Taking advantage of the weekend, Steph enjoyed a great day tasting local brews along this picturesque section of the Illawarra coastline on Dharawal land.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Dharawal people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

About the Grand Pacific Walk

Hugging the rugged stretch of coast between Sydney and Wollongong in NSW, the Grand Pacific Drive has long been beloved by motorists, whose hobby cars and shiny two-wheelers turn the otherwise sleepy suburbs of the northern Illawarra region into a parade of chrome most weekends.

Following the northernmost section of the Grand Pacific Drive, the Grand Pacific Walk is a pedestrian route from the Royal National Park all the way south to Lake Illawarra. Infrastructure for the walk — paths, stairways, and boardwalks — is still being completed in stages, but that doesn’t mean you need to delay plans to enjoy this iconic stretch of coast. The existing footpaths are safe and easy to follow the whole way.

With such a wide array of watering holes (the beer-pouring kind) along the route, walking is a better option than driving. For this itinerary, allow five to six hours from the starting point in Coalcliff to the end, down south in Thirroul. This includes enough time for generous ‘hydration breaks’ along the way.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

Grand Pacific Walk History

You’ll notice words related to coal pop up a lot — in the names of train stations and in the histories of local pubs. Coal mining used to be the area’s primary industry, and miners its main inhabitants. While that’s no longer the case, artefacts from the era of black diamond extraction remain.

How to Get to the Grand Pacific Walk

By Train

From Sydney, hop on a train on the South Coast line. Snag a seat in the top carriage on the left side so you can drink in the vast views as you ride south: the jagged cliffs of the escarpment, horses in their sunny paddocks, quaint rail tunnels cutting through the bushland and, of course, the big, blue sea. Disembark at Coalcliff Station, just north of the Sea Cliff Bridge. Follow signs for the ‘Grand Pacific Walk’ along Lawrence Hargreaves Drive.

By Bus

The Route 90 bus service runs the length of Lawrence Hargraves Drive, making it easy to skip a section of the walk if need be. It’s worth noting that taxis and ride share services aren’t as abundant here as they are in the city, so it’s best not to rely on these for your transport.

What it’s Like to Pub Crawl the Grand Pacific Walk

Population growth and an influx of younger people to the Illawarra region have supported the emergence of a bunch of cool spots to eat and drink in the area, some of which are found in revamped buildings from the early days of these coastal mining villages.

All my suggested pit stops are within walking distance of a railway station, so if you need to call it a day before arriving in Thirroul, it’s easy to find your way back north on the train.


My Pub Crawl Along the Grand Pacific Walk, Steph Lentz, NSW, ocean view, coastline

Stop 1: The Imperial at Clifton

After tracing the curves of the Sea Cliff Bridge on your 2.5km walk from Coalcliff Station, your first beer stop is this restored miners’ drinking spot – originally opened in 1911. Explore the labyrinthine building with its open fireplaces and antique staircases, before finding your way to a table by the window overlooking the ocean.

The Imperial is open seven days. I recommend trying the locally-made Coal Coast Pit Pony Pale Ale.


My Pub Crawl Along the Grand Pacific Walk, Steph Lentz, NSW, Fireplace

Stop 2: The Scarborough Hotel

Continue walking for 1.2km along Lawrence Hargraves Drive and you’ll encounter another historic edifice – The Scarborough Hotel, dating back to 1886. The drawcard here is the beer garden. Settle in at a sunny table and count the ocean liners that dot the horizon as far as the eye can see.

The Scarborough Hotel is only open on weekends.


My Pub Crawl Along the Grand Pacific Walk, Steph Lentz, NSW, picnic table, beach umbrellas, ocean view, Scarborough Inn

Stop 3: Wombarra Bowlo

Another 1.9km down the road, Wombarra Bowlo could’ve been lifted straight out of Sydney’s Inner West. The pub features an expansive beer garden with ample picnic tables and $15 jugs of Young Henrys Newtowner during happy hour. In the middle of the day, the outdoor area is sun-drenched and offers yet another vantage point from which to ogle the ocean.

The Bowlo is open seven days.


My Pub Crawl Along the Grand Pacific Walk, Steph Lentz, NSW, Beer garden, Wombarra Bowlo

Stop 4: The Coledale RSL

It’s a 1.7km stroll from The Bowlo to the local rissole. After the announcement of its closure late last year, the Coledale RSL has been given new life thanks to the members’ decision to sell off the pokies. Now, run by volunteers, the pub opens Thursday to Sunday and hosts all manner of community events, from trivia to artist meet-ups, and a book club. A roster of local food trucks supplies tasty meals from a variety of cuisines. Chances are you’ll be treated to live music while you soak up the rays on the deck.


My Pub Crawl Along the Grand Pacific Walk, Steph Lentz, NSW, Coledale pub, bartender

Stop 5: Headlands Hotel

Continue along the Grand Pacific Walk for another 1.3km. You’ll see your next stop from a long way off. More commonly called ‘Headies’, the name’s a big clue as to what makes this a worthwhile pit stop. Perched on the headland between the villages of Coledale and Austinmer, the mainly-glass building frames spectacular views in all directions. Plush outdoor sofas are plentiful in the pub’s southern courtyard, right beside a spacious lawn that fields the brunt of the afternoon sun all year round.

Headlands Hotel is open seven days.


My Pub Crawl Along the Grand Pacific Walk, Steph Lentz, NSW, venue exterior, green grass, Headlands Hotel

Stop 6: Thirroul

The final 2.5km of your walk takes you via Austinmer Beach, over the hill, and into Thirroul village. Take some time to explore the area and have a swim before settling in at any one venue. Perhaps you’ll enjoy a drink at Frank’s Wild Years, or a plate of pasta at the Pickled Poet – there are plenty of great options here. Once you’ve had your fill, catch the train back to Sydney from Thirroul station.

Read more: 10 Illawarra Ocean Pools To Swim In This Summer 2023


My Pub Crawl Along the Grand Pacific Walk, Steph Lentz, NSW, sea baths, ocean swimming pool, Austinmer Beach

Skill Level


Safe footpaths and manageable sections make this outing suitable for most walkers.

Distance / Duration / Elevation of the Grand Pacific Walk

11.2km / 2 hours 20 minutes (not including stops) / 84m elevation gain, 140m elevation loss

Fancy something a bit longer? Read: The 5 Best Overnight Hikes Near Sydney


Essential Gear for the Grand Pacific Walk

  • Water — fill up your bottle each time you stop
  • Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes
  • Sunnies, hat, and sunscreen — the route is mostly exposed with little shade or shelter
  • Layers — it can get windy and quite cold once the sun sinks behind the escarpment
  • Raincoat
  • Swimmers and a towel (optional)
  • Opal card for train fare

FAQs the Grand Pacific Walk

Where is the Grand Pacific Walk located?

The Grand Pacific Walk stretches from the Royal National Park to Lake Illawarra along 60km of coastline between Sydney and Wollongong, NSW.

How long is the Grand Pacific Walk?

The full Grand Pacific Walk stretches 60km in length, however the pub crawl described here traverses only 11km.

How do you get to the Grand Pacific Walk?

From Sydney, you can get to the Grand Pacific Walk by taking a train on the South Coast line or by taking the Route 90 bus.

Do I need to book my visit to the Grand Pacific Walk?

Nope, the Grand Pacific Walk doesn’t require bookings. But, if you’re planning to combine the walk with a pub crawl, it’s a good idea to ring venues ahead of time to ensure you get a table (especially on weekends).

What to do on the Grand Pacific Walk when it rains?

If it rains on the Grand Pacific Walk you can either throw on a raincoat and enjoy the puddles or linger longer at one of the stops along the way. If you’re hit with a dangerous downpour, each of the recommended stops is close to public transport to help you return home.

Is the Grand Pacific Walk good for beginners?

Yes, safe footpaths and manageable distances between stops makes the Grand Pacific Walk suitable for beginners.

Is the Grand Pacific Walk free?

Yes, the Grand Pacific Walk is free to access. Sadly, we can’t say the same for drinks along the way! Make sure you bring your wallet if you’re planning on a pub crawl.