Grand Pacific Drive
Grand Pacific Drive
Nothing beats a great road trip and the Grand Pacific Drive is one of Australia's spectacular driving routes. Highlights along the way include Stanwell Tops and Bald Hill Lookout, Sea Cliff Bridge and a string of quiet golden beaches.
Two day itinerary
Sydney to the Royal National Park: Head south out of Sydney on the Princes Highway, and weave through the beautiful Royal National Park - the world's second-oldest. Stop at Garie Beach, located within the Park for a quick surf or to simply take in its stunning scenery.
Royal National Park to Helensburgh: Head to Helensburgh, on the National Park border, and make a beeline for Symbio Wildlife Gardens, where you can pat, cuddle or feed a host of furry, finned and feathered friends.
Helensburgh to Stanwell Park: Continue a few minutes south to Stanwell Park, set in pristine bushland overlooking the sea. Visit the Laurence Hargrave Memorial of Flight before making your way to nearby Bald Hill, which offers incredible ocean views and is internationally renowned as a hang gliding mecca. Give it a try if you're game; or simply enjoy the 360 degree views from the lookout.
Stanwell Park to Austinmer: Drive another 20 minutes, taking Grand Pacific Drive and the majestic Sea Cliff Bridge, which hugs the coastline between Coalcliff and Clifton. The bridge's design - which projects it out over the ocean - rewards you with spectacular sea views. Next it's on to Austinmer, ideal for lunch in a cosy cafe. Walk barefoot along Austinmer Beach and check out the lovely ocean baths, first built in 1914.
Austinmer to Wollongong: Proceed through Thirroul and Bulli and into the northern stretches of Wollongong. Drop your bags at your accommodation - there is plenty to choose from, including some with fantastic sea views - then head out to enjoy some of The Gong's nightlife. A laidback university town, Wollongong has plenty of pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes to choose from - all enhanced by fresh sea air.
Wollongong: Begin with a swim at one of Wollongong's great beaches, before tucking into breakfast at a waterfront cafe. Next, some leisurely sightseeing is on the agenda: take a trip to Nan Tien Temple - the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere - or walk to one of Wollongong's two lighthouses. Enjoy more gorgeous vistas from the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk or tour the Port Kembla steelworks at Australia's Industry World before returning to the road.
Wollongong to Jamberoo: Drive south for half an hour to beautiful Jamberoo, stopping first at historic Shellharbour for a coffee, followed by a stroll along one of the many coastal walking tracks or a tour of the town's heritage buildings. Drive on to Budderoo National Park's Minnamurra Rainforest where you may be lucky enough to spot a lyrebird. If aquatic action is more your style, book a canoeing tour in the Minnamurra River or drive to Jamberoo Action Park where you'll find waterslides galore.
Jamberoo to Kiama, Nowra or Sydney: Drive to the Kiama town centre for afternoon tea. Pay a visit to the local lighthouse and, of course, the Kiama Blowhole before hitting the road once more. Continue this stunning drive through the lush 160km arc of the Shoalhaven with its exquisite beaches and sparkling bays. Stop to taste fresh seafood and explore the laidback beauty of the region. Peruse the beach and delightful cafes in Gerringong, visit the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Nowra or, alternatively, begin the two hour* drive back to Sydney.
* All driving times are approximate
Coastal touring on Grand Pacific Drive
This southerly route from Sydney starts in the Royal National Park, then heads south along the coast to Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama. It's a roller-coaster ride through rainforests and past seaside villages that follows a strip of pretty coastline. A highlight is Sea Cliff Bridge, an engineering marvel that swerves out from the cliffs over the ocean.
Views of Illawarra coastline. Image Hamilton Lund
Bridge in Minnamurra Rainforest, Wollongong. Image Nick Rains
Views from Bald Hill over Stanwell Park township, Illawarra. Image Tourism Wollongong
Nan Tien Buddhist temple (\"Paradise of the South\"), Berkeley, Shellharbour, Wollongong district. Image Adam Taylor
Aerial view of Sea Cliff Bridge, part of the Grand Pacific Drive, Illawarra. Image Tourism Wollongong
Driving through the Royal National Park, Illawarra. Image Tourism Wollongong
Couple walking down to Farm Beach, Shellharbour. Image Paul Blackmore
Keep an eye out as you drive along Jamberoo Mountain Road - there's a small sign alerting you to one of the most spectacular views on the south coast - it's definitely worth the stop.
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