Killalea National Surfing Reserve, known as ‘The Farm’, and Mystics beaches of Shellharbour.
Go for a paddle at The Farm
Believe it or not, that’s just a taste of what’s possible on the Grand Pacific Drive. Check out the points of interest on the map below, pack up the car, and go, go, go. And then go some more. Seize the day, amirite?
2. Kosciuszko Alpine Way
The Kosciuszko Alpine Way snakes its way through the alpine (duh) region of NSW. If you like to relax, this one ain’t for you. As for the thrill-seeking, adrenaline-loving, outdoor-frothing peeps – stay right where you are.
The Kosciuszko Alpine Way includes Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, some of Australia’s best skiing and mountain bike trails, glacial lakes, horse riding, and plenty more.
At under 200km long, three days is the perfect amount of time for the Alpine Way, although if you’re fond of bikepacking or overnight hiking you might want to add on a few more days (or weeks. After all, who are we to cap the fun?).
The Kosciuszko Alpine Way kicks off in the capital of the Snowy Mountains – Cooma. This gold-rush town is a launching pad for an assortment of adventures and is flanked by pristine rivers and snow-capped peaks.
Try a horseback safari ride, go trout fishing at Eucumbene Trout Farm, refuel at the Tickled Trout Cafe (the smoked trout or alpaca burger are damn fine) before having a crack at whitewater rafting on the Snowy River.
Next stop is the alpine town of Jindabyne. This town is a slice of magic, built around the shores of Lake Jindabyne. It’s the perfect place for a paddle, swim, boating, fishing, jet skiing and more.
Team your favourite water pursuit with some cycling and hiking and you’re for sure gonna need to hit up one of Jindy’s craft breweries by nightfall.
Don’t drink too much though because your Kosciuszko Alpine Way adventure is far from over. Leaving Jindabyne you’ll hit the Alpine Way, a dramatic stretch of road with crisp alpine air and adventures on every hairpin turn.
The drive is half the fun
It’s here that you’ll find Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak standing at 2,228m. During summer check out the Main Range hike for some serious views and a good chance to work up a sweat. In winter strap on the skis or snowshoes and hit the slopes at Thredbo or Perisher.
If you like your adventures a little quicker, check out the Thredbo Valley Track for a range of family friendly and adventurous mountain-biking trails.
Whatever the season, the aim with this road trip to finish is 100% exhausted, yet 100% ready to do it all over again.
3. High Country to Cruising Coast
The High Country to Cruising Coast route starts in the ghost-white gums of the Snowy Mountains before winding its way up the Sapphire Coast and ending in the lush southern NSW hinterland.
It’s a feast for the eyes and taste buds, with gold rush heritage, diverse wildlife, incredible beaches, paddling and hiking, and more food than you can fit in a lifetime of eskys.
Day one; hit up the historic mid-1800s town of Cooma, the capital of the Snowy Mountains. Want to stretch your legs? Head off on a hike up Mount Gladstone. You might not be a Culture Kid, but you’ve gotta get your gold rush geek on at the Cooma Visitor Centre or check out the Snowy Mountains Hydro Discovery Centre while you’re here.
Make sure you leave time for stop two of the day though – Bega. In this ‘lil town, it’s all about the cheese. Don’t brie-lieve us? Stop in at the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre and see for yourself. (Currently closed due to COVID, but they’re bound to be open again soon!) Seriously, this road trip should come with a disclaimer for the dairy intolerant, but you don’t have to be the Taste Chaser to love a slice.
Days two, three, and four, it’s a choose your own adventure kinda thing – as long as you like world-class beaches that is.
Take a stroll along Wobbegong Bay
Surfing at Glasshouse Rocks
You leave behind the rolling hills and luscious farmland for the Sapphire and Eurobodalla Coast. Eden, Merimbula, Cobargo, Bermagui, Narooma, Moruya, Batemans Bay – there’s more sunset and sunrise action here than even you can handle.
Sun setting over the Bega River and Tathra Beach, Tathra
You’ll not be short of things to do on the High Country to Cruising Coast road trip. One thing you definitely need to make time for though is a cruise to Montague Island near Narooma where you can swim with seals, discover the local Aboriginal history, and maybe even spot some penguins.
Dive with seals
Alas, the trip needs to come to an end at some point. And Braidwood is the final stop.
This historic gold-rush town is located halfway between Canberra and Batemans Bay and has a bustling creative scene with local potters, artists and craftspersons. It’s the perfect place to pick up some locally-made souvenirs to remind you of the epic High Country to Cruising Coast road trip.
For more epic NSW road trip ideas head to the Visit NSW website!