With spectacular stretches of white sand and glittering gem-like waters, it is no doubt the stunning South Coast is a perennial favourite among city-dwelling Australians. Pack the car, leaving plenty of space for local purchases, and be ready to reinvigorate yourself with lush rolling hills and picturesque coastlines.
Day 1: Sydney to Shoalhaven Heads
9.00 am – Depart Sydney
From Sydney, make your way onto the Grand Pacific Drive and feel the city air transform into fresh, coastal breezes. Follow the Princes Highway exit at B65 Bulli Pass/ Thirroul onto Lawrence Hargrave Drive, which will bring you to the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge. Suspended over the ocean, this 665-meter-long bridge winds around the rock face of the Illawarra escarpment, offering breath-taking coastal views.
Continue along this scenic drive to the Headlands Hotel in Austinmer. With panoramic views of the coastline, this is the perfect location for a fresh seasonal brunch against a stunning ocean backdrop.
11.00 am – Killalea Beach and Minnamurra
Be sure to stop at Killalea Beach, Shellharbour, which encompasses over 250 hectares of pristine coastal reserve with fantastic surfing beaches, walking trails, and stunning coastal views in all directions.
Continue down the coastal road onto the Princes Highway, until you reach Killalea Beach, Shellharbour. Encompassing over 250 hectares of pristine coastal reserve, this area boasts fantastic surfing beaches, walking trails, and stunning coastal views in all directions. If you’re visiting in September, be sure to explore Sculptures by the Sea, a ten-day celebration of art, colour, creativity, and culture showcasing over 80 installations accompanied with live music and exciting local food stalls.
Time for a change of scenery – in just over 30 minutes you’ll find yourself transported into a primeval, captivating world of magnificent waterfalls, subtropical and temperate flora, and intriguing wildlife at the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre. A series of elevated walkways meander through the rainforest, linked by suspension bridges across the Minnamurra Rivulet. Allow an hour to take in the beauty of this lush, subtropical rainforest.
For the more adventurous, try The Falls walk and enjoy spectacular waterfalls and canyon views from several viewing platforms.
2.00 pm – Kiama
Heading back to the coast, your next stop is the popular coastal town of Kiama, showcasing some of the most dramatic and varied coastlines and fantastic opportunities for whale watching (in season).
Stop at the breathtaking Cathedral Rocks then continue into Kiama’s town centre for a bite eat at the many vibrant restaurants and cafes. No trip would be complete without a visit to The Lolly and Gift Shop. Likened to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory, this old-world sweet shop is the perfect place to pick up some treats for your loved ones.
Now it’s time to marvel at the famous Kiama Blowhole, the largest blowhole in the world, where spectacular plumes of water are ejected 30 meters into the air. If time permits, take the 5-minute drive to the Little Blowhole off Tingira Crescent, the more consistent but equally impressive blowhole.
4.00 pm – Gerringong
On your journey to Shoalhaven Heads, stop in at the charming little town of Gerringong. Just 10 minutes south of Kiama, there are plenty of top-notch food and wine experiences on offer as you explore the verdant countryside atmosphere.
5.00 pm – Bangalay Villas
Your stay will be at the luxurious Bangalay Villas, set against the pristine coastal national park and Shoalhaven Heads golf course. Time your stay with a dining experience at their much-acclaimed restaurant Bangalay Dining, open Monday, Thursday and weekends.
Day 2: Shoalhaven Heads to Jervis Bay
9.00 pm – Explore Shoalhaven Heads
Spend the morning in the beautiful town of Shoalhaven heads, exploring the town’s picturesque river or relax on the white sands and glassy waters of Seven Mile Beach.
11.00 am – Pyree to Jervis Bay
With just over an hours’ drive to Jervis Bay, you’ll pass through Pyree. Stop in at Glenfield’s Cafe, rustic and full of old-world charm, for some delicious home-baked morning tea or early lunch.
The next stop is the famous magical oasis of Jervis Bay, home to the whitest sands in the world! Laced with sparkling turquoise waters, this natural treasure encompasses several marine and national parks, making it a budding haven for marine and wildlife.
12.00 pm – Honeymoon Bay – Jervis Bay
Your first port of call will be the picturesque Honeymoon Bay. Located inside the Beecroft Weapons Range, this stunning, sheltered bay is ideal for snorkelling, paddling, or simply just relaxing. (*Check Beecroft Weapons Range opening times)
Then, make your way to the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse resting on the jagged cliffs at the tip of the towering headland. The lookout here is around 90 metres above sea level, a perfect spot to view migrating whales and resident seals.
2:00 pm – Huskisson
Next stop is just an hours’ drive away; the bustling seaside township of Huskisson. The crystal blue waters off Huskisson are home to a plethora of marine life, including bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, penguins, and weedy sea dragons. Get up close and personal with the resident dolphins frolicking in the marine park on one of the many tours departing from Huskisson.
For the more adventurous, there are a number of magnificent coastal walks through the Jervis Bay National Park, showcasing an oasis of white sandy beaches, marine and birdlife.
6:00 pm – Paperbark Camps
Your stay tonight, a 10-minute drive from Huskisson, will be at Paperbark Camp, an ultra-luxe safari-style tented retreat, nestled among eucalyptus and paperbarks in Woollamia.
Day 3: Jervis Bay to Mollymook via Milton & Hyams Beach
9.00 am – Depart for Hyams Beach & Milton
Just 15 minutes’ drive away lies the iconic Hyam’s Beach, famed for its dazzling stretch of fine white sand. The calm ice-blue waters are perfect for swimming, snorkelling, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
Venture 40 minutes further south and you’ll stop by at Milton, a stylish, charming town lined with heritage streetscapes, gourmet indulgences and dozens of unique homeware stores.
Discover fresh produce, elegant wines, a microbrewery, and plenty of classically quaint restaurants for a delicious lunch. The widely acclaimed Heritage Bakery (a 1 min drive just past the town) is the perfect place to stop for the finest gourmet pies and a delicious selection of pastries and salads. Alternatively, Pilgrims Cafe in the town centre serves a fresh and tasty vegetarian menu. Time your trip for the annual food and wine festival in October featuring some of the South Coast’s most prestigious wineries, breweries, and restaurants across a day filled with live music and activities.
2.00 pm – Narrawallee Inlet Walking Track
After lunch, head on over to the Narrawallee Inlet and walking track. This unique reserve protects a staggering variety of landscapes and a veritable smorgasbord of woodlands, swamps, lagoons and lakes. Explore the diverse landscapes and the transformation of forests changing from swamplands to dunes. Take a dip or try your hand at one of the paddle boards for hire during high tide.
4.00 pm – Bannisters by the Sea
As the day ends, make your way to your accommodation at Bannisters by the Sea, a stunning boutique coastal retreat perched clifftop in Mollymook with sprawling ocean views. Home to the acclaimed Rick Stein at Bannisters restaurant, this is the perfect location for true lovers of freshly caught seafood and great wine.
Day 4: Milton to Kangaroo Valley
8.30 am – Pigeon House Mountain Didthul
As you begin your return trip home, start your morning with an invigorating hike up Pigeon House Mountain Didthul Walking Track. The walk is quite steep in parts with a series of ladders at the summit, but you’ll be rewarded with captivating, panoramic views of cliffs and gorges, carved by the Clyde River. Allow 2-3hrs for this 5km return hike.
1.30 pm – Kangaroo Valley and Lunch
Make your way to the idyllic village of Kangaroo Valley with its verdant farmland, spectacular wilderness, and country charm. Stroll through the historic 1870-built main street and explore cutely curated stores and cafes. Cure your hunger with a fulfilling lunch at a charming tea room, heritage-listed pub, or rustic bakehouse. For dessert, why not stop by the award-winning Kangaroo Valley Fudge House and Ice Creamery for some hand-made, old-fashioned confectionery.
For those looking for an adrenaline rush, hire a kayak or canoe and explore the Kangaroo River. For a drier option, take a 20-minute drive to Fitzroy Falls and discover the two spectacular waterfalls.
Milton Park County House Hotel & Spa in the Southern Highlands is tonight’s accommodation. Set apart in its own secluded hilltop woodland just east of Bowral, this five-star hotel offers luxurious accommodation, fine cuisine, and impeccable yet discreet service.
Day 5: Kangaroo Valley to Sydney
Take your time on your return to Sydney with many charming, quaint towns to visit on your journey home. A favourite among Sydney-siders is the historic and picturesque town of Berry.
10.00 am – Berry
From rolling green hills, heritage buildings, friendly locals, and sophisticated shopping, Berry is a perfect blend of village charm and city style. Browse through fresh produce, locally made sweet treats, award-winning restaurants, and the local vineyards and cellar doors and be impressed by the food and wine experiences on offer.
On your final leg of the journey back to Sydney, take the coastal road home through Bulli, stopping off at the Heritage-listed Scarborough Hotel, on Lawrence Hargrave Drive, a little over an hours’ drive from Berry.
This historic hotel has been transformed into a spectacular sea cliff Balinese-style beer garden. It’s bathed in sunshine and offers the most magnificent view. For those preferring a little old-school charm, you’ll find a cozy open fireplace inside – enjoy the warmth with some delicious tea and scones or glass of red.
Image Credits: Mark Fitzpatrick, Destination NSW, Dee Kramer Photography, Jordan Robins, David Finnegan, Tourism Australia, Bannisters Hotel, Milton Park County House Hotel & Spa, Bangalay Villas, Paperbark Camps