10 best NSW road trips from the beach to the outback | Finder

10 best NSW road trips from Sydney

Explore beyond Sydney with these picturesque drives around the state.

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Break out of the everyday and take yourself on a journey filled with waterfalls, mountains, beaches and outback landscapes with these road trips.

They all depart from Sydney and many can be done as a day trip, so you won't have to worry about accommodation.

We've also included the best stopping points and recommended eats. This way, all you have to do is get behind the wheel and go.

Grand Pacific Drive road trip

This captivating stretch of highway snakes down the south coast of NSW, taking you through coastal destinations like Royal National Park, Wollongong, Kiama and Jervis Bay. While you can complete it in a day, we recommend spacing this one out over a long weekend to make the most of the beaches, coastal walks and marine activities.

Aerial shot of Seacliff Bridge in NSW

  • Distance: 518km/8 hours round trip
  • Route: Sydney-Jervis Bay-Sydney along the M1 and Princes Highway
  • Highlights: Royal National Park, Bald Hill for views of Sea Cliff Bridge, Scarborough, Wollongong, Kiama and Hyams Beach
  • Best time to drive: Summer for beaches or June-November for whale watching
  • Things to do: Kayak in Royal National Park and whale watching cruise in Jervis Bay
  • Stay at: Huskisson Bed and Breakfast or go glamping
  • Eat at: Scarborough Hotel in Scarborough, Earth Walker and Co in Coledale and Bread, Espresso & in Thirroul and Pilgrims in Huskisson

Waterfall Way road trip

A healthy series of gushing waterfalls dot this scenic drive through northern NSW, calling you to park your vehicle for a quick snap or a rainforest walk. How many will you check off your list?

The drive begins in Coffs Harbour and loops around Dorrigo Rainforest National Park and can be completed in a day. Another option is to make it longer and head to Armidale via Cathedral Rock National Park, which is known for its moss-covered boulder stacks and multi-tiered Ebor Falls waterfall.

Sydneysiders can choose to make the 5.5-hour drive to Coffs Harbour or take a 1-hour flight and hire a car for this road trip.

Waterfall in Dorringo National Park.

  • Distance: 448km/7 hours 15 minutes round trip from Coffs Harbour or 1,261km/16 hours round trip from Sydney
  • Route: Sydney-Coffs Harbour-Armidale-Sydney
  • Highlights: Sealy Lookout, Bellingen, Dorrigo National Park, Tristana Falls, Crystal Shower Falls, Dangar Falls, Ebor Falls and Wollomombi Falls
  • Best time to drive: Spring for the waterfalls
  • Things to do: High ropes climbing course in Coffs Harbour, check out the view from Sealy Lookout, canoeing in Bellingen and walking the many trails of Dorrigo National Park
  • Stay at: Big Windmill Corporate & Family Motel in Coffs Harbour and Moore Park Inn in Armidale. More hotels here.
  • Eat at: Twenty46, Urban Espresso Lounge and Edelweiss Bavarian Restaurant in Coffs Harbour. Bistro on Cinders and Archie's on the Park in Armidale

Sydney to Orange road trip

There's something utterly romantic yet unassuming about the regional town of Orange. It's the place where you can unwind on a colonial deck, sip wine purchased from cellar doors or wander heritage trails through tree-lined streets and colonial buildings. Beyond the town, you can leg it up the neighbouring extinct volcano Mount Canobolas for panoramic views.

Though driveable in a day, we recommend spending a weekend so you can soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a good tipple safely.

Summer Street with the prominent 19th century Palmers Building, Orange, Central West New South Wales, Australia


Greater Blue Mountains area drive

So much more than the Three Sisters, the Greater Blue Mountains takes in the natural wonders of Wollemi National Park, Upper Hunter, Mudgee, Goulburn and Hawkesbury. Depending on your style of travel, you could find yourself gazing upon an extensive sandstone canyon system, waterfalls, glow-worm tunnels, Aboriginal sites, wineries and waterways on this ever-changing drive.

The Greater Blue Mountains drive is doable from Sydney in a day, but to make the most of the hiking trails, we suggest putting aside a weekend for this one.

Road in Jamison Valley in Blue Mountains National Park


Sydney to Nelson Bay drive

When Mother Nature carved out this drive, she definitely outdid herself. It's one coastal town after another, making it a magnet for water babies, families and lovebirds wishing to put their feet up or tuck into marine activities like swimming, snorkelling and whale spotting.

Make a big day trip of it for a budget-friendly road trip or take the weekend to walk its coastal tracks and comb its beaches.

Scenic View Of Sea Against Sky


Kosciuszko Alpine Way road trip

Snow-covered in winter and scrub-filled in summer, Kosciuszko Alpine Way is for the intrepid explorer who loves tree-lined windy roads. While June to September is peak season for snowsports enthusiasts, summer is great for road trips. It's much quieter and offers alpine-lined roads as well as horseriding, hiking, BMX riding and fishing activities.

From Sydney, spare a good three to four days for this drive. Alternatively, you can fly into Canberra and complete it in a day.

Picture not described


The Rainforest Way road trip

Mountains dressed in rich green forest mark your way on this breathtaking NSW drive around the NSW and Queensland border. The official path runs from the sleepy, hippie town of Byron Bay past national park after national park, culminating in Tabulam, which relishes in gushing waterfalls and views of the Great Dividing Range.

You can make a large week-long road trip of it from Sydney or fly up to Byron Bay where you can drive the Rainforest Way comfortably over one to two days.

The precipitous drop of Minyon Falls, with a drop of 100 metres in the Nightcap National Park, is the dramatic result of thousands of years of erosion

  • Distance: 398km/6.5 hours round trip from Byron Bay or 1,744km/21 hours round trip from Sydney
  • Route: Sydney-Byron Bay-Mebbin-Lismore-Tabulam-Sydney
  • Highlights: Mount Warning, Nightcap National Park, Wollumbin National Park, Mebbin National Park, Tooloom National Park and Casino
  • Best time to drive: Spring and winter
  • Things to do: Horseriding in Byron Bay, hike around Mount Warning, visit the township of Uki and hike to Protesters Falls in Nightcap National Park. More options here.
  • Stay at: Byron Bay Farm Cottages in Byron Bay, Lismore Gateway Motel in Lismore and Casino Holiday Park in Casino. More options here.
  • Eat at: Manna Haven in Byron Bay, Dip in Byron Bay, The Bank Cafe & Espresso in Lismore and Cecil Hotel in Casino

Interstate road trips

Prefer to hit the open road rather than hop on a plane? Driving allows you the ultimate freedom to stop and discover hidden gems you'd never know existed if you flew overhead. These are some of the most popular journeys from Sydney that can take you for a ride right across Australia.

Sydney to Melbourne road trip

From A to B, the drive between Sydney and Melbourne can be as short as 8 hours and 40 minutes, but where's the fun in that? For a scenic trip, take a few days off to cross borders along the southern coast's network of roads where sweet coastal towns meet quiet beaches.

  • Distance: 1,150km/14.5 hours without stops
  • Recommended trip length: Five days
  • Highlights: Jervis Bay, Hyams Beach, Mimosa Rocks National Park, Gippsland Lakes and Mornington Peninsula
  • Best time to drive: Warmer months
  • For more: Visit our Sydney to Melbourne drive itinerary guide.

Great Ocean Road


Sydney to Gold Coast drive

Driving along the east coast of Australia is a dream. Coming from Sydney, the weather only gets warmer as you head north and the scenery is ever changing with rough coastline and sugar-soft beaches on your right and lush rainforest on your left.

  • Distance: 1,310km/17.5 hours one way
  • Recommended trip length: Six days
  • Highlights: Sydney, Hunter Valley, Byron Bay and Nelson Bay
  • Best time to drive: Year-round
  • Looking for a Sydney to Brisbane road trip? This itinerary works just as well, only you'll have to add an extra hour to drive from the Gold Coast to Brisbane.
  • To head to Cairns: Use this itinerary then add on our Brisbane to Cairns road trip itinerary.

looking down on the Australian coastline with rocky outcrop and windy road


Sydney to Adelaide drive

Take the ultimate scenic route across three states, travelling from Sydney south to Melbourne and across to Adelaide. This journey offers more than coastal towns. It has national parks, wildlife, historic towns, relaxing spa breaks and artisanal food and drink. There's definitely something for everybody.

  • Distance: 2,686km/1 day, 4 hours drive one-way, non-stop
  • Recommended trip time: Seven days
  • Highlights and attractions: Royal National Park, Jervis Bay, Great Ocean Road, Mount Gambier and Kangaroo Island
  • Best time to drive: Summer

Scenic View Of Lake Against Clear Blue Sky


Best NSW outback road trips

On the road in search of dirt tracks, bushland Australia and a more rugged adventure? These outback road trips throughout NSW can do the trick:

  • Gundabooka National Park: Some 600km northwest of Sydney, Gundabooka National Park is all ochre sands, shrub landscape and grassy plains. It's an hour out of Bourke and you can camp and hike through it.
  • Mutawintji National Park: Near Broken Hill, Mutawintji National Park offers rust-covered walking tracks, caves and gorges mixed with a deep Aboriginal heritage.
  • Murray Valley National Park: Nudging the border of Victoria on the southern end of NSW, this national park follows the great Murry River. Choose to camp and hike or take to the water and kayak or canoe among the red river gums searching for waterbirds.
  • Lake Mungo: Famed for the Mungo Man and Lady, which are some of the oldest Indigenous remains, Lake Mungo is a dry lake way out in west NSW. Its arid landscape is filled with history and stories of the Dreamtime and is one of the most authentic and unique outback trips you can take in the state. Driving tracks, walking tracks and guided tours can take you around.

Frequently asked questions about driving in NSW

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