Meet the icon: Grand Pacific Drive

Discover the road trip possibilities of New South Wales

By Destination New South Wales
Published 8 Apr 2019, 23:29 BST
Aerial View of the Sea Cliff Bridge, Grand Pacific Drive, New South Wales

Aerial View of the Sea Cliff Bridge, Grand Pacific Drive, New South Wales

Photograph by Getty Images

The Grand Pacific Drive is an 86-mile coastal journey — dramatic and beautiful — running from the Royal National Park to Eurobodalla, putting on a show of rainforests, pretty seaside villages, and beaches where the surf breaks and the sands are pristine.

Leisurely driving has never felt so good: roads are well maintained, making it easy to keep going, with breathtaking scenery at every turn.

At the Royal National Park, an hour south of Sydney's city centre, stop by the Governor Game lookout and picnic while looking to the seas for migrating humpbacks between May and September. Beyond the snaking shoreline, this park is also a veritable playground for bush walks, with camping and barbecue facilities. Spend the night here, and you can continue your journey south, driving through the early-morning mist.

To catch the action from above, hang-glide from Stanwell Top's Bald Hill, and marvel at the South Coast and glittering Pacific Ocean calling to you from below. Further along, the Sea Cliff Bridge winds over the ocean on its way to Austinmer — get out and stretch your legs on the bridge walk, peering at the waters for sightings of giant manta rays and seabirds.

For those that like to linger, the arty-and-food mecca of Wollongong will hit the mark, with a handful of beautiful beaches, up-and-coming art galleries, and a whole raft of outdoorsy highlights. From here, there's exceptional surf between the coastal towns of Shellharbour and Kiama; thundering waterfalls in Minnamurra Rainforest; the famous Kiama Blowhole; and a selection of superb wineries.

It's a universally acknowledged truth that Australia is great for road trips: and the Grand Pacific Drive is up there with the best.

Meet the person behind the icon: Steve Melchior from Just Cruisin'

I've been doing tours along this stretch of road for 29 years and I can honestly say I always enjoy the ride. It's an easy drive: the road is only one lane each way and the speed limit is a maximum 80km so you see the coastline at a leisurely pace.

Expect the unexpected. You can take a swim off one of the many patrolled beaches or in one of the rock pools dotted along the coastline. If you arrive on the correct day, when an onshore wind is blowing, you'll see hang-gliders floating out over the ocean before landing on the beach. If you're in the right season, you may see whales travelling along the coast, too.

Many tourists miss out on the great history along this coastline. There are stories of bush rangers, Aboriginal sites and coal mines that produced black gold that supported this area for more than 100 years.

For the best sunrise, head to Bald Hill or the harbour at Wollongong. You can see the sun rise out of the ocean.

Watch our video of the road trip possibilities of New South Wales. 

Like this? Try these

Legendary Pacific Coast drive

The name says it all: this five-day road-trip from Sydney to Byron Bay to Tweed Heads has all the hallmarks of a legendary drive, weaving its way along the North Coast with everything from wildlife encounters — think dolphins, whales, kangaroos — to crowd-pleasing surf breaks and delectable foodie experiences at every turn.

Follow the curve of the Murray River — flowing from the Snowy Mountains to the Southern Ocean — through redgum forests, wetlands and pretty-as-a-picture river towns, stopping for a refreshing craft beer or for wild swims in freshwater lakes.

Greater Blue Mountains Drives

Pootle along from Sydney to the wondrous wilds of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and take your pick from 18 drives that branch off the main route. Go slow and to the vineyards of the Upper Hunter Valley, Mudgee and Orange for long lazy lunches, or tackle the southwest route for the cellar doors of the Southern Highlands.

How to do it

Fly to Sydney with Singapore Airlines from £765pp return. Singapore Airlines offers four daily flights from London Heathrow and five flights a week from Manchester with seamless connections via Singapore. 

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