Best Road Trips from Sydney (Itinerary Ideas)
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Choose from seven incredible road trips from Sydney, depending on how much time you have.
Our HUGE Sydney road trip guide is complete with all you need to know including drive time between stopovers, where to go, what to see and do, and the best places to camp overnight.
ROAD TRIPS FROM SYDNEY – CONTENTS
We all know there are few better feelings than setting out on the open road with all of the everyday stress of life in your rearview and nothing but possibilities stretching out in front of you as far as the eye can see. From long scenic routes to quirky roadside stops, to quick weekend trips, Sydney drives have endless options for getting out of the city.
Pack a bag, pick a beautiful destination, put on your favourite playlist, and read over our Sydney trip planner. We’ve amassed everything you need to know to enjoy the ultimate trips from Sydney, all tailored to your every whim. Below are all the very best road trips from Sydney, so you can plan your ideal itinerary and hit the ground running (or more like driving).
Where to Hire Vehicles for Sydney Road Trips
There are lots of companies where you can hire a campervan or car in Sydney. I personally like to use Travellers Autobarn for campervan hire. When you hire with TAB, you can pick up your campervan in Sydney, drop them off wherever you want to finish, and the prices are reasonable too!
To read all of my super useful tips on hiring a campervan in Sydney, click this link to jump to the section at the bottom of the article.
Where to go on Sydney Road Trips
You might be wondering where you want to go first on road trips from Sydney, and you can’t really decide just by looking at the map. That’s why we put this Sydney road trip guide together.
Check out our 7 awesome Sydney road trip options here and compare which one suits your time limits and the type of activities you like best.
Map of Road Trips from Sydney
This custom map is split up into coloured sections with our 7 best road trips from Sydney, things to do, sightseeing stops and where to stay for a night or two along the way.
To open and save our road trip maps into your own Google Maps app on your phone, simply tap the small square frame icon on the top right-hand side of the map, when looking at this article from your phone.
The map will automatically save into “Saved” > “Maps” with the title Best Road Trips from Sydney. You can then select an area to download and use offline, ready for any time you don’t have access to mobile data in New Zealand.
Starting your road trip from Sydney? Here are the best things to do in Sydney on a budget
7 Awesome Road Trips from Sydney
Ready to hit the road? We have more than enough road trips around Sydney to keep you busy no matter how long you have in NSW. All you have to do is calculate how much time you have and what you want to see and do the most!
❶ Jervis Bay Road Trip (3-8 days): White sand beaches, water activities, scenic drives
❷ Melbourne Road Trip (1-3 weeks): City to city along the spectacular southern coastline
❸ Kangaroo Valley Road Trip (1-2 days): Stay a couple of days in the rainforest
❹ Canberra/Snowy Mountains Road Trip (5-10 days): Best of country NSW, the ACT and Mt. Kosciuszko
❺ Blue Mountains Road Trip (2-4 days): Explore this famous national park by hiking and adventure sports
❻ Hunter Valley/Newcastle Road Trip (3-10 days): Best of everything in a short time including national parks, coastal cities, and vineyards
❼ Byron Bay Road Trip (7-15 days): The perfect east coast road trip, with a mix of small towns, cities, and hippy getaways
How many days do you have for a road trip from Sydney?
Here are some Sydney road trip ideas based on how long you have for travel.
Weekend road trips from Sydney
Some of your best memories can be made on 2-day trips from Sydney. There are some amazing places you can go for the weekend to get out of the city, without a long drive.
If you can’t get the time off work or just want to travel for a short break, then we recommend short trips from Sydney to Kangaroo Valley or the Blue Mountains, or to either Newcastle or the Hunter Valley, but not both together. The Royal National Park is also one of the best weekend trips from Sydney, especially if you like camping.
You may be able to squeeze in a very quick road trip to Jervis Bay in a weekend but be warned, you’ll feel like you didn’t get enough time there!
3 day trips from Sydney
So you have a long weekend and want to do a 3-day road trip from Sydney? We recommend you take either a road trip to the Blue Mountains, Newcastle, or Jervis Bay. You will be able to fit a few activities in these long weekend road trips from Sydney, but you’ll likely be scheduling in time to return!
7 day road trip from Sydney
If you have time for a 1-week road trip from Sydney, you can do any of the road trips on this list. With 7 days you can thoroughly explore either Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, or Jervis Bay with stopovers on the Grand Pacific Drive, or Canberra and the Snowy Mountains.
2 weeks road trip from Sydney
A 14 day Sydney road trip itinerary is the perfect amount of time to do a Sydney to Byron Bay road trip, including a couple of days in Newcastle. This is one of the best NSW road trips for people who want to explore the east coast and rainforests.
Sydney to Jervis Bay Road Trip
Distance Covered: 209 km, 3.5 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 3 – 8 days in total
● Best road trip from Sydney for pristine white sandy beaches, water activities and nature
Jervis Bay is set along the South Coast and is rightfully known as a crown jewel of NSW. Just a 3 hours drive from Sydney, along a stunning stretch of coastline featuring crystal clear ocean lapping upon some of the whitest sands in the world, Jervis Bay is one of the most delightful short road trips from Sydney on this list.
This dazzling road trip takes you along the Grand Pacific Drive just out of Sydney, starting in the Royal National Park and finishing up in Jervis Bay. It hugs some of the most spectacular coastlines in the country, weaving amongst bush, rainforest, cliffs, and coastal towns.
Like you know when people say it’s about the journey, not the destination? They’re talking about this road trip in particular. It’s well worth the journey as one of the best weekend trips from Sydney.
Stops on the Grand Pacific Drive
The Grand Pacific Drive map starts in the Royal National Park and hugs the scenic coastline through Wollongong, Kiama, and Shellharbour and finishes at Jervis Bay.
There are numerous worthwhile stops along the Grand Pacific Drive to Jervis Bay and you can add as many or little stops as you want, depending on how much time you have and what interests you most.
See the sights of the Royal National Park
Distance Sydney to Royal National Park: 40 km, 1 hr
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
We start this road trip in the Royal National Park, the oldest national park in Australia set on 16,000 ha of lush eucalyptus forests, secluded beaches, pretty picnic grounds and much more! This park is over 100 years old and boasts over 100 km of bushwalking tracks, several beaches, campsites, and even hang gliding.
Here’s what you shouldn’t miss in the Royal National Park:
● Wedding Cake Rock is a natural white rock formation that looks exactly as the name suggests
● The beaches of Burning Palms, Marley, and Era
● Hiking to the Figure 8 Pools during low tide and calm waters
● Wattamolla Lagoon and Beach has great walking trails nearby too
● The Coast Track from Bundeena to Otford for bird and whale watching
● The Jibbon Headland Aboriginal engravings
Drive over the Sea Cliff Bridge
Made famous by featuring in numerous car adverts, the stunning Sea Cliff Bridge must be driven over at least once on your road trip from Sydney, preferably more.
We recommend driving over it a couple of times, then parking at either end to get out and walk. From your sidewalk vantage point you can spot where the previous perilous road once was, now crumbling with the dramatic cliff edges. Peer over the edge to try to spot manta rays and sea birds or meander underneath onto the rocky shores below.
Snorkel at a shipwreck in Shellharbour
Distance Royal National Park to Shellharbour: 85 km, 1 hr 40 minutes
Suggested Stay: 1 day
Next, you’ll drop into Shellharbour, a coastal town blessed with a stunning location and its very own surfing reserve at Killalea Beach called “the Farm”.
Snorkel around a shipwrecked American tanker at the secluded bay of Bushrangers Bay Aquatic Reserve. While visiting, make time to follow the indigenous cultural walk to learn about the way Indigenous people connected with the land, movement patterns, diet, resources and tools.
Marvel at coastal rock formations in Kiama
Just 12 minutes south of Shellharbour is the seaside town of Kiama, which boasts unspoilt beaches, lush rolling hills, and a creative and laid back vibe. It has garnered great fountain fame for having one of the largest ocean water blowholes in the world, Kiama Blowhole.
If unusual rock formations are your thing, be sure to stop by Bombo Headland and Cathedral Rocks, a geological site featuring some very religious-looking basalt columns.
Soak up the sun in the Shoalhaven Region
After Kiama, you’ll be entering the Shoalhaven region, which stretches between Berry and Pebbly Beach, covering inland to Kangaroo Valley and Budawang National Park, including Jervis Bay. Visit Shoalhaven Heads for laid-back surf vibes, Shoalhaven River, and great wineries.
If you have the time, drive off the Princes Highway up Turpentine Road to Jerrawangala Lookout for views from Gerringong to Ulladulla. A vantage point once used by indigenous people to send messages. This national park is also full of rare heath frogs, sooty owls and New Holland honeyeaters.
Things to do in Jervis Bay
Distance Shellharbour to Jervis Bay: 91 km, 1 hr 20 minutes
Suggested Stay: 2 – 5 days
Jervis Bay is heralded for its absurdly soft, stark white sands, like the sands of Hyams Beach, and its seriously crystal clear aqua waters, so get ready for some seriously tropical vibes.
There are an array of water activities to partake in, from sailing to paddle boarding, to diving, and is home to migratory whales in May through November, and bottlenose dolphins year-round.
Snorkel or swim the best beaches in Jervis Bay
Get in amongst the turquoise-hues and blinding white sands of the best beaches in Jervis Bay:
● Murrays Beach – In Booderee National Park is especially popular with families, but the smooth glassy crystal-clear waters are not to be missed
● Chinamans Beach – My favourite of all the beaches due to its brilliant white sands without the crowds
● Scottish Rocks in Booderee National Park – Has the best snorkelling of all. I saw two Port Jackson sharks there!
● Hyams Beach – Recognised in the Guinness Book of Records for being the whitest sand beach in the world
● Blenheim Beach – Surrounded by dense sloping bushland and gentle and calming waves
Beach-hop in Booderee National Park
A whole world of natural wonders awaits within the Booderee National Park.
Visit the Hole in the Wall rock formation and take a cool picture before exploring the rock pools around the headland. Murrays Beach is widely considered a crown jewel of the coast due to its calm clear water and lots of great snorkelling! Cave Beach is named for the stunning rock formations you’ll find along the shore and is a popular hot spot to hang ten.
The Botanic Gardens here are so beautiful as well. They’re the only Aboriginal-owned gardens in the entire country and a wander through will teach you all about medical uses for native plants and how to forage. Then you can impress all your friends with all your newfound natural knowledge.
You can also camp in Booderee, which we have talked a bit more about below.
Visit Point Perpendicular Lighthouse
This adorable little landmark is a must-visit while in town. While you can’t go inside a climb to the top offers one of the best vantage points around. It’s such a famous historical fixture of nautical history here and also secretly the best spot for whale watching.
Climb to the lookout 90 meters above sea level and gaze out over the sparkling seas for signs of majestic marine life. We highly recommended stopping here at sunset to get the most out of the view.
Be sure to drop in to Honeymoon Bay on your drive to the lighthouse for great snorkelling or a hike to Silica Cove and the shipwreck on Longnose Point.
See sights from the water a boat tour
The best way to explore Jervis Bay is by a boat tour, and you have quite a few really cool ones to choose from! Because there are so many dolphins within the bay, we recommend hedging your bets on seeing dolphins on one of the other, non-dolphin centric tours so you can really get the most out of your boat tour.
Here are some of the best boat tours to take in Jervis Bay:
● Jervis Bay Passage – See the amazing cliff formations plus Point Perpendicular Lighthouse up close
● Seals and Seacliffs – See seals plus even more cliff formations out on the ocean
● Whale Watching Tour – At the right time of year spot whales as they take refuge in Jervis Bay
● Sea Kayak Tour – Paddle past spectacular beaches with the possibility of seeing sea life up close
Down some street food and craft beer at a brewery
There’s not one, but two, really cool open breweries set in the industrial area near Huskisson, ready for you to savour a local drop while chowing down some grub from the street food stands in the pretty outdoor beer gardens on site.
Jervis Bay Brewing Co. have sustainability at the heart of what they do and create delicious craft beers that bring people and communities closer together. Nearby, you can sip on a tasting paddle while admiring the brew system at Flamin Galah Brewing Co.
Snorkel or dive with sea life
We’ve already established how great Jervis Bay is for observing whales, dolphins, seals, and birdlife. But you might also want to dive under the surface and meet with some residents face-to-face.
With Jervis Bay Dive you can take tours that snorkel with humpback whales, or scuba dive with seals, rays, Port Jackson sharks, and cuttlefish.
Take one of the beautiful walks around the bay
The most famous walk in the area would have to be the White Sands Walk taking you past Blenheim Beach, Greenpatch Beach and Chinamans Beach. Be sure to bring your camera and a swimsuit.
If you like shipwrecks, take the Abraham’s Bosom Walking track to the wreck of S.S. Merimbula, or the more difficult Silica Cove hiking trail from Honeymoon Bay to the shipwreck of the St. Martin de Porres.
Near Gorgeous Murrays Beach, you might also like to take the Governor Head track to the lookout over Bowen Island, where you might be able to catch a glimpse of the fairy penguin colony during breeding season from August to March.
Grand Pacific Drive and Jervis Bay Camping
All the campsites listed below are perfect for you to overnight on a Sydney to Jervis Bay drive tour and accommodate RV, trailer, campervan, or tent camping.
● Royal National Park Camping: Bonnie Vale Campground (From $34.85 per site as of Feb 2022) – Located near Bundeena this popular riverside campground offers powered and unpowered sites suitable for tents, trailers, and caravans, making it a fantastic place for beach camping south of Sydney.
● Shellharbour: NRMA Shellharbour Beachside Holiday Park (From $44 for powered sites) A short walk from the village and surrounded by beaches, this park is affordable with all the necessary amenities like WiFi, a kitchen, a swimming pool, and even laundry. There’s a caravan park site, campsite, and cute cabins to rent.
● Jervis Bay Camping Camping: Hidden Creek Campsite (From $40 per site as of Feb 2022) – Nestled in amongst five acres of natural bushland, alongside a peaceful creek, each campsite is uniquely different but every one of them has their own campfire pit. Toilets and hot water are available.
● Booderee National Park Camping: Green Patch Campground ($51 per standard site/night as of Feb 2022) – Located in close proximity to a picturesque lagoon, and surrounded by trees and bushland, sites are available in standard and large sizes and as well as drive-in or walk-in with sheltered BBQ, tables and seating.
Sydney to Melbourne Road Trip
Distance Covered: 1,352 km, 18 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 1 – 3 weeks
● Best long Sydney road trip for cities, coastal wilderness, ancient ranges, and native wildlife
A scenic sojourn through NSW and Victoria connects two of the biggest (and best) cities, creating the ultimate Aussie adventure of all the road trips Sydney has to offer.
The road trip Sydney to Melbourne portion via The Coastal Discovery Drive truly captures the heart and spirit of Australia. It includes the Grand Pacific Drive, which we have written about in more detail above, as well as the magnificent coastline of vivid colours.
This Sydney to Melbourne drive will have you stopping in at the blinding-white sands of Jervis Bay, hanging out with kangaroos on the beach in Bateman’s Bay, discovering actual Eden, getting lost in the lush wilderness of Mallacoota and Wilsons Promontory, boating the pristine waterways of the Gippsland Lakes, and welcoming home the fairy penguin colony of Phillip Island.
Stops on the Sydney to Melbourne road trip
The Coastal Discovery Drive is a great route with plenty of sun-soaked beaches to explore or stay between Melbourne and Sydney.
Float in the turquoise-hues of Jervis Bay
Distance Sydney to Jervis Bay: 200 km, 3 hrs
Suggested Stay: 1 – 4 days
A picturesque bay teeming with sea life, with vividly clear water lapping upon soft white sandy shores. Jervis Bay is one of the most special destinations on the East Coast of Australia. Snorkel at Plantation Point, take a whale-watching cruise and enjoy a relaxing respite on the insanely white sandy shores.
This stop along the Sydney to Melbourne coastal drive is a popular Sydney road trip destination in itself! That’s why we wrote up it’s own Jervis Bay road trip section above. But it’s also a fantastic stop on your coastal drive to Melbourne, so schedule in at least a few days here.
Soak up sun on the soft sands in Mollymook
An hour south of Jervis Bay, you can get even more secluded on Mollymook Beach, a 2 km stretch of sand where you can surf, spot dolphins, or simply slow down and enjoy the endless ocean views. Take a picnic to the grassy knoll behind the beach or savour some of Mollymook’s culinary hotspots.
Savour fresh seafood in Batemans Bay
Distance Jervis Bay to Batemans Bay: 106 km, 1 hr 30 minutes
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
A 4-hour drive from Sydney, Batemans Bay is a pretty area of the NSW ‘Oyster Coast’. Named after the sheer number of mollusc growers in the region, these expansive waterways make the area popular among adventure-seekers, with tours ranging from glass-bottom kayaking, to e-biking, and oyster tasting.
The Pizza Paddle Sunset Kayak Tour here basically checks all our boxes for tours. Paddling in picturesque mangroves as the sun slowly sinks with a mouthful of a savoury slice is a dream we never knew we had.
If you’re not a tour person, find your favourite water activity from surfing to scuba diving and get to it, finish the day with a meal of fresh oysters.
Also, check out Maloney’s Beach where a local group of kangaroos live, for a picture-perfect Aussie moment.
Discover a natural paradise in Eden
Distance Batemans Bay to Eden: 191 km, 2 hrs 20 minutes
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
Next on the coastal drive from Sydney to Melbourne is Eden, and it’s aptly named at that, set on a hillside overlooking the coast. Comfortably sitting in the middle of the Sapphire Coast, an area famous for uncrowded pristine beaches, ancient landscapes, and untouched national parks, Eden is a natural paradise.
Soak up the sun on a perfect beach, indulge in fresh seafood right from the wharf, or pop into the kitschy yet informative Killer Whale Museum.
Walk the Wilderness Coast in Croajingalong National Park
Distance Eden to Mallacoota: 91 km, 1 hr 10 minutes
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
Escape civilisation and get as far out in the wilderness as you possibly can, without leaving the coast, in the Croajingalong National Park. This area near Mallacoota, found in far-east Victoria, is home to ancient forests, pristine inlets, picturesque campgrounds, giant sand dunes, abundant wildlife, and the first place on east coast Australia to be seen by James Cook’s Endeavour in 1770.
Do forest walks, bird or bandicoot spotting, kayaking around Tamboon Inlet, visit Point Hicks Lighthouse, or camp at Shipwreck Creek.
Go boating around the inland waterways of Lakes Entrance
Distance Mallacoota to Lakes Entrance: 202 km, 2 hrs 30 minutes
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
Lakes Entrance, a coastal town in eastern Victoria is known for the Gippsland Lakes, a vast system of inland waterways just waiting for you to explore. Hire your own boat through Riviera Nautic, no boat license is necessary, and discover what this calm waterway has to offer.
The pristine golden sands of 90 Mile Beach, which separates the Gippsland Lakes from the Bass Strait, is the highlight of this area. One of the most natural and unspoilt beaches in the world, take the pedestrian bridge to the beach for an array of water activities, take a pic at the Trinculo Ship Wreck, or just come to ogle the long and slender sand dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see.
A great day trip from Lakes Entrance, especially if you’re into stalactites, is a visit to Buchan Caves, which is about an hour’s drive. Carved by an underground river almost 400 million years ago and significant to Gunaikurnai Traditional Owners of the land, the honeycomb cave system draws in visitors with impressive cavern size, limestone formations, pillars, and rim pools.
Take an amphibious boat tour from Wilsons Promontory
Distance Lakes Entrance to Wilsons Promontory: 272 km, 3 hr 20 minutes
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
Wilsons Promontory is the southernmost tip of Australia’s mainland and one of the most remote places to visit between Melbourne and Sydney. The deserted beaches, woodland trails, dramatic granite outcrops and mountains, and abundant wildlife, like wombats and kangaroos, are just some of the great reasons to include this out-of-the-way stop on your drive from Sydney to Melbourne by car.
Take a seriously unusual amphibious boat tour to prehistoric boulders and Skull Rock – a magnificently weird granite monolith.
This stopover adds an extra hour of drive time to your next stopover to Phillip Island, so skip over it if you don’t have the time to spare.
Welcome fairy penguins home at sunset on Phillip Island
Distance Wilsons Promontory to Phillip Island: 131 km, 1 hr 40 minutes
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
Phillip Island, made famous by its adorable resident fairy penguin colony, is a popular stop on a Melbourne to Sydney coastal drive. Grab tickets for the Evening Penguin Parade at sunset after a day exploring the exciting coastline’s idyllic beaches, sea caves, and fur seal colonies on a cruise.
Things to do in Melbourne
Distance Phillip Island to Melbourne: 142 km, 2 hrs
Suggested Stay: 1 – 4 days
The next stop is the final destination, and it’s a doozy! Known as the cultural capital there’s no shortage of fun pastimes to partake of in Melbourne. World-famous food, street art, music, and shopping makes up the heart of its notoriously cool scene.
Uncover Melbourne’s oddities
Melbourne is a melting pot of culture and oddities. To get a bit off the beaten path in this unique city, explore the elaborate system of subterranean storm tunnels, see the whimsical Fairies Tree at Fitzroy Gardens, find graffiti art in Union Lane or Hosier Lane, or do one of Melbourne’s many ghost tours.
Check out the beaches
Head to the suburb of St. Kilda to get some sand between your toes and meet some of the special locals. Squeal from cuteness overload at the St. Kilda Pier Penguin Colony. It’s part wildlife park and part beautiful bay, and a lovely way to spend a day soaking up the scenery of Melbourne. Go for sunset and you won’t be disappointed.
Drive 6 km further south and you’ll come across Melbourne’s most colourful beach, Dendy Street Beach, in the affluent suburb of Brighton. Neatly lined upon the shore, colourful Victorian bathing boxes often painted in themes like underwater, or the Australian flag.
On a budget? Do something in Melbourne for free!
There are loads of really cool activities in Melbourne just waiting for you to try. We wrote a whole post on the 10 things to do in Melbourne for free which includes a free walking tour, where to find the best street art, free museum entry, iconic Princes Pier, plus the best markets and gardens.
Best camping between Sydney and Melbourne
These are the best places to pitch a tent or park a campervan along the Coastal Discovery Route when you drive Sydney to Melbourne.
Whether you’re into bush camping or beach camping, all the campsites listed below are perfect for you to overnight on a Sydney to Melbourne road trip and accommodate RV, trailer, campervan, or tent camping.
● Beach camping near Batemans Bay: Pebbly Beach Campground ($24.60 per site) Tucked behind the Murramarang National Park forest along the coastline, this is the ultimate place to meet fellow campers and the resident kangaroos.
● Batemans Bay Camping: Batemans Bay Holiday Park ($34 per powered site) They’ve got it all at this holiday park, from deluxe cabins to ensuite caravan sites. There are so many fun extras here for channelling that inner child, like mini-golf, go-karts, and a game room.
● Beach Camping near Eden: Gillards Campground ($24.60 per site) You’ll find this pretty campground nestled between the beach and the bush in Mimosa Rocks National Park, offering opportunities to go surfing, fishing and walking.
● Eden Camping: Ingenia Holiday Park Eden Beachfront ($25 per campsite) They’ve got the best of both worlds, immersed in nature and still super close to all of the coolest sights in the city. Cabins and campsites abound here.
● Croajingolong National Park Camping: Shipwreck Creek Campground (from $13.90 per site) This small, secluded campground is set among tall eucalypt trees a short walk away from the secluded Shipwreck Beach named after the wreck of The Schah (1837), one of Victoria’s oldest shipwrecks. It can accommodate camper vans and tents and is found down a long gravel road.
● Free Camping in Lakes Entrance: Shoreline Drive Campgrounds (Free) 19 unpowered coastal campsites with ready access to the beach. Dogs allowed in some sites on leash. Limited facilities.
● Wilsons Promontory Camping: Tidal River Campground (from $30.20 per site) 484 popular, well-equipped powered and unpowered sites for tent and caravan camping in one of Victoria’s best-loved national parks surrounded by wallabies and wombats.
● Philip Island Camping: NRMA Phillip Island Beachfront Holiday Park (from $46 per night) The ultimate base to explore the best of this idyllic holiday island with unpowered or unpowered sites on grass or mat close to the water.
● Melbourne Camping: The Gums Campground (from $14.70 per unpowered site) For those that prefer the bush, check out the Gums. A campground 65 km from Melbourne centre, it’s cheap, super peaceful, and set up perfectly for avid adventurers with plenty of basic amenities.
Sydney to Kangaroo Valley Road Trip
Distance Covered: 158 km, 2.5 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 1 – 2 days in total
● Best short road trip from Sydney for a secluded weekend getaway to the bush
Kangaroo Valley has got to be the perfect pick from all the weekend road trips from Sydney. 2 days is the exact amount of time you’ll want to dedicate to this delightful little jaunt away, perfect for a breath of fresh air and “forest-bathing.”
En route the Sydney to Kangaroo Valley drive, be sure to take Moss Vale Road for a lovely and leisurely cruise through the iconically rural surroundings. Visit Fitzroy Falls on the way in or out, and spend the weekend going a little further afield to discover natural swimming holes, art museums or scenic lookouts.
On your way back to Sydney, visit the Bundanon Art Museum then take one last scenic route on the Grand Pacific Drive before going back to city life.
Things to do in Kangaroo Valley
So you need a break from city life and have the urge to be in outdoors, there are loads of nature-centric, foodie things to do in Kangaroo Valley, read on for more.
Eat your way down the Main Street
The charming main street on Moss Vale Road through Kangaroo Valley has a personality all its own. A stroll down reveals some of Kangaroo Valley’s most famous attributes and delicious dining destinations.
The eateries here are some of the best, especially if you have a craving for homemade pies and fudge. Grab a fabulous bite at the General Store or the Friendly Inn and you can see what all the foodie fuss is about.
Walk to the escarpment lookouts at Fitzroy Falls
Head out over the historic Hampden Bridge, a spectacular single-span suspension structure, to find the cascading Fitzroy Falls in Morton Valley National Park.
There are a few bushwalking trails full of cute critters and the highlight, of course, is a dramatic waterfall flowing fast over a rugged cliff wall falling 81 metres down into a verdant valley below.
Kayak under the famous Hampden Bridge
It’s hard not to marvel at the quaint, historic Hampden Bridge, which crosses the Kangaroo River. In the spring and summer, hire a kayak or take a kayak tour starting at the Hampden Bridge to get a different view of the gorgeous scenery.
Wild swimming at Flatrock Waterhole
In Kangaroo Valley we love to take the road less travelled off the beaten path to discover secret wild swimming at idyllic destinations like Flatrock Waterhole. It’s secluded and shrouded in scenery, ideal for a refreshing dip.
Visit Bundanon Art Museum and the Bridge
Embedded in the surrounding natural landscape, the Bundanon Art Museum houses a changing program of contemporary exhibitions and unique cultural experiences, with a focus on Indigenous Australian art.
You’ll also love to take in the breathtaking views from Red Rock Trig or Cambewarra Mountain Lookout on the 35-minute drive between Bundanon and Kangaroo Valley.
Wander the adorable country town of Berry
The adorable hamlet of Berry is another idyllic itinerary item on your country road trip from Sydney. Only a 25-minute drive from Kangaroo Valley, Berry boasts an array of specialty shops full of artisan wares and vintage treasures as well as cute cafes with tasty treats and nearby natural wonders.
Camping in Kangaroo Valley
All the campsites listed below are perfect for you to overnight on a Kangaroo Valley road trip from Sydney and accommodate RV, trailer, campervan, or tent camping, plus a cheeky Kangaroo Valley free camping option.
● Kangaroo Valley Camping Ground: Holiday Haven (from $24 unpowered sites) The perfect place for a country getaway with campgrounds, self-contained cabins, and bungalow rooms all full of rustic charm. You’ll find firepits, barbecues, a kitchen, WiFi, river access, trails, canoes and kayaks, and an animal farmyard. This holiday park is not taking bookings from 18/3/2022 click the link for details.
● Free Camping in Kangaroo Valley: Bendeela Recreation Area (FREE/$6 booking fee) This is a popular camping and recreation area, so it’s super safe along with being spacious and scenic. It’s a cheap and easy jumping-off point for outdoor adventure. Closed due to flooding from 18/3/2022 click the link for details.
Sydney to Canberra and the Snowy Mountains Road Trip
Distance Covered: 827 km, 11 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 5 – 10 days in total
● Best central NSW road trip for country towns, museums, the ACT, and famous Mount Kosciuszko
The best country drive Sydney has to offer is the classic route to Canberra and the Snowy Mountains. Heading southwest to the national capital has all the makings of the authentic Aussie journey of your dreams, full of delightful surprises all along the way.
It’s easy to spend a few days on the road with this one before arriving in Queanbeyan, the entrance to the dramatic Snowy Mountains.
Stops between Sydney and Canberra
When you road trip Sydney to Canberra, be sure to take it slow and soak up the quaint country towns and scenery along the way.
Marvel at Australia’s largest botanic gardens
A lovely first stop on the Sydney to Canberra road trip is to discover the state’s newest and the nation’s largest botanic gardens, The Australian Botanic Garden Mt Annan.
Explore 416 ha of themed garden areas and natural tracts of endangered vegetation, or have your first road trip coffee at Melaleuca House.
Munch on gourmet food in historic Bowral
Distance Sydney to Bowral: 118 km, 1.5 hrs
Suggested Stay: 1 day
As the largest town in the Southern Highlands, historic Bowral is the perfect first overnight stop on your to Canberra road trip from Sydney.
Wander the historic village and Bong Bong Street, stopping in at Gumnut Patisserie for gourmet baked desserts with an Aussie twist, The Milk Factory Gallery, where local art adorns the walls of a former dairy warehouse, and Dirty Janes, an emporium packed-full of curious vintage goods.
Explore Fitzroy Falls and Kangaroo Valley
Distance Bowral to Kangaroo Valley: 40 km, 45 min
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
Detour to Moss Vale Road for a side quest through the iconically rural surroundings of Kangaroo Valley, a destination we have written about in detail in this post above.
Stopover at Fitzroy Falls for a scenic walk before continuing over historic Hampden Bridge and into the centre of quaint Kangaroo Valley township. Stop for a bite or a coffee here before continuing along the Hume Highway to Goulburn next.
See a giant ram in Goulburn
The drive southwest 1 hour from Bowral to the Southern Tablelands passing national parkland and conservation areas, gorges, rivers and waterfalls. Goulburn, the state’s first inland city, houses Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum and the Big Merino, a 15.2 metres tall concrete merino ram.
Between Goulburn and Canberra, be sure to also stop in at the Bushranger Hotel, a now heritage-listed hotel named after a shootout in 1865 between bushranger Ben Hall and the town of Collectors only police officer, Constable Samuel Nelson, right outside the hotel.
Swim inside a canyon at Wombeyan Caves
Distance Goulburn to Wombeyan Caves: 76 km, 1 hr 10 mins
Suggested Stay: 1 day
Wombeyan Caves is an extensive series of beautiful limestone caves featuring vast caverns adorned with striking and delicate formations in which you can swim, walk, or do a tour of the three different caverns.
Be sure to take a dip in the vast canyon of Mares Forest Creek Canyon, a secret wild swimming spot perfect for adventurous souls.
Wombeyan Caves are about a 1-hour detour away from Goulburn so skip this stop if you don’t have time. We suggest staying overnight at the campground on-site and going for a swim around midday when the sun warms up the cool, refreshing water.
Things to do in Canberra
Distance Goulburn to Canberra: 92 km, 1.5 hr
Suggested Stay: 1 – 3 days
Canberra may not have been very high on your choice of Sydney road trips, but it is a goldmine if you know where to look. Fabulous food, a happening bar scene, excellent coffee, stunning natural surrounds, great shopping, and world-class galleries and museums are what make Canberra an awesome place to spend a few days.
Peruse the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden
Once in the cultural haven of Canberra, scope out the National Gallery Sculpture Garden. 30 large scale creations from artists all over the world are dotted around this vast verdant space for an immersive and one-of-a-kind artistic experience.
Visit the The Shine Dome at night
The Shine Dome is a copper-coated, multi-arch modern structure surrounded by a moat. The largest free-standing dome in the country, it’s home to the nation’s foremost scientific society. It’s an even cooler sight when it’s all lit up at night.
Learn through interaction at Questacon
The Questacon National Science and Technology Centre is a hands-on museum unlike any other science museum in the world. Interactively travel from the centre of an earthquake to the heart of a beehive, and all the way to outer space with a visit to Questacon, a place sure to open your mind.
Sit in on parliament in action
Experience Australia’s robust democracy in action on a visit to the Australian Parliament House. You can watch Question Time, see bills being debated, and sit in on committee inquiries as current issues are explored in detail.
Driving Between Canberra and Kosciuszko National Park
Drop in to the charming country town of Queanbeyan
Queanbeyan is a quaint town full of history and hospitality and the ideal antidote to city life in Sydney. A gateway to the Snowy Mountains and Canberra, this charming country town, filled with historic buildings and positioned between the Molonglo and Queanbeyan rivers, is deserving of a stopover on your Canberra road trip.
Of course, a quick detour to soak up the geological wonder that is the Googong Dam Foreshore is recommended, check out the London Bridge Arch here, or just enjoy some bushwalking.
Drive the Alpine Way to Kosciuszko
Starting in Canberra and winding through some of the most unique and dramatic landscapes in the state, the drive along Kosciuszko Alpine Way takes you through lush farmland, into rolling hills, mountain tops, and finally alpine forests.
Things to do in the Snowy Mountains
Distance Canberra to Kosciuszko National Park: 212 km, 3 hrs
Suggested Stay: 1 – 3 days
Next, stunning vistas await as there’s something ethereal to explore in every season on the Sydney to Snowy Mountains road trip. This rugged range is home to the highest peak in the country, Mount Kosciuszko.
Depending on the season, there are loads of things to do in the Snowy Mountains. This place is made for having a good time. Go skiing or snowboarding at Perisher or Thredbo in winter, or in summer, summit the mountain by hiking or mountain biking, before heading to Lake Jindabyne for a swim and a picnic.
Hike up Mount Kosciuszko
Set out along the old road to Mount Kosciuszko for a day of high altitude adventure. Hike or ride from Charlotte Pass to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko passing weathered snow gums and rock formations on the way. The historic Seamans Hut is a favourite spot to rest or enjoy a picnic surrounded by the beauty of the Snowy Mountains, as you climb to Australia’s highest peak.
Discover lakes, falls, and pools
An icy swim in one of the pristine lakes around the Snowy Mountains is a great way to cool off after a day of adventuring. Lake Jindabyne is the perfect place to take a dip and a picnic, since it’s so big you’ll have plenty of space to yourself.
Head over to Paddy’s River Falls where you can soak up the spray, take a dip in the actual Snowy River from along the beautiful and easy Illawong Track, or peruse the handcrafted sculptures at Lake Crackenback.
Prefer a warmer swim? Drive over to the thermal pool at Yarrangobilly Caves and take a plunge in a much more pleasurable 27ºC.
Camping between Sydney and Canberra/Snowy Mountains
All the campsites listed below are perfect for you to overnight on a Snowy Mountains and Canberra road trip from Sydney and accommodate RV, trailer, campervan, or tent camping. Many of the campsites in Kosciuszko National Park are free or cheap, making this a great Sydney road trip to do on a budget.
●Camping near Bowral: Berrima River Reserve Campground ($18 per night) These primitive campgrounds are equipped with cold water showers, toilets, BBQ facilities, no power, and not much else. It’s set super close to the Wingecarribee River and is perfect for day trips into Bowral and Kangaroo Valley.
●Free Camping near Bowral: HQ Camp Wingello State Forest (FREE unpowered sites) Tent and campervan sites among the whispering trees, magpies singing and a crackling campfire. Soft pine needles underfoot, plentiful free firewood, and a clean drop toilet. BYO drinking water.
●Camping near Goulburn: Wombeyan Caves Campground (from $24.60 per night) This large campground is perfect for caravans and motor homes, close to all the attractions in the park. There’s a communal kitchen and BBQs, as well as fireplaces and hot showers.
●Canberra Camping: Alivio Tourist Park ($69 for a drive through van site) Right near the city centre, you can stay in villas, cabins, motel rooms, or caravan sites here, plus an abundance of free provisions for all. No tent camping is available here.
●Camping near Canberra: Cotter Campground ($15 per night) On the banks of the beautiful Cotter River, 21 minutes from Canberra, this space caters to a wide range of styles with easy access to the wilderness and amazing facilities.
●Free Camping in Thredbo: Thredbo Diggings – (FREE/$6 booking fee) Open all year round, this site by the Thredbo River is great for anyone wanting to rough it in some majestic surroundings for a small fee. Bring your own water and firewood to this one.
● Free Camping in Kosciuszko National Park: Long Plain Hut Campground (FREE/$6 booking fee) Set up your caravan or pitch your tent with a view of historic Long Plain Hut, nestled among sub-alpine bushland dotted with snow gum and candlebark trees. This campground is close to the Yarrangobilly Caves Thermal Pool.
Sydney to Blue Mountains Road Trip
Distance Covered: 150 km, 2 – 3 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 2 – 4 days in total
● Best long weekend trip from Sydney for mountains, views, hiking, and adventure
The Blue Mountains are a majestic fixture of the Australian terrain and one of the best scenic drives in Sydney. Take the M4 Motorway and Great Western Highway for 1200 km of carved mountains and valleys, thick ancient rainforest, and historic towns only an hour and a half out of Sydney.
Once you reach Lithgow on your Sydney to Blue Mountains drive, toss a coin to figure out the rest! Heads mean north towards Mudgee and Orange, and tails mean east driving back towards Sydney. Both ways are good options.
Things to do in the Blue Mountains
There are endless hiking trails to trek in the Blue Mountains, each with its own specific allure. It’s the perfect short Sydney road trip for anyone seeking a blissful break full of nature. It’s super accessible and an amazing place to camp ensconced within the scenery underneath the starry skies.
Take an all-inclusive tour or pick your own path to discover intricate cave systems, beautiful botanical gardens, relaxing health spas, glow worm caves, eucalyptus forests, magical lookouts, and impressively tall cliff walks all in the pristine wilderness of the Blue Mountains National Park to complete one of the most stunning road trips in NSW.
Explore Katoomba and the Thee Sisters
The most famous Blue Mountains landmark is undoubtedly the Three Sisters. A triad of rock formations that tower high above the rest of the otherworldly surroundings. The Echo Point Lookout is the best (but also most popular) place to admire the beauty of the three sisters.
The Giant Stairway is another awe-inspiring way to see these bad babes up close. You can take this short trail from Echo Point in Katoomba.
Side note – the little village of Katoomba is super cute and also has a quaint railway system that is an excellent addition to your Blue Mountains itinerary.
See a different side of the mountains on an waterfall canyoning tour
If you’ve never tried canyoning before – you must! This canyoning tour is packed with adventure and is sure to get your adrenaline pumping when you hurl yourself over the edges of the mountains that make this part of the world famous.
On a canyoning tour, you will abseil down a series of cliffs and waterfalls, rock jump, and swim in pools, all while admiring the valley views and moss-covered cave walls. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced, canyoning in the Blue Mountains is a life-changing experience!
Go hiking on spectacular trails
There’s an abundance of trails to trek, some with the best lookouts for sweeping vistas in the area, or others are great for wild roaming and picture snapping.
The best hikes in the Blue Mountains include:
● The Giant Stairway – Walk out onto the first sister from Katoomba
● Charles Darwin Walk to Wentworth Falls – An easy stroll along a boardwalk and bush track
● Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Leura Cascades – This takes you from Katoomba Cascades over waterfalls and caves, to some of the best views in NSW
● Grand Canyon Circuit Walk to Evans Lookout – A challenging hike through lush rainforest with creek crossings, waterfalls, and rock overhangs
● The Chester Trail to Lincolns Rock – The best sunset vantage point
Drive down to the Megalong Valley for tea and scones
This incredibly scenic drive takes you ascending through thick rainforest and windy roads before opening up into grassy fields surrounded by the spectacular rims of the Blue Mountains. Listen out for lyrebirds, which mimic the sounds of cars, heavy machinery, and even dogs!
Travel past Old Ford Reserve, Six Foot Track crossing and through to Dryridge and Megalong Creek Estates, the boutique vineyards of the valley.
If you’re feeling peckish, or just down for a decent coffee, head over to the Megalong Valley Tea Rooms, for really good home-made scones with jam and cream on one of their beautiful outdoor tables overlooking the valley.
Camping in the Blue Mountains
These are the best places to camp on a Blue Mountains road trip from Sydney. The Blue Mountains City Council also has a great resource page for camping in the Blue Mountains.
● Free Camping in the Blue Mountains: Old Ford Reserve (FREE) This spot in the Megalong Valley offers a more remote and rugged experience. Free camping is allowed in campervans or tents and it’s likely to be the most picturesque place to stay around. Toilets provided but no other facilities.
● Glenbrook/Blue Mountains Camping: Euroka Campground ($24.60 per site) This campsite is for tents only, with a short walk from the parking space. You’ll need to come prepared here, with your own water and firewood. However, there’s plenty of space in scenic surroundings and basic facilities like barbecue facilities and restrooms, and it’s a great place to camp with kangaroos.
Sydney to Newcastle Road Trip Loop
Distance Covered: 470 km, 6.5 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 3 – 10 days in total
● This short Sydney road trip is the best of everything from the coast, national parks, history, wine tasting, and cities
Just a 2-hour drive from Sydney, a Newcastle road trip is perfect for people who want to see and do something different every day. Explore spectacular beaches on the east coast, a historic road built by convicts, national parks, wine country, and the second-biggest city in NSW.
This is the real deal road trip of all the scenic drives Sydney has to offer. There’s so much to see in between on this Sydney to Newcastle road trip that we think you’ll want to make a lengthier adventure out of it.
Coastal stops between Sydney and Newcastle
Love scenic drives around Sydney? Be sure to include a cruise through the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park plus Tourist Drive 33 on your Sydney to Hunter Valley drive.
Visit the TV-famous Palm Beach
This long 2.3 km-long narrow peninsula was made famous in Home & Away as being their resident fictional beach, Summer Bay. This peninsular has an unbeatable location, with Pittwater to the west, the Pacific Ocean to the east, and Broken Bay to the north at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River. Walk up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse for spectacular views of all three.
Hike to beaches in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
A popular day trip from Sydney, the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a spectacular stopover on your way north. Hike to the secluded Resolute Beach, do the Aboriginal Heritage Walk to see the red hands cave, marvel at the dramatic scenery from the lookout, or simply drive through the mesmerising scenery.
Want to explore this area of North Sydney from the water? Search for pretty inlets and secluded beaches yourself by hiring a boat from either Barrenjoey to take into Pittwater Bay, or Akuna Bay to take up the Hawkesbury River (no boat license necessary).
Stay on an island in the Hawkesbury River
Distance Sydney to Brooklyn: 55 km, 1 hr 20 min
Suggested Stay: 1 day
This winding 120 km-long river stretches from Yarramundi in the west to Broken Bay near Pittwater in the east. The Hawkesbury River, or Dyarubbin as it’s known to the Darug and Darkinjung people who lived along it, is usually gifted with clear, green waters. Perfect to explore by tinny, ferry, or the Riverboat Postman.
Driving north out of Sydney inevitably means you’ll be crossing the Hawkesbury River at some point. But this lovely area remains somewhat of an undiscovered gem in terms of tourism. You can hire houseboats, stay in a campground, or hire an Airbnb to spend the night on one of the pretty islands like Dangar or Milson Island.
Inland stops between Sydney and Newcastle
Take Tourist Drive 33 through Wollemi National Park
Want to take the road less travelled on your route to Newcastle? The perfect scenic drive on the Sydney to Hunter Valley road trip is to follow Tourist Drive 33 along the historic Convict Trail built in the 1800s, traversing stunning sandstone gorges, razorback ridges, and some of the most stunning NSW countryside.
From Sydney, take the Peats Ridge Road exit on the M1 near Sydney, to Broke in the heart of wine country along the historic Great North Road.
World Heritage-listed Wollemi National Park is perhaps best known for containing a tree so valuable and ancient that its exact whereabouts are kept a secret. The Wollemi Pine, or the Dinosaur Tree, was thought to have disappeared 100 million years ago and was known only through its fossils. It was discovered alive and well in a gully by a canyoning national park worker in 1994.
Despite not being able to visit the Dinosaur Trees yourself, Wollemi offers a dramatic setting for scenic walks, swimming, canoeing and camping, as well as being the best scenic drive from Sydney to the Hunter Valley.
Wine tasting in the Hunter Valley
Distance Sydney to Hunter Valley via Tourist Drive 33: 264 km, 4 hrs 30 min
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine-producing region, with vines being first planted in the early 1820s. You could spend pretty much an endless time in Hunter Valley, but just how much wine time you need is really your call.
Obviously, wine tasting is the best thing to do in the Hunter Valley. But did you know you can take a wine-tasting tour of the Hunter Valley wineries from either Newcastle or the Hunter Valley – so you don’t have to drive when you’ve had a few drinks? Get picked up from your hotel and enjoy the day sampling some of Australia’s best wine, food, cheese, chocolate, and spirits.
Prefer to drive yourself around? Here’s a quick list of some of the best boutique wineries to visit in the Hunter Valley:
● Glandore Estate for wine and chocolate pairings
● Oakvale for organic and vegan wines
● De Iulius do a fantastic wine and cheese pairing
● Horner for a small, intimate tasting
● Comyns & Co. for unique, new-age wines
● Audrey Wilkinson is a great place to take gorgeous pictures of the valley and vines
If you need more information, read my article on the 10 best wineries in the Hunter Valley.
Things to do in Newcastle
Distance Sydney to Newcastle: 163 km, 3 hrs
Suggested Stay: 2 – 4 days
The hip harbour city of Newcastle is the second-largest city in NSW, meaning it’s got all the amenities, from a thriving arts scene to happening nightlife to gourmet grub, as well as amazing beaches and rich history as a working-class steel and coal town.
Visit Darby Street for fantastic eats at quirky sidewalk cafes, plus buzzing shops and galleries. Stroll along Honeysuckle foreshore where the mighty Hunter River meets the sea for harbourside restaurants, cafes and bars taking pride-of-place and offering stunning water views.
Walk Bathers Way for stunning ocean views
After the drive from Sydney to Newcastle be sure to make a beeline for Bathers Way to enjoy the scenery. It’s a 6 km long picturesque path that follows along the coast between Merewether Ocean Baths to Nobbys Beach, with endless opportunities for swimming, basking in the sun, and bites paired with a boozy beverage.
Start at Nobbys Head and Finish at Merewether Surfhouse for lunch and cocktails with a view. While you’re wandering, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins chasing waves among surfers offshore and whales during migration (May through November).
Swim at the best beaches
Newcastle is blessed with a bunch of really good beaches, possibly some of the best in NSW. Here are a few of the best beaches in Newcastle:
● Bar Beach – Not as busy as many of the other beaches and has great swimming and surfing
● Nobbys Head – Great for surfing or a walk along the break wall past the lighthouse
● Merewether Beach – Better for surfing than swimming, as it often has powerful waves and riptides
● Newcastle Beach – The busiest beach, perfect to grab a bite and then go for a swim
Take a dip in an ocean bath
Not only does Newcastle have incredible beaches, but it also boasts gorgeous ocean baths. The Bogey Hole in particular has an interesting history, being the oldest ocean pool in Australia. It was originally hand-cut by convicts out of the rock platform for Major James Morisset, the Commandant of Newcastle, to use as his own personal bath.
Nowadays you can snorkel with the resident fish at low tide, or cling onto the chain sides as waves beat over you during high tide.
There is the art-deco style exterior of Newcastle Ocean Baths, or the Young Mariners’ Pool right next door, which used to have a legendary concrete map of the world as the base.
Then there’s Merewether Ocean Baths, the largest ocean baths in the southern hemisphere.
All of the baths mentioned are free to access and are hugely popular among visitors and locals alike. Get there early if visiting on a weekend.
Feed Aussie animals at Blackbutt Reserve
Blackbutt Reserve occupies approximately 182 hectares of land, with over 10 km of walking trails and wildlife exhibits that are free to enter. It is an environmental education centre with conservation and research programs on site.
Meander the trails spotting wombats, koalas, emus, kangaroos peacocks, and loads of native Australian birds. Attend a wildlife feeding or reptile show (check this website for details), have a picnic or feed the emu with special food bought from the kiosk.
Speed around the Stockton Sand Dunes
My personal favourite thing to do in Newcastle is Stockton Sand Dunes, 32 km of the largest moving coastal sand dunes in the southern hemisphere. These truly awe-inspiring dunes reach heights of over 30 metres with slopes of up to 60 degrees to form a magical landscape ideal for sandboarding, quad biking, horse riding, or 4-wheel-driving over.
Be sure to visit Tin City, the last legal squatter settlement in Australia! It’s a location on the dunes near the Bob’s Farm area where 11 shacks made of recycled material sit, often partly covered, in the ever-changing landscape. Several scenes of the hit 1979 movie Mad Max were filmed here.
Swim with dolphins at Port Stephens
Port Stephens is the dolphin capital of Australia, home to over 140 bottlenose dolphins. This tour is the only permitted wild dolphin swim opportunity in New South Wales.
This unique dolphin snorkel tour will have you entering a net at the bow of the vessel while attached with a safety lanyard to the catamaran. While the boat moves forward the dolphins will swim back and forth between the bows of the vessel, quite often within a meter of the swimmers. It is the only dolphin swimming tour of its kind in the world!
Also in Port Stephens, the beautiful Tomaree Head Summit walk will take you to an incredible lookout over the beautiful coastline, spectacular bays and inlets, Tomaree National Park, and Shark Island.
Camping near Newcastle and Hunter Valley
All the campsites listed below are perfect for you to overnight on a Hunter Valley and Newcastle road trip from Sydney and accommodate RV, trailer, campervan, or tent camping.
● Camping near Newcastle: Abstobys Retreat ($28 per night) A private property with unpowered grass campsites by a tidal outlet to Port Stephens harbour. Guests have the use of a toilet, retreat shelter, fireplace, and BBQ area.
● Hunter Valley Camping: Wine Country Tourist Park (from $30 per powered site) This small family-owned park puts you right at the centre of all the Hunter Valley action and has some seriously adorable abodes to rent as well as a caravan park.
● Free Camping near Hunter Valley: Olney Headquarters Campground (FREE) 1 hour from the Hunter Valley, in between Wyong State Forest, Watagan State Forest and Watagan National Park. Campervan and tent sites, no booking needed.
Road Trip from Sydney to Byron Bay
Distance Covered: 877 km, 10.5 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 7 – 15 days in total
● Best road trip for beaches and rainforests, warm weather, hippy towns, and exploring the east coast
Have you always wanted to road trip Australia by the East Coast? Set out to explore the entire spectacular East Coast on one epic drive with this Sydney to Byron road trip. There’s so much to see on these Pacific Highway road trips around NSW that we’ve picked out quite a few essential stops.
Stops on the East Coast road trip to Byron Bay
Do you have a week or two and want to get out of Sydney? Byron Bay road trip stops in this itinerary are the perfect way to really get to know this fantastic, wild, beautiful country.
Explore Newcastle and the Hunter
Distance Sydney to Newcastle via Hunter Valley: 233 km, 3.5 hrs
Suggested Stay: 1 – 3 days
A happening coastal city, Newcastle is the best place to start your Sydney to Byron drive. There are loads of sun-soaked things to do in Newcastle, so we wrote a whole section about it in our Newcastle road trip section above.
Additionally, check out Newcastle Museum (entry is free), or historic Fort Scratchley offers a fascinating glimpse into military history. Or Dave’s Brewery Tours can take you on a historic pub walk or a wine-tasting tour of the Hunter Valley.
Cruise around the Great Lakes and Forster
Distance Newcastle to Forster via Great Lakes: 161 km, 2.5 hrs
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
As the largest coastal lake system in NSW, the Great Lakes on the Barrington Coast encompasses three beautiful lakes as well as the vibrant small town of Forster. Flanked by kilometres of pristine white beaches on the east and the Barrington rainforest to the west, this natural paradise is a haven for boating, dolphin spotting, swimming, and beach-hopping.
Drive past all of the lakes – Myall, Smith and Wallis – on your Sydney to Forster road trip, before hitting up One Mile Beach for a swim, Cellito Beach (also known as Sandbar) for a hike to seclusion, Blueys and Boomerang beach for the surfers, and Elizabeth Beach for the families.
Search for koalas in Port Macquarie
Distance Forster to Port Macquarie: 110 km, 1.5 hr
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
Port Macquarie is a sleepy beach town with plenty of hidden gems to discover, including the Bago Maze and Winery for a glass of white and a dizzying wander, the Koala Hospital to get a peek at some super cute rescued and recovering creatures, Ricardoes Tomatoes to pick your own fresh produce, and Lighthouse Beach for a charming swim with a side of heritage.
The road trip Sydney to Port Macquarie portion is a coastal drive that will put you about halfway to Byron bay. Be sure to try spot as many of the 83 artist-painted Hello Koalas sculptures scattered around town as you can.
Drop in to quirky Nambucca Heads
Distance Port Macquarie to Nambucca Heads: 120 km, 1.5 hr
Suggested Stay: 1 day
Nambucca Heads is a must and only three hours from Byron Bay. While its coastal beauty makes for a breathtaking stop, its quirky fixtures add to its charming character.
Nambucca Heads is home to Australia’s longest sculpture made of a mosaic depicting a swirling tale of how the river winds through the mountains to the sea.
There are several shops stocked with cute curios and eccentric memorabilia. We also love to pick up a picnic from Bookshop Cafe to chow down along the shores of the Nambucca River while in town.
Get some rainforest healing in Bellingen
Distance Nambucca Heads to Bellingen: 37 km, 30 min
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
Before hitting Coffs Harbour, head inland to Bellingen. It’s a beautiful rainforest break from so many seaside towns and is known for its creative, bohemian community.
A stroll down the main street is full of historical architecture and feels like a step back in time (but in a good way). The lush landscape is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, who descend to hike, kayak, canoe and swim. The Never Never Creek is a lovely little escape into nature here too.
Take a day trip drive up to world heritage listed Dorrigo National Park to explore the ancient Gondwana Rainforest. Walk to Crystal Shower Falls or traipse over the elevated Walk with the Birds boardwalk.
Back in Bellingen, stock up at the Growers Market for fresh fares before heading back onto the open road.
Soak up the sun in Coffs Harbour
Distance Bellingen to Coffs Harbour: 35 km, 45 min
Suggested Stay: 1 days
A Sydney to Coffs Harbour road trip will have you just 3 hours from Byron Bay. Stop here for a night or two for a visit to spectacular beaches, rainforests, and banana farms.
Sealy Lookout is a lovely walk up to a sweeping vista looking out over the coastal landscape or head to Boambee Beach for sunset along its curve of golden sand extending more than 5.7 km. Also, check out the offbeat, but adorable mini Dutch village called The Clog Barn as well.
As you head north on the Sydney to Byron Bay drive a stop to see the Big Banana comes highly recommended, if only for the selfie.
Things to do in Byron Bay
Distance Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay: 233 km, 3 hrs
Suggested Stay: 2 – 4 days
Byron has a hippy, cruisy vibe we can’t get enough of. Hit the beach, wander the wonderfully weird streets as you vibe with the buskers, eat your way around town, or kick back with a boozy beverage at any number of cool bars.
Beach-hop in Byron Bay
Of course, you will want to check out as many of these famously pretty beaches on your visit to Byron Bay as you can. Here are some of the best beaches in Byron Bay and why you should visit them:
● Main Beach – Best for people-watching and a walk to the lighthouse
● Broken Head Beach – Usually patrolled. Walk 7 km between Broken Head and Tallow Beaches
● The Pass – Has the perfect right-hander for surfers
● Wategos Beach – A pretty little cove great for swimming
● Belongil Beach – Home to ‘The Wreck’ and a popular swimming and snorkelling spot
● Clarkes Beach – A great beach to learn to surf
Meditate at Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens
For anyone feeling like channelling their inner hippie, head to Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens where you can enjoy some of the biggest crystals in the world and take part in healing walks and meditations.
Take a restorative swim at Lake Ainsworth
Lake Ainsworth in Lennox Head is known locally as Tea Tree Lake due to the tinted colour caused by tannins from the tea trees that surround the lake.
The water is said to have rejuvenating, health-giving properties for the skin and hair. You can also do stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing or use the wonderful barbecue and picnic facilities.
Day trip to Nimbin township and waterfall
Nimbin is a colourful ’hippie town’ with an alternative counter-cultural vibe, famous for its extremely relaxed attitude towards weed. As you wander the charming, arty streets of Nimbin, you’ll likely be straight up offered to buy anything from hash cookies to fat joints.
While you’re in the area, hike into the rainforest to the impressive Hanging Rock Falls near Nimbin. Wander behind the roaring waterfall and take a wild swim in the picturesque swimming hole.
Sample craft beer on a hot day at a local brewery
Along with being an artistic community, Byron Bay also houses an array of great craft breweries. Pay a visit to the following for a tasting paddle on a hot day:
● Stone & Wood Brewery in Byron Bay
● Seven Mile Brewing Co. in Ballina
● Byron Bay Brewery the Old Arts Factory
Camping on the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip
All the campsites listed below are perfect for you to overnight on a Sydney to Byron Bay road trip and accommodate RV, trailer, campervan, or tent camping.
● Forster Camping: Smugglers Cove Holiday Village (from $33 non-powered sites) This nautical themed holiday park is set on 20 acres of sub-tropical garden. It offers clean and modern amenities in a variety of accommodation styles.
● Camping near Port Macquarie: Diamond Head Campground ($24.60 per site as of Feb 2022) One of the most beautiful campsites on the coast, all sites are within a 2-minute walk to the beach and include space for tents to motorhomes and clean shower and toilet facilities. There is so much to explore, the gorgeous beach being only one activity.
● Central Port Macquarie Camping: NRMA Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park (from $35 unpowered sites) Famous for its outstanding waterfront views, beautifully landscaped gardens and situated on the banks of the Hastings River, right by the beach and the city centre.
● Nambucca Heads Camping: Pelican Caravan Park (from $40 unpowered sites) This is a riverfront property with a bunch of bonus features like a private boat launch and swimming pool. There are deluxe cabins, unpowered campsites and everything in between.
● Bellingen Camping: Bellingen Showground (from $15 per site) Close to swimming in Bellingen River and shops, with powered and non-powered sites, glamping tents, and bathroom amenities.
● Coffs Harbour Camping: BIG4 Sawtell Beach Holiday Park (from $37 per site) Surrounded by natural bushland and featuring wide-open spaces and stunning water views and fantastic amenities.
● Byron Bay Camping: Ingenia Holidays Byron Bay (from $29 per night) There’s no shortage of space or style of accommodation on these 28 acres of parklands which fronts onto the famous Tallow Beach. With access to cooking facilities, coin-operated laundry, jumping pad and saltwater swimming pool.
How to Hire a Campervan in Sydney
To hire a vehicle for any Sydney road trips in Australia, try Travellers Autobarn. They’re a one-stop shop for backpackers and budget travellers exploring all the wonders of this captivating landscape.
There’s a branch located conveniently in Sydney, as well as locations all up and down the coast. You can drop your chosen whip off at any of them, giving even more freedom to fangirl over.
If you’re looking to be in it for the long haul, you can even purchase one of them with a guaranteed buyback.
They have everything from decked out campervans to more simple station wagons. The ease and comfort of having your own wheels, let alone an entire abode inside, opens up a whole new type of travel.
Some added perks include 24/7 roadside assistance and discounts at caravan parks. It’s easy to get a quote to help organise finances ahead of time, and we love the peace of mind that comes from a trusted reputation backed by rave reviews.
Do You Need Special Insurance?
Okay, so the good news here is that insurance for a Campervan is much easier to procure than for a motorhome. It’s generally less expensive as it can be considered a regular van or car despite the basic facilities inside.
The company you hire a vehicle from will likely include insurance, though sometimes you can waive it and leave a deposit instead. You can also get private third party insurance – which is not required, but recommended – which may let you customise your policy more closely to your needs.
Often things like lost luggage, car accidents, and medical emergencies should be covered. Travel insurance and credit card insurance don’t always include campervan coverage with the basic policy you may already have.
As always, we recommend being fully covered for safety (and soothing anxiety), plus be sure to read your coverage policy carefully before buying it. Rentalcover is a popular pick among travellers looking to take trips from Sydney on their own terms.
What is it Like Driving in Australia?
First of all, the most important thing to note for all our foreign friends visiting Australia is that driving is done on the left side of the road! It’s also good to note that traffic rules are uniform from state to state.
It’s a relatively straightforward process. The roads are wide and there’s lots of open space, so it’s usually an enjoyable experience, especially once you leave the city.
In Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne you’ll come across a number of tolls, so be sure to budget them in.
Be sure to buckle up and follow all speed limits! Regular rules apply: don’t drink and drive or be on your mobile phone while operating a vehicle. An important Aussie tip, watch out for wildlife crossings, like kangaroos, koalas, emus, and wombats.
If you’re headed into the outback, be prepared for more rugged road conditions. Know the emergency services number just in case, which is 000.
Do you need an International Driver’s License?
It’s generally okay to drive with an overseas license as a temporary visitor (under three months) or with the addition of an international driving permit, as long as it’s in English or officially translated.
Rules for Camping in Australia
For campervan trips from Sydney, free camping is both possible and popular, but it isn’t allowed just anywhere. Commonly found at rest areas all over the country, free camping sites are used as an overnight stopover haven for getaways galore.
Wild camping, however, is actually illegal and refers to those that think they can just park up anywhere and get some shut-eye for an evening. Using the designated spots help you to avoid incurring any enormous fines and adds a bit of extra safety as a bonus.
More specific campsites are available for a nominal fee, making Sydney road trips more accessible than ever. Generally, these are parks, forests, and reserves and they often require a reservation ahead of time which can be done online.
Regardless of the camping you choose to do, always respect the land you’re on and follow our favourite rule: leave no trace!
It’s helpful to note that a lot of the campgrounds and campervan parks listed have cabins available. This is a great option to enjoy a more comfortable indoor space when you need a break, without shelling out for a hotel room, and still enjoying the great outdoors.
Most National Parks have clean facilities and cheap campsites, and all NSW State forests are free to camp in designated areas.
Cheap or Free Campsite Websites
It’s easier than ever to explore Australia on a budget, just check out CamperMates or WikiCamps to explore all the options along your chosen route.
Enjoy Your Roadtrips from Sydney
We hope you’ve found this information on taking Sydney roadtrips around NSW and Victoria. Feel free to ask us any questions using the comments form below. And make sure you save this post for future reference!
What are your road trip ideas from Sydney?