10 Scenic Drives from Sydney: Places to visit by car

We have put together this list of the best scenic drives from Sydney to inspire you to jump in the car and explore a somewhere new or rediscover some place you love. Get off the highway, take some back roads, do the official tourist drives and discover some of the small villages and coastal towns in NSW; they have so much to offer.

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Places to Visit Near Sydney by Car

Are you feeling like heading out for a Sunday drive? We have pulled together this list of places to drive to in Sydney and surrounds. So get to work and fill your calendar with a bunch of new local experiences.

To help you plan, we have included:

  • Approximate time and distance for each of these scenic drives
  • Things to do and places to see along the way
  • Tips for what and where to eat
  • Local resources for further planning
  • Details of interesting walks in the area in case you want to stretch your legs

We are sure you will enjoy what we think are the ten best one-day road trips from Sydney.

Day Trips 1 hour from Sydney

Perfect for a weekend where a bit of a sleep in might have you off to a slow start. These first trips are all only about a 1 hour drive from the Sydney CBD.

Royal National Park

Just 60 minutes south of the city is the Royal National Park, the second oldest National Park in the world. Why is it royal, you ask? Well, it seems it does not take much to get that moniker added to a name, Queen Elizabeth II did not even visit but merely passed by in her train on her 1954 inaugural visit.

Several of the park’s most picturesque spots have gained Instagram fame in recent years, including Figure 8 Pools and Wedding Cake Rock. Sadly, both sites have seen a negative impact thanks to their popularity.

Wedding Cake Rock is now fenced off as it is quite unstable, and access to Figure 8 Pools can be tricky, with sudden tide changes being quite dangerous. The pools are in remote parts of the park, not that easy to access, so read up before you head off if you plan to visit.

 scenic drives from Sydney to Eagle Rock Royal National Park
Eagle Rock near Wattamolla

While these sites are still well worth visiting, I encourage you to find some of the other less known one’slike Eagle Rock, Winifred Falls and row boating at Audley.

If you are not an experienced bushwalker, I recommend you book a small group tour with an authorised guide. This tour is excellent and perfect for discovering new places, particularly for solo travellers.

Wattamolla Beach Royal National Park Sydney
Wattamolla Lagoon and beach

Wattamolla is easy to find and also gets quite a bit of “Instalove” too. It gets busy on hot summer days, but on weekdays it’s a lovely spot for a walk and a swim.

If you decide to jump off the rocks here, check the water level in the lagoon first. There have been some pretty nasty accidents.

Check out our detailed guide to visiting the Royal National Park

The park has a lot more to offer than the spots made famous on social media.

Among our favourite places in the Royal are the beaches of Burning Palms, Era, and Garie. These are brilliant spots to get away from the crowds. Make your way to Garrawarra Farm Carpark and follow the track to Era or Burning Palms beaches. The extra walking time means fewer people!

Burning Palms Royal National Park
Burning Palms Credit: Nick Cubbin DPIE

Garie Beach is the only patrolled beach in the park and swimming at these beaches can be dangerous, so stay where you can stand up! There is a small kiosk at Garie that is sometimes open, but it’s best to carry your water and snacks with you.

Bundeena Rock art site Sydney Bucket list
Aboriginal Engravings at Bundeena

If you fancy a less strenuous visit, then perhaps head to the coastal village of Bundeena, at the northern end of the park. You can reach Bundeena by ferry or by taking the Bundeena Drive turn off.

The major attractions here are the Aboriginal rock engraving site, the almost empty beaches and the sandstone clifftop walk. The community is also home to several artists, and some have small galleries you can visit.

Local Tip: Visit Bundeena on the first Sunday of the month for their Art Trail.

Royal National Park Road Trip Facts
Time (one way):
 50 minutes from CBD
Distance (one way): 30km
Best time of year to visit: Year-round but can get incredibly busy on summer weekends
Things to do on this trip: lookouts, bush walks, flora and fauna
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Check out this guide to walking in Royal National park if you want to explore more of the park.

Cottage Point and Church Point

If you are looking for a relaxing, picturesque drive where your biggest challenge is deciding where to eat, this is for you. Cottage Point, Sydney’s smallest suburb with only 52 homes, is surrounded by Ku-ring-gai National Park.

Church Point Pittwater Sydney
Pittwater paradise

Things to do at Cottage Point or Church Point

Did you know the classic children’s TV show of the 1970s Skippy was filmed in and around Cottage Point?

After you have finished checking out Cottage Point, it’s a 20-minute drive along McCarrs Creek Road to Church Point.

Once you arrive, take a ferry ride from Church Point and visit Halls Wharf (home of Pittwater YHA) and Scotland Island. The return trip takes 40 minutes and is a lovely experience, but if you have time, get off for a wander.

The ferry runs hourly, but check the timetable and be sure of your pickup before leaving the pier. There are water taxis if you get waylaid and miss the public ferry.

Church Point Road Trip Facts
Time (one way): 40 minutes
Distance (one way): 35km
Best time of year to visit: Year-round
Things to do on this trip: take a ferry ride, dine at one of the restaurants, views
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Related: Check out our Ultimate Guide to the Best Parks in Sydney

Wilberforce and Windsor

These towns on the Hawkesbury River are two of five Macquarie Towns. Governor Macquarie chose these sites for purpose-built settlements to support nearby settlers who had moved to the area to farm Sydney’s food supply.

Just 7km apart, many of the original buildings still stand and it’s a pleasant walk through history.

Things to see in Wilberforce and Windsor

If you would like some context or background to these spots, why not follow one of the self-guided history walks from the Hawkesbury Heritage Association

If history is not your thing, don’t worry, adrenaline is also high on the menu here!

Check out:

Windsor Road Trip Facts
Time (one way):
 55 minutes
Distance (one way): 60km
Best time of year to visit: Year-round
Things to do on this trip: Learn about colonial history, enjoy water sports on the river
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Wiseman’s Ferry and St Albans

Wiseman’s Ferry and St Albans mix heritage with nature, two historic settlements sandwiched between two national parks, offering you plenty to explore.

Hawkesbury River
Hawkesbury River is popular for waterskiing

Solomon Wiseman, a former convict, was granted land here by Governor Macquarie in 1817 and within ten years had established a ferry service across the Hawkesbury River from trade between Sydney and the settlement at Newcastle. The service continued to be the primary route between the two cities until 1945 when the Peats River Bridge at Brooklyn opened.

On your way into town, stop at Hawkins Lookout (map reference) just outside the centre of the city.

Hawkesbury River Hawkins Lookout
Sunset overlooking the Hawkesbury River from Hawkins Lookout Credit: Destination NSW

Things to do at Wiseman Ferry

  • Pick mandarins from Ford’s Farm and Watkins Family Farm.
  • Head to Tobruk Station to learn all about shearing and rounding up sheep
  • Have a drink at the Historic Settler’s Arms Inn in St Albans; it’s an original stopover for Cobb and Co Stagecoaches.
  • Take some of the bushwalks in Dharug and Yengo National Parks
  • Walk the Old Great North Road – World Heritage-listed walk, a 9km loop.
  • Take the four-minute ride on the free Wiseman’s Ferry, the oldest still in operation in NSW.

After a walk around Wiseman’s Ferry, drive on to the National Trust listed hamlet of St Albans.

The Great North Road is part of the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Listing. Convicts carved the road out of solid rock, a punishment for re-offending after arriving in Sydney.

Wisemans Ferry Road Trip Facts
Time (one way):
60 minutes
Distance (one way): 75km
Best time of year to visit: Autumn for gorgeous foliage, winter for fruit picking
Things to do on this trip: Pick mandarins, stroll ancient paths, watch sheep shearing
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Day trips from Sydney that take a little longer

If you are up with the sparrows, and looking for new places to visit near Sydney by car, these slightly longer drives between 2-3 hours offer even more variety.


We have been visiting Berry regularly since we were kids. As teenagers, it was not uncommon to make the drive to get doughnuts (well, it was really for the ride, but doughnuts gave us a reason).

These days we stop in Berry a few times a year on our way to Jervis Bay for holidays. For us, it’s impossible to stay on the highway and not turn off!

Berry NSW local attraction donut van
The Berry Donut van is one of the most popular spots in Berry

Approx 150km from Sydney, you can make the trip to Berry via the highway, but we suggest you do at least one way of the journey via the Grand Pacific Drive and coastal route.

This coastal route will add a little time, but you will be glad of it. We also recommend stopping briefly at Gerringong and Gerroa, two of the prettiest beach towns in the area. You can save time by returning to Sydney via the inland route.

The main thoroughfare of Berry Queen Street is full of shops to tempt your credit card from your wallet. A ridiculous number of homeware stores and boutiques make this a fantastic place to head to for gift shopping. There is always something unique to be found.

main street of Berry on NSW South Coast
Homeware store on Queen Street Berry

Berry is a brilliant spot for a meat pie, there are two pie shops in town, and the charming Milkwood Bakery always gets excellent reviews. The pies and cakes at Milkwood are delicious, but we think the old school versions at the Berry Bakery are pretty tasty too.

If you would rather walk than shop, there are two choices nearby. The slightly challenging Drawing Room Rocks walk with its spectacular views over the lush green valley to Shoalhaven’s beaches and the flat but equally rewarding walks in Seven Mile Beach National Park.

Alternatively, take this scenic drive.

Berry Inn
Berry Inn on Queen Street in Berry

We once spent the night at The Berry Hotel, which gave us even more time to explore the area. The hotel, built in 1863, has particularly affordable rooms and a self-contained flat which makes a great base.

Berry Road Trip Facts
Time (one way):
 2 hours
Distance (one way): 140km
Best time of year to visit: Year-round
Things to do on this trip: Cafes and shopping, ocean views en route
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Berrima and Bowral

The Southern Highlands towns of Berrima and Bowral southwest of Sydney have a lot to offer on a day trip. Surrounded by national parks and waterfalls, these two villages are the perfect antidote to city life.

Only ten minutes apart, the towns make an easy halfway stop on the way to Canberra.

Bowral NSW day trip to the shops
Shopping in Bowral

The region is known for its excellent produce; food lovers will be kept busy exploring vineyards and distilleries, truffle farms or award-winning bakeries and a vast range of fine dining and growers markets.

Surrounded by national parks and waterfalls, a day in Berry and Bowral is perfect for hikes and picnics. Try to include some lookouts and short walks in the nearby Morton National Park while you are here.

Bowral is home to the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame, for some, this is the sole reason for their visit, but even if you are not a fan, this is an excellent museum and well worth a visit.

Bradman Statue Bowral Museum
The Bradman Museum

There are a couple of significant annual events, including Pie Time in June and Tulip Time in late September. There is also a popular monthly market held on the second Saturday of the month at the Bowral Public School.

While you are in the area, include a stop at Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park.

Berrima is a small village established in the 1830s when explorers began mapping out the region. Only 120km southwest of Sydney, the drive will take you about 80 minutes.

Berrima Village is a lovely day trip from Sydney
Berrima Pottery

There are also several charming shops, including the famous hand-stirred jam shop. If you are here on the fourth Sunday of the month, check out the Berrima Schoolyard Markets.

Berkelow Book Barn is a great reason to drive to the Southern Highlands for the day
Eat lunch in a bookshop!

My number one stop is the Berkelouw Book Barn; it’s a big draw card as is the Berrima Courthouse Museum and old goal.

Be sure to drop into the historic Surveyor General Inn, the oldest ongoing licensed premises in Australia; the perfect excuse to order a beer!

For more information on visiting Berrima and Bowral, head to the Southern Highlands Visitors Centre.

Berrima and Bowral Road Trip Facts
Time (one way):
 1 hour 40 minutes
Distance (one way): 120km
Best time of year to visit: Spring for the flower festival and autumn for fall colours
Things to do on this trip: Waterfalls, walking trails, museums and shops
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The bushfires of summer 2020 bought the tiny town of Bilpin to national attention, but for some locals, this has long been the place to head to pick your own apples and stone fruit.

Two cider companies, Bilpin Cider Co and Hillbilly Cider, both offer tastings and lovely grounds to enjoy and explore.

Bilpin Cider is a fun day out of Sydney
We loved our cider tasting at Bilpin Cider Company

Garden lovers are in luck with some beautiful gardens open to the public including:

  • Wildwood cool climate gardens
  • Blue Mountains Botanic Garden and the Botanists Way Discovery Centre
  • The Succulent & Herb Nursery at Bilpin Permaculture Farm
Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens
Mount Tomah Botanic Garden

Find all our favourite things to do in the Blue Mountains here

Pack a picnic lunch – there are plenty of lovely places to throw down a blanket in the garden, or if you don’t have a blanket, Bilpin Cider Company has a bunch for visitors to use. Alternatively, The Potager Mount Tomah has the most beautiful balcony overlooking the area, and they make a mighty fine pie! There are other options on our list of nearby Blue Mountains picnic spots.

Bilpin Cider
Grab a blanket and a cider and enjoy the sunshine at Bilpin Cider

Families might want to schedule a stop at Madisons Mountain Retreat for the afternoon alpaca feeding.

Finally, be sure to stop into one of the local orchids to pick some fruit (or buy it if you prefer). There are a bunch to choose from, and they are usually open from November to May.

Bilpin Road Trip Facts
Time (one way):
 90 mins
Distance (one way): 90-110km depending on the route you choose
Best time of year to visit: Spring and summer for fruit picking, autumn for foliage
Things to do on this trip: pick fruit, explore gardens and lookouts
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Related: Check out our 3 Blue Mountains Road Trip itineraries

Kangaroo Valley

I took my first weekend trip to Kangaroo Valley at 18; we camped in a bushland area known as the Promise Land and I immediately fell in love with this part of NSW.

At about two hours’ driving time from Sydney, Kangaroo Valley is just the right distance for a day trip. The town centre, while small, has some lovely sandstone buildings and a charming old-world feel.

Hampden Bridge Kangaroo Valley
Hampden Bridge Kangaroo Valley

Perhaps the best know view of Kangaroo Valley is the Historic Hampden Bridge which crosses the Kangaroo River. In the spring and summer, you can hire kayaks or take kayak tours of the area.

The valley is also the perfect stop for some easy bushwalking. Our favourite, The Three Views Trail, starts about 20km from the centre of Kangaroo Valley and is suitable for most fitness levels.

The walk will take you to three viewpoints over the Shoalhaven gorge. It’s also wonderful for wildlife spotting with regular sightings of wombats, goanna and occasionally snakes, so keep your wits about you 😉

It’s also only a short drive from here to Fitzroy Falls.

Fitzroy Falls NSW Southern Highlands
Fitzroy waterfall in Kangaroo Valley

Where to eat in Kangaroo Valley
If you arrive hungry for some breakfast, try the General Cafe. They have some healthy options, including several interesting fruit combinations with cashew cream for vegans.

For lunch, we recommend the pub, the Friendly Inn, which has been trading since 1892. We always enjoy a visit to an old school country pub, and this one does not disappoint. The beer garden has a splendid view, and the burgers are pretty decent.

If you fancy a picnic grab some pies from Southern Pines, they do a mean pie with mash and peas, although the cheeseburger pie is their signature dish.

I feel lucky to have discovered the charms of this valley so early in my life as we have been visiting regularly ever since. If you have never been, I highly recommend you do soon!

Kangaroo Valley Key Facts
Time (one way):
 2 hours
Distance (one way): 150km
Best time of year to visit: Autumn and Spring are the prettiest. Kayaking in summer is popular.
Things to do on this trip: Bushwalk, kayak, eat all the pies
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Related: Check out our guide to the Southern Highlands

Kiama and Minimurra Rainforest

One of the prettiest east coast drives near Sydney has you heading south from the city through the Royal National Park to the coastal town of Kiama. There are plenty of things to do here to fill a day or a weekend.

The scenic route will take you a little longer, but it is time well spent! You travel along the Grand Pacific Drive, NSW answer to the Great Ocean Road and over the beautiful SeaCliff Bridge.

Weekend in Wollongong SeaCliff Bridge
Sea Cliff Bridge

Once you reach Kiama, we recommend a stop for brunch at Otis Deli. Emily Herbert, former head chef at Ottolenghi in London, opened this small cafe a few months ago, and it has already made a name for itself. If you are not hungry yet, pick up some fantastic picnic items.

Next up is the famous Blow Hole. While it almost always delivers, there are some days when the weather does not behave. Water is sucked into the cave and blows out the top of these rocks.

Kiama Blowhole
Waiting for a wave at the blowhole

I have to be honest, I usually find it pretty underwhelming unless the swell is up and would recommend you visit my favourite rock formation in the area of Cathedral Rocks.

You will find these rocks, a hotspot for photographers, particularly at sunrise and sunset on the northern side of Kiama.

Cathedral Rocks Kiama NSW South Coast
Cathedral Rocks near Kiama

A quick google search will find hundreds of photos of this site by skilled artists and plenty of tips for how to capture these beautiful rocks.

On the way back to Sydney, a detour to Minnamurra Rainforest in Budderro National Park is a lovely way to spend an hour or two. There are two bushwalks here. The walk to the Falls is preferred (4.2km), but if you are travelling with younger kids, the rainforest loop is a better option.

Kiama Road Trip Facts
Time (one way):
 2 hours 15 min – via the coastal route, 1 hr 50 via the M1
Distance (one way): 118km
Best time of year to visit: spring and summer
Things to do on this trip: Visit the blowhole and Cathedral Rocks, eat at Kiama
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Patonga and Pearl Beach – Central Coast

Home to less than 600 people, Pearl Beach is a little piece of paradise that remained a Central Coast secret until well into the 1980s. Nearby Patonga, home to 200 or so, was once a tiny fishing village and a popular spot for summer and weekend holidays.

The biggest drawcards on the coast are the views. One of the finest is from Mount Ettalong Lookout. A short and easy walk from the car park on a mostly flat, wide path. To the south, a superb view of Lion Island and Pearl Beach. Look to the north, and you will see Umina Beach.

Pearl Beach from Mount Ettalong Lookout
Pearl Beach from Mount Ettalong Lookout

Pearl Beach to Patonga Track is a 90-minute walk along a fire trail in Brisbane Water National Park. The red gums and ocean views make a lovely escape, but this is a challenging walk for most people. Be sure to wear good walking shoes and expect some steep hilly terrain.

You can tackle just the part of the trail, by starting at Patonga and walking as far as Warrah Lookout before retracing your steps. You will find a list of our favourite Central Coast walks here.

Patonga Beach and the start of the track to Patonga
Patonga Beach and the start of the track to Patonga

Where to eat in Pearl Bay and Patonga
If hunger strikes, we can highly recommend breakfast at the Pearl Beach Cafe. I always go for one of the veggie-based breakfast/lunch bowls, but Charles swears by the house-made porridge with banana. If you want something a little fancier, then Pearls on the Beach is a stylish little spot that we have yet to try but gets rave reviews.

Pearl Beach and Patonga Road Trip Facts
Time (one way):
 80 minutes
Distance (one way): 95km
Best time of year to visit: Spring and summer
Things to do on this trip: Walk, swim and enjoy lunch
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Want more ideas? Try these

Have additional time – check out our list of NSW road trips that are perfect for long weekends.

Have questions about things to see and do in Sydney?
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