|There is nothing like driving along the spectacular Australian coastline, and there is no road quite like the Grand Pacific Drive.
One of the most stunning stretches of road in Oz, the Grand Pacific Drive reaches from Sydney’s lush Royal National Park to the cosmopolitan café culture and surf lines of Wollongong and beyond to the rural beauty of Shoalhaven. Taking in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the state of New South Wales, the Grand Pacific Drive gives access to a host of attractions and coastal hamlets, each destinations in themselves.
The 140 km drive (about 87 miles) begins at the entry to the Royal National Park, a 45-minute drive from Sydney’s central business district. Unbeknown to many Sydneysiders, the Royal National Park is the second-oldest national park in the world and is home to some of the region’s most pristine beaches as well as ancient Aboriginal cave art and some great walking tracks.
From there it’s all about bay hopping – the hamlets of Coalcliff and Stanwell Park are always welcoming – taking in the sights and sounds, the local craft markets and art galleries, or just having a coffee on the beachfront for some people watching.
This stunning stretch of road north of Wollongong is best known for its iconic Sea Cliff Bridge, which clings to the rocky coastline and almost teases the sea below as it winds its way around the bends, far above the thundering surf below. The 665 meter long bridge (2,128 feet) is an engineering feat and has made this stretch of coastline accessible to all. Try your hand at hang gliding from Bald Hill, or visit the massive Hindu temple at Helensburgh, though the most popular attraction seems to be walking the bridge at sunset.
Wollongong has become increasingly cosmopolitan and is a good place to stop to break up your journey, whether it’s for sun worshipping on North Wollongong Beach, a meditation class at Nan Tien Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere, or for taste testing at the Five Islands Brewery.
If you feel like a detour, head inland to discover Mount Keira, where you can explore pristine bush walking from the Mount Keira Lookout, and Mount Kembla, where you can dive into the history books at Mount Kembla Village, site of a 1902 coal mine disaster. Otherwise, Shellharbour is a stunning summer destination and a great one for families. Scuba divers will not be disappointed with the marine life around Bass Point, while children of all ages will love the beautifully-restored aircraft at the Australian Historical Flying Museum.
Finally, Shoalhaven is best known for its whale and dolphin spotting, perhaps to be followed by some vino at Coolangatta Estate vineyard. You can even find friendly eastern grey kangaroos at Pebbly Beach.
Few stretches of coastline offer so much diversity and such stunning scenery as the Grand Pacific Drive, cementing Australia as the true home to the road trip.
If You Go
Grand Pacific Drive
New South Wales Tourism