13 Epic NSW Road Trips: From Coast to Countryside
NSW road trip offers everything from pristine beaches to beautiful landscapes so unique you might think you have landed on another planet. We have spent years exploring the coastal cities and small county towns in NSW and today we thought we would try to inspire you to do the same.
Not sure where to go? Well, these road trips are a great place to start. From opals and hot springs to an open-range zoo and more than a dozen waterfalls. There’s much to do when you hit the road and explore NSW.
Because we haven’t been everywhere yet we asked our travel writing friends to share their favourite road trips in NSW to come up with 13 NSW Road Trips we think all locals should tick off their list.
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If you are new to driving in Australia then we suggest you start with this guide to Driving in Australia. You may also find our tips for renting a motorhome in Australia helpful if you want the freedom of not having to book accommodation in advance. You can rent a campervan if you are travelling on a budget, but still have the convenience of a home on wheels.
Head west: Road Trips in NSW That Are Not On The Coast
As a nation of coast dwellers, many of NSW’s favourite holiday spots are dotted on the coast between Eden and Tweed Heads. But we would love to encourage you to take the road less travelled and head inland for an epic outback adventure. There is so much to see inland. It’s time to visit our unique country towns and enjoy their hospitality.
You may not have heard of the historic town of Wentworth but I am sure you will be familiar with its best known sites.
The river town of Wentworth 1050 kilometres west of Sydney offers travellers everything from significant landmarks and fascinating colonial history to natural wonders, including one of New South Wales’s most beautiful national parks.
Wentworth sits on the junction of the Murray River and Darling River. With its lovely reserve, an observation tower and plenty of information about the intersection.
If you’re a history buff, there’s a lot to like about Wentworth. Highlights include the PS Ruby, a self-guided historical walk/drive, the wonderful Pioneer Museum and the well preserved Wentworth Gaol.
There are some great natural features around Wentworth too. Perry Sandhills is 6km south of the town. They are great for sandboarding or just walking across to appreciate their size.
Anyone with a green thumb will love The Australian Inland Botanic Gardens. It features a rose garden with over 1600 rose varieties. There is also a great playground and giant musical instruments made from recycled materials that kids will love.
Wentworth is the closest base from which to explore Mungo National Park only 150 kilometres away. The wind and water sculptured desert landscape is spectacular. Combine what you see today with the area’s 40,000-year-old indigenous history, and you have a unique location.
Wentworth is a brilliant spot to visit year-round. Although, if you don’t like the heat, avoid visiting in the summer.
Contributed by Natalie and Steve, the Curious Campers
The highlight of my Sydney to Broken Hill drive is a tie between White Cliffs and Mungo National Park. While Mungo National Park is all over Instagram, few people have heard of White Cliffs. This old-school mining town in NSW is the definition of an underrated destination. Yet it is in my opinion much cooler than its more well-known cousin in South Australia, Coober Pedy.
Visiting the strange white hilly landscape that the locals of White Cliffs call home is a fantastic experience. Underground houses can be found below the white hills and give the town its deserted feel upon arrival. They are absolutely necessary though to maintain a cool indoor climate in the gruelling heat. Don’t forget to visit one as the interior of houses such as ‘the White House’ is nothing short of spectacular.
If you are looking at staying in White Cliffs, look no further than The Underground Motel. The name gives it away, but the hotel only has underground rooms. Think cool temperatures, a lot of history, and nature’s best blackout curtains.
Marijs originally from Belgium now calls Australia home her website Rooftop Antics encourages women to travel more and gives you great solo itineraries.
NSW Answer to Coober Pedy
Located approximately 9 hours’ drive northwest of Sydney is the historic mining town of Lightning Ridge. This unique town is bursting with character and is a favourite among road trippers looking for something completely off the beaten track.
One of the primary attractions in Lightning Ridge is the natural bore baths. These natural hot springs are perfect for relaxing after a long drive. The water in these bore baths is rich in minerals, making it ideal for soaking away any aches and pains. Visitors can sink into the soothing waters while admiring the beautiful Australian outback views.
Lightning Ridge is also famous for its opal mines. You can explore the town’s mining history by visiting the mining museum and learning how opals are mined and refined. Gem shopping is also a highlight, with many shops offering exquisite opal jewelry and other gemstones. It’s very hard to leave without buying at least one!
For a unique and adventurous experience, visitors can try fossicking for opals with Opal Mine Adventure. We loved our day out with them and it was the perfect way to learn more about the character of the town. We also got to meet the local ducks!
Plan to visit in autumn or winter. In summer even the locals clear our heads deep into their mines to escape the unbearable heat.
A great introduction to outback NSW Cobar makes a great stop on a road trip to Broken Hill.
Since copper was discovered in the mid-1870s, Cobar, which sits in the middle of NSW between Dubbo and Broken Hill has been one of the state’s most productive mining towns.
The first discovery was made by a pastoralist who was led to the site by local Aborigines; I wonder if they knew what sharing the location would result in if they would have gone ahead.
Today, thanks to increased mining in recent years, activity Cobar’s is home to 4,000 people and is a busy, welcoming town. Several mines, including the New Cobar Open Cut Gold Mine and Great Cobar Copper Mine, are open for visitors.
There are several heritage buildings in Cobar and a stop at the Great Cobar Heritage Centre where you can learn about Cobar’s history is a good way to start your visit.
However, one of the biggest draw cards to the Cobar area is the incredible Aboriginal rock art. You will find it about 40 km west of the town at the Mount Grenfell historic site. The site boasts 1,300 artworks of the Wongaibon people, including hand stencils and depictions of animals and people, making it one of the most significant in the state.
Cobar is just under 700 kilometres from Sydney via Dubbo, and the drive takes about eight hours. We suggest you avoid driving between dusk and dawn as it is prime time for kangaroos, goats and emus to wander on the road. Visit in Spring or Autumn when the weather is mild. Summer can be scorching!
Suggested by Leah Smileski from Kid Bucket List who visited Cobar in NSW Central West with her whole family
The best choice for a family road trip in NSW, a trip to Dubbo includes the world class Taronga western plains zoo, the Royal Flying Doctor Centre and lots of family friendly accommodations.
Just five hours away from Sydney lies the charming town of Dubbo, which is more than just a pit stop for a visit to the Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Dubbo is by taking the scenic Great Dividing Range route. This route takes you through some of the most stunning landscapes in NSW while showcasing the natural diversity of the region. From soaring mountain ranges to sprawling farm fields, the Great Dividing Range route has it all.
Aside from its breathtaking natural scenery, Dubbo is also steeped in colonial and Indigenous history. Discover the town’s rich history by visiting landmarks such as the Old Dubbo Gaol, or learn about Australia’s first people through the exhibits at the Dubbo Regional Museum. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the Royal Flying Doctor base; an essential service that links rural Australians with vital medical care.
Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in history or explore the great outdoors, make a stop in Dubbo for a perfect family road trip.
A charming town surrounded by nature
Nestled in the heart of the New South Wales Southern Highlands, Kangaroo Valley is a small town that offers a peaceful and scenic getaway. Its lush forests, rolling hills, and picturesque river make it a must-visit destination for nature lovers.
A stroll through Kangaroo Valley’s streets will let you take it to its many heritage buildings. The historic Hampden Bridge is also worth a visit for its unique and beautiful design. Stop in at the General Cafe for some delicious homemade scones with jam and cream.
For those looking for adventure, the town also offers a variety of outdoor activities. Canoeing down the Kangaroo River is a popular choice, as is horse riding through the rolling hills. The town is also home to several bushwalking trails, which showcase its stunning natural beauty.
Kangaroo Valley is a great getaway from Sydney if you are looking for a quick drive from Sydney that delivers a quiet, back-to-nature escape.
NSW Road Trips for Foodies
The wine regions and dairy country of NSW complete with the natural beauty of our next few stops offer excellent road trip getaways that are not too far from Sydney.
Mudgee is a fantastic food and wine region, just the other side of the Blue Mountains.
Mudgee is one of NSW’s premier wine regions in the Central Tablelands of NSW. The 270 km journey will take you around 3.5 hours to 4 hours, or 45 minutes, by air with Pelican Airlines.
Mudgee is home to over 35 wineries, a gin distillery, cheese-makers, local restaurants and bars. You can wander the historical streets of Mudgee in the morning taking in the colonial buildings that date back to the 1800s, or enjoy a coffee at one of the many coffee shops before heading to one of the local wineries for wine tasting and farm-to-table lunch experiences. Two of our favourite wineries are Gooree Park Wines and Moothi Estate.
The best time to visit Mudgee is in the spring or autumn. The summer months between December and February will see temperatures reaching the high 30s. If you can plan to visit Mudgee between Thursday and Sunday, you will find all the wineries and restaurants open, and some of the smaller wineries close between Monday and Wednesday.
You can choose from a range of accommodations from boutique hotels, glamping, bed and breakfasts, pubs and farm stays.
Suggested by Jane from To Travel Too
A very pretty town with a fabulous food and wine industry. This is a great place for a romantic getaway.
Orange is a sophisticated, large country town buzzing with quality and hatted restaurants, cafes and wine bars, high-end boutiques, and artisanal stores. All this is surrounded by vineyards and over 40 cellar doors on the outskirts of the town. Orange in the Central West is ideal for a country food lover escape. It’s a great place to experience ‘living like a local’.
Just a 3.5-hour scenic drive from Sydney west over the Blue Mountains, Orange is also accessible by XPT train and direct daily flights from Sydney with REX Airlines.
Blessed by four distinct seasons, you’ll want to keep coming back to experience them all. The annual Orange F.O.O.D Week festival each April coincides with the autumn produce harvest and wine vintage, attracting over 10,000 visitors to the region over its two-week program.
Six months later, the Orange Wine Festival is held in October, incorporating the Orange Wine Show where local vignerons uncork the latest vintage to review the spectacular results.
The Orange wine region is the highest altitude wine-producing region in Australia (starting at 600 metres up to 1,100 metres above sea level). The cool-climate wines of the Orange region are produced in an elegant, full-bodied style similar to Europe with the Chardonnay, Sparkling, Shiraz and Pinot Noir varietals the stars of the region.
Contributed by Orange local, Kelly Anne from Silver Compass Tours
Maitland and Morpeth
While a trip to the Hunter Valley is on many getaway lists but nearby Maitland and Morpeth are fabulous towns with plenty to keep you entertained.
While many are familiar with the fabulous wineries in the Hunter Valley, the adjacent county towns of Maitland and Morpeth have developed a strong foodie culture that is the perfect foil to their region’s supply of world-class wines, farm-fresh produce and quality artisan foods.
The chefs and owners of the innovative local cafés, restaurants and bakeries have put the towns on the map as a must-visit destination for food lovers.
Located just a 2-hour drive from Sydney, it’s easy to incorporate Maitland and Morpeth into your NSW country road trip. It’s a picturesque drive too, as both historic towns are on the banks of the mighty Hunter River with plenty of open farmland and rolling fields.
Another reason to visit these historic river port towns is their gorgeous heritage buildings and the stories from the past. Take one of the self-guided heritage walks, join a tour of Morpeth Gaol, wander along the riverfront and seek out the street art down by the Levee.
There’s no one right time to visit the Maitland area, but our pick is when the temperatures fall, and you can enjoy cozying up in front of an open fire with the famed Hunter Valley hospitality.
Suggested by Toni from 2 Aussie Travellers
Read about our stay in Morpeth and Maitland earlier this year.
Iconic Coastal road trips in NSW
Beach holidays on the NSW Coast are an unforgettable experience for almost every Sydneysider the beautiful beaches and amazing stops along the Pacific highway offer plenty of options for a fabulous scenic drive.
The 3rd largest city in NSW this Illawarra Coast hotspot is an easy escape on the city’s doorstep
Located just an hour south of Sydney, Wollongong is a vibrant coastal city less than ninety minutes from Sydney. With its stunning beaches, acclaimed restaurants, and chic city bars, Wollongong has something for everyone.
The city’s beaches are a major draw card, with the famous surf break at North Wollongong Beach attracting surfers from all over the world. But it’s not just about the surf – Wollongong’s beaches are also perfect for swimming, fishing, and relaxing in the sun.
When it comes to dining, Wollongong has plenty of options to choose from. Head to the bustling Crown Street for a range of cuisines, from modern Australian to Asian fusion.
As the sun sets, Wollongong comes to life with a range of night-time entertainment options. For a laidback vibe, head to the Illawarra Brewery for craft beer and live music. For a more intimate experience, the wine bar at Mia Mia is the perfect spot to sample some of the region’s best drops. And for a night to remember, Pepe’s on the Beach in North Wollongong is a must-visit – with stunning views of the ocean and delicious food and drinks on offer.
Related: We recently spent 2 nights in Newcastle and had a great time!
Home of the white sand beaches
Jervis Bay, located on the south coast of New South Wales, is an ideal destination for a NSW road trip itinerary. The bay is renowned for its crystal clear waters and white sand beaches, making it an oasis for beach lovers and water enthusiasts alike.
One of the most popular spots in Jervis Bay is Huskisson, an idyllic seaside town with a lively atmosphere. Take a stroll down the main street for a range of boutique shops and cafes, or grab a meal at Pilgrims Vegetarian Cafe, a favourite amongst locals and visitors alike.
For nature lovers, Booderee National Park is an absolute must-visit. With its pristine beaches, rugged coastline, and lush forests, this park is home to an abundance of wildlife and biodiversity.
In addition to swimming and snorkelling, Jervis Bay is also a whale watching hotspot. During the winter months, visitors may catch a glimpse of humpback whales as they migrate along the coast.
Overall, Jervis Bay is a beautiful coastal destination with a range of attractions and activities to explore. Consider staying at Mollymook, a pretty beach town with plenty of accommodation options.
A Picturesque Coastal City on the mid-north coast
Coffs Harbour is a beautiful coastal city located halfway between Sydney and Brisbane on the North Coast of New South Wales. Known for its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and laid-back vibe, it is a popular stop for road trippers exploring the east coast.
One of the must-visit attractions in Coffs Harbour is the Big Banana, an iconic landmark of the city. Visitors can enjoy fun activities such as a giant slide, mini-golf, and a water park at this family-friendly attraction.
Jetty Beach is another great spot for a swim or a picnic with its calm waters and scenic views. For those interested in marine life, the National Marine Science Centre is a fascinating place to learn about the underwater world and conservation efforts.
Muttonbird Island is a beautiful nature reserve and home to hiking trails offering stunning views of the coastline and abundant birdlife.
We usually stay at the Oaks Resort and Spa which has breathtaking ocean views and excellent amenities. The Big 4 Caravan Park is a great choice for families.
Tip: Make sure you stop off for a delicious and fresh seafood meal, at the iconic Fishermen’s Co-Op.
Coffs Harbour is the perfect destination for road-trippers looking for a peaceful coastal getaway with plenty of natural beauty and family-friendly fun activities to indulge in.
A classic Aussie coastal town with beautiful beaches and a laid-back vibe
Located in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Kingscliff is a coastal town that offers a serene and relaxed atmosphere. Known for its long gorgeous beaches, Kingscliff is a perfect stop for those looking to unwind and soak up the sun.
The town’s pristine white sand beaches are perfect for swimming, sunbathing or surfing. The nearby Cudgen Creek also offers calmer waters for those looking for a more relaxed experience.
Kingscliff is surrounded by scenic drives, making it a perfect stop for road trippers. Visitors can take a scenic drive that offers panoramic ocean views as well as the panoramas of the stunning hinterland.
For adventure enthusiasts, Kingscliff offers a range of outdoor activities such as mountain biking and walking tracks through the nearby nature reserves and national parks. The town also boasts a range of dining options, from fresh seafood to wine bars, as well as boutique shops selling local art and crafts.
Overall, Kingscliff is a laid-back and charming coastal town that offers a perfect stop for visitors looking for relaxation and outdoor adventures.
Want to start with shorter drives? Check out our list of day trips 1-2 hours from Sydney.
About the author: Paula Morgan, a born-and-bred Sydney resident, has been sharing this city and its secret spots for over 15 years. She’s not just about the iconic landmarks; she’s all about the hidden alleys adorned with street art, and the joy of discovering a new café or a fabulous restaurant tucked away in a corner you never knew existed and weekends away exploring regional NSW.