The NSW South Coast is a wonderland awaiting exploration, with a pot of gold at every curve and bend. Endless opportunities await those willing to chase them along the coast on a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne — from tranquil rainforests to epic national parks and world-class surf. The last plane out of Sydney may have gone, but never fear: the drive back is a hundred times better than a ride in the sky. As they say, its all about the journey and in this case we can only agree — this is one hell of an adventure!
Coming In Hot To The Illawarra Coast
Winding in through lush rainforest, it’s hard to believe we’re just an hour from the city. The first stop on our road trip from Sydney to Melbourne is a cracker — The Royal National Park just south of Sydney is a natural oasis tucked into the coast. Wattamolla is an unexpected gem, with bright turquoise water funnelling between rocky cliffs, creating a protected beach. If you’re here from July to November you’ll most likely be privy to the great dance of the migrating whales, breaching out of the big blue on a migratory trip of their own.
Over The Sea Cliff Bridge
Moving southwards, we roll across the Sea Cliff Bridge as it twists its way over the Pacific Ocean further down the Illawarra Coast. We’re traversing from coast to rainforest, and time seems to slow as we pass rambling farms, weathered shacks and epic forest. Jamberoo is a classic Aussie town that is well worth a pop in en route to the Budderoo National Park. The Minnamurra Rainforest Centre’s a must, hit up the loop walk and feel like George of the Jungle with swinging vines, old red cedars and strangling figs all around. Waterfalls tumble onto mossy rocks and the gentle hum of the rainforest creates the perfect place to unwind.
Seven Mile Beach calls out to us for a surf as a rainbow comes out to play in stormy skies. Ditching the wetties, we happily rest our salty heads in readiness for another big day on the road.
It’s an early rise to check the swells pulsing through Bombo Quarry. The first rays of the day hit the dark towers of basalt, sticking out like sore thumbs against the gentle blue of the Pacific. The waves explode over the rocks, plumes of saltwater waking us right up. Always remember to stay safe on coastal rock platforms.
Exploring The Heavenly Shoalhaven Coast
Next we’re inland bound for a good ol’ dose of country. A spectacular drive through moody forests and emerald hills delivers us to Kangaroo Valley Horse Riding. With 120 years’ experience between them, Geoff and Gail are the perfect guides on our scenic ride up Mt Mollootoo. A true blue larrikin, Geoff’s full of enough knowledge, wisecracks and a deep respect for animals to calm the most nervous rider. This is the perfect place to explore the hinterland on horseback. To ease the ‘saddle pain’ hit up The Friendly Inn on the way back to the coast.
From the greens of the forest to the whitest sandy beach in Australia — we’re headed onwards to Jervis Bay.
We stumble upon the wild and untouched Cave Beach nestled in the Booderee National Park with a bonus campground right on the beach. Booderee means ‘Plentiful Bay’ in the Dhurga language of the region and you can see why — this area is raw and abundant. We share camp with a few ‘roos and head for a late arvo surf. There’s plenty of surf options in the Shoalhaven region along with calm beaches for snorkelling and swimming.
The Epic Eurobodalla Experience
It’s time to roll into the luscious Eurobodalla region, ready for another day of adventure.
Continuing southwards we pass through the unspoilt Tilba Valley. No cities in sight — rolling hills and green forests sprawl as far as the eye can see. Cruising past honesty boxes selling local produce, tiny town halls and farms, we’re drawn towards Central Tilba. This hidden gem of a town is nestled at the bottom of the extinct volcano Mt Gulaga — a place of significance to the Yuin people. An old lolly shop, galleries and a sweet tea café lend a nostalgic vibe, set snugly into the hilly landscape.
Unearthing Jewels On The Sapphire Coast
Bermagui is the perfect sleepy coastal town to arise, grab a coffee and watch the sun reflect off the bay. Recharged, we continue down the Sapphire Coast passing many alluring beaches before reaching Pambula. We luck out and the jewel of Pambula is breaking, a long cracking right-hander that has everyone hooting each other into the glassy barrels. This sheltered inlet is the perfect place for a swim, surf or a picnic on this untouched slice of coastline.
A sunrise strike mission to the glorious Pinnacles in Ben Boyd National Park sees us wake to stark red and white cliffs lit up by the rising sun. With this magnificent scene burnt into our retinas, its time to hit the road jack — southward bound to Melbourne.
A Salt-Encrusted Debrief
The NSW South Coast is pure road trip nirvana where diverse, untouched beauty abounds. After a jam-packed 4 days driving from Sydney to Melbourne, we leave knowing we barely scratched the surface. Still so much beckons to be discovered, with every stop unique and full of potential. Adventure awaits those who chase it so jump in your car and get started!
- Camping gear
- Snorkelling gear
- Camera (trust me you will want one!)
Start And End Points
Start in Sydney and end in Melbourne, more info on the Sydney to Melbourne Drive!
Time Taken / Distance Driven
Four days, approximately 1200km
Why wait? Start planning your NSW Road Trip.
Photos shot by @ainraadik and @ben.savage
NSW South Coast sweetness…