March 10, 2019 / By Laura Pattara
There’s no denying that Sydney has a lot to offer travellers and Sydney-siders alike. With its dazzling harbour, fantastic food and great shopping - there is plenty to keep you busy on the weekend. Sometimes though all you want to do is jump in the car and head out of town. When this feeling grabs you - these are my suggestions for 3 incredibly scenic drives offering arresting coastal views, sensational beaches, quaint little towns and more wilderness splendour than you ever dream of.
Isn’t it time you packed the car and discovered them?
1. Grand Pacific Drive to Jervis Bay
Start - The Royal National Park, 40km south of Sydney
Finish - Jervis Bay
What you'll see - luscious rainforests, dramatic coastal cliffs, charming seaside villages, breathtaking beaches
How far - 2 hours without stopping, 200 kms, one way
The most popular stretch of coast in all of NSW starts at Sydney’s doorstep, right in the heart of the glorious Royal National Park. A short drive south feeds the anticipation as you leave the chaos of the city behind and embark on a coastal adventure that’s sure to impress. This is one of Australia’s most celebrated drives, an astonishing fact considering the country boasts over 50,000km of coastline. But what’s not to love?
Superbly convenient from Sydney, the Grand Pacific Drive (GPD) leads you towards the Royal National Park, a splendid reserve brimming with eucalyptus trees, native wildlife species like wallabies, sugar gliders and possums, secluded beaches like Bundeena and Wattamolla and the start of a startling stretch of breathtaking rocky cliffs.
From here, follow the GPD signs as you pass through verdant wilderness to reach Stanwell Tops and its magnificent lookout. The view from here provides a wonderful introduction to the coastal stretch ahead and an excellent taste of what’s to come. With over 150km of beach - you'll have nearly infinite stopping options to surf, swim, sunbathe and shop in quaint boutiques.
Keep left as you follow the B65 along the coast, stopping for local seafood in Shellharbour if you're peckish or to see the large blowhole in Kiama. After that, continue down the Princes Highway for another 70kms and you will be at Hymas Beach Jervis Bay. Said to have the ‘whitest sands’ in the world, this area has a host of fantastic accommodation options to check out including 2 Five 4, Lily's at Hyams, On the Beach and Beach Bliss.
2. Coastal Road North to The Entrance
Finish - The Entrance
What you'll see - laid-back seaside towns, protected beaches and gorgeous scenery
How far - Less than 2 hours, 100 kms, one way
Unlike the Grand Pacific Drive, the coastal road north to The Entrance is seen by many Sydney-siders as a simple means to an end. In under two hours of driving on a relatively unexciting highway stretch, you can go from bustling city centre to chilled-out beach at The Entrance. However, if you’re up for a memorable road-trip and subscribe to the credo that slow travel is good travel, then ditch the highway crowds at Kariong, take the winding Woy Woy Road down to the coast and start your coastal adventures whilst everyone else is still tailgating on the highway.
Follow Brisbane Water Drive to Gosford, taking the B49 to follow the coast all the way up to The Entrance. You’ll find plenty of options to detour, checking out some of the least visited gems like Pearl Beach, Copacabana and Avoca Beach, not to mention Terrigal and Toowoon Bay (a favourite among dog owners). There are many great places to stay in these towns - check out The Emerald, Penthouse 707 and 410 Pine Tree.
Do this drive and you’ll soon discover a secret not even Sydney residents know: the coastal road up to The Entrance is a stellar scenic option and offers a multitude of options if you’re craving some time exploring beaches away from the crowds.
3. Northern Beach to Palm Beach
Where from - Sydney
Where to - Palm Beach
What you'll see - stunning coast like Manly, Curl Curl, Dee Why, Bilgola and Palm Beach
How far - Less than 2 hours, 50 kms, one way
Palm Beach is inarguably one of the most famous beach in Sydney, sittings at the tip of the exceptionally picturesque northern peninsula, and will take approx an hour and a half to reach from Sydney. Needless to say, many drivers just make a beeline for the finish line without bothering to check out the other absolutely stunning beaches along this stretch of coastline. Sydney’s Northern Beaches are D.I.V.I.N.E. and well worth a visit on your way to Palm Beach.
Why not include a creamy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for breakfast at Manly Beach (because, why not?!), a visit to the striking Baha’i Temple and its beautiful gardens in Mona Vale, or a short but resplendent coastal walk from Newport to the protected and idyllic Bilgola Beach? The Northern Beaches are awash with fantastic walking tracks, offering a ton of options for visitors who wish to mix it up a bit.
Whether you have time to stop along the way or just want to enjoy a great drive: the northern beach crawl to Palm Beach offers a plethora of sublime scenery with the road framed by beaches on the right and lagoons on the left. Ending your drive in startlingly beautiful Palm Beach, a whale tail’s promontory with amazing beaches on both sides, makes for the start of an unforgettable weekend away.
We think you should know: The Weekender's travel guides are independently written by real travellers. We do not receive any money from, or have a sponsorship arrangement with, any of the entities listed in, or referred to in this article.