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Best Road Trips NSW: Beautiful Drives to Escape the City

In need of a cruisey break from city life? The best road trips in NSW are the answer.

Sea Cliff Bridge (Image Credit: Destination NSW)

The humble road trip is having a revival and celebration is in order. The freedom of the road offers a cruisey weekend or week-long break with the opportunity to take things at your own pace. Discover natural beauty, charming towns and award-winning cellar doors, from the South Coast and the Central Coast to outback NSW and the mountains.

If you’re ready to swap gridlock traffic for the open road, take your pick from our guide to the best road trips in NSW below. 

Best Road Trips NSW: NSW North Coast Road Trip

Byron Bay

The Legendary Pacific Coast

As the name suggests, this is the classic coastal road trip in Australia. The picturesque Pacific Highway is bookmarked by two major cities – Sydney and Brisbane – and follows 900km of pristine beaches, seaside towns, unspoilt hinterland and national parks.

The journey is a holiday in itself. And while you could do it all in one go, it’s best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Allow plenty of leeway for spontaneous stops and swims along one of the best North Coast NSW road trips.

If you’re starting from Sydney, you’ll head north and weave your way through the Central Coast, Port Stephens, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Ballina and the bohemian paradise of Byron Bay. If you want to take it interstate, you can cross the border and cruise by Tweed Heads before ending in the glittery Gold Coast.

If you're looking for luxury accommodation with a spot of fine dining along the way, Pretty Beach House in Bouddi National Park exudes everything one would expect from a premium bush lodge, with total seclusion and serenity as your constant companion.

Terrigal to Newcastle

Another drive that makes the most of the legendary Pacific Coast is this beauty. the Terrigal to Newcastle drive consists of five hours of scenic coastlines, national parks and idyllic coastal towns.

Beginning in Terrigal, take the Central Coast Highway to get the best views as you roam through Wamberal, Forresters Beach, The Entrance and Lake Macquarie. Wyrrabalong National Park and Wallarah National Park add a touch of rainforest scenery to your itinerary.

It's easy to see why this is one of the best road trips in NSW, especially for Sydneysiders. 

Southern Tablelands via Destination NSW

Southern Tablelands Trail

Take yourself away from the main highway and drive along the route less travelled to discover the buzzing colonial towns reflective of the Gold Rush era in NSW.

The route between Queanbeyan and Braidwood is peppered with historic mining villages to admire like Captains Flat and Majors Creek. This trail is rich in history, charm and picturesque countryside to recharge in. It would be regrettable to miss the Queanbeyan Heritage Walk on one of the best road trips in NSW. The walk explores the major historic buildings of the 1800s and early 1900s that helped shape the township.

Stop in Braidwood to enjoy a meal at the heritage-listed Albion Café formerly known as the Albion Hotel built in 1872, which was said to have held “grand and boisterous parties”. Today, it is the heart and soul of the community with an abundance of historic country charm and locally supplied produce.

When it's time to reward your driving efforts, The Captains Flat Hotel is the second longest bar in the Southern Hemisphere after The Trust in Melbourne, sitting at 32 metres in length. The bar was designed to accommodate many thirsty miners, expending approximately 13,900 litres of beer a week. The hotel was closed due to the pandemic but has recently been bought by a local family hoping to restore the site to the glory of its heyday.

Best Road Trips NSW: Northern NSW Road Trip

Hunter Valley

If you’re going to be spending the weekend in glorious wine country, you may as well take the scenic route to get there, right? One of the best road trips in NSW, this stretch is also known as Tourist Drive 33.

The scenic drive from Sydney to the Hunter Valley takes you through the heart of Australia’s oldest wine region. Take the Calga exit on the M1 and explore the World-Heritage-Listed Great North Road through picturesque rural townships including Peats Ridge, Wollombi, Cessnock and Branxton.

Once you arrive in the Hunter, recharge at one of these luxury accommodation options before sipping your way through the region's best wineries

Best Road Trips NSW: Southern NSW

Image Credits: Destination NSW 

Riverina to Snowy Valleys Way  

Rev up your taste buds on an exhilarating winter drive that begins in the food-bowl town of Griffith, six hours southwest of Sydney. Stock up with local goodies before heading on to the relaxing country town of Narrandera, making a short detour to visit Lillypilly Estate Winery and Toorak Winery in Leeton to pick up a bottle or two of Riverina region wine to enjoy at the end of the day.  

Elevate a picnic lunch in Kindra State Forest, on the journey from Narrandera to Junee, with tasty morsels from Coolamon Cheese Co. in Coolamon. Relive your childhood fantasies at Junee Licorice & Chocolate Factory in Junee, then cruise south for another half an hour to Wagga Wagga for a revitalising cocktail at Birdy Bar before dinner at Magpie's Nest. Set in renovated stone stables dating from the 1860s, the location is as memorable as the modern Australian cuisine.

Allow the Sturt Highway to carry you towards the dreamy Snowy Mountains via charming towns such as Adelong and Tumut. Further south is Tumbarumba, where Australia’s highest peaks form a magnificent backdrop to an emerging wine region.

Seek out installations by Australian and international artists on the expanding Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail, in and around the towns of Adelong and Tumbarumba, as well as Batlow and Tooma. Travel deeper into this soul-stirring area on the Kosciuszko Alpine Way and discover the raw beauty of Kosciuszko National Park.

This drive may come with a jam-packed itinerary, but that's what makes it one of the best road trips in NSW you can take.

Best Road Trips NSW: Western NSW

Greater Blue Mountains Drive

Breathe in the crisp mountain air as you weave up winding roads into the wondrous wilderness west of Sydney on the Greater Blue Mountains Drive, taking your time to admire the heritage buildings of Springwood, Faulconbridge, Wentworth Falls and Leura en route to Katoomba. 

Katoomba doubles as a handy base for immersing in the storied history and superb natural settings of Leura, Blackheath, Mount Victoria and the Megalong Valley. Time your visit for mid-winter and you might even be lucky enough to wake one morning to the magical sight of the region’s eucalypt forests dusted with a layer of snow.  

Soak up the dramatic Central Tablelands location of Lithgow to the north before taking an alternative route back to Sydney through historic Windsor. Stretch your legs en route in the lush surrounds of the cool-climate Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah, where you can also indulge in a hearty lunch.

The scent of ripening winter fruit perfumes the air as you near the apple orchards of Bilpin on the final leg of your drive towards Windsor – pick up edible souvenirs at farmgate stalls along the way.  

Best Road Trips NSW: South Coast NSW Road Trip

Kangaroo Valley

Fill your lungs with fresh country air on the Sydney to Kangaroo Valley drive. Kangaroo Valley is located two hours south of the CBD and boasts lush scenery, secluded valleys and village stop-offs.

You can choose to combine the coast and the country on the M1 route through Stanwell Tops and Bulli or immerse yourself in Southern Highlands’ charms along the M31, enjoying Mittagong, Bowral and Fitzroy Falls along the way.

There is plenty to do once you arrive in the town itself from boutique stores to river paddles. As for accommodation, you'll find a heap of charming options. Be sure to fuel up at The General Cafe before heading back to the city. 

Image Credits: Bottom Left (@emma_marie)

Royal National Park

The Royal National Park is the second-oldest national park in the world and one of the best ways to see the diversity of the landscapes on offer is by taking a cruise along one of the best road trips in NSW.

The 50-kilometre stretch begins just outside Loftus in the city’s south and concludes near Stanwell Tops. There are plenty of places to stop off should you fancy a walk or a place to lay out a picnic rug. 

If you're looking for somewhere to grab a bite, we recommend popping into Audley Dance Hall & Cafe, nestled right in the middle of the park. They serve up a killer coffee alongside brekky, lunch and cakes - all from the tranquillity of the peaceful valley in which it is nestled. You can even hire a rowboat or kayak for a paddle on the river. Finish your drive by gazing out at the view from Bald Hill. 

Image Credits: Top (Destination NSW), Bottom Left (@jimmey.drone)

Grand Pacific Drive

The legendary Grand Pacific Drive is the perfect introduction to Sydney’s scenic side. Traversing 48 national parks and 12 state forests, Grand Pacific Drive delivers a rewarding snapshot of the breathtaking Pacific Coast.

The 104-kilometre stretch begins at the Royal National Park south of the CBD and continues through numerous coastal townships including Wollongong, Kiama and Shoalhaven. Make like a tourist and get snappy happy at the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge.

If you're looking for somewhere to fuel up, The Imperial at Clifton offers sweeping views out across the ocean. They also deliver picnic hampers to numerous spots along the coast if you fancy a hassle-free outdoor dining experience.

For the cutest accommodation on the South Coast, check into the retro and boutique Motel Molly

Best Road Trips NSW: NSW Outback Road Trip

The Long Paddock Drive

Step back into Australia’s pioneer past on The Long Paddock Drive with an outback NSW road trip. Relive an iconic chapter of Australia’s history as you trace the historic Cobb Highway, an integral stock route from the Murray River through the Riverina region of southwest NSW to the edge of the outback.  

Tweak your itinerary to pack as much joy into your journey as you can with the help of the friendly folk at the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre in Echuca Moama at the start of the drive, before making the hour-long trip from Moama to the town of Deniliquin. Imagine what it must have been like to pass through the now-peaceful town in the mid–19th century, when Deniliquin was a busy livestock trading centre. 

Refresh with a well-earned drink at the atmospheric Royal Mail Hotel, the last coaching inn on the stock route, in Booroorban, as you continue your journey north. Then move leisurely on to the towns of Hay and Booligal, where you can get a taste of unpolished outback charm. 

Take a moment to admire The Pioneers, a mural by Wayne Strickland Norin Ivanhoe, north of Booligal, before making your way to the Ivanhoe Hotel Motel. Meet local characters and get a feel for the land over a pub meal before embarking on the final leg to Wilcannia, where you’ll uncover even more historical treasures. If you're an Australian history fan, this is one of the best road trips in NSW for you!

Image Credits: Top and Bottom Left (Destination NSW), Bottom Right (Destination Broken Hill) 

Central to Outback NSW  

Revel in the sense of adventure as you buckle up for a thrilling drive into the heart of the NSW outback. Start by taking a walk on the wild side in Dubbo, a five-hour drive west of Sydney, and see lions up close on a Pride Lands Patrol at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Wind down the window for a blast of fresh country air as you head west on the Mitchell Highway to Nyngan to check out the Nyngan Museum. Then take a restorative walk in the Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve wetlands before diving into country NSW’s mining history in Cobar, 132km inland on the Barrier Highway.  

Glimpse through an intriguing window into the Wilcannia’s past as a thriving river port via its beautiful sandstone buildings. Learn more at the town’s Pioneer Museum, housed in the Athenaeum Library building from 1883, then immerse yourself in the abundant wildlife that makes the Darling River home during a stay at Warrawong On The Darling

Finally, set your sights on Broken Hill, Australia’s first heritage-listed city. Prepare to be amazed by the vibrancy of this remote cultural hub, where you’ll find period buildings, great dining and thought-provoking galleries. Be mesmerised by the clarity of the Milky Way in the dark skies outside Broken Hill during a Spectacular Sky Encounter with Outback Astronomy — an unexpected road trip view you won’t soon forget.  

Loved our edit of the best road trips in NSW and looking for more driving escapes? Check out the best road trips in Australia and the best Victorian road trips to embark on this year

Our Sitchu editors work hard to deliver you the best products, events and venues that we hope you will love, each one is selected independently. Sitchu may receive an affiliate commission when you follow some links.

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