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In today’s travel guide, we’ll take you on a road trip along the Grand Pacific Drive from Sydney. Starting from the Royal National Park, we’ll stop at many of NSW’s pristine beaches, coastal towns, and iconic landmarks like the Sea Cliff Bridge, until we reach our destination, the beautiful Jervis Bay.
The Grand Pacific Drive from Sydney is undoubtedly among the most popular road trips in Australia. In fact, the Australian coastlines hold some of the most scenic routes in the country.
From the stunning Pacific Coast Drive from Sydney to Brisbane to the Great Western Drive that begins in Perth, and of course, the beautiful Grand Pacific Drive that meanders from Sydney all the way to Shoalhaven. Each of these coastal drives offers unforgettable opportunities to witness Australia’s unmatched natural beauty.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the best scenic stops along the Grand Pacific Drive NSW, providing you with an example of an itinerary that’s both family-friendly and memorable.
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Where does the Grand Pacific Drive start?
The Grand Pacific Drive kicks off at the Royal National Park, about an hour’s drive south of Sydney. Spanning 140km, this picturesque coastal route winds its way to Shoalhaven, journeying through iconic coastal hubs like Wollongong, Shellharbour, and Kiama, all the way to Shoalhaven and Jervis Bay.
How long does it take to drive the Grand Pacific Drive?
The Grand Pacific Drive from Sydney stretches between 140 to 180km, depending on your final destination. If you’re driving continuously without stopping, the journey would take a little over 3 hours.
However, given its array of picturesque stops and coastal attractions, we highly recommend extending your road trip to 3-5 days, making the most of each destination on this iconic road trip.
The Royal National Park, NSW
Once you arrive at the Royal National Park, keep an eye out for the Grand Pacific Drive signs. They’ll guide you straight to the park’s entrance. There’s an entry fee of $12 per vehicle that only applies if you plan to pause and stay inside the national park.
If you’re thinking of exploring more national parks in NSW, ask about the All Parks Pass. But if you’re simply passing through, simply let them know that you won’t be lingering in the Royal National Park.
There are 3 main points of interest worth exploring inside the Royal National Park.
1. Audley Boatshed
Audley Boatshed has been around since the 1890s. It’s a peaceful little park surrounded by the water. Whether you fancy a kayak, aqua-bike, or canoe, you can enjoy a paddle along the Hacking River or Kangaroo Creek.
As the first stop on the Grand Pacific Drive, it offers a serene escape from the city’s hustle. Immersed in bushland, you’ll be serenaded by nature and bird song.
Audley Boatshed offers hourly hires and half-day hires for kayaks and boats. So you can tailor your visit to fit perfectly into your day.
You can learn more about Audley Boatshed here.
2. Watamolla Beach
Tucked away within the embrace of the national park, Watamolla Beach is a beautiful beach with a serene expanse of golden sands. Just a brief 15-minute journey from Audley Boatshed, this beach remains one of nature’s best-kept secrets. It’s an idyllic spot for families to lay out a picnic, followed by a refreshing swim in the tranquil creek.
3. Garie Beach & Little Garie Beach
Venturing further south along Garie Road, you’ll find yourself at the shores of Garie Beach.
Once there, unfurl your beach chairs and let the rhythmic waves soothe your senses. For those who love exploration, there’s a scenic coastal path that leads you to the hidden beauty of Little Garie Beach, a secluded little beach awaiting your discovery.
4. Symbio Wildlife Park
Symbio Wildlife Park is one of the most popular wildlife parks in NSW, which makes a great little detour on the Grand Pacific Drive to meet Australia’s native animals up close.
At Symbio Wildlife Park, you can have a memorable photo taken with a koala and learn fun facts about these cuddly creatures. Remember, there’s a koala talk and scheduled programs every day, so check the time to make sure you don’t miss out.
As you wander, you’ll get the chance to walk with kangaroos and even feed them. They’re friendly creatures and always happy to meet new friends.
Kids will love the hands-on experience as they get to feed and interact with farm animals like goats, sheep, and chickens.
And we recommend bringing your own food and snacks to enjoy a lovely picnic surrounded by nature’s sounds. Alternatively, there’s a café on-site.
If you plan to add this stop to your itinerary, it’s a good idea to book a holiday home nearby to avoid driving in the dark.
There aren’t many hotels or motels in this region, so a holiday home near Stanwell Tops is the ideal base for this stretch of the road trip.
5. Bald Hill Lookout
There’s no better place to stop for refreshment than Bald Hill Lookout. Here, you can stretch your legs and soak in some of the most stunning views on the Grand Pacific Drive.
If you look closely out to the ocean, you’ll see the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge in the distance. This remarkable bridge, stretching 665 meters, is a marvel of engineering and a popular spot for photographers.
There’s usually a mobile coffee shop or food truck near the Bald Hill Lookout car park, as it’s a favoured spot to stop and replenish. Grab a hot drink or treat yourself to an ice cream and watch paragliders taking to the skies. I’ve always envied people who can fly.
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And if you’re travelling the Grand Pacific Drive in winter, Bald Hill Lookout is a prime spot for whale watching. These majestic creatures often grace the waters below; although tiny from afar, it’s a special sight.
If whale-watching interests you, you can find our local guide to the best whale-watching spots in Sydney to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants.
6. Stanwell Park
Stanwell Park is a gem on Grand Pacific Drive, offering families a blend of natural beauty and a relaxing break. Nestled between lush green hills and the sparkling ocean, this coastal village is a favourite for many.
Stanwell Park Beach is a quiet beach with golden sands, perfect for building sandcastles, playing beach games, or simply relaxing by the waves. Families with children will be glad to know there’s also a playground by the seaside. So, if you’re looking to take a short break after Bald Hill Lookout, Stanwell Park is a great place to let the kids loose.
7. Sea Cliff Bridge View Point
One of the most iconic spots along the Grand Pacific Drive is the Sea Cliff Bridge View Point. So park your car, go for a walk, breathe in the fresh sea air and don’t forget to capture those memories with your camera.
From the viewpoint, the bridge bends and turns, following the curve of the coast. On one side, you have the deep blue ocean stretching out as far as the eye can see. On the other, tall green hills rise up. It’s a beautiful sight, like something from a picture book.
Just a short drive from the viewpoint, Moronga Park is a quiet little park to let the kids run around and play on the swings, all while parents relax and enjoy the views. This park also offers picnic areas, so it’s a great spot to refuel before continuing your adventure.
8. The Scarborough Hotel
Perched directly above the sea, this restaurant boasts a spacious outdoor seating area in its backyard. The Scarborough Hotel, with its rich history dating back to the 1880s, serves bakery items and lunch until the afternoon.
Since you’re right by the water, it’s only natural to try their fish and chips which we highly recommend. Opt for grilled fish for an alternative healthier option. We particularly enjoyed bringing our baby here for a relaxing lunch break on our Grand Pacific Drive from Sydney.
9. More Beaches, Playgrounds & Rock Pools
From here on, the coast is dotted with rock pools and lovely little playgrounds. If you didn’t make a stop at Stanwell Park then pick and choose a park or beach to make your next stop.
Wombarra Beach is a peaceful spot where the sand meets the sea. The rock pool is surrounded by green hills, making it feel like a hidden treasure.
Not far from Wombarra Beach is the Coledale Rock Pool. This natural pool is filled with clear seawater. It’s like a big bathtub set between rocks, with the ocean right next to it. Kids can splash around safely, and parents can enjoy the view. It’s a special place to cool off and have fun.
As you journey along the magnificent Seacliff Bridge, it leads you straight to the charming coastal town of Austinmer. It’s a place you simply can’t miss.
Austinmer buzzes with life, especially during the summer when tourists flock to its shores. The beach, with its golden sands, is a safe haven for families, especially when it’s patrolled from September to April.
Just a short distance away is Knox Park Playground. This park is a green oasis with play equipment that kids love. There are climbing frames, seesaws, and open spaces to run around. It’s a great place for families to relax, have a picnic, and let the little ones have fun.
A little further along the coast, Thirroul Beach awaits. It’s a stretch of pristine shoreline, perfect for sunbathing, building sandcastles, or taking a leisurely stroll.
Bulli Beach Reserve Playground is a seaside playground where kids can let their imaginations run wild, all with the backdrop of the beautiful Bulli Beach.
If you have time to explore the rock pools and beaches in this region, we recommend staying a night or two in Austinmer or Bulli. Our family prefers holiday homes over traditional hotels for the convenience, space and facilities and there are many of them along the Grand Pacific Drive.
You can browse through the holiday homes available for your dates here or if you have a specific location in mind, search below.
Woonona Beach is a tranquil spot, ideal for families looking to escape the crowds. The gentle waves and scenic views make it a must-visit.
Bellambi Beach & Rock Pool offers the best of both worlds. The beach is a haven for those looking to relax, while the rock pool provides a safe spot for kids to splash around.
A stone’s throw from the beach, Bellambi Lagoon Nature Park is a green oasis. It’s a place to reconnect with nature, spot local wildlife, and enjoy a peaceful moment.
Towradgi Beach Park, nestled along the coast, is a blend of sandy shores and playful fun. Families can bask on the golden beach, while the adjacent playground offers kids a range of exciting equipment
Nestled by the coastline, Stuart Park is the perfect end to your coastal adventure before reaching Wollongong. With open spaces, shaded areas, and a playground, it’s a spot where memories are made.
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Wollongong is a bustling city that effortlessly blends beach vibes with urban sophistication. Perched along the sparkling coastline, it’s one of the most popular weekend escapes for Sydneysiders.
That said, I have to admit that there isn’t a whole lot to do here. So if you’re considering staying overnight here, we would recommend staying in Shellharbour or around Lake Illawarra instead.
The best way to get a taste of what this town has to offer is by renting a bike and cycling around the Wollongong Harbour and Flagstaff Hill Park & Lighthouse.
I had my first skydiving experience here in Wollongong for my birthday and it turned out to be one of the most special experiences of my life.
So, if your heart seeks adventure and skydiving has always been a dream, Wollongong is a great place to fulfil this wish. The blend of thrill, beauty, and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean below makes it an unforgettable experience.
11. Nan Tien Temple
If visiting a temple is against your religion, please skip this point of interest.
Nan Tien Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere, making it an interesting place to explore with kids. There is so much to see in this temple, from the towering pagodas to displays of Chinese art. It’s a calm and peaceful spot to learn about a new culture.
Nestled between the bustling city of Wollongong and the charming town of Kiama, Shellharbour is a hidden jewel on the Grand Pacific Drive. With its sun-kissed beaches, vibrant village atmosphere, and a touch of history, it’s a destination for families looking for that perfect coastal escape.
Venture a little further, and you’ll find yourself in Shellharbour Village. It’s the heartbeat of the town, with its boutique shops offering treasures waiting to be discovered and cafés serving up delicious bites that are sure to tantalise your taste buds. And if seafood’s on your mind, this is the best place to get the freshest seafood.
For those looking for a tranquil retreat, Little Lake is tucked between Warilla Beach and Shellharbour Beach, this serene estuary is a haven for families. The calm waters are perfect for the little ones to splash about, and the surrounding greenery offers a picturesque spot for those cherished family picnics.
For those visiting between May to November, we highly recommend taking a whale-watching cruise from Shell Cove. You can spot Humpback whales as they pass by on their migration out on the water. Alongside them, you may even spot playful dolphins dancing in the waves. It’s a very memorable experience, especially for families with children.
In the heart of Illawarra, there’s a blend of serene coastal spots and thrilling adventures waiting for families. Head west and you’ll find Jamberoo Action Park, where fun rides and water attractions promise a day of splashing around.
14. Kiama Blowhole
Next, we head over to the picturesque coastal town of Kiama, where Kiama Blowhole steals the spotlight. The Kiama Blowhole is one of nature’s wonders in NSW. As waves crash into the sea cave, water is forced upwards, creating a spectacular plume of water that can reach impressive heights.
This natural phenomenon draws visitors from all over, eager to witness its power and beauty. Simply follow the walking tracks near the Lighthouse and you’ll find a crowd patiently waiting for the blowhole to roar. When it finally goes off, the cheer is much like what you’d hear at a football match, it’s quite amusing actually.
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If you prefer to bypass the crowds and view the Kiama Blowhole from the water, this Eco Scenic Cruise departs from Shellharbour Marina and journeys through five islands before arriving at the Kiama Blowhole. With a bit of luck, you might even spot a pod of dolphins along the way.
Alternatively, there are several private tours that take you through the highlights of Grand Pacific Drive, including Kiama Blowhole. You can have a look at the different tours on offer here.
Many tourists are unaware that just a brief drive further south lies the Little Blowhole, which provides its own spectacle without the crowds of the Kiama Blowhole. While it may not be as grand as its sibling, with a little bit of patience, the Little Blowhole is just as fascinating.
Kiama also serves as a great base to explore nearby attractions or simply unwind by the ocean. Again, we suggest looking into the available holiday homes in Kiama that are spacious and come equipped with a kitchenette for added convenience.
Gerringong is yet another picturesque coastal town nestled along the Grand Pacific Drive NSW. Just a stone’s throw away from Kiama, this quaint town is surrounded by stunning beaches, rolling green hills, and a relaxed vibe that invites visitors to slow down and soak in the views.
Werri Beach is one of Gerringong’s main attractions, with golden sands and clear waters that are perfect for a family day out or a surfing session. The town itself is dotted with boutique shops, trendy cafés, and eateries that serve up delicious local food.
For those keen on exploring, the Gerringong Coastal Walk is a must. This trail offers breathtaking views of the coastline, with vantage points that let you admire the panorama of the Pacific Ocean. On a clear day, you might even spot a pod of dolphins or, during the migration season, a whale or two.
Beyond its natural allure, Gerringong has a rich history tied to dairy farming, which can be explored at the local heritage museum. Whether you’re here for a weekend getaway or a day trip, Gerringong promises a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle.
16. The Silky-Soft Sands & Pristine Beaches of Jervis Bay
From Gerringong to Jervis Bay, you’ll encounter some of the most stunning beaches in NSW, characterised by their silky-fine sands, expansive stretches, and breathtaking lookouts.
It’s not uncommon to spot a curious kangaroo hopping about, with some even carrying joeys in their pouches.
Jervis Bay is my absolute favourite destination along the Grand Pacific Drive, and words truly can’t capture the beauty of its beaches.
Seven Mile Beach is a long stretch of fine sand, great for walks or just lounging in the sun.
Huskisson is a popular spot in Jervis Bay, known for its water activities and its seaside dining options.
Blenheim Beach stands out with its powdery white sand, offering a peaceful setting for relaxation.
Greenfields Beach is surrounded by natural bushland, making it a quiet place for picnics and beach time.
And then there’s Hyams Beach, known for its incredibly white sand and clear waters, perfect for swimming and snorkelling. If you’re to choose one beach to visit in this region, hands down, Hyams Beach is the one.
Jervis Bay is truly a jewel of the New South Wales coast and deserves a dedicated post on its own. It’s a pristine paradise where you, the wildlife, and nature meld together beautifully.
If you’re in no rush to head back to Sydney, we wholeheartedly recommend extending your stay here. The sheer peace and serenity of this region make it an experience worth lingering a little longer.
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17. Pebbly Beach Kangaroos
As always, we aim to deliver the most insightful and firsthand travel experiences to our readers, so we’re obligated to share a hidden gem with you – Pebbly Beach.
Known mainly to the locals, this secluded haven offers a rare opportunity to witness kangaroos in their natural habitat, hopping freely along the untouched beaches. It’s a surreal and enchanting experience, a chance to get up close with these iconic Australian animals set against the backdrop of these breathtaking coastal shores.
That said, we do recommend doing your own research before visiting as things may have changed since our last trip.
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Farewell to the Grand Pacific Drive
As we come to the end of our adventure along the Grand Pacific Drive, we’re left in awe of the New South Wales coastline’s natural splendour.
From the rugged cliffs of the Royal National Park to the tranquil beaches of Shellharbour, the charming towns of Gerringong and Kiama, and the pristine beauty of Jervis Bay, we’ve discovered the magic of the New South Wales coastline.
We’ve explored breathtaking lookouts, experienced the thrill of wildlife encounters, and indulged in the simple pleasures of coastal lifestyle. The Grand Pacific Drive has not only been a scenic road trip but also a gateway to collecting memories with our loved ones.
So, whether you’re planning your own road trip along the Grand Pacific Drive or dreaming of your next escape, know that the road is waiting.
We hope that this post has not only been helpful but has also ignited a spark of wanderlust within you.
Last but not least, if you need a packing list for road trips, we’ve got an interactive packing list ready for you to check off. So bookmark this page and we’ll see you in the next chapter. Take care.
The Ultimate Family Packing List
Crafted by a mother of 2 with a focus on minimalist travels, this family packing list is all you need for a stress-free packing experience.
Effortless Planning Starts Here
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