Stunning coastal drives from Sydney
When it comes to popular day trips from Sydney, the Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains are at the head of most folks' lists.
But with such a beautiful coastline north and south of the harbor city, ocean drives are also a favorite of surfers, backpackers and any traveler getting away from the big smoke.
With the sun shining, surf beaches and inlets along the New South Wales coast beckon everyone in Sydney.
Here are six options, all drivable in less than five hours.
1. The Grand Pacific Drive to Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay is known for its white sand beaches and dolphin watching and this awaits at the end of a three-hour road trip south of Sydney, along the Grand Pacific Drive.
But there’s even more to see on the way, including Nan Tien Temple outside the seaside city of Wollongong, the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. The Kiama Blowhole -- where water furiously spurts out of rocks if there's a big swell -- and Lighthouse are worth stopping at, too.
Restaurants to check out: World Famous Fish N Chips in Huskisson. The wait is long, but the steak fries and large fried flounder fillets make up for it. Also, in the boutique town of Berry, Our Bookshop & Café can stimulate your taste buds as well as intellect, while Hungry Duck was just awarded a hat -- both are on the Princes Highway.
2. Royal National Park to the Southern Highlands
Bypass Route 1 to hug the National Park's coastal roads that meander through rainforest, cliff-side lookouts and rock pools on this three-hour trip.
The northern suburbs of Wollongong are quaint, including Stanwell ParkStop by Stanwell Park -- typical of the area's vibe where artists and surfers coexist.
Shortly after Wollongong, the drive cuts inland toward Moss Vale, leading through parts of the Upper Kangaroo Valley -- one of the world's genuine nagtural basins -- and Macquarie Pass National Park.
Winery to visit: Located just northeast of Bowral in Mittagong, Tertini Wines offers a small range of award-winning Rieslings and Pinot Noirs. After a tasting, guests can sit at barrel tabletops to enjoy coffee and snacks.
3. South to Narooma
This drive passes through the coastal areas of the Princes Highway south of Ulladulla, towards the Victorian border.
As you drive south, a continuous line of beaches is on your left and national parkland and your right.
Fishing and water sports are popular down south, but heritage towns are also inundated with museums, animal parks and wineries.
Tour to take: Hop on a half-day tour from Narooma to Montague Island, home to both Little Penguin and fur seal colonies. You can also stay overnight in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.
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4. The Central Coast to The Entrance
The fast route to the Central Coast takes you mostly inland and misses of the seaside scenery.
You can still get to the area in less than two-and-a-half hours by taking the long way. After traveling Route 1 up to Gosford, you’ll cut back south to Woy Woy.
Other fun town names like Copacabana greet you as you take The Scenic Road, a 33-kilometer coastal drive through parts of Bouddi National Park.
Take your pick of any of the tiny beaches along the way, with ample lookouts, cafés and shops, or try the more cosmopolitan town of Terrigal. You can even feed pelicans each afternoon along the beach near the bridge in The Entrance.
Pub perfect for a pint: The Dam Hotel is the oldest pub in the Wyong area still operated by its original owners, the MacDougal family. Patrons praise the food and the friendly atmosphere suitable for kids.
5. The Legendary Pacific to Myall Lakes
Beyond Newcastle, drive just under two hours north of the city and you’ll wind along the Pacific Highway, which dips inland before detouring towards the coastal road at Bulahdelah.
It travels through state parks and nature reserves before arriving at the clear waters and bounding wallabies of Myall Lakes National Park.
A car ferry takes you to a peninsula with steep sand dunes, koala havens and bird watching sites.
Place to stay: Myall Shores Nature Resort, in the heart of the national park, has lakeside bungalows and plenty of opportunities for water sports.
6. The Northern Beaches Crawl
The coastal route along the northern beaches is a locals' secret -- it steers past Manly, Freshwater, Dee Why and Whale Beach in less than two hours. Beaches on one side, lagoons and lakes on the other.
The Pittwater waterway pops up on your left after passing Mona Vale and stays with you until you reach the Barrenjoey Lighthouse at the peninsula’s end -- which is truly a paradise.
Activity to try: Take the ferry to Mackerel Beach for bushwalking, picnicking or photographing the panoramic views.
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