From the chilled-out beaches of the Pacific Coast to the desert regions of the Outback, a road trip from Sydney gives you the chance to explore the varied landscapes of Australia’s New South Wales at your own pace. Follow Culture Trip’s guide to find the most intriguing sites along the way – and if you want to make truly special memories, you could even hire your own campervan through our trusted partner, Outdoorsy.
Explore the nation’s capital on a road trip to Canberra
A Sydney-to-Canberra road trip takes just three-and-a-half hours. Travelling by car means that you can call in to see sites such as the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan and the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame in pretty Bowral. Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park is a great place to stretch your legs on a picturesque walk and learn about the indigenous history of the area.
Drop by a cellar door or enjoy lunch in Gundaroo before experiencing the natural limestone wonder of London Bridge Arch on Googong Foreshores. Once in Canberra, take your pick of world-class museums and galleries – including the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia – and check out Parliament House or walk around pretty Lake Burley Griffin.
The Legendary Pacific Coast takes at least four days to complete. Stop by a waterfront spot called the Entrance for daily pelican feeding before heading to Australia’s second-oldest city, Newcastle, to check out the arts scene or hit the waves at Merewether Beach. Port Stephens is perfect for whale or dolphin spotting, and don’t forget to make a photo stop at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour before visiting the Dolphin Marine Conservation Reserve to swim with dolphins.
Walk above the rainforest canopy at the Skywalk in Dorrigo National Park, and chill in one of Byron Bay’s cafes before doing the spectacular Cape Byron Walking Track to Australia’s most easterly point; keep a lookout for migrating humpback whales. End your trip by indulging in fresh seafood in laid-back Kingscliff and paying a visit to the World Heritage Rainforest Centre in Murwillumbah.
Experience nature at its finest on the Greater Blue Mountains drive
The Greater Blue Mountains drive takes you through some of the most dramatic scenery in New South Wales. Katoomba is known for its views of the Three Sisters rock formation, while Hassans Walls Lookout is the highest lookout in the Blue Mountains. Elsewhere, you can visit the world’s second-largest canyon in the Capertee Valley and do some birdwatching at Capertee National Park.
New South Wales’s largest wilderness area is Wollemi National Park, home to the Glow Worm Tunnel and Pagoda Lookout walking track which are also well worth exploring. No other vehicle says ‘road trip’ like a campervan – and you can hire your very own from Sydney for the ultimate off-grid adventure.
Further along the drive is Mudgee, where cellar doors, breweries, distilleries and world-class restaurants will provide you with a welcome treat.
Head to the white sands of Jervis Bay via the Grand Pacific drive
The Grand Pacific drive starts at Australia’s oldest national park (Royal National Park), home to some of Australia’s most picturesque beaches at Wattamolla, Garie and Burning Palms. Stop at Bald Hill Lookout for incredible views of the coastline before crossing the Sea Cliff Bridge. Take your pick of surf beaches or experience the tranquillity of the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere, Nan Tien Temple, in Wollongong.
The seaside town of Kiama is famous for its blowhole – keep your eyes and ears peeled for the giant plume of white spray – while a detour to the roaring waterfalls of the Minnamurra Rainforest is a must.
The glittering waters and renowned white sands of Jervis Bay provide the perfect ending to this road trip. Snag a parking spot and take the time to explore the walking trails where kangaroos and wallabies can often be spotted.
Sydney to Broken Hill is a 1,143km (710mi) road trip across New South Wales – so quite the undertaking. A great spot to break up the scenic journey is Orange, a town famed for its fresh food and boutique wineries, and not far from Dubbo’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo. You can also learn about Cobar’s long history as a mining town, before taking a side trip to the historic site of Mount Grenfell to see the ancient rock drawings of the Ngiyampaa people.
You can continue your pondering at the galleries of Wilcannia, before detouring to White Cliffs, home to Australia’s oldest commercial opal field. If you haven’t hired your own mobile home, you can spend the night in an underground motel.
Be sure to visit the Living Desert and Sculptures at sunset to experience the vastness of the great desert landscape, and take a guided tour of Mutawintji National Park for an absorbing insight in Aboriginal history.
Road trips are all about making memories with your best friends and loved ones. If you’d like to avoid spending money on accommodation, hiring your very own camper van provides the perfect solution. Head over to our partner, Outdoorsy, to see what’s available for hire in Sydney.
These recommendations were updated on January 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.