The NSW South Coast road trip is one of the best drives you can take from Sydney. You can do this Sydney to Narooma itinerary in a long weekend or you can spend two weeks slowly meandering along the coast and returning via the inland route.
Or you could drive smaller sections of this road trip. I’ve done both and I’m giving you all the different options for places to stop and things to see and do along the way, depending on the amount of time you have for your NSW South Coast road trip.
If you were to drive straight to Narooma (360 km) with just a couple of 30-40-minute scenic stops, the trip would take about 6 hours. Or you could spend this long on a detour to Kangaroo Valley. The possibilities of this road trip are endless.
The best thing about taking the road trip all the way to Narooma is the variety it offers: popular beach holiday spots, tiny little-known villages, spectacular coastal landscapes and rural country charm. And to top it all off, you can get an up-close-and-personal encounter with seals in Narooma by going on a snorkeling adventure at Montague island.
There are two options for the first leg of Sydney to Narooma road trip – you could take the coastal route or you could travel via the inland route. And given that you are going to drive back to Sydney, why not take the coastal (and more direct) route on the way there and return via the charming rural towns of the inland route?
This guide to NSW South Coast road trip gives you multiple available options to choose from to create your own unique trip.
Sydney to Kiama Road Trip
Distance: 121 km. Time: 2-2.5 hours
The drive from Sydney to Kiama is about 2.5hrs but there are plenty of options for scenic detours and exploratory stops on this first leg of your NSW South Coast Road trip. So depending on your interests, you could spend 2.5 hours or a full day on this drive.
There are also plenty of things to do in and around Kiama, so an overnight stop in Kiama would allow you enough time to explore the region.
Royal National Park
Once you get through Sydney traffic and reach the boundary of Royal National Park, the drive becomes very scenic. If you are ready to start exploring, take a detour to visit the world’s second oldest National Park and go for a swim at Garie beach or at Wattamolla or for a paddle at Audley Weir, or even just a cup of coffee at the riverside cafe at Audley.
If you are keen to spend more time exploring Royal National Park, take one of the trails to Curracurrong Falls – Sydney’s only waterfall that flows into the ocean. You can get to the falls either from Wattamolla or from Garie Beach – both walks follow the stunning Coast Track and take 3-4 hours to complete.
Grand Pacific Drive
Royal National Park also makes the start of the incredibly picturesque Grand Pacific Drive. The drive is made up of a series of coastal roads between Royal and Nowra and forms part of the longer South Coast Drive.
The Grand Pacific Drive is the perfect way to start your NSW South Coast road trip as it takes you past rugged coastal scenery, tranquil beaches and seaside towns to Wollongong, Kiama and Jervis Bay. Check this guide to the Grand Pacific Drive on Visit NSW website
Sea Cliff Bridge
The most recognizable landmark of the Grand Pacific Drive is the Sea Cliff Bridge – a stunning section of the road raised on stilts over the Pacific Ocean.
If you would like to get a birds-eye view of the bridge, there is a steep but short trail that takes you to an unofficial lookout with spectacular views over the bridge, the cliffs and the ocean. Remember to be extra cautious not to get too close to the cliff edge at the lookout. There have been a few accidents at the lookout, which is why it remains unofficial. And because it is an unfenced lookout near a cliff edge, it is not suitable for small children. This post offers comprehensive directions for getting to the lookout.
Wollongong is Australia’s 10th largest city, but it doesn’t feel like a metropolis. Seventeen sandy beaches dot the coastline of Wollongong, so it’s a good spot to stop for a coffee, a stroll along the beach or a brunch at a beachside cafe.
If you have a bit more time in town, check out the murals in the center of town, or the cactus garden at the Botanic Garden in Gwynneville or go for a drive to Mount Keira for jaw-dropping views of Wollongong sprawling across the coast and to the sea.
If you prefer sheltered bays to breaking surf, you will love the tranquil setting of the Minnamurra River mouth at James Oates Reserve. It’s sheltered and shallow waters are crystal clear and blissfully calm. And if you are visiting early in the season, the water here will be much warmer than at the ocean-facing beaches.
Another perk of stopping at Minnamurra River is that it’s not very well-known outside of the local community and doesn’t get too crowded on weekends. And if you feel like stretching your legs, take a walk up to the headland for stunning views of the River mouth and the surrounding beaches.
James Oates Reserve is the official start of Kiama Coast Walk, so rest assured, the views along this stretch of the coastline are worth all the effort of walking uphill.
Bombo Quarry is one of the most otherworldly landscapes on the entire NSW South Coast. The towering basalt columns – leftovers from the region’s rich mining history and blue metal quarrying, look as if they have been sliced by a giant knife and put together like some monumental lego pieces.
The combination of man-made cuts in the rock and centuries of exposure to the wind and powerful surf created such an unusual landscape that you feel like you are walking through a post-apocalyptic dream.
You can park on Panama street at Bombo beach and stroll over to the quarry – it’s about a 10-minute walk. But if you have more time, take the trail up to Bombo headland for even more epic views of the quarry. It’s another 20-min walk from the coastal section of the quarry.
A 10-minute drive from Bombo quarry brings you to the charming coastal town of Kiama. It is a popular tourist destination, but after 4pm it seems to go back to being a sleepy little village.
Things to do in Kiama
There are plenty of things to do in and around Kiama and it’s a good idea to stay in town for a night or two.
Kiama’s most famous attraction is the 260-million-year-old volcanic formation – Kiama Blowhole. The blowhole is its best when the swells are particularly high and up to 50 litres of water can shoot up 25 meters in the air thoroughly drenching the brave bystanders. But even on calm days, it’s a fascinating feature to watch and listen to as water is pushed up from the subterranean chamber with a thundering ‘whomp’
Kiama Blowhole Pies
To have an even more multi-sensory experience of Kiama Blowhole, have a Blowhole pie for lunch at Kiama pie shop (3 Railway Parade, Shop 2). Steak and mushroom pie is particularly good.
There are some picnic tables on the grassy lawn near the wharf where you could enjoy your pie while watching pelicans land on the light poles with the grace of pterodactyls. Just make sure to guard your food, otherwise, you’ll be watching seagulls enjoying your lunch instead.
Kiama Coastal Walk
Kiama’s stunning coastline is the perfect stretch for a scenic walk and Kiama Coast Walk offers just that – 20 kilometres of stunning views.
If you stopped at Minnamurra River and Bombo Quarry on the way, you’ve seen much of the North Section of the walk that travels from Minnamurra River to Kiama Blowhole.
The Mid Section covers the coast from Kiama Blowhole to Loves Bay and the South Section takes you from Loves Bay to Gerringong. The Southern section is considered the most picturesque, so if you have half a day to spare you could spend it among the lush green pasture land that extends all the way down to the sea.
The NSW South Coast road trip is all about beautiful sandy beaches, and Kiama has plenty to offer as well. For surf beaches, you can’t go past Minnamurra beach – it is one of the best surfing beaches in Australia. Other surf beaches around Kiama are: Jones beach, Boneyard beach and Bombo beach right next door to Bombo quarry.
For more secluded family-friendly options, head to Kiama Surf beach (yes, ironically, it is not a surf beach at all) or Kendalls beach, just past the Blowhole.
Apart from being the hub of coastal attractions, Kiama is also the gateway to the inland section of the coast including the gorgeous Kangaroo Valley. There is so much to see and do in and around Kangaroo Valley that you could easily spend a full weekend there. But if you only have a day or half a day, try to visit either Belmore or Carrington Falls and one of the lookouts over Kangaroo Valley – either Garawarra Mountain or Hindmarsh lookout near Belmore Falls.
READ MORE: 40 Fun Things to do in Kangaroo Valley
And in case you wonder, yes, you can see kangaroos (and wombats!) at Kangaroo Valley. Head to Bendeela Campsite on the bank of Kangaroo River at dusk and you can literally walk among the wild wombats and kangaroos.
Kiama to Jervis Bay Road Trip
Distance: 78.2 km. Time: 1 hr 10 min
Kiama to Jervis Bay is an even shorter drive than Sydney to Kiama. Without any stops, it takes about 1.5 hours. But if you wanted to make a scenic road trip out of this drive, here are some of the most interesting places to explore.
With its hobby farms and antique stores, Berry is one of the most famous quirky villages in NSW. Ironically, however, it’s popularity and consequent development are the reason that it’s starting to grow too big and lose its charm.
But it is still a lovely village to visit. If you have a sweet tooth, there is the famous Berry Donut truck and the outrageously appealing Berry Candy shop. For more savoury snacks, head to Berry cheese shop.
From Berry head back to the coast at Seven Mile Beach. While not as immense as the 30-odd kilometre Stockton beach on the north coast, this impressive sand strip seems to go on forever. There are various access points to the beach along its length, some with public toilets and shower facilities.
As you head towards Shoalhaven Heads, drop in at Collabgatta Estate (1335 Bolong Road, Coolangatta) to taste some local wines and walk around the historic property, where restored convict-built cottages, stables, servants quarters and plumber’s and blacksmith’s shops are nestled in the beautiful countryside.
For something different, there is an option to drive up to the very steep Coolangatta Mountain in a giant 4×4 truck – Bigfoot. It’s quite an exhilarating ride and the view from the top is incredible.
In Nowra, check out the Hanging Rock Lookout perched 46 metres above the Shoalhaven River. If you are keen to stretch your legs, there is the steep but short Grotto Walk that zigzags from the cliff-tops to the banks of the Shoalhaven River. It is a two kilometer loop that can be completed in 1.5 hours.
After the walk, head to Cambewarra Estate (520 Illaroo Road Bangalee) to taste some local wines and produce or even have some high tea.
Huskisson / Jervis Bay
Whatever time you arrive at Jervis Bay, is a good time to go to the beach. And once you see the beaches in the bay, you’ll understand why you have to stay overnight in Jervis Bay – these are some of the most mesmerizing beaches in Australia.
Things to do in Jervis Bay
An interesting fact about Jervis Bay that not many visitors realize is that it is not part of NSW. Jervis Bay is an independent (but not self-governing) territory, like Canberra. And even though Jervis Bay lies within NSW, it is administered by the ACT (you’ll see that local cars have ACT plates). This of course has no impact on your ability to explore the area.
Jervis Bay’s Hyams beach is famous in Australia for having the whitest sand in the country and even the world. This claim is actually not true, but the beach is none the less stunning. Equally stunning is the smaller white-sand beach right next to Hyams – Chinamans Beach. As a bonus to not being as famous as its larger cousin, Chanaman’s beach is nowhere near as crowded and has a slightly more wild and serene feeling to it.
There is a short 2.5km loop walk – White Sands Walk, that takes you to four white-sand beaches: Blenheim, Greenfield, Chinamans and Hyams.
Jervis Bay is home to a resident pod of about 100-120 Bottlenose dolphins that can be seen on a Bay cruise year-round. The dolphin watch cruises, like this one, run twice a day (10.30 am and 1.30 pm), last 1.5 hours and cost about $35.
While all wildlife watching experiences are unpredictable, most of the time you’ll have dolphins riding the bow wave or the wake of your catamaran, so you’ll get a very up-close and personal encounter.
During the months of March to November, you also have the chance to see Humbpack whales on thier annual migration between Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef. The whales love the calm waters of Jervis Bay and it is uncomon to see more than a dozen whales on a single cruise
Whale watching cruises, like this one, go further out of the bay than dolphin cruises and take between 2.5 and 3 hours.
Booderee National Park
Taking up a large portion of Jervis Bay, Booderee National Park is a medley of white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and eucalypt woodland.
A great way to explore the park is via Munyunga waraga dhugan loop walk – a 5.4 km loop walk that takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete. The highlight of the walk is the sweeping view of Jervis Bay from Governors Head and the pristine Murray’s beach that provides the perfect opportunity to cool off after the walk.
Jervis Bay to Bateman’s Bay Road Trip
Distance: 133 km. Time: 2 hrs
From the white sand beaches of Jervis Bay to the striking coastline of Batemans Bay, this road trip hugs the coastline and takes in heritage towns, beaches, national parks, and stunning coastal vistas.
Milton is the perfect town to stop for lunch and a wander along the charming streets lined with heritage-listed buildings. The town was established in 1860 and managed to preserve so much of its 19-th century charm that National Trust of Australia classified the town as an historic village.
Mollymook has that perfect combination of stunning beaches, award-winning restaurants and luxury accommodation that turn a coastal town into a popular holiday destination. Although despite the development, Mollymook retains a relaxed atmosphere of a place where you could enjoy doing absolutely nothing.
The beach at Mollymook stretches for 2 kilometres and both ends of the beach are patrolled during the summer months. If you are looking for things to do in the water in Mollymook, there is snorkelling, diving and surfing. Mollymook Beach Surf School offers surfing lessons if you would like to hone your skills. If you are looking for calmer waters, head to Bogey Point at the southern end of the beach. It’s a sheltered rock pool with enough aquatic critters to make it an interesting snorkelling spot.
For foodies, there is Rick Stein at Bannisters and Tallwood restaurants and for those in the mood for some pampering, there is Bannisters Day Spa.
In comparisson to Mollymook, Ulladulla, the regional ‘capital’ feels busy and over developed. It is not a very interesting stop on the way, but if you are staying overnight in the area, there are a few interesting things to do in Ulladulla, like guided Gondwana Coast fossil walk that takes you to the rock platforms in the harbour to see prehistoric organisms that inhabited the area 270,000,000 years.
There is also Lobster Jacks beach – the town’s little secret that can be accessed from the corner of New Sand Deering Streets.
Murramarang National Park
Murramarang very much deserves a detour from the highway. Apart from a string of sandy beaches and stunning walking trails in Murramarang, you are practically guaranteed to see kangaroos on Pebbly beach – the best place in NSW, if not Australia to see kangaroos hopping in the sand with the ocean in the background.
Batemans Bay is the geteway to NSW Far South Coast. Like Ulladulla, it is a busy and heavily developed town that I don’t find particularly interesting. However, Batemans Bay is a convenient stop on NSW South Coast road trip and a good base for exploring the wider region.
Things to do in Bateman’s Bay
Batemans Bay Snorkeling Trail
Batemans Bay snorkelling trail is made up of three different locations. It starts at Maloneys Beach 12 kilometres north of Batemans Bay. Next head to Sunshine Cove Beach, five kilometres south of Batemans Bay. Some of the critters you are likely to encounter here are the endemic red morwong, luderick and bream as well as lobsters, gropers and abalone. Finish the trail in Guerilla Bay, another eight kilometres south. Here the main attraction is the ancient rocks – some of the most picturesque formations on Eurobodalla’s coastline.
Batemans Bay Kayaking Trail
For adventures above water, there is Batemans Bay Kayaking trail. It starts with a paddle to Cullendulla Creek from Surfside Beach. You can land your kayak here and explore Callendulla Nature Reserve on foot. From the creek, head to Square Head and around the Snapper Island. The island is a nature reserve, so landing on it is not permitted. From here, return to Surfside Beach. The entire loop is about 14 kilometres.
Batemans Bay to Narooma Road Trip
Distance: 91.5 km. Time: 1.5 hours
From the bucolic countryside and the adorable heritage-listed country towns to the vividly-blue waters of Narooma’s coastline, this leg of the NSW South Coast road trip has the best of all worlds.
While often overshadowed by the famous Mogo Zoo, the heritage Mogo village itself is an adorable destination not to be missed on the NSW South Coast road trip. Like most of the heritage villages along the Far South Coast, Mogo was established when gold was discovered in the area in the 1850s. During the gold rush era, the town was booming with several hotels, churches and a public school.
After the gold rush, however, Mogo declined and became an unremarkable backwater village. Until in the 1980s, a few artists and craftsman settled here and the village started to bloom again as an artisan community.
Today, the heritage cottages along Mogo’s main street house quirky shops and adorable cafes. So if you are looking for a spot of shopping and a relaxing cuppa, in a historic village, Mogo is the place.
Bodalla is another quaint 1-street village, only it’s specialty is milk and cheese. Most of the inland area of the Far South Coast is a dairy-producing region and there are plenty of local flavours to sample in the villages. A visit to Bodalla is as close as you can get in Australia to feel like you are travelling through the French countryside.
In Bodalla, you’ll find cheese tasting at the Dairy Shed. Make sure to sample the famous ‘spicy cheese’ – a local specialty. The coffee served at the shed is made with fresh milk from the farm and taste as good as the brews from Sydney’s top baristas.
Aim to visit the Dairy shed around 10 am or 4 pm, and you will get a chance to bottle-feed the calves at the farm. You can also purchase some cute enamel jugs and mugs at the shed as well as a variety of local produce like jams and honey.
For all its natural beauty, Narooma is one of the most underrated destinations on the Far South Coast of NSW. Lying 350 kilometres from Sydney and 684 kilometres from Melbourne, it doesn’t get much tourist traffic, yet there are so many amazing things to do in Narooma, that you will struggle to find enough time to do them all.
Things to do in Narooma
Most of Narooma’s attractions are dotted along its coastline. There are the fur seals that you can watch from shore or meet underwater on a snorkeling adventure; some of the oldest rock formations in Australia, beaches, wildlife and the heavenly blue waterways.
Narooma’s best-known landmark is the striking rock formation at the tip of Wagonga Head, known as Australia Rock. It is an eroded section of the headland with a hole in the middle that looks remarkably like the shape of Australia (minus Tasmania). While it looks quite impressive at any time of the day, the rock is at its best at sunset or sunrise when the sky behind it is dramatically multicoloured and the rock itself seems to glow.
And while you are checking out the rock, take a stroll to the very tip of Wagonga Head and look at the rocky wall descending to the ocean – there are bound to be a few seals snoozing on the rocks.
Snorkeling with seals
To have a closer encounter with the seals, take one of the Snorkeling with Seals tours that depart from Narooma wharf. The snorkelling experience involves getting into the provided wetsuit, riding to Montague island where most of the seals congregate and spending about an hour in the water with inquisitive seals.
A tip: If you don’t have your own underwater camera, book a GoPro at the time of placing your tour booking. There are only a few available and they go like hotcakes.
Glass House Rocks
Australia Rock is not the only striking geological formation in Narooma. To see more amazing millions-years-old head to Narooma surf beach and spend some time walking among the incredible Glasshouse Rocks.
Formed around 490 million years ago, these rocks are not part of the coastline that splintered off, they were brought here by the Pacific tectonic plate that lies under the Pacific Ocean as it inched its way north-west for millions of years until it collided with the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana that later broke apart into Africa, India, Australia, South America and Antarctica.
Central Tilba & Tilba Tilba
Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba are two adorable tiny villages that seem to have been frozen in time since the gold rush in the late 1800s. If you have the time, it’s worth visiting both villages. But if you can only explore one, head to Central Tilba.
Like most little villages on NSW South Coast, Central Tilba has a specialty – it’s all about tea. Out of a dozen shops and cafes in the village, two are tea specialists – The Tilba Teapot Cafe and Eumun Tea – a specialist tea room with over 200 specialty teas and a huge selection of teapots and teaware to choose from.
If you feel like stretching your legs, check out the Water Tower lookout. Head up the hill along Station Street next to the iconic Dromedary Hotel, walk through the gate and keep walking uphill through another stock gate to the water tower. It’s a little steep but a very short walk and the views of the surrounding lush green countryside are entirely worth it.
If Bermagui’s Blue Pool was any closer to Sydney, it would’ve rivalled the Bondi Icebergs and the Figure 8 pools. In fact, the Blue Pool has been voted as one of Australia’s most beautiful rock pools.
The first thing you notice about the famous Blue Pool is that it is actually emerald-green. To truly appreciate it, you have to see it from the cliff top Lookout first. It is located near the carpark, just off Pacific Drive.
In the context of its surrounding landscape, the Blue Pool looks like a precious gemstone. Its vivid emerald water is set off by the honey-coloured rocks and the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean. You could hardly imagine a more inviting swimming hole.
Drive back via the Southern Highlands
For the first leg of your journey back, you will have to retrace your steps from Narooma to Batemans Bay. But then, you could leave the coast and head slightly inland, to the charming country town of the Southern Highlands.
The first charming rural town you should stop at on the Southern Highlands is Braidwood. Here you don’t simply have heritage-listed buildings, but the entire town is listed as National Heritage. Braidwood looks some much like Australia’s bygone era, that it served as a backdrop for a few Australian movies, including Ned Kelly that starred Mick Jagger.
Depending on how much time you have, you could just wander the historic streets and drop in for lunch at the iconic Royal Mail Hotel that used to serve as a departure point for gold rush coaches. Or you could spend some more time in town and explore the shops and galleries or go for a walk to the enchanting Penance Grove in Monga National Park.
And if you are looking for something more adventurous, Deua National Park has some amazing walking trails.
Goulburn’s claim to fame lies in being Australia’s first inland city declared by Queen Victoria in 1863. The town’s Victorian heritage is a major part of its charm. One of the finest buildings in town is St Saviour’s Cathedral on Montague Street. Built in a Gothic Revival style in 1884, it is considered one of the finest rural cathedrals in Australia.
Today Golbourn is all about wool, so don’t be surprised to find a giant merino lamb dominating the town’s art scene.
Continuing on the theme of Victorian provincial towns, Moss Vale’s most famous cafe is located in a heritage-listed building that serves as a post office for more than a hundred years.
Moss Vale has undergone significant growth and development in recent years and, in my view, has lost much of its rural charm, but the town’s surroundings are still very picturesque. If you like gardens, don’t miss Leighton Gardens, especially if you are visiting in September when tulips are blooming. And if you prefer more wild settings, head to Cecils Hoskins Reserve which is home to over 90 bird species and a network of walking trails.
Did you know that Bowral sits next to the rim of a collapsed ancient volcano – Mt Gibraltar? That’s right, and at 863 meters, the summit of Mt Gibraltar is the highest point between Sydney and Canberra. For a birds eye view perspective, follow the 1.2-kilometer Rim Track to visit three lookouts: Bowral, Mittagong and Jellore.
The town of Bowral came to prominence as a summer getaway for the wealthy residents of Sydney at the end of the 19th century and there is no shortage of charming country estates in town, which makes it a great stopover on any Southern Highlights itinerary.
You can spend your time browsing the boutique shops and cafe hopping or hit the Southern Highlands wine trail stopping at Bendooley Estate, Joadja Estate, and Tractorless Vineyard.
Stop in Mittagong to check out the oldest craft centre in Australia, opened in 1941 – Sturt Gallery.
If you visited a winery or two in Bowral, in Mittagong you can drop by a craft brewery. The taproom at Eden Brewery is open Wednesday to Sunday from 12 pm to 8 pm. Or you can book a private tour to learn a thing or two about brewing beer.
Like every self-respecting provincial town, Mittagong has a lovely antique centre. And, yes, you guessed it, it’s called Mittagong Antiques Center. It has quite an impressive range of antiques and collectibles.
I hope you found some ideas and inspiration in this guide to NSW South Coast Road trip to craft your own itinerary. If you have any questions or would like to share any hidden gems you discovered along the coast, drop a comment below.
And if you are not quite ready to start planning yet, pin this post for later.