As anyone who lives in New South Wales will tell you, their home state is truly one of a kind: a land of endless, postcard-perfect beaches, incredible natural wonders, and world-class city culture – so too, the home of some of Australia’s best and most sought after road trip experiences.
Here’s a hot-list of some of New South Wales’ most awe-inspiring and downright beautiful road trips, so rev the engine, pump up the playlist, and head for these open roads. And remember, take your rubbish with you to help keep the scenic route just as scenic for everyone who comes after you. If you do see someone tossing litter out of their car window, you can report them to the NSW Environmental Protection Authority here.
The Grand Pacific Drive
A road trip as epic sounding as the Grand Pacific Drive simply can’t fail to impress, and thankfully, what you find on the ground is true to its name.
Kicking off from Royal National Park (roughly an hour south of the Sydney CBD), the Grand Pacific takes you on a wild and unforgettable journey along the state’s southeastern coast, where a mix of natural and human-made wonders await: the Pacific vistas along the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge, lush natural rainforests, and a peppering of towns including Kiama, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven and Wollongong.
The best part about the Grand Pacific is that the further south you head the better it gets: take the stunning blue waters of Jervis Bay as a prime stop off, or the relaxed, oyster-laden stretch of Bateman’s Bay. Once you’ve made your way down, feel free to venture back north to the big smoke via the impressive Southern Highlands trail, or make a break south of the Victorian border through the charming regions of Eurobodalla and the Sapphire Coast.
Greater Blue Mountains Drive
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Without a doubt one of Australia’s most comprehensive and exciting touring journeys, the Greater Blue Mountains Drive covers over 1200km of connecting roads through the spectacular Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
Road trippers can expect epic valleys, sprawling eucalypts, sandstone cliffs, creeks, winding bush roads and historic towns along the main route here, as well as its 18 additional side trails. Stop off at Katoomba and plunge into ancient rainforest at the world famous Scenic World railway, be wowed by the incredible Three Sisters rock formation, and kick back over some of NSW’s best produce at the array of eateries, stop offs and cellar doors along the way. This is truly an adventure for all ages – a journey that keeps on giving.
The Rainforest Way
The Rainforest Way is no false advertisement: here be rainforests aplenty, with an epic road in between – one almighty impressive route for the rainforest-inclined. Kick things off at Coffs Harbour and the beaches at Sawtell and Valla, and take in the scenic northern NSW coast through Bellingen, the lush farms and paddocks of the Dorrigo Plateau, on through the New England Tableland to Armidale.
The Guy Fawkes River plunging 100m into the Ebor Falls is well worth a look along the way, so too the epic suspension bridge at Crystal Shower Falls. Expect clean air, clean waterways, clean forests, and clean road tripping – all 185km of it. You really won’t want to stop driving.
The Kosciuszko Alpine Way
Mountain lovers unite: The Kosciuszko Alpine Way will meet your needs with this lush, spectacular stretch. Take a few days off for the privilege, and meander your way through the steep, rugged mountain forest-ways of Jindabyne in Kosciuszko National Park’s southern edge, all the way to Khancoban by the Victorian border.
Gorgeous mountain vistas, sleepy towns, historic homesteads, deep alpine lakes, boulder fields and wildflowers are just some of the amazing natural wonders you’ll encounter on this 108km journey.
Darling River Run
While the lush coastal nooks and forested regions of NSW remain some of the more classic road trip choices, there’s no beating a trek through the bush. The Darling River Run is one of Australia’s greatest outback experiences, and a truly epic NSW touring route.
The Darling Run kicks off roughly 8 hours from Sydney near Walgett and Lightning Ridge, and takes you deep southwest along NSW’s ‘spine’ to the confluence of the Murray River at Wentworth.
Sure, it’s a hefty ride, and demands a little map attention, but it’s a deeply satisfying one, with towns like Bourke, Louth, Tilpa, Wilcannia, Menindee, Pooncarie, keeping you filled to the brim with good old-fashioned country road trip goodness.
Thunderbolts Way is an awesome 290km road adventure from Gloucester in the scenic hinterland of the Mid-North Coast, to Inverell along the western plains of New England.
Picture lush hinterlands, verdant fields, rolling farmland and intoxicatingly open NSW skies. Thunderbolts is as much a road trip for the outdoor buffs: rent a kayak at Barrington River, and take in the abundant bushwalking, horseriding, hiking and camping along the way.
Cam Hassard is an international penman, sax-wielder and rogue wayfarer who writes for Junkee, Carryology, Huckberry, Caddie, Fairfax Media, Carryology, Intrepid, Peregrine Adventures and Europe Up Close. He’s eaten ant salad in Laos, hauled trucks from NYC to Vegas, and destroyed himself on the Camino de Santiago. Originally from Melbourne, he currently calls Berlin home.