A family-friendly guide to the Grand Pacific Drive
Travelling the coast from Sydney to Jervis Bay on the Grand Pacific Drive is a road trip the whole family will love. Enjoy a journey filled with wildlife, farmyards, epic nature and beach adventures.
Picnic, snorkel and bush walk in the Royal National Park
Less than an hour’s drive from Sydney’s centre, the heritage-listed Royal National Park covers 15,000 hectares of stunning bushland, complete with dramatic rock formations, wildflower-hemmed walking tracks, glittering beaches and shimmering waterfalls. Get the kids paddling out on the calm water at Port Hacking (the northern tip of the park) on a guided kayak or stand-up paddleboarding tour with Bundeena Kayaks.
Further south into the national park, kids will love snorkelling and playing in the calm lagoon at idyllic Wattamolla Beach. There are grassy knolls for picnics as well as paths for leisurely bushwalks. If you’ve brought your walking shoes and you have older children, try the 8km return walk from Wattamolla to Eagle Rock taking in spectacular waterfalls, creek crossings and clifftop views.
As you reach the outskirts of the park, introduce the kids to a range of native and exotic animals at Symbio Wildlife Park. They’ll come face-to-face with koalas, kangaroos, wombats, monkeys and more. Take a snap with a koala or a meerkat on your shoulder as a memento of your visit.
Where to stay:
Hilltop Cottage is set in the Royal National Park, overlooking a breathtaking bay, and has room for up to six guests. It’s perfectly located for kids to enjoy a summertime swim or spot native birdlife. The charming Simpson Cottage in Bundeena offers a stylish, classic Australian country stay with bunk beds for kids.
Sweet fruit, high skies and ocean pools on the way to Wollongong
As you make your way toward Wollongong, stop at Darkes Glenbernie Orchard to pluck apples, peaches and persimmons straight from the trees. There’s also apple cider, honey and mead to taste, and kids can ride in a tractor on an orchard tour. If you want a bit more adventure, saddle up for a horse-riding trail tour, pony ride or chuck wagon ride at Darkes Riding Ranch.
An essential stop on the Grand Pacific Drive is the Sea Cliff Bridge, a masterful piece of road engineering that snakes out over the water. Get out of the car and stretch your legs on the pedestrian path and take in the dramatic coastal scenery. If you’re travelling from May to October, look out for migrating whales!
If you feel like a dip, the small beaches along the coast to Wollongong offer rock pools and picturesque ocean pools with shallow, wave-free waters perfect for small kids. See the ocean pools carved into the rocks south of Coledale Beach, two ocean pools at Austinmer Beach, the 50m saltwater Bulli Rock Pool, and the elevated rock pool at Woonona Beach, which also offers excellent views. Once you’re in Wollongong, get a bird’s-eye view of this stunning coastal region on a scenic flight with Touchdown Helicopters – all ages can fly.
Expand the minds of your kids and book into the Science Space in Wollongong. This immersive and educational centre has more than 90 exhibits to explore, as well as live science shows, a planetarium and special events.
Where to stay:
Stay in a stylish serviced apartment set on a stunning headland at Headlands Austinmer Beach. With studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments with epic beach views, there’s plenty of room for the family.
Foodie fun, farmyards and flowers in the Southern Highlands
An hour’s detour inland will lead you up the winding roads to the Southern Highlands, a cluster of mountain villages surrounded by charming countryside, picturesque national parks and some of the largest waterfalls in the country. On the way from Kiama, you’ll pass by the cute town of Berry, a foodie destination home of the famous Berry Donut Van. Ordering some of their piping-hot cinnamon doughnuts is a must. If little sweet tooths are wanting more, The Treat Factory in Berry offers chocolate workshops for kids, including how to make a giant freckle.
After you’ve hit up Berry’s best, chase the waterfalls of Fitzroy Falls, Belmore Falls, and Carrington Falls, and then regain your energy levels at the Lolly Swagman in Berrima, where you’ll find a colourful wonderland of nostalgic sweets. Stop in Bowral for incredible gardens (including a rainbow of tulips at Tulip Time Festival during spring) and check out the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame, where you’ll find interactive experiences, vintage exhibits, and Donald Bradman’s cricket bat and baggy green.
When stomachs start rumbling again, beeline to Farm Club, near Moss Vale. This farm gate shop offers a range of delicious pies made using local wagyu beef. Post pie, Valley Outdoors delivers adventures for thrill-seeking families throughout Kangaroo Valley and its neighbouring areas. Go abseiling, canoeing, hiking or multi-day camping with expert guides.
Where to stay:
Combine a farm stay with a vintage adventure at Redleaf Farm Carriages in Moss Vale. This quirky property has converted old train carriages into modern cabins with queen beds and bunks. The kids will love exploring the farm, taking a dip in the swimming hole or heading out to the bush for a hike or mountain bike ride.
Waves, planes and jungle adventures at Shellharbour and Kiama
Next up on your Grand Pacific Drive adventure is holiday hotspot Shellharbour, famous for its surf beaches – surf spots The Farm (at Killalea Beach) and Mystics (at Minnamurra Beach) attract surfers from near and far. If the kids (or the adults) need to learn the basics, Pines Surfing Academy offers lessons for all skill levels. Shellharbour is also home to the 33 square kilometre Lake Illawarra, a sparkling, calm lake perfect for stand-up paddleboarding – head to SUP Shellharbour for lessons or paddleboard hire.
Out of the water and into the sky, future pilots will love a visit to the HARS Aviation Museum at Shellharbour airport. Explore the hangars, wander the tarmac to see the F-111C fighter bombers and even get the chance to sit in the cockpit.
From the sea to the trees, let the kids fly high in the canopy of a native rainforest at Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, less than an hour’s drive inland from Shellharbour. Suitable for kids aged four and up, the park has a 1.5km treetop walk and a 35m zipline – strap in and fly high above the forest floor. Or head to Jamberoo Action Park, an adventurous theme park with water slides, river rafting and more.
In Kiama, experience the might of nature at the Kiama Blowhole, the largest blowhole in the world. Watch the kids’ jaws drop in awe as the power of the ocean forces water to spray up to 30m into the air! While here, wander up to the Kiama Lighthouse and find an alfresco table or patch of grass to enjoy a coffee and a babycino or classic fish and chips from Diggies Kiosk.
Where to stay:
Bed down in a brightly painted cabin at NRMA Shellharbour Beachside Holiday Park, where the kids can splash about at the beach or in the ocean pool and burn up any leftover energy at the onsite playground.
Cruise, snorkel and swim with the sea creatures in Jervis Bay
An hour’s drive from Kiama, the Shoalhaven and Jervis Bay region is famed for its turquoise waters, pristine coastal bushland and more than 100 white-sand beaches. In Shoalhaven, Seven Mile Beach is a 12km stretch of sand great for surfing, kitesurfing, horse riding and fishing. With 24-hour off-leash areas, your dog can also join you for a dip in the waves. There are bushwalks easy enough for the whole family – explore the Sand Track Walk to see forested sand dunes running parallel to the beach and see majestic blackbutt trees, a reminder of the woodlands that were once widespread along this coast.
Home to the Jervis Bay Marine Park, the region offers loads of water activities to suit all ages, from swimming and snorkelling to stand-up paddleboarding and, from May to November, whale watching! Spot the majestic mammals from the beach or join a tour to get up close. Both Jervis Bay Wild and Dolphin Watch operate dolphin-spotting cruises year-round and whale cruises during their annual migration. If you prefer to get in the water, get up close to these beautiful creatures with Woebegone Freedive’s snorkelling tours. Or visit Jervis Bay Kayaks & Paddle Boards and paddle the water looking out for smaller sea life.
Where to stay:
Head to Booderee National Park, not only for stunning untouched white-sand beaches and lush hiking trails, but also for beachside camping surrounded by nature – more than 200 species of birds call this park home! Kids will also adore a stay in the cottage or glamping tent at the beautiful The Woods Farm, where they can feed the resident farm animals, ride bikes and swim in the pool. Haven Holiday Resort at Sussex Inlet offers budget-friendly multi-bedroom units.