From sick surf spots and lush hikes to quiet coastal towns and charming wineries and restaurants, the iconic Grand Pacific Drive is a weekend road trip along the NSW coastline that you absolutely must-do.

The Grand Pacific Drive is a truly spectacular 140 kilometre (one-way) scenic coastal road in New South Wales. It starts in the Royal National Park, cruises over the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge and through the coastal towns of Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and the Shoalhaven region. It’s one road, one ocean and countless adventures along the way.

 

Grand Pacific Drive Highlights

  • Traverse the spectacular sea cliff bridge
  • Visit some of the best beaches New South Wales has to offer
  • Eat your heart out at countless waterside cafes, wineries and friendly pubs
  • Hike, surf, swim, kayak, snorkel… Grand Pacific Drive has it all

 

Exploring the Grand Pacific Drive and the Sea Cliff Bridge

When someone tells me something is a ‘must-do’, I’m typically less inclined to do it. Yeah, I don’t like being told what to do – sue me. So, it makes it very hypocritical of me to start this article by saying the Grand Pacific Drive really is a must-do for every Sydneysider.

Usually, when someone says something is a must-do, I assume it’s going to be overdone, over-crowded and just won’t live up to the hype. Can you tell cynicism just drips off me? But I digress…

What makes the Grand Pacific Drive a different kind of must-do activity is that it really can be done at your own pace, and via your own personal itinerary. From Sydney to the Shoalhaven region, you’ve got roughly 140km of road dotted with stunning southern Sydney beaches, the famous Sea Cliff Bridge, quaint seaside villages and larger than life attractions to play with – and how you do it is entirely up to you. Now that’s my kinda road trip, don’t ya agree?

However, if you need a hand putting together your Grand Pacific Drive itinerary don’t worry, I gotcha. This one can be done in two days – perfect for if you don’t want to get it done and dusted in a weekend. Let’s get driving!

Read More: Top 10 Road Trips in NSW

 

Find Your Next Adventure in the Shoalhaven, photos thanks to DNSW, Jervis Bay, Murrays Beach, kayak, ocean, beach

Photo provided by DNSW

Day 1: Sydney – Royal National Park – Wollongong – Shellharbour

Total distance covered: 113km
Total driving time: 1 hr 45 min

Technically the drive starts from the Royal National Park, but we’re going to assume most people will be starting from Sydney.

Rise ‘n’ shine nice and early and head to the Royal National park, which is Australia’s oldest national park, spanning 15,000 hectares of nature at its finest.

Take in a truly epic ocean vista from Governor Game Lookout, where you might even spot some migrating whales offshore (May to November). If it’s a warm day, a quick drive down to the magical Garie Beach is sure to cool you off.

 

Note: Entry into the RNP is $12 per vehicle per day, which you can pay upon entry.

After you’ve dried yourself off, it’s back into the car where you’ll continue your journey down south to Wollongong. If you fancy a bevvie along the way, a stop-in at Glenbernie Orchard (home of Darkes Cider) won’t go amiss. At this huge family-owned estate, you can pick your own apples and stone fruit and buy some takeaway ciders and jam.

Royal National Park – Wollongong via the Sea Cliff Bridge

Distance covered: 50km
Driving time: 45 min

As you exit the park and travel back along the Grand Pacific Drive, you’ll quickly find yourself in Stanwell Tops where you can stop in at Bald Hill Lookout, one of Australia’s most well-known and most popular lookouts.

Fun fact: Bald Hill is internationally known as a major hang-gliding point – if you’re game.

 

Rejoin the Grand Pacific Drive and prepare to get your camera ready for the famous 665m Sea Cliff Bridge which snakes its way over the Pacific Ocean. Chances are you’ve seen this beautiful bridge in photos – but it’s even more breathtaking in real life.

After the Sea Cliff Bridge, travel just a bit further and you’ll soon find yourself in The Gong, where there are plenty of sandy beaches to stop in for a surf or swim. Thirroul beach (20 mins north of Wollongong), is a personal fave.

Hungry? Drive into Wollongong city centre for a bite to eat at Bull & Bear Cafe for some Spanish-inspired grub.

 

Three Action-Packed NSW Road Trips for People Who Seize the Day, photo provided by DNSW, Sea Cliff Bridge, Clifton, drone shot, ocean

Photo provided by DNSW

Wollongong to Shellharbour

Distance covered: 20km

Driving time: 25 min

After saying bye to The Gong, you’ll continue to head south, passing Nan Tien Temple, the largest Buddhist shrine in the Southern Hemisphere, along the way. Take a quick tour of the grounds and soak in the peace and serenity, before heading onwards to Shellharbour.

 

It’s a short 20km drive, with the coastal route hugging Lake Illawarra (a great place for a SUP, if you’re interested). Once you’re in Shellharbour, for sweeping ocean views head to Bass Point Reserve (a great whale-watching spot), or if you’re after something more heart-pumping, an adventure at Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures  (Australia’s highest zipline) might just be the ticket.

If you’d like a slower end to the day, a hike through Minnamurra Rainforest in Budderoo National Park will leave you feeling rejuvenated (and thirsty), by which point you can head to Perch Bar for a drink and snack.

 

Accommodation wise, there are a few hotels and motels around, and some caravan parks you can stay at if you plan on camping. Airbnb is always a good option, too!

Read More: The 13 Best Camping Spots Near Sydney 

Day 2: Shellharbour – Kiama – Jervis Bay – Sydney

Total distance covered: 292km
Total driving time: 4 hours

Wake up and set your Google Maps (yes, Google, not Apple and please don’t argue with me) to Kiama Blowhole. This geological marvel is the largest blowhole in the world, boasting ginormous 30m spouts. Depending on the day, things can get really wild and windy, so be prepared to get a bit wet. You can feel the salty ocean spray from lookout points around Blowhole Point or the nearby lighthouse.

 

Photo provided by Visit Kiama

If your tummy is rumbling, brekky and coffee at Penny Whistlers will set you straight. Kiama is home to some beautiful boutiques, so if shopping sets your heart on fire, definitely take an hour or two to meander the local streets and shops where you’ll no doubt pick up a few gems.

Itching for a dip in the ocean? Blowhole Point Rock Pool is on the north side of Blowhole Point and is a great spot to cool off. Or, if you’d prefer a walk, a major drawcard for hikers is the Kiama Coast Walk, with its stunning coastal vistas. Start at Kiama Blowhole and head to Loves Bay, a breezy 5km that shouldn’t take you more than an hour.

 

Kiama – Jervis Bay

Distance covered: 80km
Driving time:  1 hour 15 min

It’s time to head to the Shoalhaven Region and more specifically, the gorgeous Jervis Bay. From the breathtaking coastline to the hunter green hinterland, the Shoalhaven region of NSW is the definition of idyllic.

Why not relax on pristine beaches, home to bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, little penguins and sea dragons? If you’re keen to stretch your legs, a walk around the White Sands trail will take you to the secluded Blenheim Beach where you can stop in for a picnic.

 

Three Delicious NSW Road Trips for Taste Chasers, photo provided by DNSW, Murrays Beach, Jervis Bay, sunset, drone shot

Photo provided by DNSW

If water sports are what you’re after, Vincentia with its pure crystal blue waters is the perfect spot to do it. Vincentia is home to 6.5km of white sand beaches, stretching from Huskisson in the north to Hyams Beach in the south. Blenheim Beach is a beautiful snorkelling spot, and there’s a nearby reserve with a picnic area.  Caves Beach is pretty popular among surfers.

There’s more whale watching to be had at Booderee National Park (Walawaani Njindjiwan Njin Booderee in the local Dhurga language). In addition to whale spotting, the park is teeming with other species such as little penguins on Bowen Island. There are also resident fur seals, echidna and swamp wallabies.

Bit parched and looking for some of the best local wineries? I’d recommend Two Figs Winery, which is about 45 km north of Jervis Bay. Or, if you just want to take your time exploring, take a scenic drive through the southern highlands dotted with wineries, hinterland villages, cafes, and antique stores.

 

Jervis Bay – Sydney

Distance covered: 200km

Driving time: 3 hours

Phew, what an epic two-day adventure. Sadly, it’s time to go home. You can choose to make your way back to Sydney via the Southern Highlands or for the shorter route, take Grand Pacific Drive back.

Frothin’ to hit the open road already? Grab ya mates, pack the car with your bikes, SUP, swag, surfboard and everything else and get on your merry way.

 

Conquering The Couranga Walking Track, Matt Pearce, Royal National Park, woman, river, hike

Grand Pacific Drive FAQs

What should I pack?

  • Surfboard/kayak/stand-up paddleboard
  • Fishing gear
  • Snorkel
  • Wet weather gear
  • Tent/gazebo
  • Hat/sunscreen
  • Good hiking shoes

How difficult is the Grand Pacific Drive?

Beginner: the roads are sealed and well-marked with towns dotted along the way

How long does the Grand Pacific Drive take?

As the crow flies, the Grand Pacific Drive is 380km return, but in reality with all your stops and detours it’s a bit further on the odometer. All up, you’re looking at about 6 hours of drive time, depending on where you stop along the way.

Where does the Grand Pacific Drive start and end?