Road trips perfect for the adventurous
If extreme sports, wilderness treks and otherworldly sights sound like fun, it’s time to fuel up, grab some pals and set off on a New South Wales road trip. Here are four itineraries to jolt your system.
Hitting the open road can be a thrill in itself. But when your trip incorporates heart-pumping pit stops and jaw-dropping scenery, that excitement is amplified. For the drive of your life, look no further than NSW, where skydiving, surf breaks and primeval forests are waiting just off the highway.
Whichever itinerary you choose, you’re sure to clock up experiences that will stick with you for years to come.
Best of the Blue Mountains
The distance from Sydney to the other side of the Blue Mountains may be relatively short, but adventure lovers should set aside plenty of time for this particular road trip, because the diversions are nothing short of epic. Before you make your ascent, source a hearty meal in Glenbrook, a village about a 1hr drive west of Sydney.
Then drive to Wentworth Falls and lace up your hiking boots for the Wentworth Falls Track. Most visitors stop walking at Wentworth Falls Lookout, but keep going and you’ll reach Fletchers Lookout, which offers phenomenal views.
Back in the car, head for Katoomba for vertigo-inducing glimpses of the Three Sisters and your second hike: the 12km Mount Solitary Walking Track, a challenging trek deep into the ancient rainforest. Prefer something even steeper? Hit up High and Wild Australian Adventures and abseil some of Katoomba’s most intense cliffs.
Drive round to Scenic World and hop aboard the Scenic Railway, the steepest passenger train in the world, for another extreme descent into the forest. By the time you reach Megalong Valley in the west, you’ll be relieved to let a horse from Euroka Homestead carry you along the winding Six Foot Track.
Where to stay: Katoomba is an ideal halfway point, with accommodation ranging from the rustic to the razzle-dazzle.
Coastal capers: Sydney to Eden
Your final destination on this trip is the wild southernmost coastline of New South Wales, but there are thrills to be had as soon as you leave the big smoke, so prepare for numerous stops.
In the Shoalhaven region, just south of Sydney, seek out the tucked-away town of Shoalhaven Heads, hop on a horse at Regal Riding School and go for a gallop along one of the most mesmerising beaches in the state. Then head for the hamlet of Bawley Point, where the beach smacks up against towering cliffs, the surfing is world-class and even the snorkel spots are guaranteed winners. Want to swim with turtles, whales and seals? Sign up for a scuba or snorkel with Dive Jervis Bay.
The lakes along the South Coast are ideal for kayaking, particularly Merimbula Lake, which is also a fun challenge for stand-up paddleboarders. Further south, there’s more kayaking to be done on the Towamba River, which threads through thick forest.
Just before you reach the state’s most southerly town, Eden, stop in Tathra and go mountain biking along the area’s 90km of trails. Finally, in Eden, board a Cat Balou Ocean Discovery Tour and hold your breath while you scan the ocean for humpback whales.
Where to stay: About halfway from Sydney to Eden lies idyllic Jervis Bay, where you can set up your tent for a well-earned rest.
Conquer the Pacific Coast
Hardcore road trippers will relish the 750km drive north from Sydney to Byron Bay along the legendary Pacific Coast. You might be tempted to cover as much ground as possible on day one, but it’s worth pausing in Newcastle, Australia’s second-oldest city, for a whirlwind surf at famous Nobbys Beach or some laps at Merewether Ocean Baths, the largest ocean pool complex in the Southern Hemisphere.
From there, chart a course for Port Stephens, where you can go sea kayaking or scale the enormous sand dunes at Stockton Beach on a quadbike, 4WD or camel. Afterwards, climb the Tomaree Head Summit walk for breathtaking vistas of the surrounding coastline.
Make a quick stop at Port Macquarie for more surfing and to marvel at the state’s whitest sand, followed by a visit to Coffs Harbour, where you can scuba-dive the immense Solitary Islands Marine Park.
The biggest moment happens when you reach Byron Bay: around these parts, skydiving above the coastline is a rite of passage. Back on firm ground, conclude your trip by exploring one of the nearby hinterland’s five ancient Gondwana rainforests, taking dips in waterfalls and hiking underneath canopies.
Where to stay: Coffs Harbour has abundant accommodation options and serves as the gateway to the Solitary Islands Marine Park.
Visit other worlds on the way to Dubbo
No trip shows off the diversity of terrain in NSW quite like the drive from Sydney to Dubbo in the state’s north-west. First, head over the Blue Mountains and through the pristine Wolgan Valley, past Lithgow and on to the Newnes Plateau Cliffs, where you can rock climb, go canyoning or be spun out – and possible creeped out – by a walk through the glow-worm tunnel. Next, drive to the immense Capertee Valley, the second-largest canyon on Earth after the Grand Canyon, and take your pick from numerous tough walks that immerse you in prehistoric bushland.
The drive onward past Mudgee is characterised by sweeping vistas and, if you time it right, incomparable sunsets. Embark on the Castle Rocks walk to enjoy views of the sandstone pagoda features of Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve, before getting an up close look of the Milky Way at Mudgee Observatory.
But the light show doesn’t end there. At Dubbo, you’re within reach of Siding Spring Observatory, where you can see super-massive black holes through Australia’s largest optical telescope. It’s part of Australia’s first Dark Sky Park, a zone where the stars feel so close you can touch them: a truly out-of-this-world experience. Come daylight, take to the skies in a CJ6A Nanchang aircraft on the 15min Adventure Flight with Warrior Warbirds.
Where to stay: It’s worth spending two nights in Dubbo so you can soak up the starlight more than once (and fit in a visit to the excellent Taronga Western Plains Zoo). For more starry skies, bed down in one of Bubbletent Australia’s transparent glamping tents at Capertree Valley.