Local Escapes

10 Beautiful Road Trips To Take In NSW When Restrictions Ease

By Jessica Best
1st Oct 2021

car driving in the outback

Start pumping your playlists with golden oldies and get set for some absolute scenic crackers, we’re going on a road trip. No doubt you’re a sucker for ditching the big smoke and taking a quick (read: long) drive every now and then, so we’ve gone and found some bitumen beauties you’re going to love.

We’re bringing you endless highways, winding mountain ranges, coastal beauties, a few river crossings, rock tunnels, valleys, farmlands and one hell of a waterfall safari.

Sydney, here are nine beautiful road trips you just have to take in NSW.

North

Cumborah To Lightning Ridge

woman leaning on car window looking, driving through the outbackWe know your wheels are already well acquainted with the coastal curves and rainforest runways our stunning state has to offer—but we reckon it’s about time you spun your beater all the way out to the gateway of endless opal fields, bush pubs, and artesian bore baths. In terms of what you can expect to be filling up the front windscreen (and every other window for that matter), your eyes will be met with an omnipresent and dusty glow at all times of the day. No buildings, no traffic lights, just a flat stretch of bitumen and your favourite bangers blaring from the speakers. The best way to start this beautiful drive is to put some pedal to the metal at Cumborah and cruise your way all the way to Lightning Ridge. The drive itself only soaks up about 30 minutes of your day (sans pitstops) so you can make a day trip out of this one and make your way out to Lightning Ridge at sunrise to come back at sunset. If you're looking to stay overnight, Castle Kingdom and Oasis on the Ridge are your best bets.

THE DETAILS

Distance from Sydney: 8 hrs
See: Artisan Bore Baths, Amigo’s Castle, Bottlehouse Museum, Nettleton’s First Shaft Lookout
Eat: Club In The Scrub, Sheepyard Inn

The Waterfall Way

aerial view of scenic drive across waterfall war drive nswThink 185km worth of national parks, waterfall views, lush rainforest, and lofty lookouts. This drive starts at Coffs Harbour and winds all the way to Armidale, taking you through the New England Tableland. Make sure you stop off at Crystal Shower Falls (there’s a kickass suspension bridge!) and the epic Wollomombi Falls which are a cheeky 220m high. For accommodation, hit The Creekland Cottage or this Treetop Bungalow.

THE DETAILS

Distance from Sydney: 5h 40mins 
See: Dangar Falls, Wollomombi Falls, Skywalk Lookout, Bellingen, Cathedral Rock
Eat: Fairways Bistro, Old Butter Factory Cafe, Cedar Bar & Kitchen, Waterfall Way Cafe, Goldfish Bowl Bakery

Darling River Run

Spin yourselves out to the good ol’ outback of NSW. You’ll want to split this one up because it’s 730km of pure country goodness. Just a warning, the Darling River Run isn’t a point A to point B kind of drive so some basic map-reading skills are probs necessary (and we’re not talking the Google maps kind). It starts at Walgett which is around an eight-hour drive from Sydney and trails all the way down to the border town of Wentworth. Bunker down at this Old School House or this Miners Suite.

THE DETAILS

Distance from Sydney: 7h 40mins 
See: Lightning Ridge, Gundabooka National Park, Walgett Bore Baths, Broken Hill, Mundi Mundi Plains
Eat: Tipla Pub, Trentham Estate, The Silly Goat, Bells Milk Bar

The Rainforest Way

On this road trip, you’ll be trawling through the World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests which means sightings of ancient volcanic plugs, volcanic craters, the iconic Mount Warning, rainforests, plains, and rivers. You can get to this drive from Murwillumbah, Lismore, Casino, or Kyogle, and if you’re travelling at the right part of the month, you’ll even be in time for the Channon monthly markets. Stay at Silvercloud Cottage or light up your driving with the Mustard Cottage.

THE DETAILS

Distance from Sydney: 8h 40mins 
See: Nightcap National Park, Border Ranges, Mebbin National Park, Byrill Creek Walking Track, Lismore Art Gallery
Eat: General Store, Armonica Cafe, The Diner, Utopia Cafe, Our Corner Kitchen

South

Moss Vale Road

This road trip is an oldie but a goodie. Put this one in your GPS for when you’re strapped for time, but you’re seriously craving a little road trip. Moss Vale Road will see you winding your way through the Southern Highlands’ rainforests and valleys. This road trip will no doubt be studded with a number of hairpin turns but you’ll bypass Nowra, Bowral, Fitzroy Falls, and, of course, Kangaroo Valley. If you've got more time, why not make a day of it and take the long way around—down through the Royal National Park and out to the coast to Stanwell Tops, and across the iconic Seacliff Bridge, before turning back in and up towards Moss Vale. Treat yourself to a night or two at The Book Shed or zen out this Japanese-inspired studio.

THE DETAILS

Distance from Sydney: 2h 10mins 
See: Morton National Park, Macquarie Pass National Park, Box Vale Mine Walking Track, Bundanoon, Bowral
Eat: Artemis Wines, Southern Highlands Taphouse, Biota Dining, Robertson Pie Shop

Mollymook Drive

Early morning light through the trees on the golf course on Mollymook drive NSWIf you haven’t made a trip down to Mollymook, make sure you pen this one in for when those iso restrictions ease. Whether you take the staple Grand Pacific Drive (boasting surf views for days) down to this gem, or simply burn some rubber around the Mollymook-Ulladulla region, you’re in for a seaside treat. And on a side note, the drive from this lil’ town to Cupitt's Winery is an absolute winner if you’re a sucker for picturesque white fences, rolling hills, and all the farm animals ever. You need to stake a few nights at Driftwood or spend some time at this quintessential weatherboard beach house.

THE DETAILS

Distance from Sydney: 3h 10mins 
See: Gondwana Coast Fossil Walk, Milton, Mogo Zoo, Narrawallee Beach, Lake Conjola
Eat: Rick Stein At Bannisters, Tallwood, Cupitt’s Winery, Milk Haus, Flour Water Salt

The Kosciuszko Alpine Way

Mountains upon mountains upon mountains. Yep, the Alpine Way is beauty incarnate and it will set you up to witness picturesque valleys plus there is a heap of walking trails, fishing stops, and even mountain biking areas for you to take advantage of. This drive joins Jindabyne in the southern region of Kosciuszko National Park and takes you through the forests of the Snowy Mountains region. Grace yourself with a stay at Touchdown Cottages or go full alpine glam with a couple of days at The Eastern.

THE DETAILS

Distance from Sydney: 6h 30mins 
See: Illawong Walk, Wallace Creek, Perisher, Lake Crackenback, Mount Kosciuszko 
Eat: Schnapps DistilleryCookie FactoryMacenmist Black Truffles And WinesCourabyra WinesSundance Bakehouse

West

Silver City Highway

The Silver City Highway is your one-way ticket to vast arid scrublands, stony deserts and you might want to take note of the fact you’ll be making a few river crossings on your way (read: a decent 4WD is best to take on this adventure). Linking Buronga to the Queensland border through Wentworth, Broken Hill, and Tibooburra, you’ll get a delicious taste of the Far West Region of NSW and its awesome terrain. Not all miner's cottages are stunning but this one is well worth your time, as is this outback house if you're keen to stay a while.

THE DETAILS

Distance from Sydney: 13h 30mins 
See: Old Wentworth Gaol, Mungo National Park, Kinchega National Park, Buronga Botanic Gardens, Living Desert Sculpture
Eat: Coombah Roadhouse, Packsaddle Roadhouse, Silver City Cafe

Old Glen Innes Road

Head on up to Grafton town for the classic loop trip around Old Glen Innes Road, the former stock route you’ll want to drive along, stat. As a starting point head west out of South Grafton to the Gwydir Highway, followed by a short drive to turn left onto Old Glen. You’ll snake through Baccarumbi, Dalmorton (get some happy snaps at the old butcher shop), a historic tunnel, Jackadgery, and a heap of perfect spots for all the picnic and swimming antics (we’re looking at you Mann River) your road trip can handle. Take some R&R at this epic federation home or take in some wide-open spaces at this riverside retreat.

THE DETAILS

Distance from Sydney: 6h 20mins 
See: Grafton Tunnel, Boyd River Nature Reserve, Washpool, Dalmorton Camp Grounds, Guy Fawkes River Conservation Area
Eat: Hibbos Honey, Peppermints Coffee Lounge, Glen Innes Railway Tavern, Cuisine Cafe, Crofters Coffee Cafe

Now, check out the most beautiful places in NSW to visit when lockdown ends. 

Image credit: Kane Taylor, Monica Bertolazzi, Simon Rae, Mike Wakely, FG Trade, Jay Wennington,Cheryl Bronson, Keith McInnes, Casey Schackow, Vicki Smith

Editor's note: Urban List editors independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. Urban List has affiliate partnerships, so we get revenue from your purchases.

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

You May Also Like