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10 Scenic Drives from Sydney

We have put together this list of scenic drives from Sydney so you can jump in the car and head off on a road trip when the next chance arrives. We are sure you will enjoy what we think are the ten best one-day road trips from Sydney.

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.

Places to Visit Near Sydney by Car – Sydney’s best scenic drives

Are you feeling like heading out for a Sunday drive? The towns on our list will make it easier to fill your calendar with a bunch of new local experiences.

Below 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

Day Trips 1 hour from Sydney

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 parks most picturesque spots have gained Instagram fame in recent years, including Figure 8 Pools and Wedding Cake Rock. Sadly both of these 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.

I recommend you book a small group tour with an authorised guide if you are not an experienced bushwalker. This eco-certified tour is excellent if you decide you prefer to do that.

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 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.

Related: Check out our Favourite bushwalks in Sydney – including two in the Royal National Park

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

Among our favourites places in the Royal are the beaches of Burning Palms, Era and Garie. These are great 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 all of 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 main attractions here are 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 very busy on summer weekends
Things to do on this trip: lookouts, bushwalks, flora and fauna
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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.

Pittwater Sydney
Pittwater paradise

Things to do at Cottage Point or Church Point

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

After you have finished checking out Cottage Point, it’s a 20-minute drive along Maccars 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 you leave 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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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 nice 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 the following:

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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Wisemans 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 main route between the two cities until 1945 when the Peats River Bridge at Brooklyn opened.

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

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 Check the farmgate app for dates.
  • 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- 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. The road was carved out of solid rock by convicts who reoffended 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,
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Day trips from Sydney that take a little longer

Berry

We have been visiting Berry regularly since we were kids. As teenagers, it was not uncommon to make the drive just 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. There is 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.

Homeware store on Queen Street Berry

Berry is a great spot for a meat pie, there are two pie shops in town and the charming Milkwood Bakery always gets good 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 great 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 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 very affordable rooms and a self-contained flat which make 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 south-west 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 big city life.

Only ten minutes apart, the towns make a great halfway stop on the way to Canberra.

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 of the great lookouts and short walks in the nearby Morton National Park while are you here.

Bradman Museum Southern Highlands NSW
The Bradman Museum Credit: Destination Southern Highlands

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.

There are a couple of significant annual events, including Pie Time in June and Tulip Time 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 to Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park.

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

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

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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Bilpin

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 offering tastings and lovely grounds to enjoy and explore.

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

Pack a picnic lunch – there are plenty of great places to throw down a blanket in the garden, or if you don’t have a blanket then 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!

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

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

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

Related: Check out our 3 Blue Mountains Road Trip itineraries

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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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

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

The walk will take you to three viewpoints over the Shoalhaven gorge. It’s also great for wildlife spotting with regular sitings 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 water falls thundering over rock face into forested canyon in Kangaroo Valley, NSW, Australia

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

For lunch, we recommend the pub, the Friendly Inn, its 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 great view, and the burgers are pretty decent.

If you fancy a picnic grab some pies from Southern Pies, 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 prettiest. Kayaking in summer is great.
Things to do on this trip: Bushwalk, kayak, eat all the pies
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Related: Check out our visit to Berry Island’s Gadyan Track

 

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.

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 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

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 drawcard here is 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 great 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 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 not an easy walk. 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.

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 very 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? Check out our list of NSW road trips that are perfect for long weekends.

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