February 16, 2023
7 mins Read
Grand Pacific Drive takes you from Sydney to Wollongong and beyond, travelling the always-beautiful NSW South Coast. It runs 140 kilometres from Royal National Park to Shoalhaven, but that’s just the starting point for a fantastic road trip further south that takes in seascapes, national parks, historic towns and much more.
Here are the key stops:
2. Sea Cliff Bridge and Wollongong
6. Southern Highlands and Kangaroo Valley
Only an hour from central Sydney, Royal National Park is home to untamed beaches, waterfalls, swimming holes, remnants of littoral rainforest and significant Aboriginal heritage. Row or kayak from Audley Boat Shed, and swim and surf at gorgeous Wattamolla or Garie beaches.
Up for a challenge? Walk part or all of the 26-kilometre Coast Track between Bundeena and Otford to take in a range of landscapes, from pretty beaches to sandstone escarpments and woodland. Among dozens of easier tracks is the gentle Forest Path, which erupts in spring wildflowers.
The 665-metre Sea Cliff Bridge that juts over the waves is stunning. Wollongong has a great coastline, rock pools and headland pubs, but also top attractions such as its Botanic Garden and Art Gallery, which displays some of Australia’s best indigenous art. Also visit Nan Tien, the southern hemisphere’s largest Buddhist temple.
Head to restaurant Santino for beautifully crafted upmarket Italian classics with a few Aussie twists. If carbonara with warrigal greens, chilli and spanner crab excites you, book a table. Babyface Kitchen’s dishes aren’t only beautifully plated but, thanks to sourcing from farms and small suppliers, are also packed with flavour. Indulge in the set menu for a memorable meal.
You can’t beat the location of Novotel Wollongong Northbeach, a stroll away from seashore and has recently been through an extensive refurbishment including the addition of four new dining outlets; beachfront restaurant Palisades Kitchen and Bar, the poolside bar Adrift, North Bar and the Frisky Flamigo Sports Bar.
Shellharbour is a top stretch of coast for surfing and scuba diving. Bushrangers Bay is one of NSW’s best scuba diving centres, while Bass Point Reserve features six shipwrecks. You’ll also want to paddleboard on tranquil Lake Illawarra. Visit HARS Aviation Museum for great vintage aircraft, including a Qantas 747-400.
The chic Waterfront Tavern, flanked by boardwalks at the new Shellharbour Marina, is a great dining spot. Georgia Rose Shell Cove does a great
brunch. Relish on Addison dishes up inventive cafe lunches and less casual mod-Oz evening meals, such as crispy pork belly or gnocchi with lamb ragout. Save room for scrumptious desserts.
Four-star Shellharbour Village Motel, set in leafy grounds, has family and luxury suites as well as regular rooms. It’s ideally placed to make the most of the town and beaches.
Kiama Blowhole is the signature sight, but you’ll find Kiama lively with restaurants, shops, markets and frequent festivals, all surrounded by national parks. The 22-kilometre Kiama Coast Walk is gorgeous, especially during whale watching season, and is an easy walk with plenty of cafes along the way.
Seek out local favourite Blue Swimmer in Gerroa which will suit you in any mood. From great fish and chips to seared scallops with creamy fennel puree it has all the basis covered. Indulge in Australian fine dining at Silica Restaurant & Bar right on Surf Beach. Dishes include braised octopus, smoked duck breast, roast fish and sinful desserts. There’s also a takeaway selection.
The spectacular architecture and clifftop setting of Dovecote, just south of Kiama, is superb. Choose from two luxury holiday homes; the chic furnishings are matched by majestic views.
Beaches, lighthouse lookouts and villages immersed in 200 kilometres of scalloped coast typify Shoalhaven. Laid-back, lovely Jervis Bay is a top spot for whale watching. Enjoy ocean life from below by snorkelling or scuba diving in the marine park, where you might encounter sea dragons, giant cuttlefish and fur seals.
Cupitt’s Estate near Ulladulla has a winery, microbrewery, fromagerie and restaurant serving hearty farm-to-plate fare. Enjoy a tasting of cool climate wines beforehand at the cellar door.
Sleep among the vines in a luxury pod at Cupitt’s Estate. Another great place to both dine and stay is Bangalay Luxury Villas, which offer luxe lodgings in a peaceful setting. Small, friendly Anchor Bay Motel overlooks the Crookhaven River right by the wharfs in Greenwell Point, an excellent fishing spot. Spacious rooms feature queen-size beds and kitchenettes.
Historic towns, cafes, antiques shops, cellar doors and the outstanding Bradman Museum are all reasons to pause in the Southern Highlands. Kangaroo Valley has a historic township, scenic golf course and great food scene. You can kayak on the Kangaroo River and in Shoalhaven Gorge, one of Australia’s best flat-water kayaking destinations.
You can’t beat a lazy lunch at The Friendly Inn, whose shady beer garden overlooks Kangaroo Valley. It has classic pub fare plus a few surprises, such as a Tex Mex salad and vegan curry.
Kangaroo Valley has many romantic retreats but Terrewah Farm is a family-friendly choice, with farm animals for the kids and luxuries and generous views to please the adults.
Rivers and lagoons meet the ocean in the Eurobadalla region. Kayak on Tuross Lake, where the water is so clear you can see the stingrays and mullets below. Mogo Zoo features endangered species such as lemurs, snow leopards and red pandas, and has terrific behind-the-scenes experiences.
The Oyster Shed near Batemans Bay’s landmark iron bridge has the freshest, fattest oysters you’ll ever taste, pulled from the Clyde River.
If you want a room (and a swimming pool) with a view, check into The Whale Inn, which sits above Narooma’s sumptuous lagoons. It offers deluxe, family and spa suites.
The Sapphire Coast is wrapped in magnificent beaches and headlands. Hike and mountain bike in national parks, fish from wharfs, and jump in the sea for a swim or surf. The new 27-kilometre Wharf to Wharf Walk between Tathra and Merimbula is stunning. Pack a picnic and head inland to enjoy a tasting at North of Eden Gin Distillery.
The region’s seafood and oysters are outstanding. Pividori’s Tathra Beach has elegantly simple seafood dishes (plus carnivorous alternatives) and overlooks spectacular dunes.
For a unique stay, Green Cape Lightstation Keepers’ Cottages provide self-catering heritage accommodation with brilliant views; you can whale-watch without even leaving your veranda.
The Peppina Pantry experience is overflowing with local charcuterie, cheese, rustic breakfast salads, seasonal Tasmanian fruits, yoghurts, pastries, breads and a hot dish of free range eggs your way.View More >
See hundreds of rare and endangered animals in Dubbo’s open range Taronga Western Plains Zoo – your great big safari adventure is waiting!View More >
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