Rugged coastline, pristine national parks and plenty of peace and quiet are what the Grand Pacific Drive, in New South Wales, is all about. Starting at the southern tip of Sydney, the popular touring route takes travellers through the Royal National Park, down to the surfing suburbs of Wollongong and into historic Kiama, before ending in Nowra, on the Shoalhaven River.
It’s a great long weekend road trip for those limited for time, but there’s also plenty to occupy tourists for a week or two, with countless beaches, cafes and wineries. Here are seven reasons you’ll love the Grand Pacific Drive.
1. ROYAL NATIONAL PARK
With 15,000 hectares of native bushland, the Royal National Park, on the southern fringes of Sydney, is an Australian wilderness worth your time. Think campsites, secluded beaches, pretty waterfalls and great hiking trails. The latter is one of the main drawcards, and The Coast Track is the ultimate journey to embark upon. It’s 30km one way and is best tackled over two days. It’s for experienced hikers and is certainly one to tick off the bucket list. Keen Instagrammers will enjoy the stunning coastal views from Governor Game lookout, which can be reached by car and is a great spot from which to watch migrating humpback whales between May and November. Afterwards, venture to nearby Garie Beach for a seaside picnic, and don’t forget to check out the beautiful Figure 8 Rock Pools.
2. SEA CLIFF BRIDGE
If you love a road trip just as much as the destination then make sure you drive along the Sea Cliff Bridge on your way to Wollongong. The 665m road sweeps away from the sheer cliffs of the Illawarra Escarpment and over the Pacific Ocean, and is considered an iconic New South Wales tourist attraction. Keep an eye out for the eagles that nest along the cliff, as well as the plethora of water birds and occasional bats. And in whale season, you almost can’t miss them – but remember to watch the road!
The Grand Pacific Drive stretches for 140km along the East Coast, meaning surfers are spoilt for choice when it comes to great waves. The first port of call should be Wollongong, which has 17 beaches that cater to everyone from beginner surfers to the experienced. If you’re a regular surfer head to the right-hander at Sandon Point, in the suburb of Bulli, while first-timers and families will enjoy the gentle waves at North Wollongong Beach, which is close to cafes and shops. Further south (50km), in the seaside village of Gerroa, you’ll find Seven Mile Beach, which has good, mellow waves for longboard riders and stand-up paddleboarders.
4. SEASIDE TREASURES
One of the most visited attractions on the South Coast is Kiama Blowhole, from which seawater is blasted 20m through open rocks and into the air. The natural formation is located at the aptly named Blowhole Point, and there is a viewing platform with disabled access.
After you watch the blowhole in action and get thoroughly sprayed with water, head back up the hill to Kiama Lighthouse, built in 1887. If you want to stretch your legs more, embark on the Kiama Coast Walk, a 22km trail that takes in Blowhole Point, as well as Little Blowhole, south of the main part of town.
5. HOLIDAY PARKS
Caravanners and campers will love the range of accommodation along the Grand Pacific Drive. We highly recommend Discovery Parks Gerroa, at the mouth of a river and an easy walk to the beach. There is accommodation to suit every budget, from unpowered campsites to deluxe cabins, along with a swimming pool, playground and jumping pillow. Shoalhaven Heads Tourist Park is also a popular choice, with all of the family-friendly amenities, including an aquatic playground and mini golf. The park is in a prime position, located behind the dunes at the southern end of Seven Mile Beach and alongside Shoalhaven River.
Or if you’d prefer to camp amongst the trees in the pretty coastal hinterland town of Berry, the well maintained Berry Showgrounds offer powered sites for just $13 per person, per night. There are hot showers, an RV dump point and it’s pet-friendly. The shops and cafes of bustling Berry are just a short walk away.
6. GOURMET FOOD
food offerings and stylish clothing and homewares boutiques. You’ll want to call into Berry Sourdough Cafe, on Prince Alfred Street, for a breakfast of croissants, house-toasted muesli and delicious cold-pressed juice. There’s also a sister bakery, Milkwood, along the town’s main thoroughfare (Queen Street), and it’s a good spot to grab a quick cuppa and a lamington.
Perfect Break Cafe (inside Natural Necessity Surf Shop) in Gerringong is another regional standout. It’s a vegetarian cafe, with plenty of dishes, as well as organic coffee, for the health-conscious traveller.
Meantime, if you’re a fan of country clubs, be sure to call into Gerroa Boat Fisherman’s Club, overlooking beautiful Seven Mile Beach at Gerroa. The club’s Seahorse Brasserie is a top spot for family dining, and has a great menu featuring plenty of seafood and typical pub fare.
Caravanning holidays are always a great time to unwind and contemplate life, and what better way to do so than by sampling fine, local wine. With a lush hinterland region just a stone’s throw from the coastline, there are a handful of top wineries around the Grand Pacific Drive. Silos Estate, on the outskirts of Berry, is a five-hectare vineyard producing seven varieties of grapes. Drop by the tasting room in the historic dairy shed and sample a premium chardonnay, semillon or malbec. Afterwards, take a break from the barbie and dine at the al fresco Silos Restaurant.
Coolangatta Estate is also nearby, at Mount Coolangatta. The 120-hectare property was the first settlement in the Shoalhaven District, dating back to 1822. Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided historic tour, as well as stop by the cellar door and dine in the restaurant.
TOP TOWING TIP FOR THE GRAND PACIFIC DRIVE
You won’t leave the blacktop on this trip and there’ll be plenty of highway cruising and windy coastal roads with high wind, especially over the Sea Cliff Bridge and the sweeping bends at Kiama. For optimum safe towing ensure your van is fitted with AL-KO Electronic Stability Control. This intuitive system detects van sway and corrects it, avoiding potential accidents and giving the driver greater confidence in towing. Read more about Electronic Stability Control here.