Itineraries are overrated, maps are a luxury and following the sun is the best compass around. Let go of expectations and pack your sense of adventure instead – experience the freedom of a NSW road trip.

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which these adventures take place, who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Before we get started, I want to go on record and say that some of the best trips I’ve had came from a pretty solid plan and mission. I won’t say that there’s never the right time for a well-thought-out itinerary, a robust packing list and a spreadsheet to bring it all together. I’ve got a note on my phone chock-a-block with trip ideas and missions that I want to get to.

Also, road tripping without a plan doesn’t mean ignoring current events. In fact, making the trip up as you go along means being up to date on things like natural disasters and closed roads, but also gives you the freedom to avoid those areas.

If you haven’t, at least once, hit the road in NSW without a plan, then you’re missing out. And I know you’ve thought about it.


Throwing Off The Shackles

When we had the chance to spend a week cruising down the coast of NSW, we did just that. Picking up a van on Bundjalung Country, Northern NSW, we knew two things – we were headed south, and we had no idea where we were sleeping that night. I guess when I put it like that, it’s more like we knew one thing.

That evening, we were still cruising along the coastal highways as the sun started to dip. With windows down and Paul Kelly blasting, we started keeping an eye out for a campsite for the night. By the time we found a quiet spot, it was well and truly dark so we knew we’d be treated to a surprise in the morning when we woke up and saw where we’d actually camped. 

Lucky for us, it was an absolute humdinger of a spot, nestled near Nightcap National Park, 20km from Byron Bay. That morning, we got our first proper taste of no-plan-freedom when we looked at each other and realised that we didn’t have a single thing we had to do that day. Nowhere we needed to be by lunch, no activities planned or bucket list items to check off, no idea what was even around the next corner.

We also had no food, so after a quick explore around the waterfalls of Nightcap, ‘follow your heart’ quickly morphed into ‘follow your tummy’.

Read more: 7 Best Byron Bay Swimming Holes & Waterfalls

The Gods of Spontaneity were shining down on us though. We’d barely driven 20 minutes before we stumbled across a local fruit stall selling juicy, juicy deliciousness by the kilo. That became the pattern for the days going forward.

Each morning we’d wake up and, if we were hungry, start driving until we passed some local roadside fruit stalls. If our bellies were still full from the chocolate we gorged on the night before, we’d look for a place to swim or go for a walk until our stomachs started growling.


Without a daily routine, it felt like we were more in touch with our bodies. Instead of sticking to our ‘schedules’ of eating, resting or playing, we ate when we were hungry, napped when we were tired, and explored when we were full of energy.

Time On Our Side

Time lengthens when you don’t have plans tying you to the real world. After only a handful of days on the road, it felt like we were living an endless summer. A few dreadlocks were starting to form in our hair and sand was evvverywhere.

We mostly stuck to the coast, meandering through Yamba and Angourie, down to Scotts Head and then on to Seal Rocks. At this point the water hadn’t lost its summer warmth, so swims were mostly a clothing-optional affair.



Our favourite game became scrolling through Google Maps on satellite view, searching for surf breaks. Like me, I imagine a lot of you’ve become accustomed to Googling places or checking Instagram before heading somewhere. It’s handy, but it removes the awe and sense of exploration.

Driving down dirt roads on the other hand, with no idea where they might lead? That comes with a bonus flutter of excitement when you stumble across a gem. Rounding a corner, or cresting a hill, and seeing an empty beach and peeling waves? Priceless.

Somewhere on Yuin Country, south of Batemans Bay, we got just that. We took a couple of small roads past some farms, headed down a dirt track and over a hill before finding the most perfect point break I’ve seen in a long time. The best part about it? It was completely unexpected.

We had no idea what we were going to find and that was the beauty of it. That night, sitting in our rooftop tent, we were treated to an absolutely magical moonrise. It crept up over the ocean bright enough to cast shadows over our camp.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

Somehow we’d also timed it with some good swell, ‘cause the next morning the waves were pumping. Even after surfing until my arms felt like overcooked noodles, we still couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. And we didn’t have to.



We hadn’t stayed a second night anywhere on the trip so far, but we had nowhere to be. If you have no map then you can’t be lost. If you have no plan then you can’t be late.

I was hit with this immense feeling of nostalgia for childhood summer holidays that just seem to go on forever. We had no idea what day of the week it was or what the time was. There was no obligation to be anywhere or do anything. As an adult (or at least someone pretending to be one) it’s not often I get that feeling anymore.

Read more: You Can Have A Beautiful Day Alone

The Same, But Better

As our week on the road started to draw to a close, I felt like we could go on forever. We picked up local recommendations in Tarthra, spent a day looking for wildlife near Bermagui, and tore through the last of our books while waiting out a storm in Merimbula. But after out brief escape into Neverland, it was time to touch back down.



The thing is, we still would have had most of the best parts of the trip even if we’d planned it all out.

Warm nights, toes in the sand, rainy morning hot teas, afternoon naps, cold beers, skinny dips. But somehow it just felt different, better.

As much as I try, I rarely get a day, let alone a whole week, with complete freedom. It made each moment last just a little longer and have a little extra sparkle to it.

Handing back the keys to our ride, we had to wonder how many more times we’d take a chance and do this kind of meandering NSW road trip without a plan again.



The result? A couple of months later we double down. This time heading inland, on two wheels, and for months instead of days…

So say sayonara to the itinerary and see where the road takes you. You won’t regret it. And with the variety on offer in NSW, it’s the place to do it.