The Grand Pacific Drive is one of the most scenic drives in Australia. Not only are the sights beautiful but there is plenty to see and do along the way. Even though the actual drive can be done in a matter of hours, you can spend days or even weeks enjoying a holiday along the coastal towns and national parks along this route from Sydney southward to Wollongong and then Kiama.
Grand Pacific Drive Map Photo Credit: Google Maps
Hiring a Car for the Grand Pacific Drive
Sydney Car Rental Location Map Photo Credit: Budget.com.au
When planning embark on the scenic Grand Pacific Drive, you can hire a car in Sydney before heading south down the coast. If you are already south of Sydney , you can also hire a car at the Sydney Airport, the Sydney east location in Alexandria, or the Sydney southwest location in Ravensby. Be sure to let your car rental agent know that you are planning to do the Grand Pacific Drive so that they can ensure you have the best vehicle for your coastal trip. Our helpful car rental agents can also assist you with local maps, holiday tips and pointers, and travel safety information.
Royal National Park
Wedding Cake Rock in Royal National Park Photo Credit: NationalParks.nsw.gov.au
One of the first stops as you head south from Sydney on the Grand Pacific Drive is Royal National Park. Royal National Park is the oldest national park in Australia and the 2nd oldest national park in the world. The park covers over 150 square km and encompasses 3 settlements, bushwalks, trails, a campsite, lagoons, coastal trails, and beaches along the coast of the Tasman Sea. It is easily accessible and a popular holiday destination for visitors and locals alike. There is much to do in the park including over 100 km of walking trails, beaches, surfing, cycling, picnicking, camping, and more. To find out more about Royal National Park, see our blog post with more details.
Sea Cliff Bridge
Sea Cliff Bridge Photo Credit: Sydney.com
Sea Cliff Bridge Photo Credit: grandpacificdrive.com.au/
The next portion of the Great Pacific Drive runs from Stanwell Park to Thirroul. The highlight of the scenic drive runs along this stretch, it is the Sea Cliff Bridge. The bridge winds around the coastline for 665 metres and gives you some spectacular views of the Tasman Sea. Some other fun things to do along this part of the road trip include tandem hang gliding or para gliding, horseback riding in Otford, catch a close up glimpse of some of Australia’s native animals at Symbio Wildlife Park, absorb some culture at Articles Fine Art Gallery, or take a surfing lesson at Coledale or camp right on the beach there. If you want to really savour the Sea Cliff Bridge, you can walk the bridge along the pedestrian path. Speaking of savour, there are plenty of beachside cafes to tempt your taste buds. Thirroul is a quaint seaside town.
Thirroul to Wollongong
Wollongong Harbour Photo Credit: Sydney.com
Lookout from the Illawarra escarpment above Wombarra over the northern Illawarra plain viewing Austinmer, Thirroul, Bulli, Wollongong up to Port Kembia. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
The next leg of the scenic drive takes you from the quaint seaside town of Thirroul to bustling Wollongong, the 3rd largest city in NSW. Swimming, fishing, and boating are some of the popular coastal activities here. You can explore Wollongong on foot via the city walk map or on bicycle via the beachside cycle way. Visit Wollongong’s two lighthouses for some more scenic views from a different perspective.
Nan Tien Temple
Nan Tien Temple Photo Credit: nantien.org.au
Nan Tien Temple Photo Credit: nantien.org.au
Just south of Wollongong is Nan Tien Temple, the southern hemisphere’s largest Buddhist temple. It is known as “Southern Paradise” and while there you can experience the exchange of eastern and western cultures. Take a tour, experience a meditation session, enjoy some vegetarian food, or see the schedule of events for what’s on during your visit.
Wollongong to Shellharbour
Farm Beach Photo Credit: Sydney.com
Shellharbour Surfing “The Farm” Photo Credit: VisitNSW.com
The highlight of Shellharbour is Killalea Beach, known to the locals and surfers worldwide as “The Farm”. The beach, which is inside Killalea State Park is a national surfing reserve. If you aren’t a seasoned pro, no worries, mate. Plenty of lessons are available. Inside the state park, there are several walks, a picnic area, camping facilities, and wildlife to investigate.
Minnamurra Rainforest Reserve
Minnamurra Rainforest Photo Credit: Kiama.com.au
Minnamurra Falls Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Located in between Shellharbour and Kiama inside Budderoo National Park is the Minnamurra Rainforest Reserve. While on the Great Pacific Drive, this is another stop you should have on your list. It is a rare tract of subtropical and temperate rainforests. It is an award winning attraction and definitely worth your time to see the remnants of what was once an extensive rainforest throughout the Illawarra region. While there you can explore the different flora and fauna unique to the area, go on walking tours including up the paved Falls Walk. Shop in their retail store, stop in the café, or make your own picnic at the BBQ facilities.
Kiama is a beautiful beach town surrounded by green hills, forests, and pastures. You can do a lot of walking and see the sights of the town and see the shops and seaside cafes. Some of things you can do while in Kiama include sampling the local produce at the monthly Kiama Seaside Markt or the Produc Market, experience fun rides at Jamberoo Action Park, the largest theme park in NSW, delight in the local gourmet eats that are good enough to please any foodie’s pallette, charter a boat or hire a whale watching cruise during season, or take surfing lessons in one of the best “classrooms” in Australia, Seven Mile Beach. The Kiama Lighthouse is one of the must see spots of this ocean town.
Kiama Blowhole Photo Credit: Kiama.com.au
Kiama Blowhole Photo Credit: VisitNSW.com
The blowhole is Kiama’s most popular tourist attraction. Many who visit the area make a special trip just to hear the roar and witness the power of Mother Nature. The lookout offers some beautiful coastal views of the Kiama Lighthouse, the coast, and during whale watching season, you can usually see some of the whales passing by. The blowhole is not always reliable, so there is no guarantee that you will see the explosion of water through the rocks. The water spout erupts when the winds are coming from the South East and then the waves enter the mouth of the Blowhole compress the air within the cave.