For a weekend full of golden beaches, tranquil lakes, sweeping lookouts, all whilst cruising past national park after national park, take a trip down NSW Tourist Drive 6 – The Lakes Way on the Barrington Coast.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Biripi and Worimi Nations, the traditional Countries of the Biripi and Worimi people who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Enjoy plenty of phenomenal coastal views
- Go for a dip, surf or paddle along Barrington’s beautiful waterways
- Take a chippy break at some amazing restaurants and cafes along the way
The Lakes Way kicks off in a small rural area of the Mid-North Coast of NSW and winds its way along stunning coastline and lakeside before curving inland again towards countryside and bushland. It takes around three hours to drive from Sydney to the start of The Lakes Way, but from there expect an easy scenic drive with plenty of time spent outside the car relaxing and exploring.
Day 1 – Tuncurry to Booti Booti National Park
Distance driven: 53km
Tuncurry and Forster
Your journey begins at the northern end of the Lakes Way, where you’ll spend a chill 20 minutes winding through countryside towards the coastal town of Tuncurry. If the day’s already heating up, a quick cool off in the Tuncurry Rock Pool should be on the cards.
When you’re ready, hop back in the car and take the curving bridge over Coolongolook River (Instaworthy in its own right) to Tuncurry’s larger neighbouring town Forster.
Forster has a handful of beaches and swimming spots to choose from, including family-friendly Forster Main Beach and Pebbly Beach, both of which you can view from Second Head Lookout on Bicentennial Walk.
After a morning of sand, surf, and soaking in Tuncurry Rock Pool, you should be feeling ready for lunch. Beach Bums Café is right by Forster Main Beach and offers a tempting range of classic seafood, salads, burgers, and chips. If that doesn’t take your fancy, pop back into town and take your pick of restaurants.
Before you take off, drop by the local supermarket to grab supplies for a picnic dinner (more on that later) and for tomorrow’s brekkie.
Cape Hawke Lookout
From Forster, it’s not long before you’ll hit Booti Booti National Park, a small but spectacularly placed stretch of rainforest and coastline pinned between Wallis Lake and the Pacific Ocean. The name comes from the word ‘butibuti’ which means ‘plenty of honey’ in the language of the local Worimi People.
Right at the northern tip of the national park you’ll find Cape Hawke Lookout, a worthwhile stop off to take in some impressive 360° views of the surrounding area. Once you’ve parked up, coat yourself generously in Aerogard (the mozzies are pretty full on here, even during the day) then take the stairs for a short 500m hike up to the 8.4m high viewing tower. You might spot a couple brush-turkeys scratching around along the way.
The Green Cathedral
Continue your journey along the Lakes Way, down the narrow peninsula of Boot Booti National Park. After about 10-15 minutes, keep your eyes peeled for a sign on the right marking the entry to the Green Cathedral.
This isn’t like any church you’ve ever been to before. A short path bordered by towering palms leads to the Cathedral, where you can take a seat on one of the log benches and look out over the serenely calm waters of Wallis Lake. Anyone is welcome to drop in and look around.
Dedicate the rest of the afternoon to getting amongst it at Wallis Lake. Its pristine waters are a fantastic place to swim, fish or paddle and if you’re visiting during summer, you might be lucky enough to spot a resident dolphin, ray or turtle. Now’s definitely the time to pull out that SUP board, canoe or kayak if you’ve brought one along.
Just a few minutes down the road from the Green Cathedral you’ll find Sunset Park picnic area, the perfect spot to tuck into that picnic dinner you bought earlier. It’s not called Sunset Park for nothing, so try to arrive a little before the sun goes down to experience the amazing colours of the sky reflected upon Wallis Lake.
For a place to set up camp for the night, The Ruins campground and picnic area offers unpowered sites and amenities within Booti Booti National Park. If you haven’t brought a tent, Tiona Holiday Park also offers a range of glamping and cabin options. Both sites are only a four-minute drive from Sunset Park and are bordered by Wallis Lake and Seven Mile Beach. Make sure you book your site in advance.
Day 2 – Booti Booti National Park to The Grandis
Distance driven: 92km
The next morning, take a slight diversion along the loop of Lakeside Crescent and Boomerang Drive to check out what the coastal locality of Pacific Palms has to offer. In a word: beaches, lots of ‘em.
You’ve got your pick at Pacific Palms, with Elizabeth, Shelly, Boomerang, and Blueys Beaches all great options for those wanting to chill out on the sand. To make your decision a little easier, choose Elizabeth Beach if you’re travelling with your family (it has calmer surf and is the only Pacific Palms beach that’s patrolled in summer), go to Shelly Beach for some great snorkelling (if you don’t mind the unofficial ‘clothing optional’ aspect) and for those looking to surf, Boomerang or Blueys are your best bet.
Pacific Palms has a few good takeaways for lunch near Blueys Beach, like Drift Café, which offers large tasty burgers and mountains of chips that are sure to fill you up (though you might struggle to find a table).
As you start heading west, Wallingat National Park and Whoota Whoota Lookout offer a tempting detour to your right, while Smiths Lake and the Myall Lakes National Park beckon from your left, inviting you to take a splash or a paddle.
If it’s more beaches you’re after, take a detour left down Seal Rocks Road. Follow it for about 10 minutes or so until you reach Number One Beach and judge for yourself whether you think it’s worthy of the title. Then continue on to Boat Beach, where you may spot a few van-lifers enjoying the sea breeze from the open backdoors of their campervans.
Before you head back up Seal Rocks road to the Lakes Way, make sure you stop by Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse. It’s quite a steep walk up the hill, but you’ll be glad you made the effort once you take in the awesome views over Lighthouse Beach and the rocks of Sugarloaf Point.
Your final stop of the trip is The Grandis: the tallest known tree in NSW. To get there, turn right onto Stoney Creek Road – this road is bumpy and unsealed so allow yourself plenty of time if your car is 2WD.
The Grandis won’t disappoint, as you crane your neck at what looks like an infinite white pillar towering above you. But it’ll be the peaceful silence of its lush surroundings that’ll be hardest to leave behind.
Start and End Points
It takes around three hours to get to the start of the Lakes Way from Sydney. To maximise your time exploring, it’s recommended that you either leave on Friday night and stay in Tuncurry or Forster, or you leave early on Saturday morning. Either way, with so much to do you can expect to arrive back in Sydney on Sunday night.
The Lakes Way is a loop shaped road which starts and finishes at the Pacific Highway, so you also have the option of doing this road trip in reverse.
Distance Driven / Time Driving / Days
145km / 3 hr / 2 days
If you include the drive to and from Sydney: 716km / 9.25 hr / 2 days